'Smash' Recap: Better Living Through Chemistry - Rolling Stone
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‘Smash’ Recap: Better Living Through Chemistry

Relationships come to a head as show starts to find its voice


Debra Messing as Julia Houston and Brian d'Arcy James as Frank Houston on 'Smash.'

Patrick Harbron/NBC

After a bit of a rocky start, Smash is finally finding its footing while walking a fine line between drama and camp. Things like Julia‘s unbearably boring adoption quest are out, while her juicy affair with “Joe DiMaggio” is in. Hallelujah!

This week kicks off with Ivy Lynn‘s voice unexpectedly cracking while she’s getting ready in the morning. Half asleep in her bed is hot-and-cold director Derek, who she reassures that everything is OK. It is indeed not, folks.

Before rehearsal, Derek flips out on Julia and Tom because there’s an important performance for potential investors coming up and the music for Marilyn: The Musical isn’t finished. The burden falls on lyricist Julia, who blames her writer’s block on the fact her husband’s away and her son’s been troubled. But it’s pretty obvious that she’s got boning on the brain.

When rehearsal starts, Ivy sounds a little off before her voice completely cracks, a la a bad American Idol audition. She’s rushed to the doctor, since there are millions of investor dollars hanging in the balance. When Tom returns with news that it’s nothing serious but Ivy refuses to take steroids to hasten her recovery, the execs decide to have a private powwow.

For the first time, director Derek admits there’s “another Marilyn” they should consider bubbling up to replace Ivy. Tom warns of Ivy catching wind of the idea, since he thinks stress will only exacerbate her condition. Who is this backup, you ask? Karen Cartwright, of course. And Karen just so happens to hear the entire convo, because she’s been inadvertently hiding behind a piano after dropping her bag. Oh, those clever Smash writers.

Derek then goes directly to Ivy’s house to talk her into taking steroids, even though she’s afraid of the “wolfman” side effects. Meanwhile, Karen rushes home to go over the songs, hoping to learn them quickly before getting the official call.

The next morning, Julia daydreams about her kiss with Michael while making pancakes, which she burns. Her clothes are covered in flour and her face has batter streaks all over it, because we all know that when you can’t cook, things can get cartoonishly messy quite quickly. The show’s clever writers have nailed it again! (Note to writers: This is the kind of camp I enjoy, so please don’t stop now.)

As she tries to salvage breakfast for her son, her husband returns from his trip – and she acts as if he just fought in World War II, running into his arms and peppering him with powdery kisses and accolades normally reserved for, you know, people you haven’t cheated on. All is right in the world, circa 1950.

Back at rehearsal, Ivy tells Derek the steroids make her feel shaky and nervous, but all he cares about is whether her voice is up to snuff. If it’s not, he warns her, he’ll ask Karen to step in.

Now comes this week’s excuse for Katharine McPhee to sing: Karen replaces Ivy as a hired singer at a bar mitzvah, getting handed a business card from some bigwig in the process. It’s becoming painfully obvious the show is running out of reasons to shine the spotlight on McPhee (see: hokey roadhouse karaoke). Perhaps there’s a new drinking game here, now that Julia has stopped comically rolling her eyes?

At home, a doped-up Ivy hallucinates that Karen, dressed as Marilyn Monroe, is threatening to steal her role. When Tom finds her in a paranoid state, he discreetly texts Karen, saying he might need her to step in. But he recants the next day, as Ivy comes back down to planet earth. Foiled again!

Meanwhile, Julia gets a phone call at home from Michael, begging her to meet him at the studio that night. She scoffs . . . but later, in bed with her clueless hubby, Julia is fidgety. She claims she’s going out for a walk to clear her head – at 10 o’clock at night, in her pajamas. Yeah, nothing to see here, people.

Surprise, surprise, she winds up meeting Michael . . . to tell him she wants nothing to do with him anymore, natch. Uh huh, right. That’s why she lied to her husband, snuck out of the house and went all the way crosstown to an empty, dimly lit space where a couch has magically appeared. Soon they’re both half naked and making out on said couch. Oh, you two . . .

The next day, Julia and Michael are all smiles at rehearsal, shooting each other knowing glances as he sings and dances a newly penned number on the newly christened couch. Guess sex is one way to clear your head.

But when it’s Ivy who loses concentration, Derek “humiliates” her. She in turn announces to everyone that he’s “not that good in bed” before storming off. Ah, all in a day’s work.

Last episode: Let’s Be Bad


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