THE "SMASH" REPORT: Season Two, Episodes 16-17, or "Give 'Em That Big Finish"
By Ben Rimalower
Playbill's weekly recap, with notes and comment, of the latest episode of the NBC musical drama series "Smash," about the dreamers behind Broadway musicals. Here's a look at the May 26 finale episodes, "The Nominations" and "The Tonys."
The Outer Critics Circle Nominations: The Beginning of the End. Hit List has 11 nominations to Bombshell's 10. Sign of things to come?
Tom is sweating out every moment of this awards season—and he's got to win this Outer Critics Circle Award to shore up his chances for a Tony nomination, without which he may never direct again. He's so distracted that even while watching fellow nominated musical The Gathering Storm, he can't stop checking his phone every 15 seconds to see if he won the Outer Critics Circle Award. The good news is, he won. The bad news is, he's a real nuisance to the gentleman sitting behind him, who happens to be a Tony nominator, and reportedly gay-and-closeted Hollywood hunk Patrick Dillon (played by Luke Macfarlane). Tom tries to make it up to him by sending him a token bottle of wine, but then finds out that's technically attempting to bribe his way to a Tony–and could really mess up his chances–so he goes to Patrick Dillon's apartment building to intercept the delivery. He almost succeeds, but winds up in a tug-of-war with Patrick over the wine bottle, which ends in red wine all over the place... including Patrick's designer clothes. Ouch. Now, about that Tony...
Meanwhile, Julia's distracted getting divorce advice from Eileen and decides to use Eileen's lawyer, which pisses off her soon-to-be ex, Frank, so much so that he says he's gonna take her for everything she's worth. This was not a no-fault divorce! The first thing Julia has to do for the legal battle is write a letter to Frank telling the story of her extra-marital relationship with Michael Swift. So, Julia's got her hands full!
Ivy would be feeling all right if not for the morning sickness, which is making her late for her entrances - she almost misses curtain call one night. Sam and the gang are worried about her, some wondering if she's using again. If they only knew! She leaves it open with her doctor as to what she will decide to do about the pregnancy. She wants to talk to Derek, but he keeps blowing her off. Unfortunately, Ivy is caught in this dark state by some fans outside the theatre, and without thinking it through, makes an unfortunate offhand remark about Hit List only being on Broadway because Kyle died. This gets captured on video and reaches everyone, causing—to say the least—much bad feeling. She does manage to tell Sam what's really going on with her, so at least she has one friend on her side.
Karen and Daisy win the Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Featured Actress in a Musical, respectively, for Hit List, but Jerry is still pessimistic about some of the show's Tony chances – particularly for Kyle's Best Book of a Musical nomination, since the show is sung-through. This very much upsets Jimmy, who is fiercely committed to Kyle's legacy. Also, Jerry is so annoying. I'm not sure if it's Michael Cristofer's triumph that he successfully makes me hate his character, or a failure (actually going too far), but it really gets under my skin how his every sentence sounds as if he's coughing or sneezing through it.
Hit List, however, has bigger problems than Kyle's legacy. Ana is suing Derek and Jerry for wrongful termination, accusing Derek of giving Daisy her part in exchange for sex. When Derek admits this, Jimmy is angry, specifically, at Karen for not telling him. Jerry threatens Derek, who says he will take care of it. In an odd little confrontation between Derek and Karen, Derek tells Karen to tell Ana to call off the lawsuit and inform her that she will have a career—he'll even help (he does get her seen for the national tour of Once and she books it). Karen snaps, "Maybe some things are more important than a career like self-respect." Really? Come on, "Smash," don't let's waste our precious last two hours on Karen's saccharine proselytizing.
Karen demands that Daisy leave the show, but Daisy laughs in her face. After all, she won the Outer Critics Circle Award. Is it just me or this like the greatest thing that ever happened to the Outer Critics Circle? Like, if I were the Drama Desk Awards, I'd be seriously pissed off right now!
During the Outer Critics Circle Awards ceremony at Table 46, Julia dedicates her win to Kyle, but Jimmy is angry because he's gotten it into his head (after a provocative interview with Michael Musto) that Julia is giving people the idea she had a big hand in the writing of Hit List, and that it's taking away from Kyle's legacy (hurting Kyle's chance for a Tony). When Ivy tries to apologize to Jimmy for what she said about Kyle and Hit List, a big group argument breaks out between Julia, Tom, Jimmy, Ivy, Derek and everyone until Eileen reminds them they are professionals at an awards ceremony. Well, she's half right.
