Episode 02: It's Like The Flu

I was broken, Doug.

Two notes this week:

  1. I will be referring to Alex and Bradley as exes and I will not be explaining myself.

  2. I wrote this while listening to the Cruella (2020) score.

“You Don’t Want to Get into a Pissing Match with Me; All I Do is Piss.”

We open on the garbage strewn streets of Times Square as they are swept up following the revelry of Bradley and Hasan/Eric’s Moderately Rockin’ New Years Eve. Bradley is stomping back into her hotel lobby (it’s been eight months, she makes like 700k, why is uba still paying for this?) in a truly exquisite dark blue jacket. Of course, Cory is waiting for her in the lobby is. He knows she is angry about the evening news gig, but he just wanted to mention— and it’s no big deal, really, that Alex is coming back to TMS!

Bradley squints as she takes this information in, but when Cory tries to assure her it’s gonna work out, she snaps. “You know, it’s funny. Life just turns out to be a series of disappointments with just enough time in between them for the next one to catch you by surprise.” She thought they were FRIENDS! Oh, and she’s not feeling well. She won’t make it in tomorrow morning. Again, it’s literally bonkers that she was supposed to do TMS the morning after hosting NYE but WHATEVER. Cory looks forlorn and amused, which I suppose is just his natural resting face. The elevator doors shut, and Bradley’s face crumples.

Okay? I guess? I just don’t get why this is such a big deal for her??? If I am following The Morning Show’s interal “logic”, it is because Bradley thought she and Cory were close enough that he would offer her the evening gig or at least tell her they were giving it to Hasan/Eric? Babe, you were a stringer for local news stations for like ten years and you’ve been hosting a morning show for eight months. This does not an evening anchor make! Gotta love this show’s commitment to hot white women who thinks they deserve the moon for existing!

The next day, Cory is in his office, lightly disassociating as uba’s lawyers discuss how to deal with Hannah’s wrongful death suit. He wants to pay it and move on—I do think he feels something approaching guilt about Hannah’s death—but also, it is terrible press. One of the suits makes a thoughtless comment about not needing the NDA because well, “she’s not talking.” It’s a brilliant bit of acting from Billy Crudup: he shifts a little, then a smile that never reaches his eyes twists across his face. “That’s it. Turn out the lights. The party’s over. You’re fired, Richard.”

The rest of the suits scatter, and Cory watches The Tea, a show I desperately wish I was the host of. The women of The Tea are discussing the slew of shitty people who have been terminated from uba, I think, in the six (or eight) months since Mitch left. The vibes are hella off at this damn network!

Downstairs (making that up, I have no idea what the approximate floors of uba are.) Alex is entering with her assistant who is NOT Homosexual Sean. Her name will be revealed as Isabella, and yes, it’s very possible her name was revealed last season, but WHERE IS HOMOSEXUAL SEAN?? We will be referring to Isabella as Bisexual Isabella in the meantime, because that combination of pattern clashing and pleated pants is not for the straight of heart. Also with Alex is Doug (Will Arnett, doing a less manic version of Devon Banks), who is cautioning her that dropping by before her deal is finalized might not be great for the ol rumor mill. Alex talks about having power now that she not on the anchor floor (powerless anchors, you know how it is), and Bisexual Isabella nods confidently next to her.

The twenty something girlies at the desk applaud Alex and thank her for what she did, though I cannot imagine Alex sweating and swearing on air resulted in any tangible benefits for these three. It does make Jen slip in some Jennifer Aniston: America’s Sweetheart energy into her performance, as Alex pretends to blush and mutters “oh gosh!” from underneath her hands. I think it would behoove her to draw on this energy when she starts anchoring TMS again!!

Stella gets wind of Alex being in the building and rushes up to Cory, who is arguing with someone on the phone about the subscription model for uba+. This is a code red, there is an entitled white woman in the building!!! No time to argue about streaming services!! Stella is worried that news of Alex’s return will leak before they announce it, so the two of them zoom downstairs (citation needed, re: location of various offices) and interrupt Alex and Doug as they sit on the floor and talk about Alex’s plans for world domination.

