By Jodi Walker
November 15, 2019 at 07:59 PM EST
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The fifth episode of The Morning Show is all about the ensemble scene. Whether it’s zipping down UBA hallways, drinking in a Midtown Irish pub that I can’t imagine a group of cool media women would be caught dead in, or swanning around your own packed penthouse while Cheyenne Jackson sings show tunes for charity, there’s a lot of togetherness in this episode. And that means there’s a lot of loaded talking (and occasionally, singing).

But I don’t know why everyone is always speaking in code given that they all appear to understand exactly what is being implied through their raised eyebrows and carefully worded suggestions. Especially because they know, eventually, it will all end up in a New York publication.

Looming in the back of this episode are two articles: the one the New York Times has been working on about Mitch that started of this whole Morning Show roller coaster, and the one that New York magazine writer Maggie Brenner (Marcia Gay Harden, smirking like Maggie’s byline depends on it) is writing about new Morning Show it-girl, Bradley. Maggie is a fascinating character because she seems to exclusively cover the morning show beat, and as a profile writer, her approach to luring juicy tidbits out of her subjects is to be kind of mean and ask leading questions that suggest she already knows everything they could possibly tell her.

The Morning ShowSeason 1Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Nestor Carbonell
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But that’s just sort of how journalism works on The Morning Show, I guess! After all, minus the meanness, an instinct to dig deeper and ever-so-slightly put words in her subject’s mouth is what scored Bradley that explosive interview with Mitch’s accuser Ashley that everyone can’t stop talking about. This episode picks up just after Bradley’s interview as the whole Morning Show gang cheerfully signs off for the weekend while “Stronger” plays them out, and they lauuuuugh and daaaance…

Until the moment the cameras go off, when Alex whips around to Bradley and hisses, “Don’t you ever question my integrity in my own house again.” You know how to tell someone has a lot of integrity? When they’re super-defensive about how much integrity they have.

Everyone is especially on edge given the forthcoming Times piece about Mitch — seemingly no one more so than Mitch, who shows up at The Morning Show offices. Chip immediately sees images of a sawed-off shotgun dancing in his head, but Mitch just wants to chat… to the entire staff, who he corners in the writer’s room as they’re wrapping up the day. “I know you’re terrified to say anything, so I’ll do the talking,” he tells them, going on to apologize for them getting hit by a bus, even though he also says that doesn’t mean he’s admitting to being the one driving the bus. Then he gets to the point: The Times piece is coming out, and he knows it’s not going to be good, so he’s asking them to “call the Times, go on record, give them quotes.”

“You’ve worked with me… we are colleagues, and friends,” Mitch says. “And I’m asking you all, as friends, to speak out on my behalf.”

The silence is deafening. Alex has shown up by now, and she looks mortified; Chip tells Mitch he has to leave. “I know that there are some of you that want to do it!” Mitch exclaims to a room full of people who look like they would rather eat their computers with a knife and fork than spend one more second in this room, let alone speak up on Mitch’s behalf. Especially once he starts screaming at them: “THIS IS MY LIFE! WHO HERE WILL SPEAK UP FOR ME?!” He looks over at Alex, who rushes off without saying anything.

Finally, Mitch gives it up, tells the crew, “I really do love you guys, and it’s been an honor working with you,” and lets security lead him away. But not before one Bradley Jackson corners him in the elevator. “Who else knew what was going on?” she asks with no other greeting. “What do you think?” Mitch says dryly.

See, ever since her interview with Ashley, Bradley has been doing a bit of internal investigative journalism. She wants to know what was going on at The Morning Show before she got there, and who she can trust. But when Bradley is being interviewed, Mia advises her (in code) that she needs to lock that down. When Maggie Brenner shows up at her new fancy hotel home, Bradley does her Bradley thing, all, I have no idea why The Morning Show chose me, you can’t get too worried about things, we’re all gonna die eventually, I’m a WEIRDO who does what I WANT. But when Alex’s name comes up, the eye-shutters go down, and the smile gets plastered on.

Maggie wonders if Bradley has asked as many probing questions about The Morning Show culture to Alex as she asked Ashley in their interview. Bradley stutters that they’ve only just started working together, and she thinks they’re off to a good start: “I’m hopeful that we’ll prove to be a very powerful team.”

Indeed, everyone has their defenses up and their game face on. Chip has a secret meeting with the New York Times editor in charge of the Mitch story, in which he asks how exposed the network is in the article, knowing he would be the fall guy as the executive producer of The Morning Show. The editor says he can’t tell him, and Chip whispers, “Really, after what I gave you?” The editor says he doesn’t remember what Chip gave him — wasn’t that the whole point?

And we’re left to wonder exactly what dirt Chip exposed on his own versus exactly which dirt he’s worried about getting out. There’s plenty of dirt-leveraging to go around, as that very New York Times editor gets on the phone with UBA’s legal team — while Frank and Cory listen in and text their demands, of course — to see if Fred wants to give a quote for the article. Fred won’t give a quote without knowing the context, so finally the head reporter tells the lawyers the nitty gritty: Four sources of quotes, three are women who have worked on the show, one is a male who currently works on the show, and between them, they report Mitch’s misconduct taking place in his dressing room, his car, in hotels, at a gas station bathroom while on location, in Rome during the papal conclave, and on numerous occasions at his Hampton home and on his yacht.

Not great! And the ringer: one particularly damning quote from Fred’s former assistant, who says that the network had a habit of protecting its stars, and that it was “common knowledge” what Mitch was doing. Cory suggests they leverage telling the Times about Mitch’s outburst at the office that morning in exchange for dropping the assistant’s quote, but it’s a no-go.

