THE "SMASH" REPORT: Episode 8, Or, Girls, Girls, You're Both Pretty

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27 Mar 2012

Anjelica Huston
Anjelica Huston
Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/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 March 26 episode, "The Coup."


Following the underwhelming workshop presentation of Marilyn the Musical, there is radio silence from producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston) and it trickles down to the writers, the principal actors and the chorus kids. Is the new musical dead in the water?

Not exactly. Eileen is regrouping with director-choreographer Derek (Jack Davenport) to find a new approach to the show — one that seems to involve an entirely new songwriter for the project (guest star Ryan Tedder, the songwriting frontman of the pop group OneRepublic). Karen (Katharine McPhee) is secretly enlisted to rehearse and perform a song called "Touch Me," reportedly written and produced for this episode by Tedder himself. Marilyn songwriters Tom (Christian Borle) and Julia (Debra Messing) are kept in the dark about the plan until news leaks out (as it always does in showbiz). This time, Tom's evil assistant Ellis (Jaime Cepero) helps spread the word of the apparent coup — going so far as to escort Ivy (Megan Hilty) to the presentation of the staged song, in a remote Brooklyn warehouse space. What Ellis has to gain from this plot twist is not clear. What is clear is that Ellis is shaping up to be a monster partly created by Tom, Julia and Eileen. By episode's end, he has left Tom's employ to become full-time assistant and spy for Eileen. "[Tom's] an artist, he's a loser," Ellis says to his lady lover (!) Cyn (Condola Rashad). "Artists get treated like dirt. I want to be a producer!"

Katharine McPhee as Karen in Derek's failed experiment of "Touch Me."
photo by Craig Blankenhorn/NBC

What they all had witnessed under Derek's direction in that warehouse was a music-video-worthy take on Marilyn Monroe's psyche, with Karen (in a satin bedsheet/gown) being twirled around in a fourposter by masked dancers — as bars of a cage surround her. "Subtle" Derek is not.

The "Touch Me" sequence is a ploy to shake up Tom and Julia to get them to think outside of the box. The vulgar display ends up insulting them. Eileen apologizes to her writers after getting guidance from her saintly daughter Katie (played by Grace Gummer), who is visiting on a break from humanitarian and environmental causes in India, Micronesia and Alaska. She's so pure of heart that her family calls her Mahatma Katie. If Gummer looks and sounds familiar — overflowing with light, simplicity and grace — it's because she is one of Meryl Streep's talented daughters. She's currently in rehearsal to play Joseph Alsop's stepdaughter in David Auburn's new Broadway play The Columnist.


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