This week’s episode, “The Read-Through,” felt surprisingly fresh, and, who knew it — Smash can actually be funny? Plus, here’s the rub: it didn’t feel forced. Well, not entirely forced.
The episode starts with Jerry telling Eileen she can’t go to a reading of Bombshell’s new draft because she’s no longer a producer (but 52 minutes later he’ll inexplicably have a change of heart; more on that later). Well, it’s no matter, she’s going to see her hunky beau in prison anyway.
At the theater Tom and Derek walk through some staging for Bombshell and Tom tries to imagine what one of the new numbers will look like. So we get to see his vision, and we are privy to a lively performance of “Public Relations” as sung by Karen as Marilyn, replete with grand Broadway choreography. It’s one of the best moments of the episode.
Julia and Peter show up to discuss the Bombshell rewrite and Tom notes that they are completing each other’s sentences and calling each other “we.” He sees that the duo has clearly bonded during that (romantic?) weekend away to work on the rewrite that Peter had suggested in last week’s episode.
Derek calls Karen, who is at the gym with her new roommate, Ana, andasks her if she’s heard from the boys (Jimmy and Kyle). He tells her he wants to be lining up work in case the Bombshell read-through bombs. Ana tells Karen that at least she now has a reason to call Jimmy (we’re still not sure what Karen sees in this pouty pianist-singer, but we digress).
Ivy (Megan Hilty) is in rehearsal for Dangerous Liaisons. It’s here that we meet Terry Falls (Sean Hayes), the marquee actor the production has landed to get the show off the ground. Terry doesn’t know his stage directions and, although he’s memorized his lines, he doesn’t know which characters to interact with while reciting those lines. Plus, he’s performing the dramatic play as a broad comedy. Cue laugh track in…oh, wait…
While walking through Times Square, Julia tells Tom that she now thinks Peter is a true collaborative, but Tom isn’t so sure. They then run into someone who shakes Julia’s confidence by recounting a story about how Peter rewrote another playwright’s musical once before. Would he do it again — to Julia?
Karen tells Jimmy and Kyle that Derek may want to be a part of their musical, so they should be ready with a draft should that opportunity arise. They’re excited and agree to a read-through of their first draft. All is going swimmingly until an unnamed and unidentified woman emerges from Jimmy’s loft (and presumably his bed). Karen tries to act cool, but is less than thrilled.
Karen and Ana wax on about why Jimmy kissed Karen if he was with another girl. Ana reminds Karen that Jimmy was high when he kissed her. Karen takes this reminder in stride, but says she can’t stop thinking about him, and wonders why she cares so much. (We wonder the same, girlfriend. We wonder the same.)
Eileen was turned away from the prison when she went to see Nick, so she’s in no mood for Derek, who happens to be in her office waiting to confront her about getting Bombshell going again. He has momentum after Ronnie’s concert (J-Hud mention!) and he’d like to keep that momentum going. “How would you feel if you lost everything you cared about suddenly?” Eileen poses to him. Derek studies her for just a moment, and tells her that if the Eileen he knows wants something badly enough she finds a way to get it. He hands her a scotch, kisses her cheek and leaves. We see the sparkle back in her eyes.
Karen and Ana show up at Jimmy and Kyle’s apartment for the read-through, but Ana and Kyle have to go make copies of the script for the actors. This leaves Karen alone with Jimmy, and affords us one of the episode’s finest moments. Karen fantasizes about serenading Jimmy in a beautiful — albeit decidedly different — take on Death Cab for Cutie’s “Some Boys.” This is Kat’s week to sing and be subtly stunning, and she delivers in spades.
Ivy runs into Terry on the street and tries to get him to understand that Dangerous Liaisons is a drama that shouldn’t be played for laughs. “Are you sure?” he asks, and Ivy assures him she is.
Julia asks Tom if Peter has been playing her the whole time. Tom reminds her that he has lied to her a lot thus far, so he’s not so sure if they should go through with the read-through because he hasn’t even read her new version yet. They arrive at Jerry’s office and his over-eager assistant shares her feelings about Bombshell’s new draft — she loves it — but she makes references to scenes that Julia didn’t write in her new version. Julia and Tom leave thinking Peter is a double-crossing snake!
