“Love Island” is a 2020 flashback ride that leaves you in a state of “pandemic jet lag” that almost ruins its own entertainment value. Almost, until Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) enables the Capitol insurrection on Jan 6.
As we arrive at the end of 2023, have you ever thought to yourself: “God, I wish I could relive the entirety of 2020 until Jan 6 in 50 minutes”? That’s what I just did by watching the latest episode of The Morning Show.
Acting as a filler episode between seasons 2 and 3, we take a sneak peek at what the main characters were doing during the pandemic while Alex (Jennifer Aniston) and Chip (Mark Duplass) were working from Alex’s house. My highlight of this episode isn’t even what happened to these characters in this pandemic narrative but how none of them were following COVID-19 mask regulations. With the level of teen maturity shown last week, it’s no surprise any of these characters would make safe pandemic buddies. Even Stella (Greta Lee), who is barely in this episode, and only to further a plotline involving Paul Marks (Jon Hamm) that is reserved for the next episode.
Mia (Karen Pittman) is undoubtedly the winner in my “How Not to Be a Selfish…Person During a Pandemic” book. Social distancing, mask on when talking, and hand sanitization as soon as she gets in her apartment. After these procedures, she falls into the arms of her beau, Andre (Clive Standen), confirming the rumors from previous recaps that UBA’s in-loco source in the war in Ukraine was always more than that. Their relationship remains solid until Andre arrives one night drunk and unmasked, forcing Mia to put on her mask immediately, pack a bag, and leave him.
At UBA, a sad Cory (Billy Crudup) learns Bradley is going to Laura Peterson’s (Julianna Margulies) Montana ranch, a stunning pandemic safe haven completely wasted on the pettiness of Bradley Jackson. Champagne flows between working together on The Morning Show and sharing cozy moments in bed until it doesn’t. Bradley’s brother, Hal (Joe Tippett), calls her to say their mother has died of COVID-19. This immediately makes Bradley blame Laura for her mother’s death due to “anti-science rednecks” feelings, and a breakup is imminent. If the intent was to bring nuance to political discussions, it only succeeds at confirming Bradley is still an immature adult with zero respect for her partner. Laura deserves better than being shamed for believing in science, frankly.
That’s when the writing chooses to take an infuriating turn. As Bradley sits on the floor mourning, the editing alternates shots of Cory reflecting on the beach, in front of his recently-bought mansion. Adding to a long tradition of badly written bisexual characters, this causes an eyebrow-raising innuendo that while Bradley is in a relationship with Laura, she’s always been emotionally tied to Cory. It’s a hurtful implication that their relationship is narratively inferior to the one she has with a man, a concept that, for too long, has been damaging lesbian relationships in media. At this point, I’m the one who might start supporting Bradley and Cory getting together, only because Laura doesn’t deserve to be misused in a narrative that doesn’t value lesbian relationships. Another thing this character doesn’t deserve is dating a Jan 6 enabler.
After leaving the ranch, Bradley is covering the Jan 6 insurrection from inside the Capitol, using her iPhone to capture criminals attacking the building. As one criminal attacks a police officer, she follows the action only to find out the insurrector is actually her brother, Hal. Taking him to her hotel room, he explains he lied to his pregnant partner to go to Washington due to the pressure of being a father. It’s a horrendous excuse but convincing enough to Bradley, who deletes the Hal footage and asks Mia for a promotion (and that’s how she got UBA Evening News).
The FBI contacts UBA about the missing footage, leading Cory to invite Bradley to his house, both not respecting mask regulations, of course. While trying to defend journalistic principles, she confesses the truth to Cory, whose first concern is UBA’s reputation, but who accepts what happened after shouting his discontent at Bradley. I would have enjoyed this Bradley arc if all along the audience wasn’t supposed to feel sorry for her, which really doesn’t make this character more sympathetic. As I said, and the writing seems to agree, these two are perfect for each other. The madness potential is endless as long as Bradley is Bradley-ing and Cory is Cory-ing.
Phew. The “pandemic jet lag” (my very own non-dictionary-approved concept of remembering the pandemic) is real once you finish this episode.
In all this flashback business, however, the show continues to oversee its best on-screen romantic potential. For an episode called “Love Island,” this was a tremendously missed opportunity to explore the chemistry between Alex and Chip since they spent months recording in her house. Pandemic isolation, late-night talks, past trauma bonding sessions. The idea has lots of drama potential and emotional baggage since their “will they, won’t they?” has been going on since season one.
With some episodes left in the season and so much going on, my only wish would be to see Alex and Chip getting a proper romantic (and entertainingly messy) plotline. And no more pandemic flashbacks. Please.
Is Julianna Margulies in these episodes? Yes!
Margulies Timestamps: 4:05-4:18; 5:30-5:41; 9:00-10:18; 11:44-13:49; 21:02-23-46; 24:10-24:35; 26:59-30:22; 35:18-36:08.
Email Draft: Dear The Morning Show viewers, not all bisexual women who are from conservative backgrounds are like Bradley Jackson. I would know. Sincerely, Ana.