Smash – “Chemistry” – Recap (UPDATED)

Here’s tonight’s Smash discussion post will be back with a recap later. Ivy has vocal issues and chews Derek a new one. Will Karen end up playing Marilyn?


When people say “chemistry,” we usually mean either of two things: the branch of science or a natural rapport between two (or more) people. In this week’s episode of Smash, the use of that word as the episode’s title pointed to several things, the first of which was the steroids Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) took to fix her vocal problems this week. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This week’s installment of NBC’s Broadway-based drama opened with Ivy’s voice cracking in the middle of “Let Me Be Your Star,” which she was singing while getting ready for work. May I just say that I love that song? It’s one of my favorites from Marilyn the Musical. Hehe. Anyway, Ivy’s director-slash-paramour Derek Wills (Jack Davenport), who spent the night with her, is jolted from sleep when he hears Ivy’s voice crack. He asks her if something’s wrong, but realizing that telling him the truth might cost her the role she fought so hard to get, Ivy sidesteps his question. However, when they start rehearsing, her voice cracks yet again—not just in front of Derek, but in front of everyone else involved in the production. Ivy is rushed to a nearby hospital for a check-up, after which viewers learn that she developed vocal problems as a result of an inflamed throat.

Because they don’t have much time before workshops for Marilyn the Musical begin in earnest, Derek, the show’s producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) and its writers Julia Houston (Debra Messing) and Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) call an emergency meeting to figure out what to do. Showing that he cares more about the musical than the one he’s sleeping with, Derek brings up the possibility of replacing Ivy with Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee). Eileen and Julia seem open to it, but Tom says no. The only other option left is to get Ivy to take some steroids, but doing so would do Ivy more harm than good because she’s sensitive to drugs—meaning she can’t handle the side effects as well as other people presumably can. Later on in the episode, Derek convinces Ivy to take the steroids. We see the effect they have on Ivy when she starts to hallucinate and have mood swings (not in that order.)

Speaking of Ivy’s situation, I loved that scene because I think the choice of song was absolutely inspired. That’s another thing I like about Smash. The writers don’t force certain songs to fit whatever it is the characters are dealing with. Instead, they make sure to choose songs that are relevant to the plot. Take the Jessie J song “Who You Are.” I didn’t know the song before I watched this episode (I have the whole album by Jessie J but I haven’t gotten around to spinning it yet) but when I Googled the lyrics after I finished watching, I learned that it’s a song about how not to lose yourself in pursuit of your dreams—or something like that. I like that the writers chose a song that reflected Ivy’s dilemma in this episode: should she or shouldn’t she take steroids just so she could hang on to the role and not have it snatched from her by Karen.

Speaking of Karen, the show’s resident ingenue got some moments in the sun this week. She was asked to pinch-hit for one of the chorus members at a bar mitzvah, where she delivered a stirring rendition of “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine, capturing the attention of someone named Bobby Raskin. At this time, viewers don’t know who he is yet, but based on the reactions of Ivy and the chorus members, he must be a major player in the entertainment industry—at least in their world—who could give an aspiring performer’s career a big boost if he felt that person deserved it. Also, as previously mentioned, Karen almost landed the role of Marilyn, but had to settle for staying in the chorus when Ivy managed to recover from the bad side effects of the steroids she took. But I still believe Karen will get what’s due her in a future episode. She’s far too talented for the chorus.

Remember what I said about the show focusing on several kinds of chemistry in this episode? Well, the chemistry or—dynamic, if you will, between Derek, Julia and Tom wasn’t at an all-time high this week, to say the least. They had a fight in the first half of the episode when Derek discovered that the book of Marilyn the Musical still isn’t done. Julia’s problems with chemistry don’t end there. Her teenaged son Leo (Emory Cohen) saw her kissing Michael Swift (Will Chase) towards the end of last week’s episode, and as a result their mother-son dynamic is off this week. Leo was surlier than usual this week—but I guess that’s what happens to a guy who catches his mother kissing a man who’s not his father, if you know what I mean. Also, speaking of Michael, he and Julia end up having sex on a couch in the rehearsal hall and exchange knowing glances during rehearsals the next day. I thought the love scene was tastefully done. The chemistry between them heated up till neither of them couldn’t keep their mutual attraction at bay any longer. I can’t say I blame Julia—after all, she has a point when she says a man with talent like Michael’s is very sexy.

By the way, did anyone notice that Frank Houston (Brian d’Arcy James) was working on teaching aides for a chemistry class? Nifty way of working the episode’s title and theme in, I thought, because it was done subtly. But the whole time he was onscreen, I kept thinking about how good the story will turn out to be once he finds out that his wife cheated on him. And BTW, Michael is BFFs with Leo and Frank? Now that’s kind of unsettling, at least that’s what I thought.

The episode ended with Ivy’s tirade against Derek. I wonder how that will affect her standing in the production? Will Derek eventually give Karen the role? Should be interesting to see how this develops.

I think Smash is on its way to finding its footing—and this week’s episode, when watched in connection with last week’s—will go a long way towards establishing the direction in which this show should go.


Promo for “The Workshop”