On the good ship Hit List, Jimmy and Derek clash at every turn. Jimmy wants the show to be stripped down, no stars, no fancy sets, nothing but the music and, presumably, something better than Kyle's terrible, terrible book. Derek wants a star to play the second female lead and big LED video screens behind the actors, and they fight and bash their heads together until Tom, of all people, points out that Jimmy is just like Derek was when he was young, arrogant, full of ideas. Derek compromises by adding a whole corps of dancers to the show, which doesn't offend Jimmy's delicate sensibilities.
Over on the HMS Bombshell, Tom is trying so hard to be a different kind of director from Derek that he's letting everyone in the cast steamroll him for anything they want, at the expense, mostly, of Julia's writing. She drags him downtown to see Derek screaming at Jimmy, and also so Tom can sit down with Derek and they can both see the flaws in their directorial styles. After their conclave, Tom becomes more of an authoritarian, shooting down Ivy's requests and snapping at the dancers when they're not concentrating.
And he also breaks Sam's pretty heart, again. Sam is passing through town on a one-week break from the touring company of The Book of Mormon, and at a cast party at Tom's house, he sings a song Tom and Julia wrote about Nat King Cole for a never-finished show about Vegas in the '60s. He's wonderful, of course, and because Tom misses Sam, he tries to find a way to shoehorn the Nat King Cole song into Bombshell. Of course it doesn't fit, and Tom has to tell Sam that he quit his job with the Mormons for nothing. Sam leaves, saddened, and I really hope this isn't the last we see of him.
On the business side, Eileen and Bombshell's publicist, Daphne Rubin-Vega, are trying to drum up publicity for the show that doesn't focus on what a great blazing disaster it is. Since they still haven't cast the now-important role of Marilyn's mother, Eileen has a brilliant idea: they'll cast Ivy's actual mom, famed Broadway legend Leigh Conroy, or as she's known around here, Bernadette Effing Peters. So that's going to be insane.
Previously on Smash: Everybody quit everything! So now Karen and Derek are with Hit List, Ivy is in Bombshell, and despite his phenomenal early success Jimmy is still angry, but he has a good reason, kind of, because Derek is being a dick to him all the time.
Karen wakes up in bed with Jimmy, both of them naked. She grabs her clothes and goes down the stairs from his loft, then takes the sheets of music off the piano and leaves. But then Jimmy is in the bed on the set, arguing with Derek about the scene they're rehearsing, in which Hit List's Amanda steals Jesse's songs after seducing him. Derek wants him to play it angry, because she just stole his music, but Jimmy disagrees, saying he'd be confused, because she just left after the greatest night of Jesse's life. Derek is like fine, whatever, just make a choice. His hair is approaching Tim Burton levels of alarm.
Bombshell rehearsal. Ivy, glorious in a red wrap dress, launches into "Let Me Be Your Star," thrilling Eileen and Tom. Julia is that person who lets her phone ring audibly when someone else is performing six feet away. Ivy ends the song and everyone applauds, because it's so great.
Tom needles Julia for leaving her ringer on, and she apologizes. Tom says he's not going call back -- she exposits that Scott was one of her closest friends in grad school, so she can't believe he's still holding a grudge fifteen years later. Tom's like, I believe it. He goes over to tell the cast there's coffee and croissants from Balthazar for them, as if we doubted from the fresh flowers on the tables that this show is a huge machine, and congratulates Ivy on how awesome she is. They discuss a small point in the song, that she needs more space to breathe, and he agrees with her, then tells everyone in the cast he wants to hear everyone's opinions, at his house, tonight. "Forget Derek. This is a whole new Bombshell," he says. In that case, Ivy would like a break in act two, since she's in every scene. Julia looks horrified, but Tom just got finished pointing out how he's a kind and fluffy director who will listen to everyone's input! He says he'll try.
Eileen's office. Eileen is rhapsodizing about how Ivy has her mother's face, and the show's publicist -- played by Rent's original Mimi Marquez, Daphne Rubin Vega squee!! -- says she also has her mother's rack, and says it would make her job so much easier if Ivy was as big a star as Momadette. Without Derek's name to sell the musical on, they need to generate excitement to sell tickets. Right now Bombshell is known only as a disaster. Eileen asks about a story in the Times, and Daphne, sorry, her character's name is Agnes, says they passed. Yes, even Richard Francis, the head of the arts section, Eileen's old friend. And then she yells at some people on her headset, and it's great.