The cold open is anything but as Derek choreographs Ivy in some horizontal mambo (that’s right – I said mattress dancin’!). Well, he’s detail oriented; he’s only checking her lung capacity. Ivy sings his scales – so to speak, I’m sure there was all manner of humming and lip rolls and tongue trills involved – but when she wants to get together sometime and watch Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, or maybe have Derek listen to her read passages aloud from Legend: Marilyn Monroe or even just sit and stare wistfully at that Boulevard of Broken Dreams print, Derek reveals himself to be anything but a gentleman as he smirks and says that he considers their continuing romps between the sheets Marilyn 101. Oh, Ivy, you’ve been reading the essential Marilyn: you should have known [Broadway] is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.
Ivy channels a little Marilyn later as she twists her hands and bites her lip and worries to her friends in the ensemble that she only got the part because she slept with the director. Her friends tell her to enjoy the sex! Revel in getting the part! There’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York! Concrete jungle where dreams are…you get me. This is SO not the message SVU gave me last week about the dangers of the casting couch – be consistent, New York, I’m from Middle America and you alienate me with your conflicting tropes!
Eileen is sending some of her jewelry the vintage route and managing to do it with aplomb, because she’s Anjelica Frickin’ Huston and even her bob screams aplomb. She spies some dangly, bargain price earrings that the sales clerk helpfully points out were inspired by Marilyn’s sparklers in The Seven Year Itch. What a whacky, unexpected happenstance! She must have them, of course.
Derek has Karen meet him for cocktails so he can tell her face to fresh-facedness that she didn’t get the lead based solely on her lack of experience (in his bed). He offers her a part in the ensemble and Karen graciously accepts, only to have Derek spit out that she’s too talented for ensemble. Before Karen can diagram that thought process, her boyfriend Dev shows up and goes tongue-spelunking her tonsils for Derek’s edification. Having successfully peed a ring around Karen, Dev then engages in a very British round of who’s got the biggest willie with Derek. What starts as a bit of Cambridge vs. Oxford, old chap, rivalry devolves into a bit of Sharks vs. Jets when Derek makes a snide backhanded compliment about Dev’s ethnicity. Karen isn’t amused at Dev checking up on her but is somewhat charmed by his Gone With the Wind-inspired seduction routine later because she’s a sucker for a counterpoint duet.
Casting Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, and JFK has turned into head shot bingo until Eileen learns that Michael Swift is available and performing in Bruno Mars: The Musical! as we speak. Eileen and Derek are impressed by Michael’s chops (and that fact that Bruno Mars’ meteoric but brief career has spawned a musical revue). Frankly, I found Michael a bit too Kentucky flannel to be believable as Joltin’ Joe, but I suppose we should be grateful for the lack of a Jersey Shore stunt casting. And really, who are you going to get to pull off a visually accurate, musically inclined Joe DiMaggio? Jerry Orbach is too old, and as far as I know, still too deceased to give the veracity it needs. Where have you gone, Broadway’s original Billy Flynn? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Meanwhile, Eileen’s erstwhile ex, Jerry The Money Man, rattles his Rolex at Derek in an attempt to entice him one last time into coming back aboard his captainless My Fair Lady revival. Eileen’s sick of revivals, including Jerry’s shtick, so she tosses a drink on him for his trouble. There’s a word in this business, and that word’s aplomb – Ms. Huston, ladies and gentlemen.
Julia and Tom compose. Well, Tom tinkles the ivories and Julia airs her lack of fondness for both Ellis, Tom’s assistant, and Michael Swift for DiMaggio (Right? He’s too Luke Skywalker, Aryan farm boy for The Yankee Clipper). In fact, she’s so down on this Swift guy (dun dun dun) that she’s for nixing the role of DiMaggio completely (Nooooo! I want my ode to oral sex baseball number!). Tom suggests they go ahead and dump Arthur Miller and JFK as characters as well; let’s put on an all-girl rendition of Marilyn!, kids – it’ll be like Talent Night in boarding school!
We get some Michael POV and a bit of backstory – wife, kid – and a glimpse that he’s also not too keen on taking on a workshop for Joe DiMaggio. How uncanny that he and Julia are on the same page! Michael wants to be a responsible dad, and jumping into a musical that might not get off the ground isn’t something he’s taking lightly, but his wife assures him that the payoff will be their son seeing his dad as DiMaggio. (I’m sure 1940s center fielders are the talk of his son’s Montessori school.)
It’s minor character POV all around as we also see Ellis sharing a smoke with some friends on the New York skyline. His friends suggest that he get paid for pitching the idea of Marilyn! but I don’t think saying “Iconic Celebrity: The Musical!” entitles him to a finder’s fee, and you can tell deep down Ellis doesn’t either.
Eileen attempts to shake out some investors, but they’re all a bit leery at the lack of Jerry’s business acumen alongside her eye for talent. Eileen’s smile could cut glass, and while it’s all very sisters are doin’ it for themselves, it’s a trope that seems a bit dated in 2012, little lady. Still, money trumps equality and talent, even in the business of show.
