Bombshell's Boston previews have just closed, to middling reviews: the critics like Tom's score and Karen's performance (barf), but they hate Derek and everything Julia contributed. So back in New York, there's much talk of buckling down to fix the problems before the show transfers to Broadway. But first, Julia has to break up with Shrek and Tom has to break up with Sam (single tear!) and Karen has to diva out and demand that Derek fire Ivy, which he does.
Derek is still trying to turn Karen into a star, so he takes her to see a performance by someone with actual stage presence and talent: multiple Tony winner Veronica Moore, played by actual Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson. Ronnie is awesome and very polite and doesn't mention that Karen has the personality of a glass of skim milk.
Eileen almost succeeds in booking a theater for the show, but thanks to her lousy ex-husband, Jerry, the feds start investigating where she's gotten the money to bankroll the Marilyn train: her mobster boyfriend, Nick. They shut everything down and our merry band dangles on the precipice of unemployment. Again.
Just as things look most dire, Karen meets a bartender who's actually a composer, named Jimmy. He maybe likes her and maybe is negging her, but she sticks around after closing and hears him playing his original song, "Broadway, Here I Come." She calls up Derek and hatches a tiny plot in her tiny mind.
We open with Karen in black and white and full Marilyn drag (which looks kind of terrifying), singing a new song called "Cut, Print... Moving On." It's closing night in Boston. The picture bleeds to full color as the cast performs the last show, intercut with them packing up and leaving to head back to New York. Karen gets in her Town Car and slams the door in Ivy's face. Ivy arrives back in Manhattan, where she has to suffer the indignity of hailing her own cab. So tragic.
Karen walks up to a gorgeous Village row house and into her new place. She has a new roommate, who hands her a letter from Dev that she doesn't bother to read. At her place, Ivy throws out all her pill bottles. On stage, everyone is dancing around Karen while she just stands there and/or they pick her up and move her around, which seems to be how she succeeds best.
Back at the rehearsal space, again, infinity. Karen and Ivy are waiting for an elevator in the lobby. Karen shoves her way in front of Ivy and says, "You can get the next one." Oh, I am so excited about this new, shiny season in which Karen is even more of an entitled asshole!
Derek welcomes everyone back and then starts a round of applause for a job well done in Boston. Eileen says the run was successful and they learned a lot from it. Her next goal is booking a Broadway theater for Bombshell. Derek says everyone needs to check in if they get offers from other shows, want to go on vacation or even get a haircut. Eileen continues that she hopes to be able to pick up everyone's contracts, but that will depend on the creative team's decisions. The camera lingers on Ivy. Ugh. She needs to say Fuck All Y'all and go play Dolly Parton in her autobiographical stage show, like the boss she is.
Eileen pulls Karen aside for a word and Boy Dancer Bobby smirks to Ivy that some people will cease to exist depending on what the creative team -- of which Karen is now a part -- decides. He demonstrates that the show's subtlety has not improved when he tells Ivy to watch out for targets on her back. Ivy's all, I've got this.
Eileen tells Karen she's having a little press party and she'd like her to sing the opening number. Karen agrees, and Eileen tells her to pick some backup singers. Karen wants Jessica and Beth and the show tries to wring some suspense out of who she'll pick third -- Will it be Ivy?! -- but of course she goes with Joy, because Karen is still a selfish, self-important monster (good to see nothing has changed in nine months), and also it would make no sense for her to pick Ivy, whom she hates and feels threatened by.
In her office, Eileen is meeting with Derek, Julia and Tom, telling them Michael Swift wants out of his contract. Everyone is more than okay with that. Hope there's room for you in that improvisational, audience-participation Justin Bieber tribute at La MaMa, Michael! Eileen wants to talk about the reviews next, which Julia declares that she never reads. Derek doesn't believe her, but Tom backs her up. She says she just has to look at Tom's face to know what they said. Derek asks if Tom's mug can tell her exactly what the critics focused on: Derek, the cast, etc. Julia insists that she watched the show from the audience for three weeks, so she knows there are problems that need fixing.
Eileen wants to book the St. James, where Oklahoma! and The King and I and The Producers all played (and it's presently home to Manilow on Broadway!). Julia and Tom swoon about the venue's history while Derek says pragmatically that if they don't get a theater, he has other jobs waiting to hear about his availability. Eileen tells him not to worry his spiky little head about it; his job is keeping Karen happy, because everyone in New York is talking about her and wants to know if she's as good as they've heard. Derek enthusiastically says she is, to which Tom replies that they all knows where he stands (behind Karen and not wearing pants would be Derek's preference). Derek starts reading one review -- from a newspaper! A physical one! That is so cute -- out loud while Julia dramatically leaves the room. Derek asks Tom to handle the Ivy problem and quickly, then swans out, saying, "Call me when you have a reason to." I've missed that arrogant jackass. Yes, I'm cutting him more slack than I will ever give Karen. Yes, it's partly internalized sexism. Let's move on.
Karen thanks her new roommate, Ana, for letting her move in. Tonight Derek is introducing her to Veronica Moore, which makes Ana super jealous, but in a nice way.
Ivy and Sam (hi Sam! I missed you too!) are sitting at those tables in the middle of Times Square while she bitches about how her agent hasn't gotten a call about her contract, but he has for all his other clients in Bombshell. Sam tries to placate her, because what has not changed over the hiatus is that Sam is the soothing balm poured over this show to make everyone not lose their very last shred of patience. I hope he gets more to do this year. She wonders what she can do and Sam says besides being on her best behavior, she just needs to find a way to stay with the show and get back on the way to becoming the star she was meant to be. "What is a star, anyway?" Ivy muses. "Do they even still exist?" (One gave birth to you, you lunatic!)
Segue into Veronica Moore's show, Beautiful. She's played by Jennifer Hudson and is singing in a stage set of a recording studio. The number, "Mama Makes Three," is big and swingy and belty -- basically right in Hudson's wheelhouse. In the audience, Derek and Karen keep giving each other little sidelong smiles as Veronica just tears it up.
Backstage, Derek introduces Karen to Ronnie, who ducks away to get dressed. He asks Ronnie if she's ready for her last few performances. Karen snoops around all of the things taped to the mirror: a magazine cover of the woman Ronnie's playing in Beautiful, a photo of her with President Obama. Derek wants to do a revival of The Wiz with Ronnie, but she's not particularly interested in another good-girl role. He says as long as she keeps winning Tonys, why not? Karen gushes about her first Tony acceptance speech. Derek interrupts, swigging lavishly from Ronnie's decanter of whiskey, and asks her to give Karen advice on standing right at the threshold of major stardom. Ronnie says she should protect her work and stay focused, because someone is always waiting in the wings. It's very Cristal Connors in the hospital talking to Nomi Malone, except Karen hasn't thrown Ronnie down a flight of stairs. Yet.
As Ronnie heads out the stage door, to endless camera flashes and people clamoring for her, she says to Karen, "Get ready. This is going to be you in six months." God, I hope not.
Down the block, Tom and Julia are standing across the street from the theater where Heaven and Earth is still playing. Tom says sure, their last show was fluff, but it's been running for two years and Bombshell is the one that will get them to the next level. He checks with Julia to make sure she knows they still have a lot of work to do, and she does. She gets a text and says she has to go, because she promised Shrek she'd be there when he got home from saving Princess Fiona from Lord Farquaad or whatever boring thing he was actually doing, and Tom says he's glad they're working things out. "We're trying," Julia says. Great. As long as you're doing it off-screen.
Eileen is waiting for her meeting with Jordan Roth (who is a real person) when Jerry, her terrible ex-husband, sits down across from her. She says the seat is