For a goofy episode about chasing down 11-year-old hackers and rogue iPhone biscuit games, this installment of Great News is about a surprisingly subversive topic: the fact that men often simply do not trust women. Whether it’s Greg dismissing Katie’s instincts, Chuck ignoring Portia’s cultural savvy, or both men letting a less tenured male intern get promoted ahead of Carol, “Celebrity Hacking Scandal” is all about the ways women get screwed over at work. Even more impressive, it manages to tell that story in a way that doesn’t turn the protagonists into oppressed, perfect heroines — just into equal-opportunity idiots, who deserve the same ability to fail, falter, and bumble their way into greatness as their male colleagues.
That’s definitely been the case with Katie, who’s failed more than she’s succeeded at hustling her way into a big scoop — from her botched NRA whistle-blower story to somehow falling in love with an Ann Taylor Loft chatbot. (“It wasn’t my fault! He kept calling me!”) Greg is upfront with Katie about not trusting her reporting instincts, and at first, it seems he’s onto something: Katie’s attempt to investigate the internet ring that hacked Portia and numerous other celebrities leads her to attempted extortion by a middle-schooler. (His demands: She has to write his school paper on the Dust Bowl, and take him to see Beauty and the Beast so he can stare at Emma Watson’s “natural larges.”)
In one sense, Greg is right. As he tells Katie in the show’s most trenchant summary of cable news yet, “Our job isn’t tracking down clues or meeting mysterious sources, it’s saying stuff on TV that people already read on the internet.” But if Greg isn’t serious enough about The Breakdown’s mission, Chuck is too serious, refusing to acknowledge the value of Carol and Portia’s story pitch about Biscuit Blitz, a Candy Crush–like game that has a GDP the size of the Maldives’.
The authentic but frustrating part of this interaction is that the show sidelines Portia for straight-up calling out Chuck’s sexism from the start, calling him out on “mansplaining” and protesting by “manspreading” at the news desk. The whole thing is played for laughs at what an obnoxious, buzzword-happy millennial Portia is, but the truth is, she’s right from the get-go. It’s just that Chuck doesn’t see it until he’s been slowly and gently brought around by the mom-like ministrations of Carol, who does all the hard work of installing the app on his phone (it’s his first) and teaching him how to use it.
It’s only when Carol corrects him on how to play Biscuit Blitz while lying in his office chair that he gets a taste of his own medicine and apologizes to Portia — well, sort of, if you count reciting the Urban Dictionary definition of apologizing as “a sex act where the man stands in the tank of a toilet.”
The twist is pretty obvious from the episode’s midpoint: The two stories are actually related, and a vulnerability in Biscuit Blitz is the source of the celebrity hacks. But the show is wise in not having the three women know that upfront. Chuck and Greg aren’t holding them back from the right answer, just from having the ability to stumble their way toward it — just as Greg followed a hunch to find the Loch Ness Monster, only to get shamed on British TV. (Hey, male intuition is a thing, too!)
True freedom isn’t the freedom to be right all the time, because no one is. It’s the freedom to be allowed to make mistakes over and over again until you find your way. It’s a topic that I’m sure has resonance for this show’s young, female creator, and for a lot of the women who watch it, too.
• While we’re discussing mistakes, what is going on with the character of Justin? Horatio Sanz is barely in this episode (he makes a cameo in a “Connie Chung Tonight” T-shirt) or in the previous one. I get the sense that he’s potentially being edged out, but we’ll see if he shows up in the final two episodes.
• Though this episode is all about how he’s wrong, my favorite joke was admittedly Chuck insulting Portia: “I get why you think this is newsworthy, since your last job was at E! hosting Fashion 911.” “Um, it was Fashion 9/11, and it was immediately cancelled.”
• Carol on Katie staring at Kate Upton’s hacked nudes: “I love you no matter what, just promise me that you will wear the dress at the wedding, and she’ll wear the tux with the sneakers.” Also, Carol doing the hustle and then course-correcting into a more serious version is a classic bit of Andrea Martin greatness.
• I am only referring to vapes as “electric marijuana kazoos” from now on.