Smash recap: 1×09 – ‘Hell on Earth’

Courtesy of NBC

This week Smash continues to figure out what kind of show it wants to be but ultimately, it feels like a game of high and low: we get some really good stuff, but that’s balanced out with some really horrible junk.

Let’s bitch it out!

This episode felt like a seesaw ride (which admittedly, is not unlike the other episodes). The show always seems to have moments of greatness and potential, but then something unfortunate will happen to wash it all away. It honestly feels like I was allocating pluses and minuses. Take a look at what I mean:

We finally get to see a number from Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom’s (Christian Borle) musical ‘Heaven on Earth’, which in the world of the show, is supposed to be amazingly successful. We even get a fabulous guest star starring in it: Norbert Leo Butz. Butz was in the original Broadway cast of Wicked, so I was definitely excited to see him. +5 points.

Alex-freaking-Wong of So You Think You Can Dance fame is in the number as well! +2 points.

Unfortunately, we only get a few minutes of the song so that we can deduce that Ivy (Megan Hilty) is bored and uninterested. We cut away mid-number after this becomes painfully obvious. We have no context as to why this show is so successful/popular and if we’re being honest, the number just looks incredibly hokey and silly. Butz and Wong are utilized about as well as One Republic‘s Ryan Tedder was last week. Namely: NOT AT ALL. -5 points.

We do revisit this same number later in the show, but Ivy distracts us because she’s doped up and winds up falling flat on her face in the middle of it. - 2 points. (Side Note: She almost fell down those stairs! Unfortunately she wasn’t pushed, so no Showgirls parallels here. My prediction has yet to come true. -2 points for me)

Derek (Jack Davenport) has quickly turned into a caricature despite some of his better moments earlier in the season. Take the scene when the creatives are all in Eileen’s  (Anjelica Huston)office: he sits in his chair (wearing all black – unlaundered and wrinkled, I might add), whining about how things didn’t go his way. I mean, literally whining like a spoiled little boy. He slams doors and everything! -5 points.

On the other hand, Karen (Katherine McPhee) is actually tolerable this week (which is amazeballs considering she’s been practically unbearable before). I thought McPhee did a good job selling the enthusiasm of a hungry actress when she lands an OJ commercial. She even wears the hilariously embarrassingly green suit in stride. +5 points.

Courtesy of NBC

Julia’s husband Frank (Brian d’Arcy James) finally finds out about the affair she had with Michael (Will Chase). He does so by discovering the song she wrote about it on the bedside table. 1) She wrote a song about it? 2) She left it in plain view? It’s an absolutely ridiculous way to get this plot point out in the open -2 points.

Fortunately, it leads to a very authentic exchange between the two. Julia says she’s sorry, and that it didn’t mean anything, to which Frank fires back. How could it not mean anything when it has essentially ruined their 18-year marriage? ‘Sorry’ ain’t gonna cut it here. +5 points.

This information leads to Frank confronting Michael and punching him in the face. Thank you, Frank for doing what many of us have wanted to ever since we were introduced to the sex couch+2 points.

The bruise on Michael’s face a couple of days later totally looks like mouth herpes. +2 points.

During their little pre-punch conversation, Michael reveals (accidentally) that he and Julia had an affair years prior. This causes Frank to move the eff out. Brian d’Arcy James absolutely kills it as Frank during this episode. By finally allowing him to be useful in the show, d’Arcy James proves that he is the best actor on the series by far. +10 points.

Now that Frank has left Julia, and the affair has pretty much ruined any possibility of reconciliation (remember, he’s likely even more pissed that Julia didn’t fess up to the first affair) it’s unlikely that the science teacher is going to have a significant role in the show going forward. Where would he fit? I can see a potential reconciliation being dragged out over a couple more episodes, but more than that? Doubtful. -5 points.

In the midst of d’Arcy James’ master class acting, we are unfortunately subjected to Emory Cohen’s absolutely horrible dialogue delivery as Julia and Frank’s son, Leo. When he tells Julia that Frank is packing up and leaving, it reaches a new level of terrible acting that I didn’t think existed. It’s only a couple of lines but it is painful to witness. -10 points.

The relationship stuff that Tom is going through with republican lawyer (shudder) John (Neal Bledsoe) is actually pretty interesting. When Tom gets a text that Ivy has fallen on stage and is drugged up, he tells John that he’s gotta book it from the republican fundraiser to go and take care of her. John tells him that he’s infantilizing her and that Tom should just let Ivy take care of herself. Instead of the typical storm out – Tom actually admits that John’s assessment is right, but that he’s going to go anyway. I like that the two feel that they can be themselves and have disagreements rather than arguments. +3 points.

Ellis (Jaime Cepero) is still around and as annoying as ever. He actually thinks he can weasel his way into a co-producing credit by trying to get a big star cast as Marilyn.  -5 points.

He goes as far as offering sexual favours to achieve this. Ugh. How many dry heaves were heard around the world when this scene aired? -5 points just for the imagery.

Thankfully it doesn’t ever seem like Ellis’ schemes actually amount to anything significant. Eileen puts this little rat in his place when he tries to bully her into giving him a co-producing credit and a deflated Ellis plops back in his receptionist chair where he belongs. +5 points.

The high point of the episode is when Karen and Ivy finally put aside their differences and shared a rendition of Rhianna’s “Cheers (I’ll Drink to That)” in Times Square. It is a fun number (and beautifully shot), but more than that, it finally made sense for these two not to pitted against one another. They don’t have to be BFFs, but dissipating the clear adversarial relationship between the two is definitely a step in the right direction. +5 points.

‘Marilyn: The Musical’ finally got a proper name! ‘Bombshell’. And it’s actually a great title. +2 points.

Unfortunately Julia thinks of it when she tells Michael that the whole affair “exploded her life like a bombshell” which is a really awkward sentence. Again, it’s a clunky way to show how the title came about and is painfully obvious to the viewers. -2 points.

FINAL SCORE = +5 points which means not such a bad episode this week, but not really a great one either. With Uma Thurman guest starring in next week’s episode, let’s hope Smash can score some more positive points.

What did you think Smash-ers? Was it mostly highs or lows for you this week? Do you think Frank will ever return and forgive Julia? Maybe Leo will move in with his dad and we don’t have to see him again! Let us know what you thought about this episode in the comments section below.

About tvangie

Angie is a TV addict currently pursuing a PhD in media studies. A freelance researcher and writer on the side – she really misses talking about her favourite shows because none of her friends watch them. Help her out.

4 thoughts on “Smash recap: 1×09 – ‘Hell on Earth’

  1. I totally called it. Early in the episode, they pressured the writers to come up with a title for the Marilyn musical, and after some private deliberation, AYE came up with ‘Bombshell’ a good three quarters of an hour before they dropped the bomb(shell) on the show.

  2. Good writeup. I basically agree with everything here. I found this article by Googling “Emory Cohen terrible” by the way. He’s just so bad he ruins every scene he’s ever been in. Didn’t they have a different actor playing Leo in the pilot? Why change to this kid? Ugh.

    • I think it’s hilarious how he manages to ruin scene when he literally has almost no dialogue. Seriously – that in itself is a feat. I would say “poor kid” but honestly- he’s young enough that I’m sure he can find a much better career that he’s actually good at. I can’t recall if there was another actor play Leo in the pilot – but there was I couldn’t imagine anyone worse than Cohen.

  3. Pingback: Smash review – 2×12: ‘Opening Night’ | Bitch Stole My Remote

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