Smash “Let’s Be Bad” Review

Smash (NBC) "Let's Be Bad" Episode 5 (9)

As rehearsals continued on tonight’s episode of Smash, the drama escalated on all fronts. In “Let’s Be Bad,” the biggest baddies ended up being Julia and Michael who slipped back into their old infidelities while Frank was out of town.

Every week I like Julia less and less, so this development just reinforced my feelings about her. I was ambivalent about Michael in earlier episodes, but his persistent pursuit of a married woman, while his supportive wife and young child sat at home, made it pretty clear that he belonged on the scumbag list even more than Derek.

A little note to Julia about sneaking around on your spouse: you’re doing it wrong. I thought Julia was supposed to be some kind of a pro at this. She did this before and got away with it. I have to assume that back then, Julia knew how to avoid having the people she would hurt the most find out about her trysts but she seems to have forgotten all the screwed up rules of extramarital affairs.

She let Michael serenade her outside of her son’s bedroom window before they passionately kissed on the sidewalk outside her home. Did she really think that her teenage son wouldn’t be drawn street-side to see the commotion and singing in the street?

I appreciated the fact that Tom was an consistent advocate for Julia’s family and voiced warnings to Julia about the dangerous line she was walking with Michael. Unfortunately, she ignored her “wake up call” (and Tom’s brilliantly improvised musical tales of caution) and instead gave in to temptation again.

The most engaging parts of tonight’s episode were the ones that centered around the workshops. I loved every moment of the drama between Ivy and Karen. Ivy is saccharine sweet, condescending in her kindness, and she wears cloak of confidence to mask her deep insecurities. I’m a little tired of the private relationship issues between Ivy and Derek, but I’m enthralled by the conflict their relationship brings to rehearsals.

In a similar way, I’m not very interested in Karen anymore, but I love what happens when she and Ivy unwillingly go head to head in rehearsals. There was a story line with Karen being slightly jealous of some reporter that Dev frequently worked with, but it wasn’t all that interesting.

Karen’s sexed up solo in her bedroom made me cringe a little bit and Michael’s serenade in the street also ended up being kind of strange. I might be more inclined to believe that they would spontaneously break out into a full voice song in those situations if there had been some kind of believable set up. Maybe a radio playing the song in the background of Karen’s room while she was talking to Dev, or Michael pointing out to Julia that he could hear the song he was about to sing coming from a living room nearby. If the musical numbers aren’t going to be set on the imaginary stage, they really need to try and ground those numbers in some kind of atmospheric reality so the musical moments don’t feel so awkwardly jarring.

At the other end of the spectrum, the musical number “Let’s Be Bad” was handled exceptionally well. Seeing all the characters in costume and acting out the lines leading into that number made the musical aspect of the show feel real. I was drawn into the music, the characters and the choreography of a show set in a different place altogether.

Only a few moments before that killer performance, Ivy had been barely able to hold back tears of frustration and embarrassment. Once the number was over, we snapped back into the real world and if we had doubts about Ivy’s professionalism, that number reminded us how much of a pro she really was.

The less a plot line has to do with the production of “Marilyn: The Musical”, the less interesting it seems to be. I appreciate that Julia’s family troubles, Tom’s dating life, Eileen’s divorce, and Dev’s job at the mayor’s office might have some direct or indirect effect on the development of the musical, but the less time we spend focusing on all that other stuff, the better. Smash is the strongest when the drama stays tied to the stage and I hope we’ll get much more of that in the episodes to come.