THE "Smash" REPORT: Season Two, Episode 14 or, Without You

By Ben Rimalower
06 May 2013

Christian Borle and Andy Mientus
Photo by Will Hart/NBC

First, our eyes are allowed a solitary glorious moment to linger upon the Best Actress in a Musical contenders (thank God for the pause button!). Jennifer Damiano in Beauty Queen (a made-up show?), Audra McDonald in House of Flowers (Oh, really?), Laura Osnes in Oliver! (now, you're getting crazy), KATE BALDWIN IN SEESAW???!!!! Holy Michael Imperioli, this casting madness has to stop! This group is rounded out, of course, by Ivy for Bombshell and Karen for Hit List—if it moves. We can all see where that's headed.

Then we are given an extra couple of nanoseconds to take in the Featured Actress in a Musical category (or "Supporting Actress," as it's incorrectly called on "Smash"). And what a category it is! There's Chita Rivera (for The Mystery of Edwin Drood, maybe, to keep a toe in reality, even if Chita was not nominated in real life), Katie Finneran (for Annie, poetic justice as she too, was not nominated?), Patina Miller for Pippin (Featured! How dare they?!), Victoria Clark for Beauty Queen (oh, wait! Is this supposed to be some sort of musical adaption of the Beauty Queen of Leenane?? I LOVE IT!) and then Leigh Conroy for Bombshell and Ivy Lynn for her featured role in Liaisons. Mother vs. daughter. Looks like the Tonys on "Smash" are gonna be a real nail-biter this year—even more so than in real life!

But we don't get to enjoy this fantasy football version of Broadway for too long before there's a cut to Karen and Derek, whose looks may be surprisingly fresh for a walk-of-shame to rehearsal, but whose dialogue is as canned as ever—nothing but unabashed exposition to tell us that nothing happened, between them sexually, that is.

"We stopped ourselves." This is key because they will both claim credit when trying to reconcile with their own spurned lovers. It's particularly disingenuous when Karen says it to Jimmy considering that, also on that morning's walk-of-shame, she asked Derek what they were going to tell everyone. Sounds to me like she was still into him then. Or maybe she's just so immature that she thinks they have to tell everyone in the cast every single thing about their personal relationship? Uch, either way…

And as much as Derek tries to sell Ivy on the idea, "It's not Karen. It's you," he can't deny that he only showed up at her birthday party after Karen rejected him. At least, Ivy is learning. She tells Derek they're friends. "There'll always be a Karen," she says sagely.

Well, painful though it may be, I can't possibly recap any further without getting to the main plot point of the episode, which Tom first discovers when a call comes in from Kyle's phone. It's not Kyle returning Tom's goofy voicemail from earlier in the day, though, it's the police, informing him that Kyle was hit by a car and as Tom puts it to Karen and Derek, "He's gone." This is where my crying began. Christian Borle is such a great actor and he really makes an impact even in this short exchange. It's very moving to watch the various emotions wash over him as he fights tears to say aloud what happened.

If it's a little manipulative how the writers forged this Tom-Kyle romance off-camera in a matter of two episodes (even last week, we only knew they'd gone out a couple of times after the first hook-up), it's churlish to complain, given the depth of Christian Borle's performance and how lovely and moving their flashback scenes are together—particularly when, in the middle of the night, Tom serenades Kyle, accompanying himself in a spot-on rendition of Billy Joel's "Vienna." Yes, it's true "Smash" is on thin ice (and has more often than not misfired) with these impromptu song performances attempting to act almost as musical theatre book songs, conveying the characters' own feelings. It's also true that over here at Casa de Rimalower, it was waterworks from the first chord.