When Tom sees Patrick coming out of Bombshell, Patrick tells him loved the show, and that he was moved at the Outer Critics Circle Awards by Tom's graciousness (despite a bad Lena Dunham joke, Tom had shown class in humbly sharing credit with Derek). Tom begins to think he may have a chance romantically with the dashing Patrick. Later, when Tom is nominated for a Tony, Patrick sends Tom a bottle of the same wine Tom had spilled all over him. Hmmm....
Nobody sends Ivy a bottle of anything congratulating her on two Tony nominations (Best Actress in a Musical for Bombshell/Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Liaisons). As a matter of fact, Christine Ebersole forgets to read Ivy's name for Bombshell, and I was so invested in Ivy's plight that the litany of words I had for Ms. Ebserole's omission are unprintable in this column. Thank God, it was just a mistake, and she quickly apologized and announces Ivy's nomination too. I was, it must be said, rather keyed-up in general for these fictional Tony nominations. I clapped out loud for Kyle's nomination—totally falling, hook, line and sinker, for the suspense "Smash" had set up for me. Cheyenne Jackson, co-announcing with Ebersole, adds that Kyle is the youngest person in history nominated for Best Book. Derek also sets a record, or rather equals one: Bob Fosse's (three nominations in one season). When Michael Riedel of the New York Post asks him about this, he strangely confesses his entire story with Daisy and Ana, and then takes to drinking alone in bed for the next few weeks. The Tony nominations score, by the way, is 13-12, with Hit List again in the lead.
The pressure of all this is brought to life in a full-cast sing-through of "Under Pressure," culminating in them all standing in a circle glaring at each other onstage at the Marriott Marquis. For no reason.
Leigh Conroy coaches her daughter Ivy on Tony Awards etiquette, using clips of one of her own wins as an example. This is very strange because it's real footage of Bernadette Peters winning for the 1999 revival of Annie Get Your Gun. Despite this annexing of real-life Bernadette Peters' career into Leigh Conroy's, we soon see footage of Times Square, lingering on a Follies poster with Bernadette Peters' name in big print. What other roles are we to believe Bernadette Peters has played in the world of "Smash"? I guess, with new musicals like The Gathering Storm and The Beauty Queen of Lenane jauntily tossed into existence left and right, one can easily fill in any holes created in real-life careers as collateral damage of "Smash" scripts. If Leigh Conroy played the Witch in Into The Woods, maybe Bernadette starred in a musical version of "Baby Boom" around the same time… Anyone? Anyway, Leigh Conroy notices Ivy putting on weight, but thinks it's stress eating and scoffs at Ivy's suggestion that she might take some time off after the Tonys. A career in show business is about momentum!
Eileen, though, takes a couple of days off to remind herself there's a world besides Broadway, and goes to visit Nick in prison – only to learn he's been out for three weeks. Perhaps another TV program would explore Nick's not having called Eileen, but this is the series finale of "Smash"—and this is "Smash"—so Eileen finds Nick at work at a diner and brings him a tuxedo. He's her Tony Awards date. Boom. Next loose plot thread.
Karen tells Ivy about Derek's state. (At some point these two appear to have buried the hatchet again—perhaps that scene is on the cutting room floor as well? Music videos don't just make TV time for themselves, you know!) Ivy goes over to Derek's to try to help, but she doesn't get the chance to tell him she's pregnant.
Ana needs Karen's help. She's taking the Once tour and rescinding her lawyer's letter. They corner Derek at Table 46 and let him know he's off the hook once again, but Ana wants him to know he's a bad person and she knows it. More proselytizing, but at least it's not Karen! Ivy hears the whole thing. Derek is finally ready to talk to her, but she's on Ana's side.
Julia meets Frank at a diner. She finally comes clean about the exact timeline of her Michael Swift affair and what it meant in context of their marriage. They finally seem to find some peace in separation.
