Smash, Season 2, Episode 8: “The Bells and Whistles”
Written by: Noelle Valdivia
Directed by: Craig Zisk
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm (ET) on NBC
It’s difficult not to feel sorry for those who have already jumped off the sinking Smash ship. For those who have decided to stay onboard for the love of Broadway, or the lack of anything better to do with their time, it’s finally paying off. Tonight’s “The Bells and Whistles” episode felt like a real, dramatic piece of television. No, it wasn’t perfect (what show is?) but it had the right consistency of charm, talent, and tension to compensate for some awful story arcs recently. We’re all extremely happy Terry Falls is gone, right?
“The Bells and Whistles” begins by showing there is a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in their opposing directors Tom and Derek. Derek is Mr. Hyde in this case because he’s consistently disagreeing with Jimmy about everything from set designs to Lea Michele. Tom takes on the of Dr. Jekyll role by trying to be everyone’s best friend and even brings croissants for rehearsals. The show does an excellent job of showing how neither director is in the right or in the wrong. Eventually Tom catches Derek blowing up at a rehearsal which leads to Tom and Derek discussing Derek’s bullheaded twenties and how similar Derek actually is to Jimmy. The moment is sweet and far too short. More of the episode could have been dedicated to seeing these two characters learn from each other since we’ve spent most of the time watching them bicker at each other.
This episode also sees the appreciated return of Tom’s ex-boyfriend, Sam (as played by the incredibly talented Leslie Odom Jr.). Since the start of the second season we haven’t seen much of Sam, which is sad, but for more important reasons than just watching him sing and dance. The homosexual relationship between Sam and Tom is a welcomed fresh take in a televised world of stereotypes. To see the ups and downs Tom and Sam go through without being pigeonholed into rainbow flag- waving gay men who know all the lyrics to every Cher song is invigorating. It doesn’t hurt that Tom and Sam’s love affair is just good dramatic writing- they are two star-crossed lovers trying to individually make a name for themselves in one of the hardest industries to break into. Sometimes love is not apart of that equation and an audience loves to watch characters choose between love and work.
Nonetheless, Sam’s return is something bittersweet for Tom because after all Tom was the one who pushed him away so he could continue his work on Bombshell. On the night of a Bombshell cast party Tom breaks out his piano skills so Sam can perform “(Let’s Start) Tomorrow Tonight”, perhaps one of the best musical numbers for Smash. Or at least Tom thinks so because he encourages Sam to drop out of The Book of Mormon to rejoin Bombshell for that specific musical number. Julia confronts Tom to let him know he’s rewriting the show just for Sam, but in the end Tom has to drop the number and break Sam’s heart once again. Despite all the romantic goings on for Smash the audience wants these two to work it out more than any other character and Smash really should oblige. Their chemistry is fun to watch.
Meanwhile Eileen is working on creating positive press with her publicist Agnes (played cunningly by another Rent alum Daphne Rubin-Vega). Eileen obtains the opportunity to get a New York Times arts editor, Richard Francis (played by another newcomer Jamey Sheridan), to attend a Bombshell rehearsal with the hopes that he can put a positive spin on the show after a wide rage of negative press that has plagued the show. The result is a marketing ploy to pull Ivy’s mom, Leigh Conroy (played by Broadway’s own Bernadette Peters), into the show. Next week the audience gets to see this plan put in action and it should be interesting. However, it would be nice if for once Ivy could catch a break and one thing could go her way. She’s been through everything from drug overdoses, failed relationships, and terrible productions. Is it too much to ask that she have a happy story line for once?
After a Hit List rehearsal the cast and crew hit up a bar for drinks. Ana (remember Ana?) decides this is the place to audition for Derek and serenades him right on the bar. She can go back to hiding under the rock she’s been occupying all season. There are already too many new people and too many cast members as is, Ana doesn’t really add anything new to the mix. Derek cockblocks Jimmy and takes the gentleman approach by walking a tipsy Karen to her apartment. Sorry Derek but you’re still kind of scummy, maybe if they threw you a love interest that was over the age of thirty. Before Karen can even get her pajamas on Jimmy shows up at her door and kisses her. I’m sure later he’ll help put on her pajamas. I guess Jimmy has no qualms that Karen only buzzed Jimmy into her apartment because she thought Jimmy was actually Derek inviting himself in for another drink.