Schmigadoon! S2E5 Recap: “Famous As Hell” Twists and Turns

Melissa on stage in a blue fluffy dress kicking a drink out of the hand of a patron
Screenshot/Apple TV+

The following recap contains spoilers for Schmigadoon! S2E5, “Famous As Hell” (written by Josh Lieb and directed by Robert Luketic)

There always has to be a twist and Schmigadoon! S2E5, “Famous As Hell,” brings several. As, reveling in the success of their plan to make the others happy, Josh and Melissa fall for the trappings of fame and become the villains, at least until Kratt reasserts his dominance. By getting Jenny and Topher (Dove Cameron and Aaron Tveit) together, Josh and Melissa (Kegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong) unintentionally created a power vacuum that pretty easily and completely gets them both swept up. The tribe recruits Josh to lead them in Topher’s absence and Melissa takes advantage of Jenny’s failure to show up to become the headliner at the Kratt Klubb.

The Narrator (Titus Burgess) once again introduces us to the state of affairs with a “Welcome to Schmicago” reprise, this time pointing out all of the ways things have gone sideways due, in large part, to Josh and Melissa’s interference. Miss Codwell and Dooley Blight (Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming) are planning to murder and turn the orphans into sausages. Topher’s tribe is feeling ignored and Kratt (Patrick Page) is stewing and plotting. The Narrator has remained up until this point a seemingly benevolent character, but throughout “Famous As Hell” his darker intentions become clear.

The Narrator standing in the middle of a crowd of dancers with his mouth open
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Though Melissa and Josh are also fully capable of making sinister choices on their own. With Jenny missing, Madame Frau (Ann Harada) picks Melissa to headline the show at the Kratt Klubb and she winds up showing her star power once again. Melissa’s solo song feels much more like one of Sally’s songs from Follies than anything else we have seen on the show so far, though it is another of the numbers that could really translate to any torch song style performance, including “Maybe This Time.” The song works fantastically to establish the changes coming for the character. Especially as the song moves on and Cecily Strong starts to feel it and own the stage. By the end, Melissa has taken her turn. Though it takes Kratt signaling his devious approval for the rest of the crowd to realize it.

Almost instantly, the tribe finds Josh and appeals to his darker nature. Needing someone to follow, they latch onto him and become his acolytes—particularly once he “heals” Marissa (Marissa Gold, as the tribe continues the fantastic Godspell tradition of the characters having the actors’ names) using his skills as an actual doctor. Josh is pretty easy to convince because as Michael (Michael Delleva) makes clear, “We need a leader because we are stupid. So stupid.”

Aaron stares at Josh while Jenny looks on
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Then the electric guitars kick in and Titus returns, but this time his Narrator takes on the tenor of Judas and we get an extended riff on “Heaven on Their Minds” from Jesus Christ Superstar, tinged with just a tad of “Buenos Aires” from Evita as Melissa and Josh indulge their newfound fame and neglect each other and everything else. The song is quick and effective, as a good montage so often can be, and makes it feel like this devolution is long. The chorus also gets to join in and we check back in with all of the others, in their worst possible places. Even Jenny and Topher fall out of their love stupor when they see they have been replaced, and musically kick our fallen couple out of Jenny’s flat.

It is amazing that Josh leads the investigation into Dooley and figures out that the entire tale is the “Sweeney Todd” story, it is still fun whenever Josh joins in and it makes sense for him to occasionally know more than Melissa. Though, traumatic childhood experience or not, she really should have been able to piece this one together on her own. Josh also is the one who instigates the plan to use Melissa to get Dooley close to Kratt. The plan is perfect, so of course it can’t possibly go right.

Jaimie Camil and Ann Harada at the bar with the background singers in the background
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Jaime Camil and Ann Harada finally get a moment in the spotlight, and a song, as they duet on “There’s Always a Twist” which fits perfectly into the themes of “Famous as Hell”—nothing is exactly as it seems and the twists twist you up inside. Their song even gets background singers as we continue to progress through musical theater styles. Unfortunately for Josh and Melissa, the twist at the end of “Famous as Hell” is that Kratt is a step ahead and the Narrator is actually working for him. So we end the penultimate episode of the season with Melissa kidnapped by Kratt and Josh trapped by Sergeant Rivera.

It seems clear that Schmigadoon! Season 2 will eventually come back around to a happy ending, but the road to get there has been darker, grittier, and much more interesting that in Season 1. Which should only make the eventual happy ending for Josh and Melissa feel even better earned once they find it.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

To close out these musings each week I thought it would be fun to list a few of my favorite specific references to other musicals. There are many many more and I encourage anyone who would like to play along to post their favorites in the comments!

  • The songs in Schmigadoon! S2E5 are all really strong, but there is something about “Famous as Hell” that just works for me. The montage, the guitar riffs, Titus doing the Judas screech. Nothing but fabulous.
  • Aaron Tveit as Topher going full Jesus, and Kegan-Michael Key actually matching him in intensity, before calling Josh a “Sour Macaroon” to Jenny’s snaps. I didn’t know I needed it, but it was perfect.
  • “The ribbon is the present.” Nothing gets to the heart of a Codwell/Lovett type like a decorative scarf and/or ribbon.
  • “We don’t murder people, just orphans.” “Orphans are people.” “Not in this state.”

Written by Clay Dockery

Clay Dockery is an actor, author, and impresario extraordinaire. They are the co-editor of Why I Geek: An Anthology of Fandom Origin Stories and was the co-head organizer and creative director of MISTI-Con, Coal Hill Con, and The West Wing Weekend fandom conventions. They live in New York City with their girlfriend and their two chonky cats.

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