Smash Series Finale Recap: Fade Out on a Girl


The Nominations/The Tonys
Season 2 Episodes 16 and 17
Editor’s Rating 4 stars


The Nominations/The Tonys
Season 2 Episodes 16 and 17
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Will Hart/NBC

Well, my toreadorable Hollywood blondes, this is it. We’ve finally come to the end of our long, strange, erotic journey from Milan to the Minskoff, and I have to tell you, I’m sort of at a loss for words. Which, to be perfectly honest, is probably not the worst thing in the world, given that it’s an unearthly time of night and I am now charged with the unenviable task of smashing (see what I did there?) two full-length episodes of series-ending television into the length of one recap. If NBC didn’t think the ignominious end of their tarnished jewel was worth spreading out over two nights, I guess my brand of trance-induced Haribo mania fan fiction isn’t either. Oh well, what is dead may never die. Even Mozart was given a pauper’s burial in an unmarked grave, you know?

But I will get to the mushy stuff later. For now, we’ve got a fever and the only thing that can cure it is being beaten senseless and possibly sodomized by a Tony, but for now we’ll have to settle for the Outer Critics’ Circle Awards, the nominations for which are the absolute best indicator for who might win an Outer Critics’ Circle Award, which seems to be me, you, and everyone we know (coming to Broadway next year, with a book by Miranda July and a score by Stephen Malkmus, Tim Rice, and starring my cat, whose name actually is Anjelica Huston. It’s about time she starts earning her keep). Everyone is frantically freshening and refreshing their drinks and their web browsers, because in this Age of Austerity, that’s how the winners are announced. How far we’ve come from the Cub Room.

Anjelica Huston is hunched over the machine she has cleverly disguised as one of those “Googler” things, but is secretly a reliquary for the Lost Seeing Crystals of Atlantis, bemoaning the fact that Hit List has received eleven nominations to Bombshell’s measly ten (apparently Best Text Message is a newly created category). Karen Cartwright, a limp sheet of already-popped bubble wrap that scientists at the University of Indiana have managed to fit with a partially working artificial larynx, has arranged her facial nubbins into her trademark inscrutable Mona Lisa–with–a–mustache smile, as she is far too Good and Noble and True to Herself to care about superficial things like awards, even though she’s obviously going to win.

Tom, who is nominated for best director, does care, so much that he is willing to commit the Unforgivable sin of checking. his. phone. during a Broadway performance, even though if he is caught it means immediate removal to Wildhorn, the Azkaban-like prison fortress hidden in the depths of the Minskoff Theater, from which the only method of escape is by means of their work-release program, which at the moment is under exclusive license of the State of Michigan to recruit hospice workers for Elaine Stritch. (It’s not an easy job, given the demands of the charge, and also because you have to be surgically castrated first.) Luckily, the Dementors working as ushers are too busy terrorizing latecomers to notice Tom’s transgression, but he does manage to seriously annoy that really good-looking but ridiculously self-important guy you met in the Pines this weekend, who turns out not to be some waiter from Chelsea who bought a pair of Tom Ford sunglasses and now thinks he’s David Geffen (or at least the guy David Geffen is sleeping with) but Huge Ackman, a big, hot, theater-loving movie star. If we understand each other. He’s also a member of the Tony-nominating committee, which means he is not a person to piss off this week.

To apologize, Tom sends him a bottle of petite sirah. Anyway, it’s illegal to give gifts to any member of the nominating committee, so Tom has to go and try to get his bottle of wine back, except Huge Ackman catches him and they wind up in a strange, erotic (a recurring phrase this week, it seems) tug-of-war in which the wine symbolizes a hard, cold, glassy penis, as I always imagined Edward Cullen’s to be, which then shatters, thrillingly, all over Huge Ackman’s shoes. What a meet-cute, am I right? And also, really Tom, a petite sirah? For an apology? Why not just buy a carton of Entenmann’s, eat it all, throw it up back into the box and then say, here, I got you some bulimia? Sorry.

