HEL-LO, team. We’re just a few minutes to air and Frank Fontana is nowhere to be found. Miles charges out of the elevator with Julius, the Weary P.A., to manage this crisis, but Murphy has bigger problems. She needs a new assistant to help her finish prepping her big story, an interview with a pharmaceutical industry whistleblower who has agreed to appear on the show the following day. Sorry, Miles tells her. HR hates her, and she goes through assistants faster than dairy goes through him when he forgets his Lactaid. Just as they’re preparing to go on the air without Frank, he rushes in to take his seat. He says something vague about a mugger and an old lady, but Corky knows better. Frank’s wearing the same outfit he wore the day before — she can tell by the hummus stain on his tie. Frank was with a lady friend! Who? None of your business, he says, which, fine, his personal life doesn’t affect his job. Except he can’t stop smiling like an idiot while doing a lead-in to a story about dengue fever.
Murphy and Miles fill everyone in on tomorrow’s big story: Hector Gomez of Addison Pharmaceuticals has provided emails and voice messages that prove that the company deliberately flooded the market with a synthetic opioid. Legal’s vetting him, but Murphy’s worried that the story will get leaked or poached if there’s any delay — or if, for example, the copy machine repairman they didn’t notice finds Miles’s sensitive printouts in the paper tray. Smh.
They agree not to tell Pat Patel until he’s entered the Circle of Trust, but he walks up and asks if they’re all talking about the big drug story. He’s been hacking their email accounts as a periodic skills refresher, and he knows all. He’s also added extra security to their accounts, which is reason enough for Miles to invite him into the Circle of Trust. Just in time, too, because Pat Patel comes bearing gifts. He’s brought Murphy a new assistant, VAL, a voice-activated artificial intelligence … cylinder. (An Alexa. It’s an Alexa. “Alexa” is the new “Kleenex,” isn’t it?) Murphy’s dubious, but once Pat demonstrates that VAL is constantly monitoring the number of times President Trump has lied, she’s in. Stop playing with toys, Miles says. The opioid story is huge, and they need to keep the Wolf Network from finding out about it. To Phil’s, everyone!!
Some bozo with a large flag lapel pin is quaffing the ol’ a.m. beer and hassling Miguel for speaking Spanish within his earshot. “One call and I could have you deported,” he says. He wants to take his America back! Jesus, is Miguel ever going to get to do anything on this show, or is he literally just Undocumented Millennial set dressing? Either way, Phyllis won’t have it: “When you’re in this bar, you’re in my America.” He exits in search of another bar, just as the gang enters. “It’s too brown in here,” he says, leading Murph to wonder what she’s done to piss him off.
Frank still won’t tell them who he’s dating, because Murphy has managed to scare off all of his former girlfriends. But Avery Brown’s here, because I guess he also goes to the bar every morning now, and he can help them put the pieces together. Over at the Wolf Network, he extended his show into the 9:00 a.m. hour because anchor Christy Shepherd (Wolf … Shepherd … I get it, I get it) rolled in late on her own Walk of Shame. A-ha! The gang can’t believe it. What if Christy Shepherd somehow gets wind of their big story, Miles asks, spiraling into a panic about facing the network brass. Big story? Young Avery Brown perks up. My God, they’re bad at keeping quiet. Luckily, Murphy acts quickly: an anonymous source has sent … a tape. A tape a lot of people think actually exists. That’s right, Avery. Mama has leaked that they have the PEE TAPE (leaked … pee tape … stahp) and our boy is off like a bloodhound to ferret it out. “I’ve been lying to him since he was born,” she says. “I know what I’m doing.”
She knows what Frank’s doing, too: selling his dignity for three glorious minutes? No, according to his Fitbit, it was sixteen minutes, thank you very much. And he had a great time. He’s known Christy Shepherd for 15 years — they were embedded in Fallujah together — but they’ve only just gotten together. Why hasn’t he ever mentioned this to Murphy? This is terrible timing … for her. What if Frank gets so addle-pated that the Hector Gomez story becomes pillow talk? Okay, fine. If she wants to go there, Frank will just say it: “I’m not the only one with a Wolf anchor in my life,” and he knows Murphy leaves story notes all over the place at home. “You have just crossed the line, Frank,” she says, and quietly peaces out.
The next day, Miles reports that Legal has really dug into vetting Hector Gomez, and they should be all set to have him on the next day. Uh, wait a minute. Pat Patel has bad news. Christy Shepherd has scooped them! They descend, unsurprisingly, into squabbling. “This is cable,” Corky exclaims. She’s got her eye on everyone. Later, Frank meets Christy Shepherd for a drink at the Trump Hotel, where the Wolf Network gets a 60 percent discount and a Melania-a-like hostess holds things down (“Be best. Free Wi-Fi. No cyberbullying”) for a diverse crowd of Saudi and Russian government officials. Luckily, they are wearing stereotypical costumes, or we wouldn’t know who they were. Christy’s apologetic about the scoop, but this just fell into her lap! Did Frank mumble about it in his sleep? That’s preposterous. Even if he had, she would never try to steal a story from him. Doesn’t he trust her? Oh, Frank. Now he’s crossed the line with Christy, too. She quietly peaces out.
At home, there’s one more showdown with a Wolf Network employee to take care of. Avery’s spent the past two days digging up the backyard looking for the pee tape, which he doesn’t find. But he does excavate his stuffed Barney doll, which forces him to come to terms with the fact that his mother lied when she told him all those years ago that Barney had gone for a walk and just never came back. How could she think that Avery would steal her notes and give them to Christy Shepherd? “Something that big, I’d cover it myself.” He learned from the best. They’ll leave their work rivalry at the door, he says, because “I love you, and you love me, and we’re a happy family.” (Yes, he recites incorrect lyrics.) Murphy Brown, you just played yourself.
So who’s the leaker? At the office, Murphy steps up to take the responsibility for her own story, and Frank apologizes for blaming Avery, and then Miles shamefacedly admits that he lost his phone the other day. Everything was on it, all of Hector Gomez’s evidence. It’s his fault. Wait, no — while kindly reprogramming his car’s voice command system, Pat Patel has found his phone under the seat! It’s frustrating that no one knows who the leaker is, but at least they can go to Phil’s on good terms. On the way out the door, Murphy asks VAL to send a transcript of a meeting with a secret source to Legal. Adds Corky, “Find the leaker — that Wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Oh, oops. VAL receives the command and then sends the transcript of their meeting to Wolf, “with a list of cheap clothing.” Technology, you scamp!
Misc. & Assorted:
• Julius, the Weary P.A., feels underappreciated, and that hurts my heart. I think you did a great job, Julius.
• Apparently Phyllis’s career in NYPD Parking Enforcement, as mentioned last week, was a Cagney & Lacey reference. I am embarrassed to have missed it, but still — you were a cop, Phyllis? IDK how I feel about that!
• I wish I could describe this hissy king cobra thing Miles does with his hand in the final scene, but sometimes we can only grieve the limits of language.
• As the Murphy Brown Podcast babes remind us, Frank was once so alarmed by Murphy dating conservative rival Jerry Gold that he spent weeks talking about it in therapy. Times have changed!