Episode 03: Laura

"You put the L in LGBTQ"

Notes from me:

  • Did you know that the composer for The Morning Show also did the score for Carol (2015)? Really makes you think, doesn’t it.

  • I will be referring to Marcia Gay Harden as Alex’s ex-girlfriend and I will not be explaining myself.

“Where I Am, Time Has No Meaning.”

It’s 4:00AM and Daniel is getting roughly woken up. Now, 4AM is quite famously an hour later than 3:00AM, so I hope he enjoyed the extra hour of sleep but uh, they have to leave Wuhan ASAP, because they are going into lock down. The team just barely makes a train to Beijing, and whew that’s enough of that, huh?

The show agrees, and we cut to a screening room where a voice over dramatically intones over a rising sun: “It’s time to wake up, America. Something big is coming. To the mountains, to the prairies, to the redwood forest, to amber waves of grain. From sea to shining sea.” Mia and Stella look equal parts bored and queasy, Cory is grinning like a maniac and Alex looks like she is about to scream and or cry.

Frankly, everything about the way Alex has been written thus far would indicate to me that an over the top announcement about all about ALEX LEVY would be right up her alley, but she is too preoccupied by worry. Worry about what is in Maggie’s book, worry that Bradley will tell Laura everything about those fateful three weeks, worry that she will lose her standing as America’s Favorite Blonde. Which, fine, yes all of that could be bad for her reputation, but she was the one who agreed to come back? If this was going to give you three mini ulcers a second, wouldn’t you just…stay in your mansion in Maine safely out of the public eye?

By the time they exit the screening room, Alex has put on her game face and even goes for a little joke! “For a second there, I thought I’d wandered into the wrong screening room. Like watching promos for the second coming!”

Cory doesn’t want to take anything away from Jesus, but mostly he wants to know when Alex is sitting down with Laura. Stella (once again, in incredible lounge wear) tries to wave him off—they’re having a little trouble finding a time, but it’s no big deal. Laura wants two days with Alex, and that is simply not happening. Oh, by the way, Alex has decided on a producer, human wet blanket Chip. Mia and Stella’s faces are masks of pleasant indifference, but you can hear them thinking: is this bitch for real?? Cory tells Stella to get into it -—the smug, gleeful look Mia shoots her is NOT to be missed— and Alex whirls away, her false cheer hardening into a determined grimace.

Mia tells the rest of the staff that Chip is returning, and Rena is the only one who is overjoyed. What IS her deal? Who likes Chip Charlie “your name sounds like a fuckin’ ice cream flavor” Black?? It speaks to a dark energy that resides in Rena, and it makes me deeply uneasy. Mia sighs that she has worked with Chip for a long time and the network is going through a lot of changes. Everyone needs to just get on board with it. PS. Daniel is quarantined in Beijing.

And wouldn’t you know it, he is reporting from his hotel room to Eric/Hasan and Bradley at this very moment! “What was that? Social…distancing?” Eric/Hasan says incredulously, demonstrating his evening news bona fides. Bradley isn’t much better, she jokes about her family practicing social distancing for years. Har har har! Every single bit of the COVID stuff is Hard to Watch, based on the novel Stone Cold Bummer by Manipulate and I will tell you right now that this will not get better!

Daniel is summarily dismissed because the TMS team has a VERY exciting announcement to make! In two weeks, Alex Levy is coming back to TMS! On Monday, February 10th, to be exact. In S2, The Morning Show is dedicated to letting us know exactly where we are in time.

Balloons and confetti rain from the sky and the song that blares overhead is nothing short of poetry. It is beautiful, it is my new ringtone and my new alarm. “GIMME ALEX LEVY, GIMME BRADLEY JACKSON TOO! GIMME ALEX LEVY, BRING ME ALL THE MORNIN’ NEWS!”

From the sidelines, Stella mutters that she’s “super excited” while she scrolls through Twitter. Mood, as they say. Cory notices Bradley looking pissy in the teacup, and hurries over to check in. She barely glances up from her phone as she barks that she wants to moderate the debate in Las Vegas.

“Is this indicative of your moderating technique?” Cory deadpans. She just stares at him, but I laughed, Cory! While he and I are cutting it up, Bradley takes this time to remind us that is a broadcast network, she is an independent thinker (sure) and she wants her name to be synonymous with political coverage. I have to assume a broadcast network of this size has probably a few political reporters who would be able to moderate a presidential debate, but Bradley is clearly trying to pull rank before Alex returns. Cory blandly asks if she is threatening him with her mic on, because he can’t allow that kind of behavior in front of his staff. She blanches, then sheepishly confirms that yes, she and Alex are having lunch later. I assume this is because Bradley wants the sweaters she left at Alex’s penthouse.

