Summary: The series settles into a pleasant, if not stellar, groove with a tale of money and commitment.
** Note: Review contains spoilers if you have not seen the episode.**
The quick skinny on the episode.
Synopsis: Having picked a Marilyn, everyone settles in to trying to get the show up and running, facing monetary and commitment issues.
Full Recap: With casting for Marilyn complete, Derek meets with Karen to see how she’ll like being in the ensemble. Karen tries to be cordial but admits to being disappointed she didn’t get the lead. Derek tries to assuage her by saying it’s a long road between now and when the show goes up and anything can happen. Before he can sell his point, they are interrupted by Dev, who wants to mark his territory in front of Derek.
Derek, meanwhile, continues to sleep with Ivy, who now fears that she only got the lead role because she is sleeping with the director. Ivy tries to set up some rehearsal time with Derek independent of fooling around but he drags his feet on the request. It soon comes out to Tom via Ivy’s dancer friend that the two are engaged in a relationship, setting off the already disapproving writer. Tom relays this to Julia, who chalks it up to common occurrence within the theatre world, causing a bit of a rift between the two partners.
Julia comes face-to-face with a past indiscretion when Eileen and Derek make an offer to actor Michael for the role of Joe DiMaggio. Michael is now married with a child and has both concerns over providing for his family and his own reservations about working with Julia again, as they met on a past show. His wife, fully supportive – and likely unaware of the affair – convinces him to take the part, much to Julia’s chagrin. Julia admits the affair to Tom and confesses that the affair was so passionate that she’s not sure if she can control her emotions around Michael. Actor and writer have a run-in at Eileen’s office that shows there is still a significant charge between the two.
Michael might be the least of Julia’s concerns as her animosity with Ellis comes to a head. Ellis is convinced by friends that he should be paid for coming up with the idea for a Marilyn musical. He goes about stealing Julia’s notebook of ideas for the show for leverage and discovers something juicy. The two face off and Ellis puts his foot down with how Julia treats him. For now, though, he keeps his discovery to himself but returns the notebook, saying he found it amongst Tom’s mail.
Money burdens plague both Eileen and Karen. In trying to secure funding for the show, Eileen continues to run up against the perception that she was but soon-to-be-ex-husband Jerry’s wife and has no head for business. One investor tells her that he will not finance the show unless Jerry is involved. Karen gets a cold slap of reality regarding the pay for being in the ensemble of a show that’s going through a workshop, which could take years. Trying to comfort her, Dev offers to help support them both, leaving Karen in an awkward position.
The in-depth review.
Money is the overriding concern in this week’s chapter of Smash, along with the fibers that make up relationships as writers Tom and Julia work to craft a duet between baseball player Joe DiMaggio and screen star Marilyn Monroe. Karen gets slapped across the face by her cynical coffee shop co-worker with the realities of being the member of an ensemble, and a member of an ensemble of a show in workshop at that. It’s a nice touch to focus on the tangible qualities of pursuing a career in theatre rather than relying on the mythic struggle to attain one’s dreams. It allows the show to ground Karen even more. Though it’s a bit too on-the-nose actually sending her home to Iowa for the weekend, it was a shrewd move to remove her from the environment of Broadway to reevaluate her drive.
It also gave her the perfect opportunity to think strong on her relationship with Dev, who makes the suggestion that he can support the two of them. She doesn’t question her feelings for the politico but adding a fiscal element to any relationship dramatically alters the construct of that relationship. It’s money that often becomes the root of many problems in couples and marriages, and Karen has to consider very carefully taking such a step. Her hometown friends, rightly or wrongly painted as having no more or no less ambition than building a family in town, tell her she’s hit the jackpot and shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss such an opportunity. In the end, she reaffirms her desires to be on-stage, money be damned. It’s then that her dad offers her a bit of money to help keep her on her individual feet, which is somewhat of an about-face in characterization from the man we saw in the pilot episode.
Eileen, the mega-producer’s impending ex-wife who is trying hard to get in the game on her own with Marilyn, is finding less such helpful offers. No one wants to work with her without her husband Jerry on-board, and the biggest whale she can land tells her flat-out that the perception is she knows nothing of the business. Down on her luck, she sells some of her jewelry but picks up a pair of imitation earrings similar to ones Marilyn Monroe wore. Upon seeing them and thinking she has a new suitor, Jerry tries to slink his way back into her good graces by setting up meetings with investors. She, of course, will have none of it and we get a little more of that fire and desperate quality in her that, in ways, mirrors Karen’s journey. It’s nice to see a little more meat tossed Anjelica Houston’s way. So far, her role has been severely underdeveloped and considering the talent they have in her, it’s nigh criminal.
Money also factors into the decision of actor Michael Swift, a working actor with a wife and young child. So often in stories about the pursuit of success in the performing arts, we are presented with youngsters just trying to make their way in the world. It’s refreshing to see a take on an actor who has had some success and is now trying to build a life above and beyond their creative endeavors while balancing the two. Will Chase has a charming Broadway feel about him and he seems like a nice compliment to Debra Messing, making their forbidden attraction more enticing. I’m a little cautious to give into it wholly because I really enjoy the relationship between Julia and hubby Frank. Plus, one can’t help but be enamored of Michael’s wife’s unconditional support of his dreams. It’s a bit soap opera-y – though infidelity and hidden relationships are very much a part of the acting world – but it also sets up some ripe drama that the subtle but near-flatlining adoption arc hasn’t quite offered.
What isn’t ripe – or perhaps is overly ripe – is Ellis’ soon to play out blackmail scheme. Egged on by his friends to pursue getting paid for the idea of a Marilyn musical, Ellis steals Julia’s notebook about the show. Still not sold on the acrimony between the two, this eye-rolling exercise resulted in Ellis firmly putting his foot down with Julia regarding his presence and caring of Tom and a discovery of something Ellis hadn’t expected. Dollars to donuts it was some note about Julia’s affair with Michael, something Julia admitted to Tom but has never told anyone else. This is an idea that is limping along and becomes less and less engaging with each “turn”.
Tom, meanwhile, finds out that Derek and Ivy are sleeping together, something that adds to the already tenuous relationship he has with the director. While trying to look for some commiseration in disapproval with Julia, she chalks the whole thing up to a normal work environment, setting Tom off. Their friction, though, helps them to nail down a duet they’ve been trying to write between Joe and Marilyn, a lovely little tune realized by Chase and Megan Hilty to close the episode. One looks forward to the inevitable confrontation between Tom and Derek that the promotions have been teasing.
This week the show humanizes Ivy once again, playing up her insecurities about her relationship with Derek. He, of course, is looking primarily for someone to spend a little time with between the sheets. She is hoping for a balance between an honest relationship and really getting to put in some work on her part with her director. It’s a pleasant turn back from the more calculating portrayal of the actress they gave last week. Though, one has to wonder if they’re going to play between these two poles with the character each week. That would become tiresome if they do and prove a waste of a terrific set-up in the opening frame. Seeing repercussions of her actions – that she perhaps went too far and knows it – does allow for the benefit of the doubt.
For a musical series, one of the great strengths of the show so far has been to carefully place and restrict their use of music. It serves to make each number more meaningful and also keeps the focus squarely on the story rather than on scoring the Top 5 iTunes downloads week in and week out. It also serves to keep our interest in the actors fresh. The show should be commended on. Though, I do have to chuckle at the blatant use of a pop hit – a Bruno Mars catalog revue? – as a way to introduce a character and the very-meta choice to have Karen sing a Katharine McPhee song at karaoke. At least, they’re having fun with the songs rather than trying to turn out some ill-fitting tributes to pop stars.