Musing Review: Smash – The Cost of Art (S1, Ep4) – VIDEO

This is a review of Smash Season 1, Episode 4 – The Cost of Art.

So I wish I watched this episode three nights ago when it aired.  First off I didn’t “ugh” even once and it was actually quite good.  It was a stark turnaround from last week’s far below average episode.  There was very rich storyline and I’m pretty sure all of the main characters had good, equal parts.  The musical numbers were good and it just left me wanting more.

The best quote of the entire episode was from Derek when he says to Ivy “There is nothign safe about being a star.”  This was a very fitting comment for the entire plot line. Even though it was said near the very end of the episode I’ll use it as a good segue into the beginning of the episode.  Beware of spoilers after the break.

We already knew Ivy had been chosen as Marilyn.  What Ivy didn’t know is that Karen was cast into the ensemble.  The first scene had Karen showing up to an unfriendly practice studio (with all of Ivy’s friends).  Ivy walks into cheers and a hearty “here is Marilyn” though she is practically blindsided by Karen’s presence.  This doesn’t bode well for her and she is thrown off during a number of numbers.  Karen is new to the broadway show scene and doesn’t quite realize that she is not the star.  She sings a little better and dances a little better than Ivy.  Ivy can’t handles this and becomes a diva.  She gets Karen removed from two numbers and her friends are very mean to Karen.  Karen’s presence does not only throw Ivy off in the studio but in other places as well.  This wasn’t surprising considering what the effect of your rival showing up would do to your psyche.  They handled it pretty well considering they could have gone way over the top.

I loved Karen’s journey this episode.  She lost out on getting the star part though still ended up in the ensemble.  She just doesn’t know how to be part of the backup and she’s beaten up for it.  Even though she lost the part I’d say she is arguably the better singer and dancer she need to know her place.  I felt bad for her when she was kicked out of numbers and that action was a bit extreme although I knew it was kind of right.  On the other hand I didn’t like how the rest of the ensemble started out being so mean to her.  That all started to change, thankfully.

Another well done scene was when Karen confronted another ensemble member out in the hallway after she was kicked out of a number.  A very upset Karen stood her ground and stood up to the mean people.  She had a very emotional moment an got all of her feelings out (Karen was especially upset because earlier in the episode she found out Ivy was sleeping with Derek).  She won over the ensemble and three of them became friends with Karen.  They helped her get new clothes, went over to her house for an intervention and taught her what it means to be one of them and fit in with the ensemble.  This was great.  They had a little practice scene in Karen’s living room.  She just needed a little help.  Karen’s story culminated with a really cool dance scene in a bar where she fit right in the ensemble with one little exception.  She still stood out and did a little solo vocal performance.  A little foreshadowing, eh?

So we already knew that Eileen had husband problems and that her divorce isn’t going to well.  We got a clue this week as to the magnitude of her financial problems that are associated with it.  Eileen didn’t have access to the $200,000 needed to finance the play, all but $8,000 were frozen.  She’s very upset, but very motivated to get the funding.  She ends up trying to sell an authentic Degas painting to get the money but she is once again thwarted by her husband as his name is on the bill of sale so she can’t sell it outright.  More to come on this story in a little bit.

So Derek and Ivy are still an item.  He was pretty accommodating to her diva act and was the one who directed Karen out for the most part.  I couldn’t tell if he was doing this because they’re sleeping together or because he wants his star to perform.  That just wasn’t clear.  He invites her to a birthday party he’s throwing for a former now very famous actor of his, Lyle West, played by none other than Nick Jonas of Jonas brothers fame.  No problem there right.

Ivy looks fabulous at the birthday party in a very sexy dress.  A lot ends up going on at the party.  Here’s where I’ll talk about Julia’s story before I go on.  She was pretty inconsequential this episode, though present.  She had an awkward interchange with Michael for a brief moment and then the rest of her roles centered around her talking to Eileen or running into Ellis who she does not like at all.  Those run ins were almost “ugh” moments for me but came just short.  I get it, she doesn’t like him but her reaction at the party was almost over the top.  I guess I’ll just talk about how inconsequential Tom was although he had screen time.  He basically complained about Derek and went out on a date with a “suit” (lawyer).  I’m guessing his storyline just served as a setup for later.

Did I mention that Lyle West was rich? Apparently his show went into syndication for $80 million.  Eileen jumped on this and tried to sell her painting to him.  It turns out the young Jonas … I mean Lyle is a good businessman.  Instead of buying it outright for the $200,000 that Eileen needed he offered $175,000 and wanted a percentage of show revenue.  How would he know that the show would be successful?  With a performance at the party of course!  They brought Tom to the party along with Michael and they did a great performance of the big USO number.  Ivy shined during this performance, I guess she had built back enough confidence.  One thing I really liked about that scene is how Julia put together a makeshift ensemble and then performed in it.  It was cool to see her dancing and singing.  That performance did have one over the top moment when Lyle grabbed a guitar and started play … really?  Oh yeah, Lyle liked it too and will be meeting Eileen on Monday morning to discuss.

The last note to touch on was the conflict between Ivy and Derek that sparked the quote I started the post with.  Ivy was jealous that Derek was flirting with another woman and thought she was being used.  He lectured her back talking about potential investors and stardom.  In the end they make us think they sleep together but their relationship has certainly changed.  Ivy was too happy earlier in the episode for things to continue to go well.  This time she seemed obligated to sleep with him instead of enjoying it.  I bet that throws her game off more for next week.

I was certainly excited by the episode and I want to see more like this one.  I might even ask for better ones.  Just about everyone had some real growth and this was good character driven drama.  The performances blended nicely with the story and did not detract.  I had no “ugh” moments (though I came close) and I look forward to next week.  What did you think?

Watch Smash Mondays at 10:00 PM on NBC.  Catch up on NBC.com or Hulu or watch below while the video works.