Emmy episode analysis: Sarah Goldberg (‘Barry’) has an emotional breakdown in ‘The Audition’

Sarah Goldberg was part of a huge increase in support for “Barry” at the Emmys this year, netting her first nomination for playing Sally in Best Comedy Supporting Actress. Her nomination should come as no surprise considering the strength of her material in Season 2 of the HBO dramedy, as Sally went about the painful process of writing and performing the story of her ex-husband abusing her, only to have the abuser come back into her life. Sally’s agent witnesses her powerful performance and wants Sally to pitch to top executives. Unfortunately, things don’t quite go as planned in the episode Goldberg has chosen to submit to Emmy voters, “The Audition.”

In “The Audition,” Sally is delighted when she is offered the opportunity to meet with a big-time producer to talk about developing her story. Meanwhile, Barry (Bill Hader) is hanging around the waiting room, where an executive likes his look and gives him the opportunity to audition for a big director. Sally is eventually disappointed upon hearing that the producer wants to take her story and turn it into what is essentially a “revenge porn” series. Her frustration boils over as she helps Barry rehearse for his audition, ranting about the executive exploiting her story, as well as how easy it was for Barry to get a big audition despite her toiling away for much longer. Later, Sally’s agent brings her another opportunity, this time to perform her theater piece on a larger stage.

Can Goldberg win with this episode? Let’s explore the pros and cons.

SEE ‘Barry’ upset in the making? 1 rogue Emmy Expert predicts it’ll win Best Comedy Series

PROS

Goldberg has a very dynamic submission that could resonate with a lot of Emmy voters. Sally is afforded a big opportunity only to discover that Hollywood isn’t interested in exploring real truth. She also sees how a novice actor who just happens to be in the right place at the right time can advance further in his career while putting in way less work than she has. Plenty within the acting branch would be able to relate, especially as she vents to Barry in one epic, uninterrupted speech. “The Audition” represents the eternal struggle for artists who want to maintain their integrity while also knowing where the money is.

Another factor that could help Goldberg is the major embrace of “Barry” by Emmy voters. Fans of the series don’t have three actors to choose from in this category, unlike in Best Comedy Supporting Actor, so if the show goes on a huge sweep, Goldberg could easily be part of it. Despite how neurotic she can be, Sally is also one of the most relatable characters on “Barry,” and there is an underdog element that could help her in the voting.

CONS

Goldberg was not nominated last year, so it could be tough to get enough support for a win. The category includes two past winners, Alex Borstein and Kate McKinnon, recent Oscar winner Olivia Colman, the overdue Anna Chlumsky and other great contenders, making this one of the most competitive races of Emmy night.

If there are traditionalists within the academy who only vote for performances they find broadly comedic, Goldberg would probably rank towards the bottom. Despite its placement in the comedy categories, “Barry” is a very dark and dramatic show, particularly in Season 2, and voters may be more drawn towards the lighter fare being done by Borstein, Colman or McKinnon.

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