Smash: Season 1, Episode 4
The Cost of Art
Smash Season 1, Episode 4: The Cost of Art

This week, Smash delivers another solid hour of television, even if The Cost of Art does seem like a bit of a stutter step. The characters (at least most of them) are experiencing some interesting growth, and "Marilyn: the Musical" is moving forward at a steady clip.


Let's start with the good things:

I am becoming a real fan of Michael Swift (Will Chase), who will be filling the role of Joe DiMaggio in the musical. He's an understated respite on screen, a cool presence that helps temper the typical Broadway histrionics of the plot and the remaining cast. He definitely didn't get enough screen time this episode, but I'm pretty fine with the idea of a slow burn between him and Julia that bubbles for most of the season before boiling over in the inevitable emotional encounter. There's something really interesting about this relationship. When first discussing him last episode, Julia referred to him as her "show crush," but it's clear that there is something more than that: her husband doesn't like theater and doesn't appreciate her work, and his wife seems too saintly. They're drawn to each other even though they both know better, but it isn't an all-consuming, self-immolating kind of connection, which is refreshing considering dramatics of the other relationships on screen.

We're also starting to see the past between Tom and Derek. Apparently they worked together on Tom's first musical, in which they cast Lyle West (played by Nick Jonas) at the tender age of 8, and there's some disagreement over who discovered the recently syndicated television star. And it appears that the tables are turning: Tom and Derek disagree over the history of Lyle's casting, where Tom maintains he pushed for the newbie when Derek didn't want to take the chance. I smell a comparison to Karen brewing here.


I also like the development of chemistry between Tom and Julia. If that core pair didn't work, we'd have a huge problem: they are, after all, ultimately responsible for creating the musical at the show's heart. The Cost of Art is great on this point, in that it helps establish these characters as individuals while also maintaining the ties that bind them.


Now, for the things that were not so great:

While I love her, Eileen is a bit maudlin this episode, although she comes through in the end, signing the boy wonder to bankroll the workshop and keeping the musical moving. She spends this week's hour(ish) desperately trying to scrape together the money to keep the musical going. Her evil ex-husband has frozen her assets in the divorce, but she refuses to give up, instead deciding to sell a Degas sketch that was a wedding present, orchestrating an impromptu performance to sell Lyle on investing in the show.

But I hope she quickly gets over her continued hang-up on her ex-husband; she's much more entertaining when she's angry, powerful, and throwing drinks at people.

In the understudy plot, Karen must contend with her fellow (incredibly catty) members of the ensemble. They're all pro-Ivy, openly mocking and criticizing Karen until she throws a tantrum and then Ivy's main bitch decided to take pity and have a "Jesus comes to Mother Teresa" moment, as it is aptly put by one of the male dancers. They teach her the value of being in the background, which is an important lesson for a green, precocious talent like Karen. She's trying too hard, and we won't start pulling for her until she falls in line and Ivy starts to crumble all on her own"¦more on that after the jump.


The one character who isn't getting the growth treatment is Ivy who, following the nuanced performance she gave in the pilot, is becoming a stale caricature of the Broadway diva. She throws tantrums and gets Karen demoted, first to the back of the ensemble and then to the sidelines, and uses a little wiggle of her hips to get Derek on her side, which, when added to Tom's unwavering support, gets her basically anything she wants. It is becoming ever more apparent that Ivy is the superior talent, albeit the far inferior character. But Broadway, apparently, is just like sports, and everything is about consistency. And Ivy is a choke artist. As I said in week one, Ivy is her own worst enemy, she's the one standing in the way of her own success, and perhaps Karen just has to be there when the blonde bites the dust, which, if we pay attention to the promo for next week, might be happening soon.

Grade: B-


It's sort of heartbreaking that they start rehearsals with Karen's callback piece

"Just breathe." "I can't, Ivy might hear me." I'm glad that Karen is aware of how ridiculous Ivy is being, considering everyone else seems so intent on coddling her.

Nick Jonas is a complete after thought in this episode, a somewhat necessary vehicle to help bring the Derek-Tom history forward and to bankroll the musical.

Tom's new boyfriend is a bit fawning, but pretty adorable. Why don't most mothers set their children up with such success?

It's a little on the nose for Ivy to show up for the first performance in a pink sweater. And she knows everyone. I think this Sam character might be interesting, because he is clearly sympathetic towards Karen, and by the end of the episode even Ivy's most stalwart groupies are starting to look at Karen differently. I smell a tide changing.

For someone so prone on selling herself, Ivy is surprisingly unforgiving of Derek's rampant flirting

Tags: Smash
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