Smash 1×10 ‘Understudy’ recap: The rise & fall of Karen Cartwright

So far in Smash we have seen both Karen and Ivy try to be Marilyn, and then Ivy became Marilyn, and in this episode, Karen got to be Marilyn, too. That’s basically what the episode was about: showcasing Karen as a legitimate choice for Marilyn. And I was convinced by the whole presentation. The show, like its precedents, had many flaws and many unnecessary storylines. But I did enjoy it. Thanks to Karen, Tom, and of course, Derek.

Rebecca Duvall is now officially Marilyn. The only problem is she’s stuck in Cuba. The investors are pissed that the table-read is delayed and so is the rest of the crew. Someone needs to play Marilyn. So Derek, Julia, and Tom go to Karen and asks her to be the understudy: The Marilyn until Rebecca returns. And of course, she’s thrilled.

Can you guess who’s pissed? Ivy. After her stunt on “Heaven on Earth,” Ivy’s career went downhill. She’s stuck at home drinking wine. Derek can’t even get her into the chorus of the musical. The saving grace of seeing Ivy so miserable? She sings Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” so perfectly. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for Kelly. But, seriously, Ivy was amazing singing that song – not only because her voice was splendid but also because we got to see a montage of her as Marilyn. And oh My God, she looks exactly like Marilyn Monroe! The face, that HAIR! She’s a spitting image of her.

Ivy realizes that to get back in on Marilyn: The Musical, she has to play nice. So she does. She asks Derek to take it easy on Karen. “The only directors who were ever successful with Marilyn were the ones who babied her, the rest of the time, she just shut down.” She even buys Karen the sunglasses that look like the ones Marilyn Monroe wore in Niagra.

Ivy may be jealous that Karen is getting it all, but she doesn’t know what’s going behind closed doors. You know how Derek made a pass at Karen in the pilot? Well, Dev didn’t know that. And when Karen let it slip that he did, Dev loses it and they fight. Let’s face it. They’re breaking up soon.

That’s not Karen’s only problem. Derek’s being an ass, as always. He shouts at her mid-scene. But in one the scenes and after he shouts her, Karen tells him that she thinks what Arthur Miller’s character is saying is dumb. We can see the look of infatuation on Derek’s face when she tells him she’s trying to think like Marilyn. And then all of a sudden, she becomes Marilyn. The blonde hair, the red lips, the sadness in her eyes, and the voice. I really can’t pick whom I want as Marilyn!

On the writers’ side, it’s the tenth anniversary of Tom and Julia’s first opening night together. They are interviewed about the occasion, but Julia cuts in the interview short when he starts asking her about her husband. To celebrate their anniversary, Julia and Tom go to a random production of their first play. But this year, things go south. When Julia and Tom are introduced to the crowd in a high school production of Three’s a Match, Tom gets up and thanks his writing partner by offering an apron signed by the cast and crew. Julia’s reaction? She walks out. Tom is obviously hurt but then cools down when Julia tells him that Frank found out about the affair and has walked out on her.

Tom was actually one of the major characters in this episode. He got to SING! When the actor playing Zanuck (is that a theme in this episode?) doesn’t show up, Tom takes his place and sings “Don’t Say Yes Until I Finish Talking.” I definitely liked the performance; the first male-only number in the show. It was pretty damn awesome.

But not all things are going well for Tom: his boyfriend breaks up with him. It seems we’re not the only ones noticing the chemistry between him and Sam. And he can’t be with someone who has feelings for someone else.

As for Eileen, in a very MEH subplot, finds an investor for the musical and lets the other bitchy ones go. She meets the investor, a fallen rock-star, through the bartender she obviously has feelings for and eventually kisses.

Anyway, by the end of the episode, Derek learns that Rebecca is coming back soon. So he goes over to Karen to tell her, and he apologizes for being an ass when they met. As he’s going out, Dev sees him and stars a fight with him. Karen breaks it up and tells Derek to leave. And then we get to see the sides of the neglected lovers: Dev asks Karen if she’ll let go of the musical for him, and we all know she won’t. And Ivy gives Derek a hard time for seeing Karen. He could have called her.

Karen breaks into a song at the very last minute of the episode, Ivy’s “Never Give All The Heart” and she aces it. She’s so Marilyn (just like Ivy.) that you feel SHE’s the one who should be doing Marilyn not some star. Talking about the star, we get to see Rebecca in the last 30 seconds of the episodes. Uma Therman actually got a credit for that 30-second appearance.

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About the author: Heba
Heba
Heba could watch television forever. And she LOVES writing about it. She was never meant to be born in a land so far away from TV Land! Her favorite shows are Mad Men, The Vampire Diaries, Happy Endings, Community, Cougar Town and MUCH MUCH more. Follow her on twitter: @ClumsyHibz

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  • http://www.facebook.com/camilamjt Camila Miranda

    it was a great episode, at least for me. I can’t decide which Marilyn I like the most either, it’s frustrating!