The anticipation builds as the investors, the creative team and the ensemble all await the much heralded arrival of big star Rebecca Duvall (guest star Uma Thurman) to the rehearsal studio, but, as it turns out, she has had what Eileen calls a travel hiccup, and won’t be arriving as expected. This, of course, puts all of them in a bad position: the investors need assurances that their star will actually show up before they front the money, the creative team needs to move forward with their project and the ensemble just wants to perform.
As it turns out, with Rebecca’s delayed arrival, they need someone to ‘play’ Marilyn until she shows up; and guess who gets to be the understudy: Karen. Ivy has gotten herself kicked off the project – and out of favor with nearly all the major (and minor) players in New York after her drunken/drugged-out stupor on stage at “Heaven on Earth”, losing her job there and pretty much being unemployable. Karen’s lucky day, right? Well, maybe not because Derek lays on the charm (yes, that is a misnomer), as he is his usual unpleasant self, barking orders at Karen and treating her like crap.
But after a bit of a pep talk from – of all people – Ivy, Karen stands up for herself and Derek backs down; but that is only because Ivy talked to him as well, telling him to back off and play nice with Karen because he needs someone to work with until Rebecca shows up. Her dancer buddy Sam, though, questions exactly what Ivy has up her sleeves. It’s not all bad intentions because Ivy figures if she plays nice with everyone and asks for a second chance, she just might be able to get back into the show.
Meanwhile, relationship troubles continue to thrive with all of the principal players. Frank is gone and won’t speak with Julia, even though she has made every attempt to contact him. She finally gives in, taking her son’s cell phone and calling Frank. It would seem, at the end of the episode, that Frank agreed to meet her at a nearby coffee shop, but it doesn’t seem like he showed up. Then there is Tom and lawyer John (who are just the polar opposites of each other) who just aren’t working out even though they are both trying. Soon enough, John gets a look at Tom’s interactions with dancer Sam and knows, even if neither of them does, that there is more going on there.
And then there is Eileen, whose budding relationship with Nick the bartender finally sparkles in the last moments of the show as well as brings Eileen to an investor: an aging rocker named Randy Cobra. In one of the final scenes, after Eileen has been contacted that Rebecca – the STAR – will finally be in the city, she meets with her investors, who once again state their demands, she has her new investor burn their contracts, getting her last laugh on them (at least for now).
Of course, there are speed bumps cropping up left and right for Karen and Dev, too, as he hasn’t revealed to her that he didn’t get the promotion at the mayor’s office. And, she finally lets it slip that Derek propositioned her during the initial auditions for the musical. This, of course, brings the two Brits to blows in the episode, pushing Karen and Dev even further apart. So much so that Dev just might take a job in DC that his lady reporter friend has found for him.
Oh, and Julia finally comes clean with Tom about Frank’s leaving, after embarrassing him at a small production of their first hit play “Three on a Match” where he takes the stage to present her with a gift for their “anniversary” – they have been working together for 10 years; but she is overcome with emotions and rushes outside.
One good thing about this episode was that Tom performed a new number from “Bombshell”, playing the role of Darryl Zanuck, legendary studio head, with the male ensemble members that was really quite fun; but the episode lacked any real progress on the primary play itself. There was a decent number by Ivy where she sings “Breakaway” while day-dreaming that she is Marilyn being overly-welcomed into the rehearsal studio.
In the final scene, after Karen performs one of the “Bombshell” numbers, Rebecca Duvall, with her two assistants right on her heels, walks in and asks if she is in the right place.
“Understudy” is the 10th episode of the new series Smash on NBC. The next new episode of Smash will air Monday, April 16 at10/9c.
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