'Smash' Recap: Something Pitchy This Way Comes - Rolling Stone
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‘Smash’ Recap: Something Pitchy This Way Comes

A movie star takes over the show, and not in a good way

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Uma Thurman as Rebecca Duvall, Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Strickland on 'Smash.'

Will Hart/NBC

The title of this week’s episode pretty much sums it up: “The Movie Star.” Yes, it’s all about guest star Uma Thurman as diva Rebecca Duvall, taking over Smash, and the fictitious musical Bombshell. The question is, will she be the show’s savior or its downfall? 

For now, I decide it’s going to be an OK night when chorus boy Sam questions songwriter Tom about whether Rebecca is too old to play Marilyn Monroe. Normally I wouldn’t harp on an actress’s age, but Thurman is almost six years older than the Hollywood icon, who died at 36. So I give the show props for addressing one of my concerns with casting Thurman. Now, if only they’d point out how angular, lanky and un-Marilyn looking she is, too. But all that’s beside the point. There’s a more pressing issue here: Girl can’t sing!

After sauntering into rehearsal and refusing to warm up, Rebecca takes her first stab at belting out “Let Me Be Your Star.” Everyone’s jaws drop – and not for good reasons. She’s comically breathy and terribly pitchy, as American Idol‘s Randy Jackson would point out. Yeah, dawg.

After enduring a few bars, bad boy-turned-softie director Derek cuts her off as the execs give each other pop-eyed looks of disbelief. They immediately convene in producer Eileen‘s office to decide what to do. While Eileen is looking for “constructive solutions,” Derek suggests they rehire his friend with benefits Ivy Lynn, as understudy Karen Cartwright is still “too green” to take on the role of Marilyn if necessary. We’re back to this storyline?

Meanwhile, back in rehearsal, Karen is too shy to introduce herself to Rebecca. While trying to work up the courage, she’s taken aback by Ivy walking into the studio. But the peanut gallery (a.k.a. the ensemble) takes her return in stride . . . considering who she’s sleeping with.

When Ivy sidles up to Karen to talk trash about Rebecca’s singing skills – or lack thereof – it feels less gossipy and more like Ivy’s looking for an ally to take down a common enemy. It’s certainly her M.O.

Derek then calls Karen over to say he’ll be focusing all his energy on getting Rebecca ready for her Broadway debut. As he’s talking, though, he envisions Karen as the perfect Marilyn, leaving him slack-jawed, speechless and gooey-eyed. Snap out of it, man!

Later, songwriter Julia gets estranged husband Frank to meet her at a restaurant to talk about their son, who’s suddenly flunking classes. Not a minute goes by before he’s giving her serious attitude, even as she takes full responsibility for ruining their marriage. When they go to the son’s school, Frank wants to keep their marital problems under wraps, but Julia spews all the dirty details to the stunned guidance counselor. TMI, for sure.

Meanwhile, in a sign of things to come, Rebecca pulls Derek aside after rehearsal to give her two cents about the show. She wants deeper story lines and “less singing and dancing.” Uh, she does know it’s a musical, right? 

As if Rebecca didn’t already have enough strikes, her drunk, rocker boyfriend bursts into the studio and aggressively demands her attention. When an argument breaks out, Derek holds back the distraught man while Eileen threatens to spray him with mace. Wonder Twin powers activate!

After rehearsal, Karen calls her boyfriend, Dev, who quickly hangs up when she asks whether he got the press secretary job he’s been gunning for. When she decides to drop in on him at work, she’s surprised he’s lost his fancy-shmancy office and now sits in a cubicle. But she’s even more floored to find him flirting with cute journalist R.J. When she questions him, he finally admits he didn’t get the job – and blames her busy schedule for the fact he never told her. Typical. 

After Julia rewrites a scene Rebecca complained about, the movie star pushes for even more changes. But just when you think she’s going to lock horns with the execs, she backs down and defers to them. Conflict resolution in under an hour? Must be too good to be true.

At the same time, Karen gets stood up by Dev and winds up at a bar with frenemy Ivy, who warns she’ll steamroll right over Karen if the part of Marilyn becomes available again. While this doesn’t seem to ruffle Karen’s feathers, Ivy’s off-handed comment about Dev being with another woman does, and Karen storms off. Truth is, she’s right. Dev’s out having drinks with R.J. Smell that? It’s trouble in paradise. 

After implementing some changes when it comes to Rebecca – like lowering her key and giving her less solos – everyone seems happier, though she’s still not blowing it out of the water. (Nor does she looks like Marilyn, even when all dolled up, with her pointy face and six-foot frame.) But just when it seems like things are looking up, Rebecca tells Eileen she’s got lots more ideas to help mold the musical. Ruh roh.

With only three episodes left in the first season, I expect things will start coming to a head rather quickly. And maybe, hopefully, we’ll finally get the part of Marilyn nailed down once and for all. Please!

Last episode: Meet the New Bombshell


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