‘Smash’ recap: Episode 6, ‘Chemistry’
Scenes are out of order. Songs go missing. Nothing makes sense. Are we talking about "Marilyn! The Musical" or this week's episode of "Smash"? Metro's theater critic recaps.
Airing “Smash” on Mondays is a great idea for anyone on the Broadway circuit, but it’s not a particularly dark night for all of us theater folk! Last night we were taken from our regularly scheduled programming by TinyRhino at the Brooklyn Lyceum. But here’s the delayed recap!
This week, the show doesn’t even pretend to be more about showbiz than sex as the title card tells us it’s called “Chemistry” and we open in Ivy’s bedroom, where she sings to herself in the mirror and gives off a little, foreboding squeak. “A toad, madame? Perhaps it is you who are the toad,” Derek chortles from the bed. No, but we wish. He just lies there with half-hearted concern. On this show, even the big-time director/choreographer probably isn’t considered gay enough to quote show tunes.
ANJELICA HUSTON (welcome back!) is sitting with a potential investor named Ralph. She’s asking for $7 million but he says she’ll need $50 million to get to Broadway. He says he’s intrigued enough to check out the presentation of the workshop. By the way, that’s in just one week!
At the rehearsal space, lord knows where, Karen and some dancer friends are trying to synchronize their scripts. But they all have different versions because the book is still a mess. Inside, Julia and Derek are having a fight about it. Julia cries and Derek belittles her. This is how writers and directors pretty much always work, true story. Tom storms out, saying his work cannot be used to bludgeon his writing partner. Ellis just hangs out creepily in the background like the woman in black from that new scary movie…you know…oh right, “The Woman In Black.” (We’re still waiting for someone to splice this up with “Men In Black.” You’re welcome.)
Ivy’s hanging out alone, warming up, dismayed about her voice. We always wondered why she had to sing every single time the dancers were learning the routine; that’s just silly. But it’s also the only way to justify our typing breaks – er, the musical interludes. So it’s fine by us.
Ellis shows up at AH’s office and immediately begins gossiping about what went on in the rehearsal room that day. This boy was just waiting for the right audience! (Other than his YouTube channel followers, aka his mom and her bridge buddies.) Eileen regally accepts this insight and then hoofs off to rehearsal to check it out for herself. She’s carrying a giant bag and we just wish she could tuck Ellis into it and cart him out like a tiny dog. We like this new friend pairing!
In the rehearsal room, Ivy’s blowing out her voice even more by trying to act like there’s nothing wrong with it. The ensemble looks on with concern. Eileen walks in at that very moment, of course. She just needs a rest, chill out everyone.
Woodwinds! The sound my oven makes before the gas catches flame! “SMASH”!
The dancers run through a routine with just the captain counting off eights, as it should be. Swift tries to get some alone time with Julia but she closes him down. Tom rushes in and says the doctor said Ivy’s throat is inflamed but she’s sensitive to drugs, so she just needs a break. Derek immediately suggests using the “other Marilyn.” And Karen, who’s sitting in the dark all alone like that woman in black from … well, you get it … overhears and her eyes turn into saucers as her jaw slowly drops. Come on, as if you haven’t been thinking it since Ivy’s first missed note! Julia questions Karen’s ability to pick up the part that fast (as if she hasn’t been involved since the first audition) (and probably singing all of the lead parts in the shower every day). Tom says this is all because Ivy’s under too much pressure and no one should stress her out more by talking about Karen.
At Ivy’s later, Derek pretends he doesn’t already know what the doctor said and asks Ivy about her vocal strain. He tells her that prednisone is a very effective drug and she argues that there could be side effects. Alcoholism, bankruptcy and insanity are other terrible side effects of musical theater, Derek adds. She squeaks that he shouldn’t try to make her laugh. But all of those things are very funny! Because they’re true!
Julia is daydreaming about kissing Swift and burns her son’s pancakes. That’s a metaphor for their relationship. Just then, Julia’s husband comes home and she basically jumps his bones out of guilt about her indiscretion.
Ivy’s just been getting sicker in the meantime – thanks to the drugs he talked her into taking. She describes fever, shakiness and lack of sleep. But Derek just wants to know how her voice is, and she says she’s fine and heads into the room to get back to work. Another dancer offers Karen a $500 gig to sing at a bar mitzvah. It used to be Ivy’s gig, but she gave it to this other girl because she was, ironically, saving her voice. And now this other girl landed a recording deal for the night, so she passes it along. Surely the poor schmucks who tried to book a Broadway singer for their son won’t mind a third-tier substitute!
