Smash Recap: The Sacrificial Goblinweed


The Phenomenon
Season 2 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating 5 stars


The Phenomenon
Season 2 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating 5 stars

After a cliffhanger like the one we ended on last time, I’m sure you’ve been chewing your own skin off (under a bridge, until you hit bone) wondering what’s going to happen this week! And by that I mean, did Karen finally sleep with Derek or what? A love triangle this sizzling, it’s been killing you, right? Right?

Well, the answer is, we still don’t know! An entire week may have passed in Earth time (a week in which I, mysteriously, became a whole year older), but this is but the blink of an eye to the people of Smash, for whom it is still night as it was when we last saw them, thanks to Mr. Forsythe and the miracle of Brigadoon. (If that’s too archaic a reference for you, you’d better go and see Mr. Lundie the schoolteacher. He’ll explain it very slowly, so you understand.) We see them on the couch in Karen’s apartment, and they make out and start asking each other things like “Do you really want to do this?” Will Derek at last be granted full reign to explore the empty and pristine Dixie cup that her Inventor Donny Osmond intended to serve temporarily as her genitals but then died of a heart attack in his hilltop Gothic mansion before he could replace it? I guess the cutaway shot is our answer? How very Ernst Lubitsch of them!

Meanwhile, Jimmy is sleeping bolt upright on the artfully distressed sofa of one of Bushwick’s famous “Whites Only” crackhouses, when he is awoken by a vision of himself singing a Radiohead song, in order for him to better wallow in the excruciating beauty of his own bottomless psychic pain. Look, I don’t want to spend too much time on Jimmy’s behavior after dissecting it with such self-righteous fury in the last recap, but let’s just say that this is someone who has hurt and alienated everyone around him, gone a long way to sabotage and devalue the show on which the livelihood and futures of at least 30 other people depend, and has a best friend who may very well be lying dead in a ditch somewhere, and still, literally the only thing he can see is his own reflection. Self-loathing is the most dangerous form of self-absorption because it’s the only kind that lets you believe you’re not self-absorbed. Even Karen Cartwright, the semi-animate embodiment of a plastic container of fruit salad from which someone has already picked out all the grapes and pineapple, leaving only a few sodden cubes of honeydew melon, understands this when Jimmy turns up unexpectedly on her fire escape, because why should he have to ring the buzzer? Why should she get to decide if she lets him up into her own space or not? But see, that’s the thing — you decide not to respect other people’s boundaries, and you just might see Derek Wills, putting his pants on like he’s just used what he’s got in there. Enjoy your picturesque victimhood over the filthy drug sink, Jim-Jam!

So here is what everyone else is doing, before the proverbial backpack explodes and shit starts getting real. Bernadette Peters is going to Starbucks (the line was atrocious!) and forcing Ivy to play the Whoopi Goldberg to her Sally Field at the mall in New Jersey. Anjelica Huston and Mimi from Rent continue their maddening habit of listing hypothetical musicals I desperately wish were real: (Imitation of Life? Harold and Maude? ROADHOUSE?) in their quixotic quest to force Bombshell to win the Tony through sheer process of elimination. Cousin Debbie’s got her panties in a Brandi Glanville-sized wad because Tom is suing her, or maybe suing her, or at least got his lawyer to figure out some way to formally dissolve their joint option of The Great Gatsby so she can do it by herself, which actually makes perfect sense, and seems like something one might rationally initiate oneself unless one was busy having one’s paranoia/Dixie cup st(r)oked by Scott Jim Oskar Ellis Nicola Eustis, who has somehow managed to convince himself that his entire life career depends on manipulating a talented but emotionally vulnerable recent divorcee into a infinite state of guilt-ridden obligation to him.

And then Tom gets a phone call. It’s the police. They would have called sooner, but it took them a little while to figure out that the slightly squashed blackberry they found in his crocus-leaf rucksack was actually a BlackBerry. Kyle Goblinweed was hit by a car. He’s gone. Gone.

True, no one actually says the D-word, just as no one ever says “cancelled,” only “no possibility of renewal,” but we know what it means just the same:

Stop all the clocks. Cancel the shows.
The interpretive dance belts can stop tapping their toes.
Sweep up his hayloft and cut down his tree.
“I’ll sing a requiem,” warbles McPhee.

Burn all the acorns he wore on his head
Spell it in dandelions: He Is Dead.
Put Midriff and Carpet in armbands of black.
Tell the ducks in the park not to utter a quack.

Linda Lavin is not needed now; nor Bill, Gil and Lil.
What once was a sailboat is now just a quill …

… Well, you get the idea. (It was either this or Goblinweed-themed “Pore Judd Is Dead.” This was shorter. Email me and I’ll send you the other one, suitable for campfire sing-a-longs.)

And I have to say, I really did not see this coming, which I know is stupid, Jonathan Larson, blah blah blah. But I thought we’d at least get a scene of Kyle in a coma, or being told he’d never walk again, necessitating Jimmy to give up his life to help his newly paralyzed and incontinent friend and we’d realize he wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and maybe we’d get a scene like the very end of Pollyanna, with Andy Mientus in a prim flannel nightgown, lying morosely on the stairwell as Alex Timbers and Raul Esparza and John Simon filed past, telling him in turn how he gave them back their smiles. Or at the very least, Jimmy would have dashed out after him into the night to cradle his friend’s broken body and grant him a single chaste kiss on the forehead once his eyes had closed forever, because if anyone is more Eponine than Eponine, it’s Kyle.

