Smash – Enter Demaggio – Recap – (UPDATED)

And we have a recapper! Welcome Julian, who has volunteered to recap Smash. You can check him out at his website, JulesExplainsItAll.

When I saw MJ’s tweet about needing another person to do recaps for Smash, I quickly applied for the gig. Why? Needless to say, I love the show. I’ve always been a big fan of Katharine’s—I wanted her to take the American Idol season five Idol crown over Taylor Hicks and was disappointed when she lost—and I was very happy when I heard she landed the role of “Broadway baby” (as the character’s friends call her) Karen Cartwright. Being something of a theater enthusiast myself (I take voice lessons at one of the Philippines’ top theater companies), I was drawn in by the premise of the show. But enough about me.

Unlike the previous two episodes, which opened with a performance from Karen, the third episode of Smash, titled Enter DiMaggio, features Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) in a different kind of performance opposite Derek (Jack Davenport). That was some pretty hot lovemaking there, I thought. To be honest, it made me slightly uncomfortable. Given that she slept with the director, you would think Ivy is just another desperate hopeful who would do anything to be a star. But after this latest tryst with Derek, Ivy asks if they can meet up and work on her characterization of Marilyn. “I was hoping we could work on her.” Derek’s reply? “That’s what we’re doing, darling.” Ivy appears to be hurt, but recovers when Derek assures her he’s just joking.

The next day, we see that Ivy seems to regret sleeping with Derek and asks her friend if she did the right thing. Said friend tells Ivy to stop over-analyzing things and just enjoy the ride, so to speak. Her advice falls on deaf ears, because Ivy spends most of the episode thinking about her thing with Derek and what it could mean for her career. We see a more human side of Ivy this time, and I like that. It becomes obvious that Ivy has more in common with Karen than she thinks—they’re both just people with a hunger for fame, as “Let Me Be Your Star”puts it. I like that the show’s staff isn’t making Ivy’s character a one-dimensional beeyotch out to ruin Karen’s life. Because of these developments, some may find themselves at a loss as to who they should root for, Karen or Ivy.

Speaking of Karen, she meets up with Derek at a bar, where he offers her the chance to be part of Marilyn’s ensemble. Karen tries to put on a brave face, but Derek calls her out on it, and she admits she’s a bit tweaked that she lost out on the part. But then she ends up accepting his offer of a spot in the ensemble anyway. Their conversation is cut short when Dev (Raza Jaffrey) walks in and crashes their meeting, then engages in a thinly-veiled, testosterone-fueled battle of wills with Derek, all because he wanted to “protect” Karen.

I like that Karen didn’t try too hard to hide her disappointment at losing out on the lead role and having to settle for a spot in the ensemble instead. I think Dev is acting like a bit of an idiot. Last week, he blew his top when Karen was late for dinner and now this. He should know by now that this—and possibly more—is par for the course when you’re dating an actor. Unless they introduce a big twist for Dev’s character or develop him a little bit more, I think his role is slightly superfluous. Three episodes in and we know little about him other than he’s Karen’s protective boyfriend who works at the mayor’s office.

Karen and Moira (a waitress at the restaurant where Karen works while waiting for her big break), have a discussion about what the spot in the ensemble means for her. Karen realizes she’ll have to let her job either slide or go completely if she accepts the spot in the Marilyn ensemble. So she chews on that thought as she goes home to Iowa to attend a friend’s baby shower. While she packs for her trip, she mentions her concerns about her job and money to Dev, who offers to support her financially so she can pursue her dreams. Okay, I like that he does that, but I wish he would get a storyline of his own aside from just being Karen’s doting, perfect man all the time.

When Karen arrives in Iowa, her Dad tries to dissuade her from taking a spot in the Marilyn ensemble. This was one of my favorite scenes in the episode. When I decided I wanted to make a career in the arts, a lot of people from my dad’s side of the family tried to stop me because they felt I should go into law. (They’re all lawyers.) They did that because they believed a career in the arts wouldn’t pay very well. It doesn’t, at least not at first, but I’m happy doing what I love even if it means I have to struggle financially sometimes. And I think the same is true of Karen.

At the baby shower, her friends try to talk her into accepting Dev’s offer of financial support. Karen doesn’t feel ready to take that step in their relationship, but her friends soon make her see that she’s lucky to have someone like Dev in her life. To distract her from thoughts of her Broadway career, her friends make her get up and sing Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman.” Did I mention the baby shower was being held in a karaoke bar? According to Katharine, the baby shower scenes were filmed in a bar in Manhattan—and even if she hadn’t pointed that out on her Twitter page, I would have said something like, “The bar doesn’t give off an authentic Midwestern feel,” if you know what I mean. Granted, I live in the Philippines, which is oceans away from the American Midwest, but something about that bar felt a little forced or too polished for me.

