Recap/Review – Smash – “Understudy” – 4/9/12

A friend of mine texted that this episode could’ve been called Les Miserables. And especially with the shots we saw during “Never Give All The Heart,” I have to agree. But let’s take a look at what happened up to that point, in an episode I really liked.


With Rebeca Duvall stuck in Cuba (because her assistant can’t get a visa), the potential investors are pressuring Eileen for a meeting with Rebeca. To be able to continue work on the show, Derek, Tom, Julia, and Eileen ask Karen to understudy for Marilyn, which she happily agrees to.

Jump with me for more.

Derek tells Ivy the news about Karen stepping in as understudy. This further deteriorates Ivy’s mood after getting fired from Heaven and Earth and being replaced for Rebeca. The next morning, we hear Ivy singing “Breakaway” while daydreaming about returning to Bombshell as Marilyn.

When RJ visits Dev at work, she learns Dev has been passed over for the promotion. Dev hasn’t told Karen yet, and when Karen shows up to tell Dev about the understudy position, he doesn’t tell Karen, either.

Rehearsal isn’t going to smoothly because Karen is having a hard time following Derek’s directions. Bobby, Jessica, and Sam bet against Karen to see if she’ll cry or even get fired.

Back at home, Karen complains to Dev about Derek and lets it slip that Derek harassed her. Dev demands an explanation, but Karen tries to tell him nothing happened. Dev starts shouting, so Karen decides to leave.

The potential investors are starting to demand more because Rebeca still hasn’t shown up, and they tell Eileen that Jerry would’ve never let this happen. Eileen tells Nick about what happened, and he says he’ll introduce her to Randy Cobra, a friend who might be interested in investing.

Ivy and Derek talk about Bombshell, and Ivy urges him to be patient with Karen. After Tom fills in as Daryl Zanuck for the song “Don’t Say Yes Until I Finish Talking,” Derek takes Karen apart and tries to comfort her for the coming afternoon of rehearsal. Sam and Tom joke about Derek having a stroke, and Derek’s assistant looks at Derek weird.

After rehearsal, Ivy shows up at the bar where Karen, Jessica, Bobby, and Sam are having a drink. She hands Karen a gift: sunglasses Marilyn used to wear. Walking home, Ivy tips Karen to enjoy her week playing Marilyn.

The next morning, Sam asks Ivy what she’s up to, and he understands how she’s playing nice to get invited back to the show.

Eileen’s visit with the investor goes well. She thanks Nick for introducing her to Randy, and Nick says he was glad to be of help.

When Karen talks back to Derek at rehearsal, Derek has a daydream about Karen fully dressed as and talking like Marilyn. Karen snaps Derek out of it.

That night, Derek visits Karen at home to tell her Rebeca will show up tomorrow, so her understudy position will be done for now. He also apologizes for the night at his apartment. As he leaves, Dev passes him. They get in a fight, which Karen has to break up, but not before Dev manages to hit Derek in the face. Back inside, she asks Dev what the fight was about, and he wants her to stay away from Derek. She tells him Marilyn is her dream, and he asks if she’s prepared to leave everything for his dream. She doesn’t answer, and Dev walks out.

At Ivy’s, she asks Derek what happened. He tells her Dev hit him but doesn’t fully disclose what happened with Karen.

Eileen tells the potential investors they’re out and introduces them to Randy Cooper.

The episode finishes with Karen singing “Never Give All The Heart,” which Ivy sees by peeking inside just as Rebeca Duvall finally shows up.
In other storylines:

Julia is having a hard time being separated from Frank, and she steals Leo’s phone to invite him to talk, but Frank doesn’t show.

Tom and Julia visit a production of “Three On a Match” to celebrate the anniversary of their first opening night. After the show, Tom tries to give his gift to Julia, but she runs out. Tom goes after her, and Julia explains that Frank found out and left her.

John and Tom break up after John repeatedly sees how (lovingly) different Tom is with Sam.

The final scene showed almost everyone of our main characters unhappy, with “Never Give All The Heart” playing. Dev and Karen aren’t talking, Frank didn’t show up, Tom was unhappily alone at breakfast, Ivy is still sitting at home, and at Bombshell, Karen is back to the ensemble again.

Only Eileen got a happy ending this week, finally getting to kiss Nick. And with finally managing to find an investor for the show, she got to say “eff you” to the potential investors who only kept putting in more and more demands and comparing her to Jerry. I loved it.

Overall, this episode struck a nice balance between the personal lives of our characters and the troubles of putting a show together. With Rebeca not showing up and an inexperienced understudy, we saw some harsh words from Derek. But he really softened up after Ivy told him to be patient with Karen. We got a new song as well this week, and Christian Borle got to sing the song, but more on that later.

The two scenes that felt a little off to me were the daydreams. First, we got the daydream of Ivy getting back to Bombshell while hearing her sing “Breakaway.” And then we saw Derek imagining Karen as Marilyn after she talked back to him. The scene with Ivy felt out of place, and the scene with Derek didn’t make any sense to me. Or was that the moment Derek finally saw Karen’s final step in becoming Marilyn?

Overall, I loved Debra Messing this week. Her face when she said “Tell me that’s not today” after Tom reminded her of the interview. Her reaction when she was asked if Frank was jealous of her and Tom. And finally, the scene where she admitted everything to Tom broke my heart.

Finally, I’m curious to see how Karen and Dev’s relationship will evolve after this episode. When RJ touched Dev’s hands, he recoiled, but with everything that happened over the episode…it did feel really dishonest for him to ask Karen what she’s willing to do for him after not even having the courage or strength to tell her he’s not been promoted.

As for the music this week, Hilty sang “Breakaway,” Christian Borle sang “Don’t Say Yes Until I Finished Talking,” and McPhee sang “Never Give All The Heart.” As for “Breakaway,” I love the original by Kelly Clarkson, and to me, this version didn’t get close to or improve on the original. And I didn’t really understand how that song applied to Ivy’s situation. To me, the song is about leaving what you know and taking a new route. Ivy’s fantasy was about returning to an old job. I absolutely loved “Don’t Say Yes Until I Finish Talking.” The song was great. I was glad to get a full song by Borle, and his performance was a lot of fun. The episode finished with McPhee singing “Never Give All The Heart,” and she did an amazing job. She performed the hell out of the song, and I really felt it.

Next Monday, on “The Movie Star,” Rebeca Duvall turns Bombshell upside down, Karen and Ivy are drawn into an alliance against their new rival, the romance between Tom and Sam heats up, Julia and Frank are forced to address a family crisis, and Dev faces a big decision. It’s on at 10/9c on NBC, and you can watch this episode back at The NBC page with the music is still not showing up properly here, but you could try iTunes.

What did you think of this episode?

– JJ

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