THE "Smash" REPORT: Season Two, Episode 14 or, Without You
By Ben Rimalower
06 May 2013
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 dreamers behind Broadway musicals. Here's a look at the May 4 episode, "The Phenomenon."
This week's "Smash" is a study in the contradictions that have made it maddening since it began, a car accident death plot-worthy of Pine Valley or Llanview, which nonetheless had me in tears for most of the hour. Kyle!!! KYYYYYLLLE!!!!! More on that in a moment.
The episode begins at Karen's apartment where she and Derek have been polishing off all the booze. Still hot to trot, Karen demurely devours the last drop of two-buck chuck to announce, "Look at that. We're out." It's 5 AM, Derek says he should go, but Karen asks him to stay, or rather, she coyly remarks that he's welcome. From her, that's a straight-up come-on. Derek is cautious ("Are you sure?"), but it's not long before she's in his arms and they're getting horizontal.
Meanwhile, at Jimmy's estranged-but-now-reconciled-because-blood-is-thicker-than-water-but-man-was-that-subplot-shortlived brother Adam's crack house, Jimmy can't sleep. And what do crackheads do when the downers aren't working? Who said Radiohead dream ballet? Right you are! I love Radiohead just as much as the next guy (well, probably, not in my neighborhood, I live in Williamsburg, but in general… whatever, I like Radiohead!), but it's awfully early in the episode for ersatz moody music video—TWO MINUTES IN! What gives? Oh, right, they have to remind us how lost Jimmy is, and how much is unresolved in his life, to set up what a blow it is to lose Kyle. I mean, let's be real, anyone who's watched the show at all knows that already. Maybe this video is just to get Jimmy knocking on Karen's window at dawn, so he can catch her and Derek en flagrante. Karen and Derek, fully clothed, seem to be puttering around getting ready for rehearsal or bed (it's not clear) when Jimmy knocks, but Jimmy sees Derek there and that's enough for him to storm off.
Just when–if it weren't for my need to know what happened to Kyle, I'd be tuning out–"Smash" wins me back in a big way. Ivy and her mom and Tom (no Julia, they're still in a fight) come to Eileen's office for a Tony Awards campaign meeting. At first, it's the same old She Loves Me poster on the wall, while we trash talk the other musicals on the Rialto. What a joke Imitation of Life is, Eileen hears that Harold and Maude is struggling to retain its West End magic (um, the West End of Milburn, New Jersey, home of the Paper Mill Playhouse) etc. Everyone LOLs when Eileen says if the musical version of Roadhouse gets a nomination she's going to retire, and then, things get good! The camera pans out to reveal huge posterboards for each Tony award category, complete with headshots and show logos, charting the potential winner and handicapping their chances ("Debut," "LA Times Rave," "Three nominations"). How I wish I'd been hired by "Smash" to predict the winner of the made-up Broadway season.
Holed up in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert, two former lovers unpack the deep secrets and dark desires of their tangled relationship, passionately tearing each other apart. Led by director Daniel Aukin (Back Back Back at MTC, 4,000 Miles), Tony winner Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur at MTC, Born Yesterday) and Sam Rockwell (A Behanding in Spokane, The Way Way Back) bring an explosive intensity to Sam Shepard’s (Buried Child, True West) landmark myth of the new Wild West.