Eileen is yelling into her phone about Jerry needing to pay the maintenance on an apartment that’s listed under his name. Ellis is poking his head in again – just to say rehearsal’s going well. He wants to know if she needs anything else, such as a loyal companion who will both fetch her slippers and wait at the door when she gets home.
In rehearsal, Swift confronts Julia and then dickishly corners her by saying, “Don’t make a scene or everyone will know.” So overtly manipulative! She says she won’t see him alone and he says he can’t sleep without her. That’s just weird and codependent and not at all sexy.
AH is touring an 83rd-floor apartment with views of the city. Pretty nice for a broke lady! Ellis wrangled a pre-availability viewing so that she could get around using a broker. He has some shady friends in real estate, not that we’re surprised. This wily guy who snuck them in probably told his boss he was heading out to pick up her laundry. In the meantime, Eileen takes a call from someone else she’s trying to lure into the workshop performance – she says Nathan Lane and the Nederlanders will be there (no, she doesn’t mean a bunch of Dutch folk). The rent on this apartment is $10,000/month, but Eileen says she wants to look at something a little more affordable if that exists in Manhattan.
Karen’s picking a dress for her side gig with the partying Jews, but neither she nor Boyfriend has ever been to a bar mitzvah – she thinks she can just use the standard wedding song list. This thing is in Long Island by the way, obviously. She thinks she's going to be able to hail a cab out there, adorable.
At Tom’s, instead of working on the book, Julia’s confessing about her kiss with Swift. “He sang to me!” she protests. Tom says he would have kissed him too, but he’s not married. They change topics and Tom says he’s going to his boyfriend’s place tonight to meet some of his friends. Tom’s face is always out-acting the rest of him, and it closes the scene in a private moment all its own.
Eileen and Ellis are out having drinks at some low-key bar – WAIT HOLD UP! She says these martinis are just $7 while she usually pays $24 at the Carlyle. You guys, those drinks have been $24 and not $14 all along! We have to re-do our math. That means Eileen’s thrown about $120 into her husband’s face so far this season. Excuse us while we breathe into a paper bag … okay, back, but barely. Ellis says they’re actually at Bushwhack, even though we can’t find a link to that for you – sorry! Eileen wants to play darts, but she gets distracted by Big Buck Hunter, a Deer Hunter rip-off. ANJELICA HUSTON looks like she belongs with a big gun in her hands.
By herself at home, Ivy sings her feelings about being sick (even though, technically, she should be resting her voice – not that we’re doctors or anything). While belting Jessie J’s “Who You Are,” she crawls around the bed and fondles her coverlet. The camera cuts all over the place like a music video, and it’s actually extremely annoying and over-stylized. Thankfully the song only lasts a few seconds, which is why it’s not listed on our NBC-provided cheat sheet – we were worried there’d really be only two songs this episode! Ivy thinks she’ll be okay, but then she sees Karen dressed as Marilyn watching her eerily in the mirror, like that woman dressed in all black from … right, right. Ivy freaks out, but the image is gone.
Next, Karen’s breathlessly running into the bar mitzvah. She explains she couldn’t get a cab and had to walk from the station in heels. Toldja! They tell her to get on the stage and call her Ivy, which she smartly decides to accept. This could backfire if one of them ever gets famous, but hopefully by then she’ll be able to repay the $500 plus damages for false impersonation or whatever those charges would be.
At Tom’s boyfriend’s soiree, the writer’s trapped talking to total d—bags who are reminiscing about the “cheap” home they almost bought in P-Town for $2 million. They lament about how little there is to invest in these days. Tom says Broadway musicals? They chortle condescendingly. Listen misters, people in pink and green pants shouldn’t be so smarmy. Then the friends say Tom’s beau just came out to his mother last year, which sends off warning signals in Tom’s brain – which we can see, of course, all over his hyperactive face.
Ivy’s so spooked she called Sam and Tom to come – wait, wasn’t Tom just at his boyfriend’s party? Did he ditch out on that? Because his boyfriend came out to his mom later in life? What is even happening on this show anymore? Anyway, Sam blames the vision that Ivy had on anxiety and insomnia, but Tom’s face knows that it means more.
