The gang is T-I-R-E-D these days. Morning-show call times are rough (why Corky’s forgotten this despite having just anchored another one, I couldn’t tell you). When she steps out from behind the desk, we see Murph’s wearing sweats. She arranges her life to maximize sleep. “I brush my teeth in the car and spit out the window on Wisconsin Avenue,” she says, which I mention because lol same, minus spitting on a street named for a state that flipped in 2018 as catharsis. Not saying I wouldn’t, though. Frank’s so exhausted he’s yawning on air, but Pat Patel thinks he’s close to monetizing his social-media presence. How much are we talking? “Enough to keep you from stealing those little boxes of cereal from the break room.” This is a good bit between Frank and PP, character-driven instead of a millennial joke. There are pitch-perfect character bits everywhere. They just get bogged down.
Miles wants to take everyone to Phil’s. It’s 9 a.m. — is Phil’s even open?? Now it is! Phyllis is wrapping up a job interview with Miguel Gonzales, another Millennial Foil, Undocumented DACA Student edition. Whew, everyone, he makes the joke about paying for the border wall first! If she hires, him, he promises Phyllis he’ll marry the ketchups every night. What? Balancing one half-empty bottle on the rim of another, he says, “Next day it’s like you have brand-new bottles.” What a cute go-getter! But this sounds disgusting. Then again, Phil’s is absolutely the kind of place where I’d expect adulterated condiments. I guess what I’m saying is that we’ll accept almost any indignity in the proper context.
Here comes Avery, Murphy’s Large Adult Son! Big news: It’s Baby’s First Day in the White House press room, where he’ll be asking a question on behalf of Average America. He’s gloating; she’s been banned from the White House grounds since the first Bush administration, and last week’s Twitter skirmish with Prez Cheeto has all but guaranteed an ongoing exile. What makes Avery so sure he’ll get called on? Tee-hee, Sarah Sanders has a crush on him! “She called me last night to tell me she likes my show.” The phone call is a bad setup with a good payoff. Miles has been fantasizing about her, because “I have a thing for domineering women. It started with my Hebrew school teacher, Estelle Fink — she had a smoky eye and a sneer I found arousing at 13 . . . I’ve said too much.” Grant Shaud’s comic timing is so good. Very Borscht Belt. Anyway, Avery tells her, “You can tune into the briefing tomorrow at the White House and live through me vicariously,” pat-patting pat-patting her arm as if consoling her. This smug little shit. Surely Murph, veteran broadcaster with 50 years’ experience, can get back in. She’ll make some calls, only to find that one White House contact’s been fired; one’s quit; and one’s been found in a shallow grave. Hijinks it is!
Inside a CNC van parked near the White House, the gang prepares to sneak Murphy into the briefing room as Le Monde reporter “Cosette Peugeot” (Frank doesn’t know a lot of French words), who sports a severe Anna Wintour–ish bob, a wig Corky got from her cousin Jesse, a mortician. What? Says Corky, “It’d be a sin to bury a good wig.” I can sort of see her point. Miles frets aloud about the ethics of this caper. “What kind of executive producer am I?” is a rhetorical question, but Corky nails it: “A small, sweaty kind who makes everyone nervous.” Here comes a joke sequence straight out of 1988. Frank’s envious — he really misses going undercover. “I wish I could put on a dress and sneak into that briefing room now,” he says. Corky retorts, “You could, Frank. You’re still shaving your legs, right?” Frank, indignant: “Because I swim.” Ha-ha-ha. Somehow, the logical place to go after this is a prison-rape joke. Miles, spiraling, envisions a worst case scenario in which he gets locked up and ends up as Bernie Madoff’s bitch. Ha-ha-ha. I’m not offended, just bored.
Cosette rolls up to the West Wing guard house, where she’ll use her Fransh charms to “get Cliff all softened up” and pass off the fake credentials — but there’s no one there and the gate’s been left open. Perfect. Once inside, Murphy ditches Cosette in a plant and ducks into the briefing in progress. (They’ve intercut archival footage of a White House briefing so the room seems to be responding to what Sanders says and does.) Time for a question; every hand shoots into the air. SHS hollers at Avery but says she’s “saving the best for last.” When Sanders instead calls someone else, our girl makes her move, shoving him out of the way.
We’ve reached the wish-fulfillment portion of the evening, so when Sarah says that Murphy’s behaving inappropriately, she responds, “If you really want to talk about what’s inappropriate, how about the way you do your job?” Everyone looks embarrassed and uncomfortable as Murphy advances up the aisle, stanning for their role in a democratic society. I am also embarrassed and uncomfortable, because this is too long. It’s like that fashion adage: Before you leave the house/writers room, look in the mirror and take off one piece of jewelry/15 seconds of dialogue. Her question, when she gets to it, is simple. “Why do you lie?” This gets a reaction from the press corpse, so Murphy calls them to the barricades: “LET’S GO, EVERYONE.” Huh, this isn’t wish fulfillment at all, just reality TV! She tries one more time. She knows a lot of them personally, some better than others — and here she stops short at the sight of Avery Brown, turncoat: “Maybe not as well as I thought.” Womp womp.
Back at the pad, Avewy is vewwy mad at Mommy fow wuining his big moment: “I didn’t get to ask my question.” If not for her, he would have, since he’d secured the press secretary’s favor through flirtation. This is weird. It’s like he’s Ricky Ricardo and she has some splainin’ to do. Avery sort of yells, “You know, when you get an idea in your head, you get so obsessed that you become blind to everything else — logic, common sense, maternal instinct! Out the window!”
Maternal instinct? Avery wants to compete but resorts to invoking maternal instinct because he didn’t get what he wanted? It doesn’t get better from here. “It wasn’t always easy growing up in the shadow of ‘the great Murphy Brown,’” he says, sneering, and I … just don’t care, because nepotism is probably what got you where you are. He delivers his own lecture about journalism in a democratic society. There to do a job … fight the good fight … who would be left … only real firewall, etc. etc. “Maybe you were right not to follow me out that door,” Murphy sniffles, subdued, and Avery records her apology for posterity. Fight’s over! She noticed that Avery’s suitcases are downstairs and she’s worried he’s moving out. God, Avery, please leave! No, no. He just has an early flight. He says goodnight, and on his way up to bed — and for this I cannot fault him — he plays the “I’m sorry-I’m sorry-I’m sorry-I’m sorry” ringtone he’s made. Patriarchy, 1; Murphy Brown, 0.
Misc. & Assorted
• I like Pat Patel’s li’l hipster outfits, especially that polka-dot shirt and the on-trend eyeglasses.
• Jokes about Frank’s age — he changed Avery’s diapers; Avery will one day change his adult diapers — play differently than jokes about Corky’s. Feels like last week’s menopause jokes could have been made at any female character’s expense, but these reflect Frank’s character.
• The show famously cut in archival footage of Dan Quayle in 1991. Here it’s clever, but less funny; Quayle was actually talking about the character, so it was less of a stretch to create a response from inside the world of the show. This is sort of the problem with the whole thing: It’s less Murphy Brown written in 2018 than fulfilling our expectations about what Murphy Brown would be like in 2018. I don’t even know if that makes sense. Does that make sense? Ahh, a psychoanalyst once said to me, The wish to begin again. She wasn’t talking about Murphy Brown but she probably should have been.