Alex, Queen of Camel Colored Outwear, sweeps into lunch, breezily telling the waiting paps that she would not have agreed to return to TMS if it didn’t feel good. “Is Trump going to get impeached?” one of them asks, to which she replies: “He was impeached. My friend is waiting.” One of the (many) bizarre things about the first season of this show was their commitment to acting like the political issues and infighting they were reporting on came from some sort of primordial soup, without cause and without leadership. This seems to be their way of correcting that, and I am sure you’ve all noticed it is working perfectly and doesn’t fall flat at all.

Also, Alex’s outfit. Is it a suit set? With a cape? It’s pinned to her collar, I think? It’s too big? It looks like something Abbie Carmichael would have worn while asking Jack and Adam to give someone who committed a minor misdemeanor the death penalty. It’s very distracting.

“This place is teeming with journalists,” mutters Bradley, Queen of Missing The Point Entirely. “Don’t worry about it, it’s not like we’re having an affair.” Alex chuckles. YEAH NOT ANYMORE, I yell at the screen. Bradley wants to clear the air—she feels like they left on bad terms the other night.

It’s weird she feels that way, it’s not like they were screaming at each other in the hall of a hotel filled with uba staff or anyth—ah. Right. Alex agrees, then steamrolls over Bradley to launch into her obviously prepared apology. “I’ve been doing a lot of reassessing over the last nine months, (ed note: citation needed) and I always believe in the golden rule (ed note: source??), but I just think that my life became so different than everyone else’s that I couldn’t put myself in anyone’s shoes.”

Well, I’ll give her that, I guess? Bradley looks just as skeptical as I feel, but needs to reiterate that she is going to compete to be America’s Next Top Journalist because if she doesn’t say that eight times a day she’ll die on the spot. Alex is gonna need her to hold that thought because Maggie Brener, Queen of This Reviewer’s Heart has just spotted them. Alex hisses that she’ll do all the talking and good fucking Christ, Marcia Gay Harden looks incredible.

“I guess you saw our commercial,” Alex says. I think she’s aiming for “friendly and conspiratorial,” but she lands much closer to “aggressively blank.” Maggie does an effortless “Miranda Priestly greeting Jacqueline Follet” at the museum benefit, purring: “It was showing in my cab…verrrrrrry exciting, isn’t it?” Even though their dislike of one another has been very much on the record, Alex seems a little taken aback by this response. Bradley decides to read the room for once and jumps in, saying that they are very excited. Maggie, god bless her, allows the awkward silence that follows to sit for moment before cooing “whoohoo!” as she glides away. I give her a standing ovation.

Armed with the all the subtlety of a woman who has been a journalist for fifteen years, Alex asks if Bradley spoke to Maggie for her book? The one about TMS? No reason, she’s just.. wondering. Bradley did, but she would like it to be clear that she did not say anything bad about Alex. She’s a veteran journalist! She was not about to get the wool pulled over her eyes by Alex’s Pulitzer Prize winning ex! And since we’re talking about hot brunettes, Alex figures that this is as good a time as any to mention she doesn’t trust Laura Peterson, telling Bradley that they have to decide “what the truth is” before Laura sits down with them.

“DID YOU HEAR WHAT YOU JUST SAID??” Bradley wails, rending her garments and gnashing her teeth. You can’t DECIDE what the truth is!! It is as constant as the tides, stronger than the foundations of the earth!!!!!! ALL WILL HAVE TRUTH AND DESPAIR!

Alex sighs and runs down the list of things that would be less than ideal to have out in the world, including but not limited to: Alex trying to get Bradley fired the day of their final broadcast, Bradley interviewing Hannah the day she died AND that Alex announced her as co-host on a whim to piss off the network. Bradley looks stunned by this, as if she truly never considered any of the ramifications of those things being made public. Alex: 1, Bradley: 0.

One of the suits who did not get fired for being an insensitive asshole is in Cory’s office. I will call her Lady Suit. Lady Suit is surprised he does not want to file a motion to dismiss the wrongful death suit. For some reason, uba does not have a PR person so Cory has to explain that trying to dismiss it would look terrible in the press. His assistant informs him uba’s stocks closed down 1% but tries to make it seem positive, which at least makes Cory laugh. End of scene!

