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‘The Morning Show’ Season 3 Episode 3: Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes (Recap)

In my last recap, I highlighted this show’s seemingly recently acquired maturity, and my unwillingness to trust that. Being often correct can be a heavy burden, which I don’t carry with grace but honor. With episode three, The Disharmonic Show, i.e. The Morning Show is back on its unwavering quest of fitting three different TV shows into one. The tell is in its soundtrack. 

Written by Joshua Allen (who is not the Bills’s quarterback, by the way), “White Noise” covers the backlash after an email from Cybil (Holland Taylor) is leaked, exposing a racist slur she used to refer to The Morning Show’s Black host, Chris (Nicole Beharie). It’s a tongue-in-cheek title. But it’s a messy script. 

This becomes the main story discussed on Eagle News, a broadcasting competitor to UBA and the show’s far-from-subtle version of Fox News. Eagle News anchor, played by June Diane Raphael, celebrates the private data leaking while the atmosphere in the UBA crew is of mutiny. On the top floor, Cybil convinces Alex (Jennifer Aniston) to convince Cory (Billy Crudup) that they must interview Cybil as damage control. 

Greta Lee as Stella Bak and Karen Pittman as Mia Jordan in The Morning Show (COURTESY AppleTV+)

The soundtrack maintains a bleak tone with an anxious beat up until this moment, only to be replaced by electronic music, metaphorically and literally. As they both fail to manage the internal crisis, Stella (Greta Lee) approaches Mia (Karen Pittman) with her best solution to this issue: going out and getting drunk. This first tonal shift lands out of place, lasts less than ten minutes, and only succeeds at making both Mia and Stella look out of character. 

As they leave this misplaced-girls-night-out, the subject turns to Paul (Jon Hamm), with Stella revealing they worked together. “He’s…ruthless”, she says, as if the word has any notorious meaning in the corporate context of the show. I remember when this character used to be ruthless, which was way more engaging. Chris, who’s been coping with the insult privately, eventually drops by and announces she wants to be the person who interviews Cybil. 

On a different NY spot, Leonard (Stephen Fry), a member of the board, returns for dinner with Cory, who eats veal marsala like he’s the first person to ever try veal. As someone who doesn’t eat veal, I can’t attest to the accuracy of his reaction, but I’m going to assume it’s more than veal marsala deserves. One cannot be that eager about veal. But Leonard doesn’t care about their food, only business. “I would support Mussolini if he brought me a deal from Paul Marks,” he says nonchalantly. Cory reads between the lines, and a partnership to end Cybil’s career is formed. 

Billy Crudup as Cory Ellison in The Morning Show (COURTESY AppleTV+)

It’s time for the interview, and the tone shifts again like an orchestra trying to find its rhythm between bleak drama and ad music. Half corny sentimentalism, half relevant empowering, neither work, causing only disconnection through empty slow-motion shots. Chris listens to hip-hop on AirPods on the way to the interview, but without pathos, there’s no impact. Not even when she provokes Cybil to stutter on live television, unable to prove remorse for the racial insult. If this was supposed to be a win for tackling racism in corporate America, it doesn’t feel like it. The script fails at making a point, especially because it knew it had no truthful point from the very start. This is nothing but Cory’s win.

It’s Stella who cracks the code of the episode: She accuses Cory of leaking the racist email as a way to undermine Cybil in the name of the Marks deal. That has been the point of the story all along, making the faux sentimentalism more faux, both in-universe and to the audience. Between the cynical, corny, and comedic tones, this show would have a point to make if it had stuck to the first. 

Cybil is then voted out of the board by Leonard as Cory watches her demise from a glass door. He thinks he won, but that doesn’t give him a free pass to Paul’s SoHo gathering. His chief of staff/guard, Amanda Robinson (Tig Notaro), blocks him at the bar’s entrance before Paul arrives. He thinks UBA has become a mess due to the leakage scandal. The possibility of a successful deal seems like a stretch now. 

Jon Hamm as Paul Marks in The Morning Show (COURTESY AppleTV+)

The episode ends with a way-too-long sequence of Cory walking away from SoHo, one final note out-of-tune in this week’s concert.

After witnessing this, I am at a loss of what one is supposed to feel or think. I am shrugging my shoulders at the screen even though I knew this was what I had signed up for from the beginning. “Three of us is a sideshow,” Taylor Swift once wrote. Three incompatible tones make this episode a sideshow, and I strongly dislike circuses. 

Is Julianna Margulies in this episode? No.

Email Draft: Shoutout to all the set designers and art crew working for The Morning Show. You make the corporate atmosphere real and unique, from the UBA sets to their top-floor offices. I could easily believe that it is any Manhattan office at the same time I look at one still, and I can tell the set is from this show. Kind regards, Ana. 

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