Working on The Morning Show is like working in a funhouse of mirrors — nothing is really what it seems. It’s all distorted, reflections oscillating between funny and terrifying. In episode 5, “No One’s Gonna Harm You, Not While I’m Around” this constant switch from LOL to OMG is enough to give a viewer whiplash, and maybe even some nightmares.
The first mirror we meet is a reflection of Mitch Kessler that feels so real it’s like he’s actually there. Oh wait, he is actually there. Mitch drops by the UBA offices to plead with his staff ahead of rumors that the New York Times plans to run a more detailed follow-up piece about the allegations against him. He apologizes without admitting any guilt, and leaves in a huff when he realizes no one is going to come to his defense — not even his best friend and confidante Alex Levy. (Reminder that no one know that Alex snuck over to Mitch’s house in episode 1). He isn’t really intimidating in this scenario, even though we know just how isolating his presence can feel after listening to his accuser’s story at the end of episode 4.
But here, in the reflection of his own vanity and inability to take ownership of his behavior, Mitch looks like a clown. But it only gets worse when he reads the NYT piece titled, “The Misdeeds of Mitch Kessler.” The most damning claim from the piece, which features five new testimonies about his actions, is from none other than than Fred Mickland (Tom Irwin), whom we know is extremely worried about skeletons in his own closet being revealed in the wake of Hurricane Mitch. It feels like Fredis a predator with possibly even more serious allegations waiting to bubble up. So, as a preventative measure, he negotiates with the Times to swap info: The newspaper takes out a quote from his former assistant supporting claims that TSM had a toxic work culture, seeping down from the top. Instead, the piece ran with a quote from Ted declaring Mitch a leper, and deeming him permanently cancelled, not just from his show, but from working ever again. Mitch ends the episode seething. He calls Fred and tells him that he’s going down with him.
Mirror two: Alex. The hostess with the mostess, Alex is harnessing all of her anxiety about her job, distrust and dislike of her new co-anchor, and hatred of Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) into her Broadway-themed charity event. In this part of the funhouse, we have Alex singing a duet with Cory after being blatantly peer pressured into it. But little does Alex know that the tense collaboration of Sweeney Todd’s “Not While I’m Around” will only be the second most cringey thing to happen to her. The first is a conversation with journalist Maggie Brenner, a writer from New York Magazine, who is profiling Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon). Alex sees this as her chance to throw out some softball one-liners about feminism and the changing course of the show, but Maggie calmly tells her that she isn’t doing some feminist fluff piece. Instead, she warns Alex to brace herself for total abandonment: Prepare to be left in the dust. Alex leaves her own party in a fury and finds solace with Mitch. The two share a very awkward kiss in the car (I was waiting for the paparazzi to jump out) until Alex pulls away to read the NYT piece. “You knew all this,” Mitch tells her, confirming what we all thought to be true. So she covered up for him all these years after all.
Meanwhile, Bradley’s in a funhouse of her own making, along with the rest of the crew from TSM. Though she scored the big ticket invite to Alex’s bougie gala, Bradley hits a local bar with Mia Jordan (Karen Pittman), Claire (Bel Powley), Hannah Shoenfeld (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and the rest of the female producers and assistants. It’s a boozy, light-hearted hang until the topic of Mitch comes up, and Mia icily tells all the younger women that they have no idea the amount of nuance this conversation takes. It feels like everyone knows Mia and Mitch have a history, and Claire apologizes for joking that she wanted to cut Mitch’s dick off. Still, Mia rushes out of the group hang on the verge of tears. Bradley also ends her night in tears, beating herself up over an emotional conversation with her estranged (and it sounds like alcoholic) father, who’s been absent for most of her life, but felt the need to reconnect after seeing her on TV. She proceeds to down a few Jameson shots, have sex with the cute bartender, and then meet up with Cory, a drunk mess. I say mess not because she slept with someone, or because she drank a lot (women can do both!), but because she doesn’t know if she’s allowed to do either anymore because she’s famous. She starts to cry into Cory’s chest as the elevator up to her apartment shuts. I really hope this isn’t going where I think it’s going.
I look forward to Fred facing his own funhouse demons in episode 6.
Water Cooler Gossip
-Chip (Mark Duplass) is the only person we haven’t seen not at the office, up until the very last scene of this episode where we see him reading the NYT story in shock. We learn that Chip did, in fact, leak the first story to his friend who works at the Times, and that he wanted to cash in his favor in exchange for eliminating the quote about the toxic work culture. The editor refuses. But, at the last minute, the quote is gone and instead is one from Fred. Chip looks pissed (both literally and drunkenly) because he, despite his best efforts, is pulling virtually no strings.
-I can’t make my mind up about Cory. I think Billy Crudup, the person, is charming, and I kind of thought Cory was, too, but everyone really hates him. He’s too smug. In fact, Fred tells him to his face: “The truth is nobody likes you.” It made me sad. Cory’s need to constant attention — chaos really is his cocaine — reminds me of Mitch’s own narcissism. I hope that’s the only thing him and Mitch have in common.
-David Henderson (Desean K. Terry) is still unsatisfied with his position at TSM, but not enough to leave the company — yet. The face of the show’s competitor, Audra (Mindy Kaling) approaches Daniel at Alex’s event and not-so-subtly suggests he come work with her. She warns him to not like white people play him like a chess piece.