Season 3 | Episode 8 | “Reason to Stay” | Aired June 8, 2014
Hop over, Hugh Jackman: The Submissions Only finale has got more bounce than your Tony opening could ever hope to leap to. But seriously, folks — best episode of Submissions Only ever! Despite never making it back to Gay Gardens, Cameron and Steven have been the cherry on the sundae throughout all of season 3 of Submissions Only, and the season finale was no exception. As predicted, their engagement party was not only a celebration of their relationship, but a perfect backdrop for the season finale. There was a whole lot of happy at this party. Light Me Up is headed to Broadway, Nolan and Tim seem more comfortable together than ever, and Aaron got off the wait list at Cardozo (aka Cardamon aka the Kardashian School of Law).
The Submissions Only season 3 finale was incredibly satisfying. Penny may be back (temporarily) as a reader for Tim, but the continuity between season 1 episode 1 and season 3 episode 8 ends there. Penny is in a totally differently place emotionally than she was three years ago, and is a much happier, more confident actor. Even though Penny and Tim have both seen a lot of recent success, they are happily plugging away at the same old thing. That is the world of stage acting.
After Penny’s success in Jeremy’s Fort, everyone wants a piece of the Penny Reilly brand — including tenaciously impatient manager Sharon Duvall (Judith Light). There have been a lot of amazing guest stars on Submissions Only, but it’s obvious why they saved Judith Light for last. She’s incredible as Sharon Duvall, sporting a crazy animal-print shirt and massive rings as only a truly dedicated manager can. Sharon suggests that Penny give L.A. another go now that she has some momentum, and asks Penny what is keeping her in New York. Well, with Aaron headed to Wisconsin and Jeremy’s Fort over, there’s really no reason for Penny to stay.
At the Light Me Up reading, Gail is extremely nervous. This is the first show Tim Trull Casting has worked on that she cares about. Say you hate caring all you want, Gail, but your pride in this show is obvious. Serena Maxwell is in the audience, and so is a scarf-disguised Linda Avery. Everyone wants to see what Vincent has come up with. In typical Submissions Only fashion, the plot of Light Me Up is pretty nonsensical. Vincent says that it “concentrates on one particular story in the pretty epic life of one particular dude, Tommy Edison.”
Light Me Up is about Thomas Edison’s involvement in the film industry, not his inventions, but it doesn’t much matter what Light Me Up is about because it’s a hit! Light Me Up total rocks and it’s funny, too. The reading is so good that Serena even asks Penny to put a good word in for her if the show moves to Broadway. Vincent is ecstatic after the reading and gives Gail a big old smooch on the lips. He is approached by seven producers and wants Tim and Gail to help him take the show to Broadway. If Light Me Up doesn’t make it to Broadway, let’s hope that composer Adam Gwon (the actual genius behind the show) at least develops it for a concert version at 54 Below. A real-life concert, not a Submissions Only one. The distinction gets a little confusing sometimes.
Everyone goes through a pretty big life change in this episode — including Agnes, who is off to New Hampshire for a summer stock show. As she puts it, she gets to “live free or die for 10 weeks.” Maybe Randall will be in Agnes’ summer stock show as Agnes’ son or something. Tim Trull Casting alumni doing summer stock would be the best thing ever. With Agnes off to New Hampshire, Tim is out a reader again, but Penny is happy to oblige. Jeremy’s Fort is closed and Penny is not sure that L.A. is the right next move for her. So why not spend some time with her BFF and read some sides?
Nolan is flying out to be Tim’s date to Steven and Cameron’s engagement party, so Penny is at a loss for what to do without her gay-man arm candy. Tim suggests she bring Gail, which Penny shoots down. Instead, the group decides Gail will go as Nolan’s date so that Penny can go with Tim. It’s all semantics. Nolan has been a mystery all season, and unfortunately will remain one. Tim and Nolan look happy at the party, but their relationship is still very unclear. It’s OK, though, because everyone else’s relationship is glaringly clear. And Submissions Only wouldn’t be Submissions Only without a little gray.
Gail and Tim deliver the Light Me Up news to everyone and the party is going perfectly when the only thing that could make it more perfect walks in the door: Aaron Miller. Aaron told Penny that he wasn’t coming to the party since he is moving to Wisconsin, but he shows up anyway. Aaron’s presence is a sure sign to us that he got off the wait list at Cardozo, but it takes Penny a little more time to make the connection. Aaron’s pink shirt is out of place at Steven & Cameron’s black-and-white party, but Steven and Cameron (and Tim) might be even more happy to see Aaron than Penny is. Finally those two crazy kids are going to work things out.
After an interlude with drunk Stacey (if you missed drunk Stacey in season 2 episode 6, you should watch that; it’s awesome), Aaron is awkwardly chatting with Kim when Steven and Tim finally shove Penny over to him. Aaron came to the party baring a letter from Cardozo, which Penny still can’t pronounce, and a question. Should he stay in New York? You can feel Penny’s friends willing them to kiss as Penny takes the letter from Aaron and stares at him, stunned, as he yammers on about why he’s there. For a split-second it looks like Penny isn’t going to make the leap, but she is not the same girl she was in season 1. This Penny puts the past behind her and plants one on him. It is perfect. All of her friends watch Aaron and Penny make out and everything is right in the world.
Penny and Aaron have their happy ending. It was a messy road to get there, and really could have ended with Aaron in Wisconsin, but thanks to the Cookie Monster School of Law, Aaron and Penny finally get a chance to be together. They’d better not screw it up. One of the best things about Submissions Only is how close it sticks to reality, but it was great to see the show break out of its shell a little bit for the season finale and end on a high note. The picture-perfect moment of Aaron and Penny finally without any interruptions was the kiss fans have been dying for. The agony of being an Aaron/Penny shipper was well worth it.
Season 3 of Submissions Only wrapped up the series nicely. With no talk of a season 4, this could be the end for this wonderfully funny web series, and that’s OK. Submissions Only creators Kate Wetherhead and Andrew Keenan-Bolger bring passion and heart to every episode of the show. They wrote a clever, intricate series that holds up against any sitcom on traditional television. Submissions Only is charmingly intimate look into the Broadway world, and after watching the Tony recipients talk about the “Broadway family” for three hours, watching Submissions Only feels like our own slice of the Broadway family. So grab your Tim and your Penny and watch the season 3 finale again — because when it comes down to it, this show is all about friendship.