THE "SMASH" REPORT: Episode 15, Or, Lost in Boston

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15 May 2012

Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee
Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee
Photo by Will Hart/NBC

Playbill's weekly recap, with notes and comment, of the latest episode of the NBC musical drama series "Smash," about the creation of a new Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe. Here's a look at the May 14 season finale, "Bombshell."


Back in February, when NBC's "Smash" had its premiere, you might have thought that the first season of an hourlong scripted series about the making of a Broadway musical would climax with the opening night on Broadway. But, no. Here we are, 15 episodes later, in Boston at a fictional venue called the Wilder Theatre (a reference to Billy Wilder? Thornton Wilder?), where Bombshell is playing a fraught tryout. The destination of Broadway is being saved for the second season, apparently. We now know that there will indeed be a second season of "Smash," reportedly 16-18 episodes, to launch in midseason 2012-13. The imagination reels at what the next chapter will bring. A flash-forward to a year from now, when the Marilyn Monroe show is a smash, Karen (Katharine McPhee) is a star, and a new stage project for the contentious collaborators is eyed? Probably not. Unless the series gets a radical rethinking by the series' new "showrunner" (the person in charge of story), "Smash" is expected to immediately pick up with the threads from which its characters are now cliff-hanging.

Debra Messing and Katharine McPhee
photo by Will Hart/NBC

Over the objections of producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston) and writers Tom (Christian Borle) and Julia (Debra Messing), director Derek (Jack Davenport) has chosen newbie Karen to take over for departed marquee name, Rebecca Duvall, the movie star who exited after only one Boston performance following the songwriters' failure to give her a rousing 11-o'clock number. Rebecca feels she let down the audience, but her faith was also shaken by the possibly deliberate poisoning of her smoothie. Derek, who has had fantastical visions of Karen as Marilyn throughout the season, trusts his instinct, even though his bedmate Ivy (Megan Hilty) knows the part intimately (she did the workshop and has followed the progress of the writing and staging via pillow talk).

"Why wasn't it me?" Ivy asks him.

"I see her in my head," Derek responds. "She just has something that you don't. I'm sorry."

This is blunt, not cruel. (Derek has been crueler this season.) Julia, Eileen and Tom could say no to his decision, but the theatre world (including the potentially poisonous New York Post columnist Michael Riedel, who calls Eileen for progress reports) is paying attention. Canceled performances? They mean lost money and bad publicity.

Karen, who is learning the scenes, blocking and choreography of the entire show in one day (she says knows the songs), goes missing after she finds out that fiancée Dev (Raza Jaffrey) slept with Ivy the other night. The envious Ivy revealed the lurid news to her rival by showing Karen the engagement ring that Dev left in her hotel room. Ivy offers some unclear reference to Dev being like Joe DiMaggio. More fuzzy logic and fuzzier motivation — and this episode was written by series creator Theresa Rebeck. Dev apologetically admits to the deed, saying he was drunk — and he thought he and Karen were "finished." Karen pushes him away and disappears. Derek also tells Dev to get lost: "She's mine now!"

Derek then follows a trail of jewelry and costume pieces (paging wardrobe!) to a storage room in the theatre, where Karen has hidden herself behind a rack of clothes. Derek gives her a pep talk, inevitably linking her plight to Marilyn Monroe's passion. McPhee continues to be brilliantly real and understated in her non-musical scenes; if she and Hilty are not Emmy nominees this summer, it'll be a crime. Meanwhile, eager Ivy (who heard Karen is missing?) is summoned by Tom, Julia and Eileen, who are apparently going to ask her to step in. Dressed in full Marilyn regalia (wig, makeup and costume), Ivy springs from the wings: "Do you guys need me?" No, actually, they don't. Karen is back, and ready to rise.


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