Breaking News: Stella Bak has my heart and support. In other news, from Billy Crudup singing Marvin Gaye to Mark Duplass having my favorite Kill Bill siren moment, I’m starting a campaign for a The Morning Show musical episode.
Speaking of music, the NFL might have Swift and Kelce, but Apple has Aniston and Hamm. “Strict Scrutiny” begins with Nina Simone, terrace chilling, and morning frittata. Alex (Jennifer Aniston) stares at Paul’s (Jon Hamm) outstanding ability to make breakfast, causing me to have the same reaction I had when I listened to Taylor Swift’s “Begin Again (Taylor’s Version)”: Is that where the bar is?
But I’m not qualified to talk about romantic scrutiny. I am somewhat qualified, however, to question why this onscreen chemistry is like a rusty engine. I’ve seen Aniston with Sandler and Hamm with half of the women in Mad Men. The #Palex horny flame has been gone since their interview, and I’ve learned from the best that you need a spark to start a fire.
In less green corporate pastures where romance doesn’t blossom, Cory (Billy Crudup) is receiving complaints from Leonard (Stephen Fry) about a mysterious third party who’s been nagging the DOJ, possibly risking the sacred Marks deal. As Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) shows up, he brings her along to solve the mysterious DOJ interference.
In the car, he listens to Kokomo as if he’s meditating. Moments like this make me thank my fellow Specks, who convinced me to take this assignment. Witnessing this absurdity is a comedy gift.
“Mother”, he says at the front door. Oh, no.
This is Cory’s Beau is Afraid meets Monster-in-Law meets Psycho. There are live lobsters wailing inside a pot, the same as Bradley’s internal screaming, forced to stay for dinner. Martha (Lindsay Duncan) is a cunning feminist and former politics advisor with a personality that would make Freud elated if he met Cory (what a horrific meeting). Over the now-cooked lobsters, she agrees not to interfere with UBA negotiations anymore, but her passive aggressiveness leads to kitchen discussions – and broken plates.
Nothing like family quarrels as a prelude to singing. Cory starts playing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” on the piano as Mommy accompanies him. They sing in a perfect, twisted harmony that, for a second, leaves me waiting for a black-and-white shot of the Bates Motel. Martha then turns to Bradley to offer a Cory roast, saying Cory is a self-interested manipulator just like his father. Hard to disagree, frankly. I give it 0/5 for the speech after the song, though. Not cohesive. We’ll have to improve that if we’re having a musical episode in the future.
Bradley bears witness to this multi-level psychological web of mommy issues that allows them to bond on the journey home…until they learn Roe v Wade has been overturned by the Supreme Court.
In NY, there’s a Valentino party at the UBA hall, and Valentino’s creative designer, Pierpaolo Piccioli, is here. Why? Ah, dear reader, “why” is not a word we use in the land of Disharmonic Tones. Alex and Paul tiptoe around each other, under the impression they’re succeeding at hiding their romance, but the paparazzi industry is like Batman: They’re always on their vigilante business! Paul spends the party trying to bury a picture of them snuggling on the balcony, as Amanda (Tig Notaro) blames him for this careless PR crisis. Can anyone disagree?
Meanwhile, Chris (Nicole Beharie) finds out Roe has been overturned and lashes out in the bathroom as some obnoxious attendees don’t seem to bother about abortion rights and underprivileged Black women being the most affected (what a surprise). With her lipstick, she writes “Abort the Court” on the mirror and takes a middle-finger selfie, which will surely provoke a PR crisis at UBA.
Stella (Greta Lee) has been avoiding the party altogether. I love an antisocial queen. Amid the UBA deal, she discovers she either accepts Paul’s offer or is fired. It’s a tricky decision because of her betrayal baggage related to Marks and because if the deal is off, she might lose her job anyway. It’s a big win with the risk of a lose-lose. On top of that, she receives an unpleasant visit from a recently fired Hyperion coworker, who guilt-trips her and brings up her suicide attempt unnecessarily. It’s not an easy day, but Stella faces it with grace and some encouraging advice from Mia (Karen Pittman).
All we know so far is that between Stella and Cory, one has to go. I know who my winner is. And she looks stunning in Valentino.
Alex rushes to her office to reframe the next program’s script to focus entirely on Roe. Chip (Mark Duplass), proving his undying love for her is also efficient, has already prepared the material she wants. They exchange a sick and twisted Handmaid’s Tale reference (a joke about changing Alex’s name to “Of Chip”) that reads like flirting because, of course, it does because these two insane people have all the sparks Alex doesn’t have with Paul with an extra dose of chaos. Obviously, I want more. He leaves her to work, but Mia calls with a question for Alex, so he returns. Chip stops in the corridor, at the sight of her in Paul’s arms. Kill Bill sirens in his head. Ultimate Duplass reaction pic.
Kill Bill sirens all around! Part of me feels like I’m in a Roman gladiator arena shouting “More! More!” rooting for my champion Stella Bak, and not even rooting for Chip to win (win what?), just waiting for him to lose his mind. After all, the crazier Chip Black becomes, we all win. Team Stella forever, and I’ll see you next week.
Is Julianna Margulies in these episodes? No.
Email Draft: Shoutout to my editor, the mastermind behind these fun recap titles. Swift Regards, Ana.