Alex greets Stella with some of the most pitch perfect white woman bullshit I have ever seen depicted on screen: immediately trilling “My God, so young! That’s a compliment, I would kill for your skin.”

She also asks about her ex (Bradley), wondering if they should meet to discuss the planned PR blitz. Cory and Stella do not hide the fact that Bradley has been MIA very well, but you know, give Alex enough compliments and she’ll move on from anything. My favorite part of this interaction is that Cory seems to despise Doug for no reason. He is not invited to dinner at Cory’s hotel, which will be a intimate affair, just Cory, Alex, Stella. I guess to talk about her what her prime time show will look like? After they leave, Doug intimates that Alex could not have planned her return better. She turns to him and says, with ABSOLUTE SINCERITY, “I was broken, Doug.” Also, just wondering, has he had any luck getting a copy of Maggie Brener’s book? He has not. Alex is left pouting in her glorious office, wearing various shades of oatmeal colored cashmere in a way that only Jen Aniston can.

But where is Bradley, our errant truth seeking queen? Currently, she is pouting in her hotel room with her team, who are renegotiating her contract? For? Some reason? She is mad and wearing a sweatshirt and hasn’t been to work in three weeks???? Which is, frankly, insane! “They hurt me!!” she whines. Bradley. Honestly. Grow up! “Is this…about Alex?” Her agent (who is that guy who is always that guy in things) asks delicately, clearly unwilling to get between two ex girlfriends.

Bradley insists that it isn’t, and That Guy reminds her that she has been testing poorly lately, and given that she hasn’t been to work in THREE WEEKS she is not really in a place to ask for more. Plus, they negotiated an apology from the network, isn’t that something?? Bradley does not feel that it is anything, and after yelling “I AM BRADLEY” she dismisses the room. Girl, whatever. Get a grip and try acting like an adult, please. Her assistant calls to inform her of the dinner—Mia thought she should be invited. Bradley snipes that she might not be feeling better, but insits that Daniel, Yanko and Allison are issued invitations as well. “‘Cause they have to be inclusive,” she says seriously, after throwing a tantrum that she didn’t get a job she wanted for all of three minutes because a brown man got it instead. Again I say: Girl, whatever.

Alex accidentally hits the button in the elevator that will take her TMS and instead of just letting the doors open and close, she is called like a sailor to sea down the hall. Of course she starts having a panic attack the minute her former coworkers clock her, and she ducks into her old dressing room to hide. But it is her dressing room no longer!

Eric/Hasan is there and for some reason he begs her to stay? “The wifi password is still the same,” he offers hopefully, before insinuating that he knows she is returning to TMS. Alex is all well how do YOU know that?? This exactly the reason Cory and Stella didn’t want you panic breathing all over the building, babe! Eric/Hasan asks how to be friends with Bradley, and Alex is like we barely worked together but quickly pivots to NEVER SPEAK BADLY ABOUT MY EX GIRLFRIEND IN FRONT OF ME for some reason? I do not understand what she is so mad about, but this is just the beginning of me not understanding a single choice Alex makes this season.

Hey, were you hoping for some Race Talk with a side of blasé chatter about COVID? Well that is what Mia and Daniel are for! Daniel has every right to be pissed at Alex for offering him co-anchor and then tanking the show and leaving him high and dry, and he is none too happy about her return. Mia is basically like this job has sapped my will to live and I need you to just chill out and my make life a little easier for one second. They both have very, very good reasons to be mad at the various whites who fucked them over (i.e, Alex and Mitch) and on some level, it’s nice to see the two of them bonding about it.

