Smash: Seeing Sparks

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Smash S01E06: "Chemistry"

I'm seriously going to find somewhere else to keep my diary. Not that the Lisa Frank notebook that I keep trussed up in 17 layers of rubber bands appear to have been tampered with, but what other explanation can you give me for Smash being so exactly on point last night with where I want the series to go? Sure, there was a tiny misstep in "Chemistry," but otherwise the series fired up the stakes without sacrificing either of the dueling Marilyns' likability. It was the episode we've been waiting for, and not only said "GAME ON" to our rivals Karen and Ivy, but took the time to give their competition some compelling depth.

Namely, DRUGS. Ivy losing her voice due to stress and strain isn't just a realistic threat for a Broadway star, her "sensitivity to drugs" gave her the perfect excuse as a character to blow her top in rehearsal, take down Derek, and put the spotlight on Karen. Not that Karen needs any more spotlight than she's already been enjoying.

I'm not a Katharine McPhee fan, nor am I particularly fond of Florence and her Machines, but Karen's rendition of "Devil on my Back" was undeniably gorgeous. No wonder a major producer gave her his card—someone who sounds that produced live is going to save him a ton of money on equipment. Seriously though, Katharine's virtuosity is undeniable, that performance captivated me right alongside those adorably awkward teens who formed an impromptu mosh pit at her feet. (And who, due to that mini dress, probably got quite an eyeful. That little boy became a man last night, in more than one way.) The idea that Karen might have a huge offer to use as leverage in the future is a brilliant move. Cannot wait to see what happens with this storyline.

Ivy's predicament—choosing between her job and using steroids—is one that Broadway stars actually face, and the pressure on her to perform was illustrated beautifully in three scenes of mounting tension: Derek waking to Ivy's voice breaking, Ivy nervously practicing in the mirror and being interrupted right before the trickiest note, and then her voice failing her in front of Eileen was absolutely ingenious pacing. I felt for Ivy. Unfortunately, when she was trying out her vocal chords after her steroids, the show gave her a weird bed top music video that broke the fourth wall about 18 too many times. I'm all about singing in your bedroom at the top of your lungs, but at least one shot revealing that Ivy was singing to her wall versus the camera would have been nice. Still, the show continues to fight to keep the music embedded naturally in the plot, and the effort is greatly appreciated.

Also appreciated: There were no whispers about adoption in this episode. Julia was going into desire-induced seizures, trying to make pancakes instead of lusting after other men, meanwhile Frank returned and showed her his periodic element flashcards. Oh, Frank.

It did make me laugh how much flour Debra Messing had on her pajamas. I get she's bad a cooking, but what exactly happened here?

The son got as few lines as possible, which was another great decision, and Julia and Michael had a weird, sizzling meet-up in the rehearsal room. Okay, I don't believe in adultery, and if Julia were a real person I'd be indignant and whatnot, but this is great decision making for the future of the show. Michael simply pulling the shirt off Julia to stare longingly at her flapjacks was kind of hilarious, but also shamelessly romantic. I mean, what middle-aged woman trapped in the world's most comfortable marriage wouldn't swoon over a smoldering dreamboat who's unable to sleep because he's plagued by the memory of bespectacled, sweater-robe enthusiast Julia? In a daring move, the show rewarded the characters for giving into their illicit urges, allowing Julia to finally finish some lyrics after being ravished on that old leather couch. it was Very Sensuous for network TV, and while you may feel iffy about breaking marriage vows, adulterous affairs have been the basis of good drama for centuries, and it's working for Smash. Baby it is WORKING.

Eileen and Ellis are forming a mutually beneficial relationship. I love Anjelica Huston but I do not understand this plotline anymore. She is charmed by dive bars and video games, and Ellis is making himself useful by being a villainous gossip. It's pretty obvious that he will hold Eileen hostage in some way by exploiting her the way he's exploiting every other connection he has in helping her, but can we assume that Eileen knows that? She's been at this longer than he has and seems to be handling him with one raven eyebrow raised. Whatever dance of destruction they're about to begin, let's just hope it's kept as relegated to the sidelines going forward as it was last night.

The best thing about this episode was that Karen was bandied about as a replacement for Ivy by not only Derek and Karen, but also by Tom. She's clearly being prepped to take Ivy's place, and with that card clearly on the table alongside Ivy's drug-addled behavior, the pressure cooker has finally warmed up and things are getting hot. As usual, this episode ended way too soon, and after giving our ladies short shrift last week, it went a long way to repairing my high opinion of this show. You're still my star, Smash.


QUESTIONS:

– Is Eileen using Ellis or vice versa?

– With Ivy unraveling, how many episodes until Karen fills in for her at rehearsal?

– Julia and Michael: hot, gross, or deeply upsetting?

– Is Derek consciously pushing Ivy past her limits or is he just a jerk?

– How long 'til Tom and Sporty Chorus Boy get together?


Finally, congratulations to LL305 for getting last week's Marilyn Trivia Question! Marilyn Monroe's first role was as an uncredited extra in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim. This week's question: Name all of Marilyn's stepchildren.

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