'The Morning Show' recap, Season 2, Episode 9: In memoriam
After a couple of weeks when we seesawed from a very bad episode to a very good episode, now we're comfortably back in the middle, where some things work and other things seem like they were written on Mars. Alex slinks back into UBA and then visits Mitch's memorial service, Bradley puts her brother in rehab and then interviews Maggie about the book, and Laura lets Alex have it for being such a jerk.
Bradley's family drama
As you'll remember, we left Bradley feeling pretty miserable about Hal (her brother) having shown up at the office, clearly under the influence and/or suffering mental health setbacks, making a scene. The next morning, Hal is willing to go to rehab on her dime. When she drops him off, she essentially says that she's cutting him off and doesn't want to hear from him when he gets out. She wishes him well and gives him some money, but as Laura suggested, she's drawing her boundary. He threatens to OD just to prove a point to her, which is pretty agonizing, but she sticks to her guns and drives off.
Later, her doorman brings an envelope of money up to her that someone dropped off. She immediately realizes that this means Hal did not stay in rehab. Uh-oh.
Alex returns to the office and breathes on everybody
Alex goes to UBA with her guy Doug (remember they got Will Arnett to come and be her guy even though he barely does anything?). In the meeting with Cory and Stella, Doug tries to sell the idea that it was perfectly fine for Alex to flake off to Italy without telling anyone because she has time off in her contract. Good luck! Cory stresses that Alex is closer than family ("we chose to be related and we'd never pay our family $25 million per"), and the network will support her. But Alex says agreeing to come back was a mistake, and she will be giving the money back and exiting.
Alex warns Cory in private that Maggie's book is going to contain "damning information." She goes on to explain that she had sex with Mitch: "Did it on purpose, not coerced." This is a good time to mention something that someone was kind enough to remind me of recently: There was a moment when Alex implied that she had been drinking and had woken up in Mitch's bed with no idea how she got there, which raised the question of whether Alex had consented at all. But last week when she spoke to Paige, Alex said this happened twice, and now she seems to be stressing that she "did it on purpose." She adds that even though they were both married, she "doesn't regret it one bit." (Keep that comment in mind.)
At any rate, when she says she's leaving, Cory gives Alex what she correctly terms a "very weird pep talk" about pinball machines, but she's not interested. Elsewhere in the building, Alex also gets another glimpse at Paige, who's come to the office to ask people to come to Mitch's memorial, in spite of, you know, everything. Paige stares daggers at Alex again.
Chip and Alex run into each other in the hall, and things are pretty chilly, given that he tells her he's only staying until she finds another producer or gets canceled — "whatever happens first." (He has not been told of her decision to quit.) Alex and Laura (who's subbing for Bradley) go on to host a hand-washing demonstration with UBA's doctor of choice, and this is one of those times when I'm just not sure why we're watching a hand-washing demonstration similar to the ones we all saw in March 2020! Is this a period piece? The period was very recent!
Later, Alex goes to Laura's dressing room and starts asking if she remembers a night when they were out together with old colleagues to see some theater. (This is mostly an opportunity to hear Jennifer Aniston try to credibly say the phrase Bring in Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk, which, when spoken the way she does, sounds as awkward coming from her as it would from me, so: solidarity, Jennifer Aniston.) It turns out this is Alex's way of introducing the subject of why Laura doesn't like her anymore. Laura basically says it's because they weren't exactly friends; they were acquaintances, and Alex gossiped about her private life and then dumped her when things got tough.
And Alex admits that she did gossip about Laura — everybody did. "Gossip seemed so much less vicious back then," she says. "Well," Laura replies, "that's because nobody was gossiping about you yet." Uh, BOOM, ROASTED. "I imagine that you had no ill intent, but we are our actions," Laura continues. Hoo boy. If this entire season could have been Laura dressing down Alex, I might have been on board for a higher percentage of it. Alex sort of tosses off that it would have been fun to be friends and "I'm really sorry I screwed that up" over her shoulder as she's opening the door to leave. Laura acknowledges that she also gossiped about Alex, although ... you know, without the part where it imperiled her career.
Yanko has mostly been relegated to his silly cancellation plot this season, but he runs into Claire on the street (remember Claire?) and they decide to hang out. But before long, Claire learns that Yanko plans to go to Mitch's service (as Paige asked), and she can't believe he would go to the memorial service of a person who sexually assaulted Hannah. She's irate, and among other things reveals that she's bankrolling the lawsuit Hannah's dad has filed against the network. She storms off, and so that reunion did not go well.
Cory and the Beyonce talk show
Hey, remember Peter Bullard, the jerk Dave Foley was playing? The guy with the UBA+ talk show who once called Daniel "mincing"? Cory is appearing on his talk show to talk up the streaming service. Bullard briefly shows a skeptical article in the Los Angeles Times about the streaming service, and did I take a screenshot so I could tell you what it says about UBA+? Of course I did. It says that the service will feature David Fincher remaking Terrence Martin's film The Donner Party (which really exists!), a special from Dave Chappelle (whose name is misspelled), and — get ready for this — Beyonce's talk show. Now I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure that if Beyonce were getting a talk show, somebody in this freaking universe would have mentioned it. (I am kidding, for the record; I think including details like this in fake newspapers is cute and fun and I am all for it.)
Cory gives a weird defense of the network that seems to be about cancel culture and political correctness, and Bullard loves it, because he likes to call dudes "mincing"! Cory also issues a public invitation to Maggie to talk about her TMS book on UBA whenever she wants.
Cory tells Bradley on the phone that he wants her to interview Maggie, so Bradley says she'll do it, and that means Bradley gets to actually read it. We watch as she reads a bunch of passages about Alex (they actually make it hard to tell whether she reads the entire book or just the Alex passages, since they start with her looking up Alex in the index) and is horrified.