On another level, it’s deeply annoying that the people of color on this show have a plot about being sidelined that is…sidelined from the actual plot of the show. Please, just let this be a show about white women yelling at each other, that is all you have the range for! Daniel thinks they should do more reporting about COVID, but Mia just sighs that it’s MLK weekend and they’ve got Michael Eric Dyson booked already. I believe they are intending to do something here about the Grave and Terrible Responsibility™ of reporting the news, but how many times do I have to remind these people: it is a morning show!!!

Back in her hotel room of despair, Bradley decides to call the only person sadder than she is: Chip. She’s pissed they’re bringing Alex back to “clean up her mess” and she wants to know more about her ex from the man who shivered at her side for fifteen years. He sighs that he doesn’t really know Alex, but warns Bradley that she is out for herself. Wow, what a helpful insight. I refuse to believe Bradley did not learn that in the three weeks she and Alex worked together? The only reason Alex named Bradley as her co-anchor was because it was a desperate grab for power??? Does Bradley??? Not?? Remember that???

Anyway, he was literally zero help, but Bradley seems as though she has learned something, and in turn we learn that she had ice cream today.

Up Cory’s room, everyone has gathered for The Dinner Party™️. Ty The Internet Wonder wants to know about working with Alex, Yanko equivocates, Daniel does not bother to dissemble.

HOLLAND TAYLOR calls Cory because she is furious that Bradley was spotted by Page Six on her little ice cream jaunt. She makes some good points about Bradley’s tempter tantrum being rather embarrassing for uba, then delivers the best line of the episode— nay, the best line that has ever been written?

“I know you don’t want to get into a pissing match with me Cory, all I do is piss.”

All I do is piss.

All I do is piss.

All I do is piss.

Oh, and she wants Bradley fired. Fair enough!!

Cory pops downstairs to Bradley’s room and tells her—I’m paraphrasing here— Can you stop whining and do your job, for the love of god, you are making this wildly complicated and it should not be this hard! You should come this dinner and try acting like fucking grown up for two hours, please. I mean, he is right, but I do feel he could have just told her HOLLAND TAYLOR wants her fired? That might have gotten a better reaction than Bradley snapping “is this apology my agent promised?” before closing the door in his face. Cory looks disappointed, then returns to the hell he created in his suite just before Alex sweeps in one of the wildest dresses I have ever seen.

Alex is as friendly as she can be while she greets all of her old coworkers. Their responses are, uh, mixed at best? Yanko is the only one who seems even close to actually happy to see her. Allison makes a face over Alex’s shoulder as they hug, (sidebar, Allison is the only one who seems to understand and also be fine with the relative level of importance her job holds, I would like to see more of her.) Mia fakes some warmth, but Daniel minces no words when Alex asks how he’s been. “Since you fucked me over?” Le yikes! Alex pretends she doesn’t know who Ty The Internet Wonder is (I truly do not believe she does) and he stumbles over his words like he is super star struck. Then she says “I think you’re terrific.” Sure!

But where, Alex wonders, is Bradley? The room goes quiet for a second, then there is a knock at the door. Could it be? It is! Our girl Bradley has bravely decided to come upstairs to see her ex and perhaps keep her job. Mia mutters “do we really have to keep pretending she was sick” and Stella just kind of rolls her eyes and says “dealer’s choice.” Bradley and Alex share the longest and most awkward hug imaginable, and then Alex goes “Your hair!” because being blonde is kind of her thing? But she has to slip away to confront Daniel, because that burn he dropped on her earlier is festering.

Alex tells Daniel she is a different person now (citation needed!!!) and she is doing that thing where she is trying to apologize for fucking him over, but she doesn’t, you know, actually say the words “I’m sorry” until after she’s already gotten peevish and defensive. “Would it have been better if I didn’t tell the truth about Fred on air?” she snaps, and Daniel just looks at her coolly and says “You could have done it without offering me the job. Or you could have not needed a really exemplary woman to die to wake you up.” And the crowd (me) goes wild!!!

Hannah’s death has always been the worst part of this show, and it is kind of satisfying that have someone call Alex out on needing a black woman to die to jolt her into action. But I don’t super love that the show is trying to have their cake and eat it too? I do, however, love how he bitchily says “apology not accepted” before gliding off. I almost forgot he was gay for a second!!

