RECAP: Smash - The Gentleman Prefers A Blonde


By Jon Roth

A makeover, a model student, and a Manhattan to the face.

Somewhere in a Very Fancy Restaurant, Eileen and Derek are discussing, what else, who to cast as Marilyn. Ivy’s skilled but tries too hard, Karen’s green, but so was Norma Jean. I completely understand this train of thought: you need someone just like Marilyn to play Marilyn, the same way you need a wizard to play Harry Potter. All that “acting” stuff is for amateurs, anyway. Derek is briefly called away to discuss what we ominously overhear is a “vampire musical” (ka-CHING) and Eileen’s ex-husband stops by to tell her the Marilyn show will be a disaster. Anjelica Huston warms my heart like a slug of Bourbon when she tosses her Manhattan in his face. The second best way to finish a martini.

Karen is finishing off her umpteenth rehearsal and speeding off to an important work dinner with her dreamy boyfriend Dev, but Derek conveniently derails her plans, calling her in to do some scene work with another actor. Of course she can’t focus because she knows she’s being a horrible girlfriend, but she also can’t pick up her phone and send a text, thus angering BOTH the handsome British men in her life. Oh Karen, What Would Marilyn Do? Probably sleep with the director and say she was too silly to work her iPhone.

When Karen finally makes it to dinner, the rest of the party has left, except for Dev, who stews there in swarthy, righteous indignation. I’m only disappointed he lets her hold his hand as they leave the restaurant. Someone teach this man how to hold a grudge.

Now it’s Ivy’s turn for some callback face time. Throughout this episode she’s been impressively diligent with her homework - reading big thick Marilyn biographies, watching all her movies, and imitating her cootchy-coo voice and baby giggle with alarming accuracy. Even if I think she’s a bit brassy for Marilyn’s barely-there vocals, I’d say she deserves this part. As she gets really into character with her monologue, Derek stops her, squats in front of her and takes her hair down. Then Ivy smiles, because she knows she’s about to bone the director, and is there a surer way to get a role? 

In Callbacks: Part 3 - The Reckoning, Karen performs a kicky number called “The 20th Century Fox Mambo.” The song is a really clever send-up to the styles of different studios (“And L. B. Mayer loves his schmaltz, so MGM made the great waltz”), then dives into your standard make-over song. When the balance tips into fantasy, the studio is flooded with rose-colored lights and Karen rises like Venus from a scrum of dancers in a skin-skimming gold sequin gown with a blonde wig, and she looks... unlike Marilyn. I don’t know what she looks like? Marilyn’s cat? I recommend she go on a strict donut diet for a few weeks, then re-audition.

Everyone agrees that Karen doesn’t quite have what it takes to pull off the role, and the part goes to Ivy! Don’t for a second believe that this is resolved. They can’t plaster Katherine McPhee’s face on posters all over the place, then just throw her over. 

The good news is, Julia is hanging out with her adoption pals and reads a beautiful poem to the mother of her eventual adoptive child (this is an assignment everyone has to do). She’s the only person at the meeting without her spouse, but when she finishes her letter about “calling on the wind” and “guarding like a lion,” there’s Adam Carolla, leaning in the doorway, suddenly swayed by her eloquence. Everyone else in the group acts like they just heard a Shakespearean sonnet for the first time. Maybe they don't know she writes professionally? Anyway, looks like it’s babies on Broadway after all, folks.

And finally, in some special Broadway karaoke club where everyone has seen all the cast lists, Ivy goes to celebrate her part with a few of her best gays. She takes the stage and sings some drowsy frowsy almost-country beige-colored song about drumming on dashboards and singing into hairbrushes, and how everyone can make it if they only try. Let’s hope this isn’t true for your sake, Ivy. Because Karen Cartwright is trying really hard, and Derek hasn’t slept with her yet.

Images and video courtesy of NBC.