And speaking of throwing up, guess who is doing it all over the place? Ivy Lynn, a.k.a. Little Miss Knocked-up Knettie! She’s puking so hard she almost misses curtain call, prompting Gore Vidal, ever the supportive friend, to muse aloud that she’s probably back on the hallucinatory prednisone. “If they had simply cast Joanne Woodward, as I suggested,” says Gore, “none of this would ever have happened. But no. They wanted a woman with udders.” But is she going to tell Derek, the way any normal woman, upon figuring out she was accidentally pregnant, would immediately call the inseminator to be like, “What the fuck am I supposed to do now?” I don’t mean to go off on a tangent here, and Smash is hardly the only guilty party, but I have never, never understood the TV/movie trope where you find out you’re pregnant and then just, like, don’t tell anyone for a month, least of all the most logical repository for your rage and doubt. I mean, Jesus, I’ve told guys I wasn’t even dating I was scared I was pregnant when I hadn’t even missed my period yet, first of all, so that I didn’t have to panic alone, but also, to let them know they needed to start saving up $300, like, now. (Oh, college.) Instead, Ivy tells Token — who is now apparently playing the role of Sammy Davis Jr./Drug Dealer No. 4 in Hit List  that Jimmy has been mysteriously reinstated in the lead because that’s what poor dead Kyle Goblinweed would have wanted — who immediately comes over to make her some tea and give her some passive-aggressive church talk about how “no matter what she decides, she’s going to make a great mom.” I give you Sam Strickland, everybody, the Ann Romney of Soul.

As for soul, whose got more than Outer Critics’ Circle winner Karen Cartwright? I mean, besides Katie Holmes, Mitch McConnell, and this half-empty box of Honey-Nut Cheerios I just found on the floor next to my couch? Jimmy may have channeled all his narcissistic rage into demanding an Tony nominee for Kyle, because that’s what Kyle would have wanted (you guys, is Kyle Goblinweed the new Marilyn?), but Karen is all up in arms about Daisy the Reformer, the slutty but disconcertingly expensive yoga mat who has now apparently totally replaced Midriff as the Diva in Hit List, although we all know the real Diva is the one who just barged into the dressing room and demanded a fellow Outer Critics’ Circle Award winner quit the show, because she slept with the director and how can she live with herself? And Daisy, truly earning her nickname “the Reformer,” tells Karen she is utterly full of Iowan shit, although she fails to point out the obvious, which is that when the show was cast/made, Karen was sleeping with the writer. Whatever, let me know when somebody really goes Eve Harrington and starts screwing Michael Riedel.

Presenting Mary Testa! Presenting the Outer Critics’ Circle awards, which for the first time in theater history are not being held at Sardi’s, because licensing all the individual images of the stars on the walls is too expensive! Tom wins the Class Olympics with a very gracious speech thanking his co-winner, Derek, who I am increasingly convinced does not have a shower in his apartment (although as I write to you while wearing the Obama 2012 sweat outfit I’ve been sporting uninterruptedly for the last six days, I can hardly talk), for giving him the opportunity to direct in the first place, but really, the whole point is for everyone to yell at each other about all the shade they’ve been throwing. Like how Karen told Michael Musto — who looks incredibly dapper and should be given his own television show immediately — that creating a character from scratch was a totally different ball game than whatever flea-bitten basement drag act that old village bicycle Ivy is doing over at the St. James, which led Ivy to say to a strangely sexless iPhone-wielding entity that is Hit List never would have made it to Broadway if not for the martyrhood of Kyle Goblinweed. (This is not untrue, P.S.) Ivy tries to apologize to Jimmy, but he responds in his usual way of standing his ground, reaching deep inside his rectum (still remarkably elastic and supple from his hustling days, like how if you take enough ballet class as a child you never lose your thigh muscles; at least that’s the principle I’ve been operating under for the last fifteen years), extracting a fistful of excrement, and flinging it in her face.