Speaking of cold, hard cash, Karen worries about taking on a low-paying ensemble part in a workshop, especially since she’s already taken time off to head back home for a baby shower. Dev offers to cover her financially, but Karen doesn’t think they’re ready for that sort of unequal division of assets. She decides to get some clarity back at the home place, and the corn is as high as elephant’s eye – it’s obvious, we’re in Iowa. Oh, wait…And yeah, the location scouts have hauled out all of the Middle America set dressing here: wraparound porch, tall glasses of iced tea, middle class values gleaming from Dad’s Polo and Mom’s Jaclyn Smith Collection buttondown. But wait…the shower’s in a karaoke bar, how’s that for quirky small town charm? Her friends importune Karen to do a little number, and since there’s a conveniently located stage and they’ve bumped her up the waiting list, she gives them a little of Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman.” Can I get a yee-haw, y’all? On the way back to New York City, Karen’s dad expresses his concern over her career choices but agrees to trust her judgment and then gives her a check to tide things over. Apparently for Karen, it’s okay for independent women to take money from your sugar daddy when he’s your daddy, sugar!
Tom and Julia ponder what Marilyn and Joe really wanted and Tom’s a bit taken aback by Julia’s “Marriage is a good thing” mantra (hey-yo to the foreshadowing!) but she’s unable to find her handy, dandy notebook to jot down her plot bunny because Ellis has absconded with it! Wow, this guy goes from breaking YouTube terms of service by uploading copyrighted material to stealing intellectual property – I bet he also tags people in unflattering pics on Facebook without asking.
Ellis, who by the way is NOT GAY, despite the sweater vests and his history as a high school props master, reveals to his girlfriend that he took Julia’s notebook because she has it in for him and hey, he should get paid, Marilyn was his baby! He discovers that the notebook is full of lyrics (astounding!) and perhaps something a bit more titillating…but he’ll have to reveal that later in the season because it’s his character’s turn at the horizontal mambo scene cut.
Speaking of sexually tense scene cuts, Julia bumps into Michael at Eileen’s. Awkward sexual tension you could cut with a knife! Julia tries to leave quickly, but Michael’s super keen on telling her about his new wife and family. Having set the scene for his own emotional unavailability, he lays some “Gee, your hair smells terrific” on her and Julia takes a powder via the slowest elevator in New York.
Eileen waits for Manny the Investor at what you just know is her table at her favorite restaurant and a waiter presents her with a pair of earrings from someone at the bar. Eileen displays her pleasure at the unexpected gift with a subtle eyebrow lift (aplomb – when a man you’ve never met before suddenly offers you a velvet box and you take it as your due). Unfortunately, the waiter also presents her with a cocktail, a Manhattan, from the same gentleman and Eileen’s eyebrows furrow. She knows this cocktail, and much like Jerry’s musical revivals, it’s tired. Since Eileen didn’t just get off the last bus from Iowa, however, she informs Jerry he’s only flaunting his plumage and flexing his financial muscle because he believes she received her not-so-Tiffany earrings (he’s a details guy) from someone else. But she bought them for herself, she’s going to produce “Marilyn” by herself, and while we’re at it, drinks are again on Jerry.
Tom learns from one of Ivy’s ensemble buddies on what turned out to be a surprise!date that Ivy is “dating” Derek, or at least having sex with him in dressing rooms. He rants to Julia that it’s unethical and they argue the morality of the backstage hookup, but Julia doesn’t judge. Boy, howdy, how she does not judge. Ellis, who can tie a fetching Windsor knot but evidently can’t read social cues, attempts to intervene in the argument and tells Julia to give Tom space. Julia attempts to send Ellis on his way, because she can fire him again, since the first time wasn’t the charm. Ellis tells her that he doesn’t have to do what she says, she’s not his real mom, he works for Tom. He then chastises her tone and her anger management issues and, oh, look, I just happened to find your notebook. Oh, Ellis: that one may smile, and smile, and be a villain!
Ivy queries a post-coital Derek as to why they never hook up at his place (or have lunch, or take in a show, or walk through the park hand-in-hand…). I’m really having a hard time believing that someone as attractive as Ivy with 10 years of Broadway experience would be this “what is our relationship, and where is it going?” while she’s boning her director. Derek gives her some song and dance about gas line breaks and messy kitchens, but that he wants her absolutely everywhere, darling! Oh, Ivy. Have the grace to hold yourself while those around you crawl.
Julia and Tom put the finishing touches on the Marilyn/Joe ballad “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and Julia confesses that she had an affair with Michael Swift during the last show they did together. It ended because they had a chance make-out session on the Brooklyn Bridge and that’s…trite by New York standards? I have no idea. Tom is sympathetic, but Ellis is listening in the wings, his sweater tucked just so and his imaginary mustache a-twirl.
Ivy sings “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” with Michael. His tones are round and warm and very, very Broadway. Again, just not very Joltin’ Joe; even in the costumed fantasy cut, Michael’s too cornpone for Italy’s gift to baseball. Had I been shown a picture and asked which of Marilyn’s paramours he was portraying, I would have guessed the earnest young production assistant from “My Week with Marilyn.” Michael eye fucks Julia while he sings and Julia squirms to the tune of Marilyn and Joe’s desire for something simple and normal.
Next week: Surprise Nick Jonas! I’d laugh, but he was the bomb as Marius in Les Miz’s 25th Anniversary concert!