While all this is going on, Alex is throwing a party, because that’s the best way for her to seem totally fine, and totally not culpable for anything, and totally in charge of the situation. It’s very important for Alex to be in charge, and this Bradley situation clearly has not given her that feeling the way she thought it would. At her party, Bradley is all anyone can talk about, and Alex is desperate for Maggie to arrive so she can put her own spin on whatever Bradley may have told her in their interview.

Once Maggie arrives, Alex wastes no time suggesting that it was a challenging first week for Bradley, but of course, “She was quite shell-shocked when I told her she had to go on air Monday.” Oh, that’s right — Alex can’t say she went rogue and guerrilla-hired Bradley as her co-anchor, but she can suggest that she made the decision to rush her on air. Because Alex knows what the show needs: “A fresh start, a feminist slant, and Bradley came on like a superstar… I mean, for someone who has zero anchor experience, she did great.” Oh, Alex. How transparent can you be? By time Alex is suggesting that she coached Bradley through asking the difficult questions in the Ashley interview, Maggie’s smirk has crept up to her ears.

“Oh, come on, Alex,” Maggie snorts. “I have tremendous respect for you, but I am not goging to write some feminist puff piece about a woman who turned a blind eye to the sexual misconduct of her cohost.” It appears that no one is buying what Alex has been trying to sell. Except Cory… maybe. It’s hard to say what Cory is thinking ever, but he pulls Alex aside at her party to say that he wants her to hear it from him: “You were right… That Bradley stunt was genius, and I want us to find a way to work together.” But this time, Alex is the one not buying it.

So Cory does what any completely insane, unpredictable person would do. He buys the thousand-dollar opportunity to sing show tunes for charity, and then announces that Alex will be joining him on stage. And then, I kid you not, Billy Crudup and Jennifer Anniston duet on perhaps the most confusing rendition of “Not While I’m Around,” from Sweeney Todd, ever. To quote Yanko, who I love, when Daniel asks him what the f— is going on: “I don’t know, but it’s weird… and fascinating… and I’m super into it.” And that also seems to be the way that Cory and Alex experience crooning to each other about not letting any harm come to the other while they’re around. They look confused, but also like they kind of… mean it?

At the end of the song, Alex is so overwhelmed by emotion she has to rush off stage, and Cory looks unsure of what just happened for maybe the first time in the history of this show.

And the wheels are basically falling off all over town. Bradley was invited by some of the younger staff to celebrate Claire’s birthday, and once everyone is sufficiently drunk, the conversation turns to Mitch. When Claire gets rather brazen with her suggestion that the old guard probably enabled his creepy behavior, Mia snaps: “What the f— do you know about this show, what it’s been, what I’ve seen, what I’ve gone through?” Which… fair. But then things get a little more personal when Mia grits out that it’s not all black and white, and “this s— is complicated, people are complicated, Mitch was complicated.”

Hannah looks particularly salty about what seems to be a semi-defense of Mitch, but Mia quickly recovers from and apologizes to Claire, excusing herself to go home. And then…

The article drops. It seems that Chip’s guilt-tripping of his editor pal must have worked, and the Times dropped the “everyone knew what was going on” quote for the Mitch-crashing-the-office story and a nice long quote from Fred about Mitch never working again. But Mitch doesn’t know that yet — he’s sitting in his car with Alex, who rushed off stage with Cory and right to Mitch because, as she told her husband, she needed to see her friend. Things quickly turn from friendly to charged, though, as Alex and Mitch banter back and forth with that oft-touted chemistry of theirs.

Mitch pulls the car over and turns off the music, and says, “You miss me, admit it.” Alex won’t say it, but she will giggle, and Mitch says they should finally give it a try. He’s getting a divorce, she’s separated, for the first time ever, they could actually date. “I’m sure it’s every little girl’s dream to settle down with a sexual predator,” Alex says, which is hilarious, and yet when Mitch leans in for the kiss, she leans right back. I do not like it! Thankfully that’s the moment they get the notification that the Times article has gone live.

And Alex is faced with the full reality of Mitch, not just her friend. She looks sick. Alex says she needs to go home, and Mitch whines, “Come on, Alex, you knew all about this stuff.” And there it is: Alex knew. She clarifies that she knew in theory, “But this just… Reading this just felt really different.”

Lucky for Alex, Bradley currently has her investigative radar dialed all the way down. While she’s out with the girls, Bradley gets a phone call from her estranged father that throws her for a complete loop. In some ways, it’s kind of a nice conversation, and when Bradley’s father says he called her up after 15 years because he really just wanted to tell her how proud of her he is, she looks happy. But in the end, she tells him he can’t call her anymore. He says to take care of herself, and she says she always has…

And then she goes inside, gets extremely drunk, and has sex with the bartender in the supply closet. Because our girl has a self-destructive streak! Luckily, she also has a friend now. No, not the bartender — Cory. And so help me, I like their relationship forged out of how equally but differently weird they are. At the hotel they’re both staying in, Cory escorts Bradley into the elevator; she tells him how she “f—ed this bartender” and now she’s scared because “I guess I’m famous now”; Cory lets her cry in his arms and tells her it’s going to be fine.

Across town, a different anchor is offering very different assurances to a different UBA executive. Calling Fred up while he drives angrily back out of Manhattan following his failed rendezvous, Mitch sneers: “If I’m going down, you’re going down with me.”

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