Meanwhile, Karen convinces Jimmy to take a night off from performing (since he's sick) and gives him a ticket to watch the show. He loves it and is so filled with pride, he even apologizes to Julia. Jimmy asks her to accept Kyle's Tony if Kyle wins, because he doesn't plan to be there (we seem Jimmy giving up the loft, but we don't know yet where's he's going or why). Julia tells him to stop sabotaging himself. This is his moment and he's got to take it! Jimmy heeds Julia's advice and shows up as planned to take Karen (dressed like a pink Evita Peron) to the Tonys. He even has an extra ticket (Kyle's) so Ana can come.
Daisy wins Best Featured Actress in a Musical. It's the fifth award for Hit List, which seems to be sweeping. Julia says she actually is rooting for Kyle to win over herself. He does. YAY! KYLE! Jimmy gives a good speech and gets a standing ovation. I actually tear up. Julia and Tom are so happily made up that they're actually talking and miss the announcement of their own (joint) win for Best Score until a cameras in their faces and "Let Me Be Your Star" is blaring. They give a cute, short, sweet speech as BFFs.
Derek wins for Hit List and takes the stage to a volley of boos and hisses. He thanks the voters for judging the work, not the man, and also thanks, "someone I love very much. I owe her everything. Ivy Lynn." Right into the Bombshell number, "Let's Be Bad." Perfect.
On a high of good feeling, Derek takes Ana and Karen backstage and fires Daisy. The Hit List cast is thrilled. No one wanted to perform with that bitch anyway, so she was going to have to do a solo. Now, instead, the whole cast (including Ana) does an a capella "Broadway, Here I Come," in their formal wear. It's kind of great, although I wonder if Ana's bailing on the Once tour, or what's going to become of the part of Diva in Hit List—oh, wait, the "Smash" writers don't care anymore! There is no tomorrow! At this point, you kind of expect the Best Musical winners to zip up through the ceiling in a great, glass elevator!
Patrick Dillon congratulates Tom and Julia. He's flying back to LA. Would they consider writing a movie musical? Are they still a team? They happily answer yes to both. Then, as Patrick walks away, Julia convinces Tom to ask him out. Tom runs after him, asks him out and impulsively kisses him. Patrick says he's flattered but he's not gay. Tom responds, "That's how all my straight friends kiss me." I guess we're supposed to think it was a passionate kiss. It was a little short. I could be convinced either way. I guess we'll never know!
Now to present Best Actress in a Musical, three-time Tony nominee Marin Mazzie. After a strategically placed commercial break, Ivy Lynn wins. All is well with the universe. She thanks her mother and there is no applause. Maybe this audience is as confused as I am about who's Bernadette and who isn't.
Finally, Bombshell defies the expectations strategically set up by first half of the episode and wins Best Musical in a burst of wonderful events, including Eileen almost missing the announcement to offer some loving encouragement to the Tony-bereft Karen, Rosie O'Donnell presenting the award, Eileen inviting Derek onstage to share in the triumph, and Susan Blackwell in a wordless cameo as Jerry's date giving the entire "Smash" team the stink-eye.
At the after-party, Jimmy wants to talk to Karen. She doesn't want to hear it right now, but he plods on, telling her that he turned himself earlier that day in for years ago abandoning a girl who OD'ed as his date at a party. The good news is, the girl is fine, and Jimmy's conscience is clear at last. The bad news is, he's going to jail for 6-18 months.
Tom picks up a remote control to watch with Julia "their" number that they missed earlier, and we see "Karen" and "Ivy" as themselves (not their characters in their musicals) duetting in white sequins in front of a "Smash" sign. It's a fabulous Shaiman & Wittman answer to a Kander & Ebb number, "Give 'Em That Big Finish."
Throughout the number, we see Derek and Ivy happy together expecting their baby; Jimmy and Karen kissing goodbye for now; Julia going back happily to Michael Swift; and Eileen and Nick smiling together.
The girls wave us goodbye. And that is end of "Smash."
(Ben Rimalower is the author and star of the critically acclaimed Patti Issues now its ninth hit month off Off-Broadway. Read Playbill.com's coverage of the solo show here. Visit him at benrimalower.com and follow @benrimalower on Twitter.)
PHOTO SPECIAL: A Farewell to "Smash" — Looking Back at Season Two
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