At Chez Levy, Alex is getting touch ups before her interview with Laura. Chip is chiding her about being a diva because she won’t leave her inner sanctum before Laura arrives. We all know Alex is a bitch, and I don’t really see what the big deal is, but much like Alex, I’ve been told I’m not the most accommodating person on the planet. Chip tries to throw his weight around, saying things like “You know, my deal isn’t finalized yet…” as if Alex being petty is reason enough for him to walk. He is as effective at pulling that off as he is at keeping his stupid corduroy suit from wrinkling. I am more interested in this entirely bonkers piece of art Alex has in her bedroom.

Chip has an awkward reunion with Mia and Cory and an equally awkward introduction to Stella, who wants to get this ball rolling. Thankfully, the skies part, a lute sounds a haunting cord and a heavenly choir sings as Laura Peterson saunters in. She is wearing a pinstriped suit with a high ponytail and a black turtleneck underneath a collared blouse. I start sweating immediately. The following lines are exchanged.

Cory: Ms. Laura Peterson, I presume?

Laura: Lord Cory of Ellison. You put the CE in CEO.

Cory: Aw, and you put the, the L in LGBTQ!

Those trademark Morning Show writing skills really shine through with this elegant and breezy bit of exposition, huh? Please know this is the only way I will accept being introduced from here on out. It is also probably important to note that aside from my dear friend Kathryn telling me that she was “worried for my health,” while watching this episode, I had Z E R O idea this was coming. Please enjoy these stills from the video I recorded of my real time reaction.

Cory wants Laura to come back to uba 365, which I am 99% sure is a news program and not another streaming service, but I honestly don’t know. Alas no, Laura’s days at uba 365 are over and she wants to be absentee mother, just like her own. (Okay???) She’s clearly annoyed that Alex cut their two days of interviews to one day, then to four hours, and now is nowhere to be found.

“You know Alex,” Cory says as he pulls her to the side for a favor. He wants her to coach Bradley while they are in Iowa. “Aw, you mean reporting on sweatshops through a scowl is not exactly morning show?” Laura chuckles. The thud you heard was me falling to my knees as I pledge undying fealty to her.

Undeterred, Cory makes his case—Laura got to work with a legendary anchor for a while before she herself became an anchor at YDA. (For those who can’t keep the labyrinth workings of the made up world of The Morning Show straight, YDA is Mindy Kaling’s rival morning show, the one that Daniel was going to jump ship for.)

“That turned out well, didn’t it.” Laura murmurs ominously. Sure does feels like a shoe could drop at any moment! Finally, Alex emerges from her bedroom; she and Laura exchange greetings like two people who’ve known each other for a long time and truly cannot stand one another. I bravely keep taking notes and do not write any fanfiction. They settle in their respective seats and Laura clears the room by cheerfully calling “everybody who doesn’t need to be here…don’t be here!” I begin to sharpen my sword on a whetstone; my blade must never fail her.

Today’s elevator argument comes to us courtesy of Stella and Cory waiting to leave Chez Levy. Stella, like any right thinking human, doesn’t think that it is a good idea to bring Chip back. She is clearly frustrated about being brought in to shake things up and getting smacked down at every turn. Cory understands, he does (does he??) but the network is a tailspin right now and he just wants to keep Alex happy so they can be successful. He slides into the elevator and Stella takes a weighty pause before stepping in behind him. I like the dynamic and tension between Stella and Cory; I would like to see more of it.

Back in the interview, Laura asks Alex if she is “sick and tired of people yelling Paddy Chayefsky lines at you?” She immediately follows that question with “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” so if you were unfamiliar with the screenwriter of 1976’s Network, they’ve got you covered. Alex chuckles and plays along with a line about feeling good that her on air meltdown meant so much to people.

“You yourself, that day, even said that you had been part of the problem,” Laura says thoughtfully. What would the Alex of today say to the Alex of fifteen years ago? Alex makes a (bad) joke about not believing who the president is, then segues into a canned response about success not being the end game, waking up to realizing to was happening around her, that no one should feel unsafe in the workplace and that uba will never go back to the way it was.