But no, he’s just gone. Poof. Jimmy didn’t need him anymore, so he’s gone to be a homoerotic imaginary friend to another emotionally disturbed orphan who will. All we see of Kyle now are flashbacks in which he relates to the other characters, answering once and for all the question: “Who the hell do you have to kill to get some character exposition on Smash?” Cousin Debbie remembers working with him on the storyboard, and becomes obsessed with getting the lights dimmed on Broadway in his memory, just like they did for Wendy Wasserstein, the beloved author of more than twelve plays and a recipient of both the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize, a gesture that feels for me like when anti-marriage-equality people argue that gay marriage somehow devalues their own, except that obviously, I’m right. And speaking of gay cards, Tom fondly remembers the time he had to turn his in for singing a Billy Joel song — a Billy. Joel. Song. — in the middle of the night to a cute twink in his underpants, and decides to memorialize said cute twink his own way, by slightly changing a piece of Bernadette Peters’s blocking as per Kyle’s suggestion, which seems about right as a tribute, actually. Jimmy’s flashback is obviously all about Jimmy, as is Karen’s, although her memory of Jimmy congratulating her for being so wonderful and saintly as to accept Jimmy and his troubled past conveniently omits the part where she dumped him minutes later for exactly that. God, it must be pleasant to be Karen Cartwright, swimming around the pink coral castle in your little glass bowl, then swimming away again, enjoying the feel of your fins unfurling in the cool water, and then, “Oh look, there’s a castle! I’ve never seen that before!”

Anyway, back in the real world, the ever-practical Derek and the overacting extras in the cast of Hit List (all of whom are sniffling manfully, blissfully unaware that they are nothing but unfocused blobs in the back of the shot and if that agent from Innovative ever calls them back, it’s not going to be because of this) have two concerns: Are they going to cancel the show tonight? And how will they tell Jimmy? The second problem resolves itself quickly: by Jimmy showing up, crashing around performing a whole aria to himself and his glorious angst before Midriff finally has had it and says, “Shut the fuck up, you fucking asshole, Kyle is dead.” At which point he a) laughs hysterical and b) storms out, probably to get some more crack or throw himself off a bridge or something, which means Karen has to run out looking for him, because she didn’t sleep with Derek! Her Dixie cup rejected the weak English breakfast blend of his watered-down seed, and now that the saintly gay has finally been ritually sacrificed on the altar of self-involved heterosexuality, she and Jimmy can finally realize how much they mean to each other! No day but today!

The show, well, that’s another story. Derek thinks they should cancel, out of respect to the grieving cast and the grieving Goblinwitzes, who appear to have fled back to their forest village of Anatevka to start laying out the pebbles and cowrie shells for the Shiva. (No, excuse me, the cowrie shells are fleishig! Use the sand dollars, they’re for milk. Also, this seems as good as any to point what I neglected to last week, which is that Kyle was living in in the Hundred Acre Wood under the name of Bishop, but his mother asked Karen to make her program out to the Cohens? So, he’s Bishop as in “related to Joey Bishop?” or is it that Bishop is actually a direct translation of his birth name? You can discuss this amongst yourselves, should something in the future make me too verklempt to continue.) But S-JOENE is not so sure. I mean, look at those long, long lines of hipsters snaking around the theater, because they are so desperate to hear what Kyle has to say, and also, because he lied about telling the ticket-holders that the show was cancelled, and then blamed it on the careerist malignance of Cousin Debbie! Oops! You outsmarted yourself there, S-JOENE! Cousin Debbie is now free from her bonds to you, and free to enjoy a genuinely passionate fuckfest with Daniel Sunjata, whom I expect to see taking a languorous fifteen-minute shower in the season finale as Patti LuPone singing “Rose’s Turn” plays on a deafening loop! I had a dream!

But honestly, I don’t know why they even went through the charade of pretending to maybe think about cancelling the show, because honestly, theater people live for this shit, and also, what if we somehow had managed to duck the 16-gauge shovel marked “JONATHAN LARSON” the other eighteen times they tried to hit us over the head with it? And wouldn’t it all be rather more convincing if they hadn’t spent the season vacillating between Kyle as a glorified secretary-nun content to toil in the shadow of Jimmy’s genius, and Kyle as a sort of dramaturgical savant who, like a musical prodigy seated for the first time in front of a harp, needed only the gift of Cousin Debbie’s colored index cards in his warm little paw to solve all the problems in the third act of Measure for Measure? I don’t know what we’re supposed to think, but thank God Karen found Jimmy in time, and submitted to an on-the-spot pelvic examination that yielded no returns of Wills-ian DNA, so that he can swoop in with a guitar he found somewhere and make sure he reaps every single last benefit of Kyle’s years of love and support, which includes the evil Jerry, sporting a handsome new set of antlers from the enchanted Manhattan Anjelica Huston threw in his face for the unforgivable crime of spending untold thousands on a full-page Bombshell ad in the New York Times, making a split-second decision to open Hit List on Broadway in time to screw Ivy out of her Tony. Oh fucking boy.

And so the lights dim on Kyle, and on another episode of Smash, just as they do on the marquee outside of Bombshell in his honor. It’s a sweet gesture for a sweet little gnome who made a lot of people happy and whom I hope got to have drunk woodland sex with his friend Jimmy at least once. Imagine what Karen would have to say about that. Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood. For nothing else could ever be that good.

Smash Recap: The Sacrificial Goblinweed