Welcome back to your favorite soap opera dressed in prestige-drama clothing. No, seriously, if you’re looking for a show with subtlety, this is not it, buddy (yep, buddy). That’s part of the fun! It’s full of self-righteous speeches, fighting at every turn, dramatic doorstep arrivals, and people using the line “You don’t want to get in a pissing match with me, all I do is piss” with a straight face (Holland Taylor, what a gift this season!). Honestly, I was shocked — SHOCKED — that the main set piece of this episode was a dinner party, and no one threw a drink in someone’s face. Later someone does throw a bottle of wine on the floor, so maybe that counts. Anyway, this show is a ridiculous ride and, I know I said this last season but, it is always better when it leans into that fact.
So, yes, the main crux of “It’s Like the Flu” is a welcome dinner party for Alex with all the major players of TMS, and it is brimming with tension. Let’s talk about where we are leading up to this party at Cory’s hotel penthouse. Cory has told Bradley that not only is she not getting the evening news and they’re poaching her new TMS co-anchor instead, but he also informs her that it will be Alex who will be joining her once again on the show. Uh, well, she’s livid. She feels lied to and betrayed by her friend and tells him he can fuck off. No, really, she decides to pretend she’s “sick” and not return to the show for like three weeks. If you’re thinking, who can call out of work for three weeks when their job performance is already being questioned and keep that job? Good point! In a meeting with her agent, Bradley is sure that not being fired signifies that UBA needs her. She has leverage. She’s in control here.
She is not. I mean, her “let’s remember who pays who in this room” line was great, but she has zero idea what’s going on around her. After three weeks of this crap, Cybil orders Cory to fire Bradley. Cory tries his best to get Bradley to see that she might think she’s sticking it to UBA, but she’s only hurting herself. Why doesn’t he just tell her she’s about to get canned unless she plays nice? Who knows. Cory loves being a secret puppet master? Actually, that shouldn’t be a question. That’s a fact. Cory loves being a secret puppet master. Regardless, that’s the energy Bradley’s walking into this dinner party with.
Meanwhile, there’s Alex. You’d think she’d be a little more on guard as she and her agent Doug (Will Arnett) meet up with Cory and Stella in Alex’s new executive office (it is legit insane), but she seems to eat up the story Cory’s telling about giving Alex the hero’s return she deserves. After everything, Alex, please be a little less trusting, okay?
Admittedly, Alex is off her game. She seems nervous about her return and is carrying guilt around for … well, probably for a lot of things. Her hand in the culture at UBA, Hannah’s death, and running away and leaving Bradley to deal with the chaos are all things that could be weighing on Alex’s conscience. That little scene in which she bumps into Eric while hiding in her old dressing room and blows up at him when he assumes she and Bradley were friends seems to point in that direction, at least.
Again, all of this energy is walking into the dinner party with Alex. Although no one except Cory seems happy that Alex is returning, everyone puts on a happy face to greet their returning colleague. Well, almost everyone. Mia, Yanko, Alison (Janina Gavankar is not being used to her full potential in this role!), and even Stella try to fake it. But one person who refuses to put on a good show for Alex is Daniel. When she hugs him and asks how he’s been, he replies: “You mean since you fucked me over? I’m great.” And when Alex tries to make amends for promising to give him Bradley’s co-anchor seat once she successfully ousted Bradley, which in turn caused Daniel to turn down the offer to co-anchor YDA, only to have Alex, uh, you know, blow up the network and then leave, Daniel doesn’t care. She says she wants to do better this time around, and she truly is sorry, but Daniel isn’t buying any of it. And he tosses in a gut-punch about how it took Hannah dying for Alex to “wake up.” You can’t win them all, Alex.