About Katharine’s performance, I liked it well enough. She just didn’t blow me away. Country isn’t her vibe. But she sounds much better now singing songs of that genre than she did six years ago, when she tried to do Faith Hill’s “Bringin’ Out the Elvis.” Overall, her voice is muchimproved. But she should just stick to pop songs and songs from stage musicals. Karen’s storyline in this episode ends on a happy note—her dad apparently snuck into the baby shower to see her perform. He was so impressed and sufficiently moved by his daughter’s take on “Redneck Woman” that he gave her a check, the amount of which was apparently enough for Karen to live on while she does workshops for Marilyn. That act effectively renders Dev’s offer to support her, like his character, superfluous. Honestly, if the writers don’t develop Dev further they might as well write him off the show and say Karen broke up with him or something.

Meanwhile, Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) is having problems of her own. We first see her selling some jewelry, presumably to make some money because all her assets are frozen pending the annulment of her marriage to Jerry (Michael Cristofer). She also has trouble getting people to invest in Marilyn, because none of her usual contacts are too confident about putting their eggs in a basket that only Eileen holds. They’ve become used to dealing with her as Jerry’s partner, so they’re not too sure Eileen can handle producing a musical on her own. Jerry is still a thorn in her side, as he is shown trying to get Derek to ditch Eileen and Marilyn and direct a revival of My Fair Lady he’s producing. When that fails, Jerry tries to get Eileen back, but he fails again, with his failure underscored by another drink to his face courtesy of an irate Eileen, who finally seems to realize just how hard the road ahead is going to be for her and Marilyn, if she can’t raise the money she needs.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Julia Houston (Debra Messing), Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) and Ellis Tancharoen (Jaime Cepero) are having some problems of their own. Julia is getting tired of the way Ellis seems to be insinuating himself in the making of Marilyn, and she tries to get him out of the way so they can work on the book and songs in peace. Ellis decides he needs to go on the offensive, and steals Julia’s notebook, the one in which she jots down notes on the show, to find something he can arm himself with. Finding nothing incriminating in her notes, Ellis sneakily gives it back to her (who else thought that lie about finding it under the mail was something Julia should have seen through?) but eventually manages to discover a secret of hers he can turn to his advantage—which brings me to the next major plot point introduced in this episode.

Now that they’ve found their Marilyn, naturally they have to start casting the other roles in the show, like that of Joe DiMaggio. Much to Julia’s obvious discomfort, the favorite for the baseball star’s role is Michael Swift (Will Chase), an actor she once had an affair with. Everyone involved in the production of Marilyn wants Michael on board, but Julia tries to get them to change their minds about him every chance she gets—and she isn’t too subtle about it. But after Eileen and Derek watch Michael’s performance in a Bruno Mars-themed show, they offer him the part anyway. Speaking of which, what did you guys think of Will Chase’s take on “Grenade”? I thought he sounded great, and his rough, gritty vocal was enhanced by the more rock-flavored arrangement of this version.

Anyway, Michael was initially wary about accepting the part, for the same reason that Julia is. Apparently both of them are afraid they’ll fall off the wagon and into each other’s arms again if they’re forced to work together on the show. However, oblivious to her husband’s affair with Julia, Michael’s wife talks him into doing it. The episode ends with Michael and Ivy recording the latest song Tom and Julia wrote for the show, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” Footage of the recording session was interspersed with glimpses of Michael and Ivy performing it in costume. I thought it was a nice touch that they were singing a song about fidelity and marriage while Michael and Julia were sneaking glances at each other.

Overall, I thought this was another fairly good episode of Smash. I like this show because it’s not choked with musical numbers—the songs are inserted into gaps where the lyrics and music actually move the plot along. I can’t wait for the rest of the season to unfold so we can see what will happen to all the plot threads introduced in this episode. For instance, did you guys believe Derek when he fed Ivy that story about his apartment being a mess? (I for one think he’s just using her for the sex.) And what will happen to Karen? Will she take the spot in the ensemble and somehow wind up with the role of Marilyn? We shall see…and I’ll be here for the rest of the season to offer my comments!

P.S. Thanks for the opportunity, MJ!

Mr. and Mrs. Smith