It’s decently delivered and mostly believable, but when Laura asks about Hannah, Alex’s facade drops instantly. She refuses to answer the question and fights to maintain her composure. It doesn’t get any better when Laura brings up Maggie’s book, and it gets even worse when she asks about ”the nature” of Alex’s relationship with Mitch. For a professional journalist, Alex has the worst poker face of all time. She pauses for what feels like an eternity, her eye literally twitches, she sighs, then manages to stammer: “He…he was my best friend.” Chip looks shocked by this response, which is hard to believe, given how closely he and Alex worked together.

There is a general air in the room of shock that Laura brought any of this up and look, I get that the reason that they used someone from their network was to avoid these kinds of questions but also OF COURSE she is going to ask about Maggie’s book, and of course Mitch was going to come up? How on earth did they not prep for this? Mia is the only one who looks appropriately grim and determined.

In case anyone forgot, Mitch and Alex did in fact sleep together, at least once. There is a slight soupçon of glee in Julianna’s performance, which manages to convey that Laura is good at her job and that she is having an excellent time grilling Alex. It is…delicious.

(Sidebar: Laura’s necklace is just the letter “T”? Is it because she puts…the T in…. Peterson?)

After the interview, Alex lays into Chip for allowing the Mitch question and he tries to assuage her worries by telling her they’re probably not going to use that bit. Uh, hate to break it to you babes, but they absolutely are? And aside from the fact that they should have prepped for this, why doesn’t he just tell her he’ll have them edit out the pause?? Obviously that is the answer here? How has he worked with this woman for fifteen years and is still incapable of handling her? They snap at each other a bit more, and then Chip slumps away. So glad their effortless partnership is back in action!

The next morning, Alex sees a promo for the interview and calls Bradley just as she’s about to get on the plane to Iowa. “This is not the puff piece you think it is,” Alex warns her. And by the way, she DID NOT SLEEP WITH MITCH. Just in case Bradley was wondering. Bradley was not wondering, and she has to go meet Laura, who is already on the plane, wearing a leather jacket and telling jokes about Canadians to the uba crew, as dykes are wont to do. Bradley is immediately dazzled by her and you know what? Fair.

Hey, remember Daniel? Well he’s still trapped in Beijing, and he’s mad that his live COVID broadcasts keep getting bumped from TMS. “What is so important they are bumping me from my own show?” he demands to know.

Bradley and Laura in Iowa, that’s what! They are sauntering through a college campus slash outdoor mall, drinking coffee and wearing excellent coats. Laura has her Interview Ponytail back, so she asks how it feels to have made such a sudden career leap. It is nice to get a break from Jumpy and Defensive Bradley, she is open and vulnerable and for the first time in a while, rather charming. The girls are, it must be said, absolutely vibing!!!! Laura smiles fondly, Bradley looks at her with an expression that made me scribble “someone has mommy issues!” in my notes. Flustered by Laura’s radiant and beatific light, Bradley drops her coffee on Laura’s shoes. She offers to replace them, Laura chuckles delightedly and insists that she likes coffee stained shoes. “I can’t afford your beautiful shoes,” Bradley blushes as they walk out of frame, laughing. You…really should be able to, though? I am begging you to hire an accountant, please.

Back at uba, Mia is just trying to cross the street in another excellent coat when Daniel calls, quite drunk, from his “godforsaken” hotel. “The Hilton is is not godforsaken,” Mia says, rolling her eyes. “It’s godforsaken,” he hisses gayly. He is pissed that his COVID broadcasts keep getting cut, and Mia is like Look, on any given day there are four hundred things going on and I have to make some choices, and our ratings suck, and you trapped in your hotel room is not exactly compelling TV.

It’s hard to watch with the knowledge of what is coming, because we all know Daniel is right, and that is a much bigger deal than either of them are prepared for. And I get where Mia is coming from—she was asked to captain a sinking ship and the fact that she is a black woman in this job is not like, going unnoticed here. Well, at least not by me. The writers…tbd. Daniel continues to bitch about the news “not just being the stuff you want to hear” and she finally snaps “Will you do something for me for once and be a fucking man?” To his credit, he hangs up on her very manfully.

Chip the Wet Piece of Corduroy is back at the office and resident Dark Angel Rena is thrilled to see him. Girl, PLEASE get a grip. He is here to review the footage from the Laura/Alex interview, and boy that awkward pause and stammer reads even worse on the playback. He tells the guy in the editing bay that he didn’t approve the question and asks if they can “tighten it up.” Of course they can.