And then he flings another one at Cousin Debbie for dedicating her award to Kyle, which somehow means she’s telling everyone that she really wrote the book to Hit List, thus ruining La Goblinweed’s chances at a posthumous Tony — and how would she like it if he told the world that she had a dramaturge (everybody scream, because dramaturge is the secret word, still and forever) give her a round of notes six months ago on a draft of the book that they’re not using? Oh, and by the way, Midriff and her lawyers are going public about how Daisy the Reformer got her part because Derek tried to bribe her by getting her a part in the tour of Once, except now she’s not, because Derek got her a part in the tour of Once.

Anyway, it’s getting late, so let’s just announce the fucking Tony nominees already, shall we? Cheyenne Jackson has spent several hours arranging his own Hugh Ackman in his very tight pants and one of the work-release prisoner-eunuchs of Wildhorn has turned Christine Ebersole’s reversible straight jacket over to its Chanel side, and they’re ready to go. The nominations come thick and fast. Lee Conroy! Ivy for Liaisons: Behind the False Chiffonier!  Julia and Tom and Kyle and Derek for everything! And then the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the nominees for “Best Leading Actress in a Musical” (there are no straight plays on Broadway, just like in real life! No “straight” plays, that is. Ha, ha, I’m so funny we both forgot to laugh!)

Christine Ebersole reads the nominees. “Kate Baldwin for Seesaw. Karen Carwright for Hit List.” And Karen smiles! She actually smiles! I mean, it doesn’t, like, reach her eyes or anything like that, but AI is getting better by the minute, so it’s only a matter of time. I mean, I’ve heard they’ve got a robot in Japan now who can actually cry while it’s giving you a blow job. “Anika Noni Rose for Imitation of Life. Ron Paul for Passions. And Audra McDonald for Being Audra McDonald.”

Ivy didn’t get it! Except, wait! We forgot how Christine Ebersole is a crazy person, and Ivy actually did get it! And everyone is so happy, except Unfrozen Caveman Husband, who is so angry about Cousin Debbie hiring a decent divorce lawyer he has stopped making Rage Salads and has actually transformed into a person-size bottle of Annie’s Low-Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing, and Derek, who is so haunted by guilt over his three nominations in one year — an achievement he now shares exclusively with Bob Fosse, in case the comparison has been eluding us until now — he calls up Michael Riedel and tells him how he offered Daisy the part of the Diva if she slept with him. To which Michael Riedel responds with the follow-up question we’ve all wanted to ask: “Derek Wills, you are a professed heterosexual man on Broadway who happens to be extremely powerful and attractive and have a British accent: Are you really that hard up for sex?????”

On to part deux!!! And again, please forgive my rushing through it. I know it’s our last one, but hard as it is to believe, there are limits on my word count/sanity.

We open, as one does, with an entire cast sing-a-long to “Under Pressure” because Cameron Mackintosh wouldn’t give them the rights to “One Day More,” unless Anne Hathaway took over for Karen. (My Smash-themed lyrics to this, including the ghost of Kyle Goblinweed, will be included in my upcoming Smash-related Kindle Single. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. It’s happening.) Let’s just say that Derek wins, because he sings Bowie correctly, like a British person. But that Anjelica Huston just amply proved why, in her heyday, she was known as the “Etruscan Rex Harrison” and that if I had a phone that could do such things, I would even now be changing my ringtone to Cousin Debbie’s terrified, adorable little “people on the streets.” (TERROR, TERROR)

But it’s all a dream Tom is having, and really he’s at home with Cousin Debbie, who instead of writing an acceptance speech has taken the advice of her lawyer and copied out several of the scenes between Larry and Anna, and Dan and Anna, from Closer by Patrick Marber, on a legal pad, which she will later present to the frothing bottle of salad dressing that used to be her partially frozen husband product. Because how better to smooth over the hurt from a rough divorce than by letting the injured party know you never really loved them? Cousin Debbie is so brave!

Meanwhile, I guess Christine Ebersole didn’t induce miscarriage by leaving Ivy off the Tony list (which the method we’ll all have to use if the Republicans ever get back into the White House) because Ivy can’t fit into her Tony dress! So she’s still pregnant, although I wouldn’t put it past this show to have the shmamortion happen off-camera, although it does seem like it would be a shameful waste of a music-video dream sequence. What would your shadow self sing during your D&C? I’m torn between “Stay (I Missed You)” by Lisa Loeb, and “What’s New, Buenos Aires” from Evita, which is always what gets stuck in my head whenever I’m feeling optimistic about something. Also, how in the fucking name of Jesus fucking Streisand does Bernadette Peters still look like that? How, how, how?