Eileen shows up at the reading and tells Jerry she’s staying; they can take her out in handcuffs if necessary. Derek arrives, and smiles when he sees Eileen there. He’s not worried anymore. Julia confronts Peter outside the read-through and lets him know she aware of what’s he up to. He denies double-crossing her and assures Julia that if Jerry has another version of the Bombshell script, it’s not his.
Back at the other read-through, Jimmy plays piano and sings “Caught in the Storm,” and it’s great to finally have a strong male voice on hand to complement the strong female vocals (McPhee, Hudson and Hilty). Karen watches him like she’s never seen such greatness before, but once the music stops and Karen recites some lines, it’s obvious that the boys’ script is in rough shape.
Back at the Bombshell read-through, we realize it’s just ended, but the room is silent. “Why is nobody saying anything?” asks a nervous Julia as Eileen takes a call and leaves the room without a word. “Is it that bad?”
“No,” says Derek with a smile, “it’s that good. It is brilliant.” Everyone claps and there are hugs all around. Julia is relieved and apologizes to Peter for doubting his intentions. He kisses her head…and we might just be rooting for this couple now.
While Karen is still at Jimmy and Kyle’s discussing their failed read-through, Derek calls to let her know that Bombshell’s read-through was a huge success; “Get ready, darling. If we do this right, you’re going to win every award in town.” This means Karen won’t be able to work on Jimmy and Kyle’s musical, and she feels bad, but this is the chance she’s been working for her whole life.
While visiting Nick at prison, Eileen learns that he told the guards to refuse her the first time she came to visit. He doesn’t want to hurt her. He’s being moved upstate (and we can assume written out of the show), and he doesn’t want her “to waste one ounce” of her time waiting for him. Bye-bye, studly-thug boyfriend.
Jerry announces that he’s not going to produce the version of Bombshell they just read through that everybody loved. Everyone is confused. “It’s not going to put asses in the seats,” he says. He’s all about making the money. But there is a version he does love: “I have the workshopped draft. That’s what I want to make.” Julia is floored. How the hell did he get that? Jerry points to…Tom! Shock! Scandal! Drama!
After the commercial, it turns out it’s not as scandalous as the reveal would have us believe. Tom doesn’t even remember sending it to Jerry, but rather he only gave him a draft of a version of Bombshell he liked “a few weeks ago” because he’s a producer and he asked for it. In fact, though, he does agree with Jerry: he likes the earlier draft better. Now it’s Jerry and Tom versus Derek and Julia. They’ll need a tie-breaking vote to decide which version to move forward with.
Checking back in with Ivy and Terry and Dangerous Liaisons, we learn that Terry’s going off his meds (“I’ve been in a 20-year haze”) so he can feel human emotion and go for drama gold! Ivy knows this can only spell disaster.
The gang back at Jimmy’s decides that the solution to their disastrous read-through is to make their show all music and sung lyrics and take out spoken dialogue — like Rent, they remind us. Jimmy then apologizes to Karen for what happened (in last week’s episode when he kissed her while he was high), and they…shake hands, agreeing to be just friends (Good. Let’s keep it that way, and move on. Please.)
One titillating tidbit that follows has us learn that Kyle has informed Jimmy that Karen’s dating Derek — which, of course, she isn’t (though, that would be more interesting than this Jimmy/Karen snoozefest). Is Kyle lying on purpose? Is he this year’s conniving Ellis replacement? Or is he just confused?
The episode ends with Tom, Julia, Jerry and Derek all arguing in Eileen’s office about which version of Bombshell to bring to the stage. They inform Eileen that they’ve all agreed to let her be the deciding vote since they’re split two and two. This is a bit hard to swallow seeing as the episode opened with Jerry telling Eileen she could have no part of the production, but we’ll suspend disbelief for the moment and give Smash a pass for at least trying to dial up the drama.
So which version of Bombshell will it be, Eileen? And…end scene. We’ll find out next week.