Once upon a time, Smash was an engrossing train wreck chronicling the lives of a group of Broadway professionals trying to put on a hit show about Marilyn Monroe. From the inexplicable musical numbers that didn’t happen anywhere near a stage (lest we forget this), to Julia’s ever expanding scarf collection, to people literally getting poisoned in the name of good theatre, Smash was just awful. And I ate it all up. But something is happening with season two. Something…different. Smash has become self-aware. It knows that we know it’s campy. It has become sentient.

Let’s figure out if that’s a good thing.

We open on a fabulous number with Karen in her place as Marilyn; the gang is moving on from previews in Boston to secure a theatre in New York for a Broadway run. Ivy didn’t kill herself! But Karen still hates her! Karen has moved in with one of the girls in the ensemble who we’re clearly supposed to know but I could not pick out of a lineup, leaving her relationship with Dev behind. KAREN IS A STAR.

Eileen and her hot bartender boyfriend (who may or may not be a drug lord) are working hard to secure the St. James Theatre for Bombshell’s Broadway debut. The problem is, her meddling ex-husband Jerry, whom she always greets with a seething “Hello Jerry” with all the same hatred of Seinfeld acknowledging Newman, will do anything to stop the show from getting to the big stage. Damnit, Jerry. Somehow, the United States government has caught wind that Eileen’s funding has come from mostly shady dealings involving her (okay, definitely a drug lord) boyfriend, and has shut down production for an investigation. Bombshell is officially on hiatus. So what is the rest of the gang up to in the meantime?

Tom and his boyfriend spot Julia’s long-suffering husband, Frank, kissing a woman on the street. After much hemming and hawing, they tell Julia, who confronts Frank. You will recall that last season’s story arc had Julia having a torrid affair with Michael Swift, the show’s Joe DiMaggio. Boom! Marriage over! Though we might see more of him, this episode officially marks the exit of the Frank character from Smash, along with Ellis, Leo and Dev – all blessedly missing from the first episode.

Julia is the character going through the most change in the new Smash. For starters, her crazypants wardrobe has been toned down about a million notches. I only counted one atrocious scarf/sweatpants combo, and there was even a joke made about how she should stop dressing like that. I am devastated, as a “Julia scarf count” was going to be a regular part of my recaps. In the wake of her personal issues, Julia has moved in with Tom to wallow and avoid her critics. The entertainment world is abuzz that she has had a nervous breakdown, and that Tom should find a new writing partner before his career goes down like a burning Chico’s store with hers.

Derek receives news that Rebecca Duvall, the superstar who left the show because ELLIS POISONED HER, is telling the press that she left because Derek sexually harassed her. This makes no sense whatsoever, but let’s roll on. It turns out, dozens of would-be starlets are claiming that they are also victims of his womanizing. One such lady drops a truth bomb on Derek – did he really think all these women were sleeping him because they liked him? Here’s how I know Smash is truly changing: It took over an hour to get to the weird, disjointed musical number. Ivy, Karen and some nameless dancers sing “Would I Lie to You?” to Derek during a drunken existential crisis. It’s stilted and clunky. He runs to Ivy for comfort, who kindly tells him to screw off because she has her own identity problems. Namely, that Karen still hates her and she’s been working for 10 years to break out of the chorus and be a star. Ten years, Derek!

One good thing Derek did was to introduce Karen to an established Broadway star played by Jennifer Hudson. She’s there for a song or two, but looks like she’ll be a cast regular in the rest of the season. Karen, a little bolder this season now that she is on her way to stardom, pursues a new project of her own; A handsome bartender who will definitely be her love interest at some point, is a talented singer and songwriter who is composing a musical with his co-worker on their off hours. She wants him to meet with Derek, but he’s angsty and doesn’t need her help or anyone’s else’s to make it big. In a scene not out of place on a teen drama, he tells her that she’s a stuck-up princess and to never talk to him again. Geez. Anyway, by the end of the episode he changes his mind and gives her his demos. Karen, do not make out with this man.

To recap this recap, here’s what hasn’t changed on Smash: there are still going to be bizarre musical numbers that really don’t work, contrived subplots not about musicals, and a puzzling belief from everyone involved that Karen Cartwright is the greatest star who has ever graced a stage with her presence. Truly, the best part of Smash is still when she’s singing and the camera frequently cuts away to bystanders just in sheer awe of her talent. What did change: The storyline is a little smoother overall, but nothing drastic. Julia, as a character, is going through some stuff, but her absurdity as a human being seems to be in check. The most hated characters, again, are all missing.

It’s going to be an interesting ride seeing where Smash takes us this season, but trust me when I say I’ll help you through it. I’m Samantha Wilson, and I’ll be your tour guide.