Mitch's memorial service
Chip tells Alex she should probably not go to the memorial service since she shouldn't be in a crowded place (THANK YOU) and she doesn't really owe it to Mitch, but Alex huffs, "It's not your job to protect me anymore." And boy, if it's not classic Alex Levy for her to hear only the concern about her and not the "crowded place" part that is partly about protecting other people! She's going to the memorial anyway, the better to become an early super spreader!
Mitch's memorial is attended by some of our favorites and not-so-favorites: Paola is there, and Dick Lundy (Martin Short), and Fred. Dick gets up and makes a big speech — with an actual glass of booze sloshing about in his hand — about how all these people are phonies, because they never took care of Mitch while he was alive like they should have. He goes into a whole thing about "cancel culture," and it's just the most tiresome garbage, but to be honest, it's not all that different from what was implied by the Poor Mitch gelato scene early this season and, in fact, by the whole Poor Mitch arc.
We move on to after-service drinks, which are awfully "tootling piano"-toned for a memorial service, and before you know it, Alex is arriving late and briefly crossing paths with Fred. That's one cold stare! Paige gets to look disgusted by Alex yet again, so that's another cold stare! The only person there who seems happy to see Alex is Paola, whose flight Alex apparently paid for. Alex is trying to make good on her promise to Mitch to introduce Paola around to important people, and she warns Paola that they should probably do that sooner rather than later, since she may be persona non grata around the news business soon.
Alex continues to believe that talking more is a good idea for her, so she interrupts everyone in the middle of drinks. She wants to talk about "Mitch, and what he meant to me." She doesn't say much that's particularly valuable, except that she was just in Italy with Mitch on the day he died, and she wants people to know that he was really starting to understand the consequences of his actions and trying to be better — not counting, I guess, his immediate angry dismissal of the racial component of his behavior.
To quote Laura Peterson, my personal ethics consultant: "We are our actions."
Okay. So. Bradley and Maggie sit down to talk about Maggie's book. Maggie starts to talk about how Alex tried very hard to make herself look like what Maggie calls a "paragon of feminism." Bradley — and I think this is meant to call back to how Bradley behaved in the first-ever episode of the series, in the confrontation that went viral — decides to throw her full weight behind Alex. She questions Maggie about why the book discusses Alex and Mitch's relationship, since there's so much to discuss about the bad things Mitch did. As Bradley says, "Why rope Alex into it?" Maggie has no answer for this, but that doesn't mean there isn't one. There is one, and it's irritating that the show ignores it!
Alex, who presumably was in a position to know about what he was doing and was one of the most powerful people in Mitch's workplace, doesn't need to be roped into it! Alex is already in it! If Alex was complicit and failed to pay attention because of a personal weakness for Mitch (what the book calls a "blind spot"), then of course that's relevant, and it's especially relevant given Alex's later efforts to position herself as an enforcer of goodness against the network! Assuming the facts are accurate, the closeness between Mitch and perhaps his most powerful enabler is absolutely relevant to the story of why something like this would have continued for so many years, and the fact that they had an affair might not be the most important part of that closeness, but you can't really leave it out.
It's hard to buy Bradley's argument about focusing on a ten-year-old "mistake," since Alex, who just got done saying she didn't regret it one bit, does not think it was a mistake. And it's even harder to understand why Bradley, a journalist, implies that Maggie, also a journalist, should have removed truthful and relevant information from her book because a powerful person who didn't want to be embarrassed asked her to. "Who's the worst person you ever slept with, Maggie?" Bradley asks. "How terrible of a person are you?" This is such hot garbage, Bradley! The point isn't that Alex is a terrible person at all, particularly not because she slept with someone who did bad things. Maggie is alleging that their closeness caused Alex to overlook Mitch's behavior. If that's not true, then it's not true, but if it's true, it's certainly relevant and belongs in the book.
Ultimately, Bradley scolds Maggie for writing about "the old Alex Levy," and that people change. "I know I'm evolving," Bradley says. "I wonder if you are."
There is, to be fair, absolutely no indication that there is a new Alex Levy. She just got through trying to get Mitch to lie about choices she now says were freely made that she does not regret, because she thought they would make her look bad. She's been awful to everyone all season, and she just topped it off by failing to tell anyone she just got back from a viral hot zone. If the intended character note here is that she has changed, I don't think that's successfully made it to the page.
Twitter explodes with glee and everyone loves Alex and Bradley now and hates Maggie, because apparently nobody on Twitter is capable of seeing through this genuinely terrible argument Bradley just made. Someone even proposes they get #AlexLevyIsNotCancelled trending. Catchy!
The cymbal crash you knew was coming
After basking in the glow of the love of Twitter, Alex wakes up in the middle of the night and checks it again, as one does and as one almost always regrets, and she learns that the tide has turned. She's canceled again! And why? Because someone surreptitiously videotaped her speech at Mitch's memorial service and shared it, and the fact that she was there talking about how much she loved him and how she took a trip to a viral hot zone to hang out with him has made people suspect Bradley's "new Alex Levy" narrative might be wildly oversimplified. While freaking out, Alex falls in her apartment and wakes up in the hospital. Aaaaaaand ...
When she wakes up, we learn that ALEX HAS COVID! You knew somebody was going to get it, and it's Alex.
The things that made the show sing last week — Cory's weirdness, Stella, Mia, Chip's frustration — are all drained out of this episode so we can go back to fussing over Alex and Mitch's relationship and how bad everything is for Alex. And the result is ... the result.
Next week: Season finale!
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