'Smash' Recap: It's a Wrap - Rolling Stone
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‘Smash’ Recap: It’s a Wrap

As season one ends, a new Marilyn takes the stage


Megan Hilty as Ivy Lynn and Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright compete for the role of Marilyn on 'Smash.'

Patrick Randak/NBC

It’s official: The battle between Karen Cartwright and Ivy Lynn has finally ended!

Yes, as the season finale of Smash begins, we’re about to find out once and for all who’s playing Marilyn Monroe. Oh, wait, what’s this? As the new star of Bombshell steps on stage for the big reveal, the camera cuts away and the storyline rolls back 12 hours. Bah! Foiled again.

For those of you dying to know, I won’t be as cruel as the show: Karen lands the coveted role, but not before a lot of waffling back and forth, as usual.

In the hours before the curtain goes up on the revamped show, the execs are bickering – also as usual – about who will step into the role after diva Rebecca Duvall bowed out over a near-death peanut smoothie incident.

As producer Eileen storms out of the theater to get some air, director Derek makes a beeline for wardrobe in order to fondle skimpy dresses while picturing Karen and Ivy wearing them. And that’s when it hits him: Karen will make the perfect Marilyn. Ah, the touch, the feel of cotton.

The clothes whisperer then stomps back on stage, commands everyone’s attention and announces his decision, which he failed to discuss with any of the other execs. While Karen reacts with her typical deer-in-headlights look, it’s Ivy’s face that takes the cake, since she clearly thought the part was hers. Hope all that sex with Derek was good, at least. 

But no one cares about Ivy anymore, as everyone starts fluttering around Karen to make sure she’ll be ready for the night’s show. It soon becomes clear that none of the costumes fit because Rebecca was an Amazon and, even though she’s the understudy, Karen doesn’t know all the songs. Time to hustle, people! (Said in Derek’s best British accent.)

Then, for some inexplicable reason, conniving assistant Ellis confronts Eileen to convince her that Ivy is better for the part. When she shoos him off like an annoying gnat, he tries to play hardball by admitting he got Rebecca “out of the way” by putting peanuts in her smoothie. For some reason, he thinks this will get him a pat on the back and a promotion instead of an attempted murder conviction.

When she fires him on the spot, Ellis smirks and says, “You haven’t heard the last of this.” But if you ask me, there’s a good chance this will be his last hurrah, ’cause if Smash‘s producers are smart, they’ll dump some characters before season two starts. While I could make a case for why Ellis should be saved, I can’t say as much for Dev, Frank or Leo. So, adios, muchachos.

Back in rehearsal, things aren’t going well. Karen’s clothes fit like a “sack of turnips,” and she doesn’t know the lyrics. During a break, Julia and ex-lover Michael Swift cross paths, and he admits his wife left him. As Julia acknowledges this information by rubbing his arm, her husband Frank walks in – and walks right out. What perfect timing he has!

Outside, Julia and Frank get into a fight, where he admits he might never trust her again. But leave it to their dopey, stoner son Leo to save the day as he walks up with fast-food for the family. And just like that, everything’s OK. If only real life were so simple.

Back inside, everyone’s discussing whether Karen can really pull this off with just a few hours of rehearsal. But Ivy’s main concern is confronting Derek about why he didn’t choose her. To which he replies, “She has something that you don’t.” Translation: “I haven’t slept with her yet, and I really want a piece of that.”

Just then, in a bout of bad timing, Karen’s fiancé Dev asks Ivy about Karen’s engagement ring. You know, the one he left in her hotel room after their drunken hookup? She lies and says she hasn’t found it yet, immediately heading back to the dressing room and pulling it out of her purse.

With Karen standing nearby, Eileen confronts Derek about how she doesn’t think Karen is the right choice. A dejected Karen slinks off into the dressing room, only to find Ivy with her engagement ring. When Ivy reveals she slept with Dev, Karen runs off to find him. And of course she does, because he seems to be hanging around the theater all day. When he admits to the “drunken mistake,” Karen hands him the ring in disbelief.

Eileen is about to fire her when she walks back on stage, but Derek sweeps in and saves the day. However, when Karen can’t stop thinking about Ivy and Dev, she pulls off her Marilyn wig and disappears. Apparently, on Broadway, throwing your wig on the ground means, “I quit.”

Meanwhile, Julia and Tom are feverishly working on an uplifting new suicide song so that the show doesn’t end on a depressing note. In possibly the worst foreshadowing of the night, Julia throws up from “stress” but is then quick to point out that the last time she did so she was when she was preggers with her son. Dun, dun, dun. (Let’s hope they drop this before next season, too.)

While looking for a missing Karen, Derek runs into Dev – a.k.a. the new Ellis, always lurking – and tells him to back off because “she’s mine now.” When Derek finally finds her half-naked and curled up in a ball on the wardrobe room floor, he sits down and gives her a pep talk. Those Derek “pep talks” always seem to do the trick, don’t they, ladies?

At the same time, Ivy gets all dolled up as Marilyn, assuming they’re going to ask her to step in since she has successfully caused Karen to crack. But just as she beamingly walks up to Eileen, Derek and Karen emerge and shut the whole thing down.

It’s now 12 hours later, and we’re right back where we started, as Julia and Tom finish their song a mere 15 minutes before curtain and run through the theater to get it to the new Marilyn, Karen.

When Karen steps on stage, she seems more than ready, successfully dodging the deathrays shooting out of Ivy’s eyes. And for the first time all season, there’s an original song that I actually enjoy. “Don’t Forget Me,” about something good coming out of Marilyn’s death – that she’ll forever be remembered – closes out the show.

But going out on a high note isn’t enough for Smash. As Karen basks in the spotlight, Ivy is backstage dumping a bottle of pills into her hand while mascara streaks run down her cheeks. Apparently we won’t know till next season whether she wolfed them down or not. Ah, Smash, at least you’re consistently inconsistent.

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