Meanwhile, Alex is trying to write the “Mitch” chapter of her memoir. It is not going well, she has one version that just says “Fucker” and another that includes the phrase “in those pre-iPhone days…” The most important thing to note here is that Alex is writing a draft but the typeface is already set like a manuscript? She watches some of Bradley covering the caucus, then texts her: “How did it go with Laura?”

Oh, it’s still going! Laura and Bradley still gabbing like old pals as the rest of the team takes off for bed. They pause in the parking lot and Laura tells Bradley about Cory’s coaching request. But Laura has been watching her all day and she doesn’t think she needs it! “Well, did you think I needed it before you watched me all day?” Bradley asks. She is FLIRTING!!! And totally eating up the heaps of praise Laura is piling on, including that she is fun! Bradley makes a joke about how she used to be fun—that’s how she got pregnant when she was fifteen. “Ohhhh that doesn’t sound like much fun to me, but it’s probably just a matter of taste.” I pause for a full nintety seconds to let the glorious implication of that sentence really sit with me. A matter of taste??? In that Laura doesn’t have the taste for men???? Incredible. I have no notes. There is a light bit of shit talking Alex, more smiling and Bradley being just fully delighted by Laura’s praise, because of courrrseee Bradley has a praise kink.

Alex wakes up to a text from Bradley that just reads “Great.” It should be noted Alex has slept in a full face of make up with her giant watch on and also on top of her duvet. Linen, natch. She grunts, annoyed, then shoots off a follow up, which we get to read from Bradley’s POV as she and Laura are in a car on their way home. “So she didn’t ask anything invasive?”

Bradley ignores it in favor of Laura, who wants to ask a personal follow up question. “You can ask me anything,” Bradley breathes hopefully. I don’t think she was prepared for Laura to ask “Did you actually get vetted for this job?” and WOW was I not prepared for her response! She looks taken aback, then stubbornly determined as she leans forward and kisses???? Laura???? On??? The??? Mouth??? Laura looks a little stunned, but she is IN.

Let me put on my Professional Homosexual™ Hat here for a few reactions beyond “clearly the writers are reading my tweets.” Do they have what we would call “great” chemistry? No, not really. Is there a way to read this surprise development as a kind of cheap twist to get people talking? Sure. Do I care? Not really! And not just because this show has incepted every part of my critical mind, but honestly when it comes to the Important Queer Issues of our time, I am so deeply bored of the representation conversation I could scream. Yes, both of these actresses are straight (as far as we know) and yes, queer people tend to be better at writing and playing queer people. And yet! The representation issues at hand are two rich white cis women? Okay? This is not a segment of the queer population I spend a lot of time worrying about— despite the fact that they have become the entirety of my Brand Online™. But that is not my community, those are the not the people with whom I have conversations about queerness and class and transphobia and racism. Let the hot white women kiss on this show that mostly no one cares about, we have bigger fish to fry!

Anyway, “Angel of The Morning” starts playing, which does feel like a hate crime, like all the music on this show. We are treated to an end of episode montage, Daniel and his team leaving the godforsaken Hilton, Bradley and the TMS team saying goodbye to Eric/Hasan on air, Alex watching her interview with Laura, visibly relieved that Chip fixed her long pause (did he not tell her???), Cory watching the interview in his hotel room as he ignores a call from Fred, and finally, Alex walking out of her dressing room. She slow mo heads to the teacup amidst applause from the crew, and the episode ends just as she and Bradley smile for the camera. I guess it’s February 10th!

Brother, Can You Spare an Documentary?

Fred has come to Italy to make sure he and Mitch are a united front with regards to the wrongful death lawsuit, Mitch is disgusted by him. Paola wants him to work on a documentary about an Italian court overturning a rape conviction with her, and after some Very Italian Pestering, he agrees.

Soon May The Weatherman Come

Yanko says “spirit animal” while reporting on Groundhog Day and gets dragged on Twitter. He also says “Thanks, Zoomer” to Ty. This will not be the last we hear of this!

The Twist

Inexplicably Famous Guest Stars, Ranked

MARCIA GAY HARDEN: 10/10: Look at those giant earrings, this is a perfect woman.

JULIANNA MARGULIES: 23/10: I mean, come on.

Best Jennifer Aniston Sound of Distress

Most Baffling Line of Dialogue:

“You don’t need the world to forgive you to do something useful with your brain. I mean, don’t you want to use it before it’s worm food? Before some sparrow eats it and your brain is sparrow shit?”

Next week: Kill The Fatted Calf