I've often said before that it's the storylines about Bombshell that work best, but as with 'Tech' last week, that wasn't necessarily the case this time around (though it was a great joy to see a condensed version of the musical's first performance, with the songs we've seen develop and a brand new Karen-and-Ivy-centric number). Instead, I actually found myself invested in the new Karen-Dev-Ivy triangle.
This surprized me, because while Megan Hilty has been consistently wonderful throughout the season, I've often struggled to care about the intricacies of the romance between Dev and Karen (particularly as often they've not seemed too worried about it either.) But Smash took what could have been a trite storyline - a woman sleeps with her rival's boyfriend - and gave it a little spice.
Admittedly, the best parts belonged to Hilty - one highlight in particular was the stunning moment as Karen asked if Ivy was okay after the revelations about Derek, and she begs her not to be nice. And I can't fail to mention the wondrous scene as Ivy confronts Derek about his relationship with Rebecca and he shrugs her off, claiming that they're both "professionals" and he's just sleeping with Rebecca to keep her happy. Jack Davenport's another of the cast members who's been consistently solid, and it says something that I understand why Ivy's so far gone with him despite his innate douchebaggery.
Naive Karen, of course, has no idea what's going on with Ivy and is happy simply to fall back into Dev's arms, putting their previous arguments behind her. Not everything about this worked - I could have done without the drama of the missing engagement ring and Dev's anguished looks all the time - but overall I was pleasantly surprised.
Keeping on a relationship theme, I've railed against the Julia-Michael affair fiasco before, and I didn't really care for it here, either. But while Julia's confrontation with Michael was just okay (and a huge amount of that is based on her wonderfully bizarre pointing), the following argument with Tom was something quite special. I've always enjoyed Tom and Julia's relationship, so it's nice to see some cracks.
Still, it would have been so easy for those differences to be artificial and forced; instead, it was pleasing that neither Tom nor Julia was to blame, or got off scot free. Tom's right - Julia shouldn't have cheated on her husband and he was there for her, but Julia's also right - Tom shouldn't have agreed to bring Michael back, and he did put Bombshell above her.
What's more, I was impressed that there was no sudden resolution to this argument - while things did quieten down long enough for the pair to realise how much they had sacrificed their friendship, Julia then stormed off and, interestingly, away from her obligations to Bombshell, screaming as she goes that the work will get done. I enjoyed watching Tom, who was noticeably torn between his commitments to the show and the fact that he had just argued with his best friend about his commitments to the show.
I mean, yes, they did make up at the church - but to be fair, that fantastic Sam and Karen-led gospel version of 'Stand' was so rousing that I don't blame them. And it didn't feel like an easy reconciliation - perhaps I'm making excuses for the show, but it felt harder than you would expect.
As always, there were parts of Smash that didn't work quite so well, and while I was interested in the way that Julia's personal life was both threatening and being threatened by Bombshell, I found it more difficult to worry about Rebecca.
This is the thing - I did like the way that the production faced an obstacle in that no-one in the first preview applauded, because that's something that seems real and worrying for the team, especially in that it was tied into the depressing, suicidal ending - but how else do you end a story about Marilyn Monroe? And, of course, there was a lot of fun to be had with: "She died!" and the question of whether it was Marilyn or Rebecca that was being discussed.
But while that felt like a largely organic problem, Rebecca's peanut allergy - so obviously telegraphed a couple episodes ago - and her following allergy attack seemed so over-dramatic (especially when Randall met Eileen outside to hiss that Rebecca had been poisoned.) I was really unconvinced with the entire section of the show devoted to this, which seemed so irrelevant when we heard that Rebecca was better.
Of course, it was obvious that Rebecca would eventually choose not to return to Bombshell and in a way, I wish the show had reached that conclusion earlier. But there is now the intrigue of who will be picked - Karen or Ivy (who's clearly meant to be the one who spiked the smoothie) - which will take us nicely into the season finale next week. And to be fair, I did like the fact that Rebecca deliberately sabotaged herself, finally owning up to the fact that she wasn't cut out for the show.
So while Smash still has its problems - it needs to work on its subtlety and trim its cast, for one thing - I'm yet again left feeling that this is a show that might just live up to those original expectations after all.
- Megan Hilty looked absolutely stunning in bed at the beginning of this episode. My goodness.
- "Am I the only one who enjoyed that?" Oh, Leo, do shut up.
- I do love Derek, but Eileen threatening to strangle him was enjoyable. I want more of this and less of blah Nick, please (I just. don't. care.)
- "You know I hate enthusiasm."
- I did enjoy Karen's confrontation of Rebecca, when she asked whether she was sleeping with Derek, but then they just went back to being completely friendly - I would have liked a little more nuance.
- Karen's angry face during the performance of 'Smash', or whatever the new number is, was great.
- Tom's "oy". Lovely.
- Eileen's song was blatantly shoehorned in so they could get Anjelica Huston to sing. So, okay.
- "What are you, Miss Marple?"
- "You didn't invite Derek, did you? He'd burst into flames."
- So, place your bets - Karen or Ivy?