That’s the truth about all these workplace accusations and real-life scenarios happening in the entertainment world and beyond — most people, from accuser to enablers to perpetrators, love their jobs. They want to work at a morning show, or a movie studio, or a jewelry store, or a start-up. They also, as we heard from one of Mitch's accusers, want to feel safe and respected. UBA is one of those places that feed on people’s big dreams and then deny their employees the right to feel secure and protected. There’s a cost to coming forward that many men and women don’t want to shoulder, and that’s what this episode unpacks. It’s a very real thing to set fire to a place you love the idea of — the idea of being head booker, like Hannah (Gugu Mbatha-Raw); lead anchor, like Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston); head producer, like Chip Black (Mark Duplass); truth-telling journalist, like Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon). None of these people want to stop working, or change careers, or feel like a narc within their very tight-knit world of morning news nightcrawlers.
So, how do they get rid of the most cancerous parts of the company, like Mitch Kessler (Steve Carrel), and the even more toxic and powerful Fred Micklin (Tom Irwin), while still preserving their own careers? (At this point, and after years of waking up at 3 a.m., preserving their sanity is out of the question.) That’s the question whispered all across New York: in Chip’s office, in Alex’s apartment, in Bradley’s hotel room, and near Mitch’s bachelor New York pad, where he has jarring conversations with Alex and Hannah.
First, with Hannah, Mitch mischaracterizes their evening together, when he coerced her to sleep with him after she came to him as a friend and mentor. She ended up accepting a promotion in exchange for her silence from Fred, but she never felt that their sex was totally consensual. “I thought you were mentoring me,” she tells him. “I looked up to you.” In exchange, he apologizes that she felt like that, but still maintains his innocence in the encounter for the most part by screaming in her face that she didn't say no. (Earlier in the episode he tells her: “You played the game. I get it. If you want to dance, you have to pay the fiddler,” which feels like something Harvey Weinstein would have absolutely said to one of the dozens of women he allegedly sexually assaulted.)
Hannah is an emblem of Mitch's abuse of power, but also Fred’s complicity — and of Alex’s. It’s unfortunate that the big reveal around Alex is that she not only knew about all of Mitch’s workplace hook-ups, she also mocked and alienated the women involved. Mitch reminds Alex of her disregard for these women, which leads Alex to threaten Mitch with an accusation of non-consensual sex. Mitch doubles back and threatens to paint Alex is a light so unflattering, her reputation would never recover. They both brought guns to a knife fight.
Knowing that Mitch is gearing up to protect his neck at all costs, Alex aligns with Fred, and gives him a head’s up that Mitch is coming to take down his former boss. Let’s call that Alliance No. 1. Meanwhile, Alliance No. 2 is one we saw develop back in California, when Chip presented Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) with the opportunity to oust Fred. Alliance No. 2 welcomes a new member in the form of Bradley, who tells Corey she wants to interview Mitch on the show (let’s call Mitch and Hannah, off-the-record, Alliance No. 3), to reveal the rest of the sexual harassment iceberg beyond The Morning Show and its frat boy atmosphere. And a soft fourth alliance is also revealed when New York Magazine’s Maggie tells Corey that she has an allegiance to Fred. Things are complicated, and there's no one person to blame, or to fix it.
Don’t be confused, though, because all these alliances are sure to change in the finale, but here’s the current gist: Alliance 1 and Alliance 4 have the most power, but Alliance 2 and Alliance 3 have the most support, both internally and externally, with the public on their side. During this #MeToo and Time’s Up era, the masses want to help suck the venom out of powerful companies, and getting rid of Fred would do just that. The issue is that Fred’s plan is to pin all the blame on Chip. He makes a perfect scapegoat, and Fred’s already lined up a replacement for him. Plus, Chip’s exhausted. He loves his job, and has been doing it well for decades, but he literally sleeps on the dirty floor of his office. He just might take whatever secret buy-out I bet Fred offers him to just go away quietly. That scenario was also hinted at in episode 2, when Mitch warned that Chip and all the other normal guy schmucks like him are next to be accused. (I hate to quote his totally off-base rant, but it did feel like a bit of foreshadowing).
So, here we are, with one episode left in the season. Our only good couple has split (Claire (Bel Powley) realizes part of the allure of being with Yanko (Nestor Carbonell) was that their relationship felt private and fleeting), Bradley has ruined whatever bond was built between her and Alex by agreeing to interview Mitch, and Alex has destroyed her years long relationship with Chip by siding with Fred and helping to wrongly pin years of bad behavior on the one good guy at the office.
Mad? That’s the point.
Let’s see what Bradley’s going to do about it.
Water Cooler Gossip:
-I fear for Daniel’s (Desean Terry) safety after agreeing to help Alex keep her job by eliminating Bradley and inheriting her seat. He does deserve to be an anchor of a morning show, but doesn’t he see the warning signs against teaming up with Alex?!
-Pour one out for Clanko: I didn’t realize I liked them as a couple until they were no more. I’ll never forget when Claire explained to Yanko that their relationship wasn’t a power struggle because she was the one with the money, the status, and the game.
-Bradley’s backstory gets a little deeper when we find out that she was the one to turn in her dad for killing a teenager during an unfortunate drunk driving accident. She wonders out loud to her brother if pursuing the truth about UBA, Fred, and Alex, if she is going to cause more harm then good. Her brother reminds her that their father going to prison for his crime was not harmful — it needed to happen. That’s the motivation driving her into the finale.