Ivy’s worried that the next vision she might have is the Wolfman, which Sam teases her about because he’s straight-acting, so he's not allowed to be sensitive. Tom texts Karen that she’ll need to be ready for tomorrow, but to be discreet about the news. She’s on her phone telling her boyfriend about it, even though she’s at a paying gig and was already late – very unprofessional. She’s called to the stage and has to hang up. They need her to do … “Hava Nagila.” Well shoot, that’s not on her wedding song list back in Iowa! Now she enacts a scene from our nightmares, where she just tries to make up the words and hope no one’s paying any attention. Feel free to fast-forward this part if your cringe trigger is as sensitive as ours. Remember, folks – we watch it so you don’t have to!
Julia’s petting her husband and convincing herself that she’s still smitten by him. Then Swift calls in yet another highly manipulative move. He chats with her husband until he gets invited over for a beer. She steals the phone and then tells him to knock it off. He wants to meet her tonight at the rehearsal space (because this show only has three sets). Then his wife walks into the room with their baby and he pretends he’s been chatting with his sister, Suze. We really hate one-dimensional villains, but Swift has absolutely no room for redemption by this point. "I just love her so much it hurts!" does not defend stalking, no matter how hard Stephanie Meyer tried.
Ivy and the guys want to put in a movie. Sam reminds them that there’s a Rangers game on (BECAUSE HE LIKES SPORTS, REMEMBER?). What’s a ranger, Tom asks. Where did you find the “straightest chorus boy I’ve ever met,” he wonders aloud to Ivy. Sam’s like, “Who says I’m straight?” Tom’s face tells us that these two are destined to fall in love by the season finale. (To be fair, the Previously Ons told us this first by reminding us about the time these two first met for absolutely zero reason except a relationship setup – spoiler alert. This is why we try to never, ever watch the Previously Ons.)
Ivy remembers that the world doesn’t revolve around her for two seconds and asks how Tom’s cocktail date went. He says the décor was upscale minimalist, which apparently says it all. Then he kisses Ivy’s head and cuddles with her in bed. DOES JULIA KNOW YOU’RE CHEATING ON HER?? Well ... we suppose she deserves it.
At the bar mitzvah, Karen’s checking her phone again – right onstage where the client can see her. Rude! She picks a final number, hopefully one she knows the words to: Florence & the Machine's “Shake It Out.” Weird choice, but we’re pleased to be spared some kind of “American Idol” autotuned version of “We Are Family.” By the way, the band just happens to know this song too! Ah, the magic of television. We can’t believe this entire bar mitzvah setup happened just to wedge this song in here. Well, yes we can. Every night can’t be a baby shower karaoke night.
At home, Julia’s sighing a lot but blames sore shoulders and stress, not the maddening drumming of her loins. She decides to go for a walk, but she really means she wants to sneak out to meet Swift.
Karen’s eating leftover banquet food and gets called out for not being Ivy and never having been to a bar mitzvah before in her life, or seen one on TV, or bothered to Google it before taking this job. The guy in charge (the kid’s dad? who knows) says he has a friend who wants her to call him about a follow-up job nevertheless. That good news lasts five seconds, because Tom texts that Ivy’s okay – so nevermind about being ready tomorrow.
Julia confronts Swift at the rehearsal room after-hours and says she shouldn’t have let them cast him. She says he needs to stop stalking her. Then he tries to grab her. He asks why she came. She says, "Serafimo, away with this pretense! You cannot speak, but kiss my in my husband's absence." No, she really says: "To get through to you." He tries to embrace her again and she says she can’t think when he touches her. He says he can’t think when they don’t touch. We hate that they’re making this like an insurmountable attraction; Tristan and Isolde, these two ain’t. Just normal ol’ adulterers who can’t keep it in their pants or respect their spouses enough to be honest. Swift takes off Julia’s shirt, the one she was just wearing to bed with her husband, and we’re grossed out they’re gonna do it in the same space they rehearse every day – and on the very couch that probably cast Ivy. Then he undresses. They whisper to each other. We feel uncomfortably voyeuristic and we're still not buying it. He asks if she wants him to stop – AS IF HE CARES – but she says no.
And then the episode ends. WHAT JUST HAPPENED? Where did the missing song listed here, “Lexington and 52nd Street,” go? Did we take some prednisone by accident?
Well, don’t look at us for any further insight. Apparently the season guide for this show is as unfinished as the book for “Marilyn! The Musical.” Hopefully all of the residual WTFery of this episode can be wiped away by the guest appearance of Bernadette Peters next week. But in the previews we’re seeing a lot of people in beds … so probably not.