And then there’s Jimmy, who has mysteriously emptied his ginormous loft apartment (I guess the Goblinwitzes have stopped footing the bill) and is saying all these things like my grandma did when she started to feel her time had come, like: “Cousin Debbie, will you please accept Kyle’s Tony for him if he wins even though it will mean that you lost, and also, take Grandpa’s watch and this ceramic rabbi I bought from the Franklin Mint, because I won’t need them where I’m going.” Has he finally figured out what the lyrics to “Broadway, Here I Come” really mean? And he is going to go to there?

Well, not before Kyle wins the Tony, and Jimmy can accept it for him by making Kyle’s life all about Karen and how wonderful and magical she is in case we’ve forgotten! And Tom and Julia win! And Derek wins for choreography, and then redeems himself by unhooking Daisy the Reformer’s harness so that she falls to her death in front of the cheering crowd. (I’d tell you how Sutton Foster and Susan Blackwell — Jerry’s new girlfriend! — immediately rushed the stage to rip out locks of her hair as souvenirs, but that would be tasteless.)

And then Ivy wins!!!!!! IVY WINS!!!!!!! And so does Bombshell!!! There was cheering in the Shukert household. And yes, tears. And Derek finally tells her he loves her, and they’re going to have a baby who will have even more issues about living in the shadow of its parents than the two of them do, and thus does the circle remain unbroken!!!

But Jimmy! At last, we’re going to hear the deep, dark secret that has haunted him all these years, that has compelled him, against his will, to be an arrogant prick to stage managers and eat in costume, even though you’re not supposed to eat in costume! We’re going to hear how his married father never accepted him, and so he will never accept the middle classes, and how also his family was blasted away in the rice fields, and also how he wouldn’t sleep with the foreman in the rosary factory, so he was fired and forced to lead a life of bald prostitution, and then his brother killed his boyfriend’s best friend, so his boyfriend killed his brother, and then Chino killed his boyfriend, and also, he never became famous in his own right, even though he gave everything to his children.

Or how he gave some girl some drugs, and she OD’d, and he didn’t call the cops, but she’s fine. But he told the cops, who said: “Well, we don’t have any evidence and you haven’t had a trial and being out on bail means you’re out on bail until you have one, but yeah, I guess you can go to jail for a few months if you really really want to, but there have to be easier ways to explore your sexuality, son. I mean, you work in musical theater, for Christ’s sake.” And Anjelica Huston gets back together with Goran the Bull, who is working as a short order cook at the Café Edison, stop by sometime, he’ll give you some soup. Tom kisses Huge Ackman, who really is straight. And Cousin Debbie, horny from the sweet, sweet foreplay of victory, shows up at Michael Swift’s door with her legal pad of loneliness.

So that’s how Smash ends. Tom is alone, and the four women have all wound up with three criminals and one emotionally deranged stalker. Sounds about right to me.

Now all that’s left is to end with a four-wall-breaking Roxie-and-Velma knock-off number to let us know this was all a TV show, playing in our heads, and none of it was real after all. Just a lot of sequins and greasepaint and illusion. Like the theater itself.

On a personal note, I would just like to say that this show, and this experience, has quite literally changed my life. I think many of you would agree, and I just want to thank you, all of you, for in some small way, making me feel like you were letting me be your star.

I’ll be settling myself on an ice floe now and pushing myself out to sea (thanks for that, Jesse), but I hope, once Anjelica Huston’s fiery arrow has consumed me, that once in a while, you’ll think fondly on these days. When you shop for jewelry or sing “Happy Birthday,” obviously you should think about Marilyn Monroe. But if you ever wake up in the middle of the night with a desperate longing to make a tasteless joke about Angela Lansbury, I hope that you don’t —  please say that you won’t — forget me.

Smash Series Finale Recap: Fade Out on a Girl