Over dinner, they chat about COVID— is it serious, should we joke about it—then Alex volunteers Daniel to go to Wuhan to cover it, obviously trying to correct their earlier conversation. She doesn’t nail it. For the record, Allison had SARS and it was wonderful. Allison fucking rocks, imo. Cory gives a typically Cory speech, a lot about the dawning of a new day and getting the girls back together. Alex is flattered (of course) but notices that Bradley spends the entire time making faces and rolling her eyes.

“Are you upset with me for some reason?” Alex asks, while Bradley aggressively maims a perfectly innocent chocolate cake. Alex, we all know Bradley is acting like a child, but you can’t pretend you don’t know why she is mad at you! You straight up deserted her then didn’t talk to her for six (or eight) months! When Alex suggests hey get together and talk about ideas for the show, Bradley bitchily says she can call her assistant to set it up, then flounces away. It’s the last straw for Alex and her frayed nerves, and she has a dog now, so she simply MUST be going. Bradley watches her leave, then pushes past Cory so she can do what she’s needed to do for six (or eight) months— yell at her ex while she waits for an elevator.

Now, I’ve been hard on Bradley, but I do grant her permission to be mad at Alex, who apparently only called her once in their six (or eight) months apart, a week after she told the network she wouldn’t be returning. I will not grant the writers permission to get away with the dialogue they have included here, including but not limited to Bradley calling Alex “buddy.”

Alex tries to tell Bradley “there are people in the world with real problems,” which, sure? But madam, I do not know that you ever in your life seen a real problem? I mean, aside from your awful daughter. Bradley thought they were a TEAM, but now the gloves are off, so she is going toe to toe with Alex for all the best stories and she is not going to be treated like a sidekick!! Alex is like yeah bitch that’s the job! just do the job, I don’t owe you shit! And then Bradley is like WELL WHAT ABOUT CHIP HUH? and Alex pretends she remembers who the fuck that is as the elevator doors close. Perhaps most importantly, this scene includes the return of Alex tucking her hair into her coat, something I am still obsessed with.

Later, we see that Bradley has deigned to return to work and to her red pantsuits, Daniel is en route to Wuhan (yikes!) and Cory learns that Hannah’s family wants 119.2 million to settle. Hmmmm the exact amount of money that the network gave Fred to fuck off. We have a leak!!! Also, Alex goes to some sad cul-de-sac where Chip lives and asks him to be her producer. He is an actual carpet, so of course he says yes. Chip, I can’t want more for you than you want for yourself!

Brother, Can You Spare a Gelataria?

The Mitch Problem. I was tempted to ignore everything that is happening with him, because I hate this plot line so much. Alas, he does have a major arc this season for reasons I cannot explain and ignoring it would just mean I’d have to explain it all later. So: He lives in Italy, he is sad, and he gets yelled at by a twenty something while trying to eat gelato. This young woman is a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed about the dangers of cancel culture made sentient, and there is nothing to takeaway from this but the creeping dread that we are supposed to feel bad for Mitch? Because he was exiled to a gorgeous mansion on Lake Como? He is rescued by a lunatic woman who says things like “we need a safe space from safe spaces” and is also a documentary filmmaker who wants Mitch’s help. I do find her hot, because I am not a well person, and Mitch reluctantly gives her his number. At the end of the episode, Fred shows up with a bottle of wine of Mitch’s doorstep, which Mitch promptly shatters. Okay!

The Twist

Inexplicably Famous Guest Stars, Ranked:

(I have decided I am only ranking guest stars on their first appearance, please be advised this policy could change at any moment.)

WILL ARNETT: 6/10: He only ranks this high because I am obsessed with how much Cory hates him.

Best Jennifer Aniston Sound of Distress

Most Baffling Line of Dialouge:

“A friendship with you sounds like a really bountiful journey.”

Next Week: Laura