So, we’re finally getting to see the first round of the Smash plot that I so dreaded: the Ivy (Megan Hilty) vs. Karen (Katharine McPhee) title card fight. My worries centered around the countless cliches we had already seen before with regards to two women vying for the same goal, let alone two actresses vying for the same role. Would we get to see the girls snipe at each other during rehearsal in “The Cost of Art”? Would they get into a hair-pulling cat fight by the episode’s end?
Luckily, the answer was a resounding “NO!”. As a matter of fact, their rivalry was more passive aggressive than a bloodsport. And it starts small enough that it was almost unsuspecting. Ivy is kind of peeved that no one from the creative team had given her the head’s up that Karen was cast in the Ensemble. Karen is still pissed that she didn’t get the role of Marilyn, and gets even more pissed when she finds out from the gossiping dancers that Ivy has been sleeping with Derek (Jack Davenport). Both of their uneasiness manifests itself in rehearsal when Karen — in a surprisingly understated manner — upstages Ivy during the musical numbers, distracting Ivy from giving it her all. Ivy points out that “others” are distracting her, never really calling Karen out. Karen is reprimanded and pulled out of a couple of those numbers.
Both actresses have each other on their radars but they haven’t yet had it out face-to-face. That, in turn, is a godsend to the show, which desperately needed to break free from its own crutches of cliches. And while Ivy doesn’t outright berate Karen, members of the Ensemble do. (They soon come around to her and teach her how to play nice with the star by being a good background dancer.) It’s that passive aggressiveness that creates the tension in place of what would have been the stupid Ivy vs. Karen bout. So, a thumbs up to the main storyline! (Plus anytime where the writers and producers of Smash give McPhee a musical number where she shimmies and shakes is A-OK in my book!)
Also on the plus side, Anjelica Huston’s Eileen gets to do other things than throw drinks in her ex-husband’s face! Instead, she finds out that she can’t take the $200,000 needed to invest in the musical from her and her ex’s account and begins to scramble for the funds. She eventually decides to sell her Edgar Degas sketch, first to an auction house (which needs her husband’s approval) then to a Nick Jonas-type television star (played by Nick Jonas himself) who is looking to diversify his portfolio. It’s a decent plot line that resolves itself immediately but there a huge problem lies here: Nick Jonas can’t act for shit. His scenes with Huston are pretty much the David vs. Goliath of acting chops, but if David was super-sickly looking, had no weapons, and had poor aim. He is simply no match for the Oscar winner, which only goes to show the old adage: Anjelica Huston is a much better actress than most people in the world, and is exceptionally better than a damn Jonas brother. (Sorry, Disney Channel fans.)
There are a couple of minor storylines: Julia (Debra Messing) might still be in love with Michael (Will Chase) but she still hates Ellis (Jaime Cepero) while Tom (Christian Borle) goes out on a blind date with a very successful lawyer. They’re okay filler — though the matter of factness of a gay date on network television is pretty awesome — for an otherwise okay episode.
And while I may think that “The Cost of Art” was just okay, there is still something very compelling about everything that is going on in Smash. I — like the characters on the show — do hope that “Marilyn” is a success. That warrants continued viewing.