And what about that fateful Alex and Bradley reunion? When Bradley finally shows up, the two have a long, awkward hug, and you can see Bradley is over this whole thing before it begins. During dinner, as Alex is making show suggestions, she’s rolling her eyes and sighing. When Cory makes a big speech about how these two women “changed the course of human history for the better” (Cory’s on a strict diet of drama and hyperbole) and how the network is doing a huge PR push about Alex and Bradley reuniting that culminates with a big interview special, Bradley seems less-than-enthused. When Alex checks if she and Bradley are good, she gets one of those I’m fines that means I’m not fine, and is told to set up a meeting through Bradley’s assistant. That’s about all Alex can take of this dinner party, and so she heads out to leave. She makes a little goodnight speech with a smile on her face that’s full of things about her working on herself, going to therapy, and acknowledging her history. But the speech ends with her stating that she wants to be on TMS and she isn’t going anywhere, and that concluding statement tells you everything you need to know about Alex’s intentions; she’s here whether you like it or not, so get over it.
As you can imagine, Bradley doesn’t take to that too well. She follows Alex out into the hall, and the two women have the fight they’ve probably both wanted to have since that hug. Or, at least, Bradley’s wanted to. She wants Alex to know that things are going to be different this time around. Bradley Jackson is nobody’s “fucking sidekick!” She is Alex’s equal, and she wants Alex to be hyper-aware of that. And you know what Alex says back? Good. She doesn’t want Bradley to roll over and take what she’s given. That’s not the job. This only infuriates Bradley even more. Obviously, a lot of this anger stems from the fact that Alex left Bradley to fend for herself, even after promising to be there for her after Alex decided to leave the show. “Sorry I was having a meltdown,” is Alex’s response to that. Again, Bradley is annoyed at how this conversation is going. There’s lots of yelling and, like so, so many fucks thrown around. Finally, Alex wants to end this: “A friendship with you sounds like a really bountiful journey,” but the fact of the matter is that they were only on-air together for three weeks. “We don’t owe each other a thing,” she tells her new old co-anchor. There’s no way Bradley will get what she wants out of this argument (honestly, what does this woman want from Alex? It changes every day). So as the elevator doors close on Alex, Bradley tosses out one last cheap shot: She brings up Chip. She reminds Alex that she worked with Chip for 15 years; she might not owe Bradley anything, but doesn’t she owe Chip something?
You see, when Bradley first heard about Alex coming back and was at an angry, bitter loss over what to do, she called Chip to get a read on their old colleague. He, uh, doesn’t have the fondest memories. This, of course, makes sense since it doesn’t seem like Alex even sent him so much as a ‘TY’ text after his heartfelt, soul-baring voicemail. She “will make you feel like the most important thing in the universe […] and then you turn, and she will push you off of a cliff,” he tells Bradley. She’s only in it for herself. And, he adds for good measure that if he ever sees her again, he “will have words for her.”
Chip can act angry at Alex all he wants, but when she shows up on his doorstep — Bradley really hit her where it hurt, apparently — and says she wants him to be her producer and that “it would mean the world to [her].” The only words he has for her are “When do I start?” Oh, Chip. Chip. Chip. Chipper. You only have yourself to blame for whatever comes next!
In Other News
• In case you were wondering if The Morning Show would be following Mitch Kessler in season two, it is. He’s hiding out in a mansion on the coast of Italy, which will undoubtedly have ramifications once COVID-19 arrives. Well, I should say, he’s sort of hiding out: At one point, he gets recognized by an American Woman who screams at him about how he’s scum while her friend records the encounter for Instagram, naturally. She gets interrupted by an Italian woman who tells her to buzz off, and the two get in a fight about new and old feminism and Mussolini, I guess. Regardless, this woman came to Mitch’s “rescue” because she wants to “pick [his] brain” about working in the media.
• It doesn’t look like Mitch is having a great time anyway, but it gets significantly worse when word gets out about Hannah’s family suing UBA and Fred Micklen’s trying to get in touch. Fred finally shows up on Mitch’s doorstep. Mitch promptly throws his gift of wine on the ground and asks, “How much will it cost for you to get off my fucking front step?”
• Fred wants to chat about the lawsuit, surely, and that makes sense because it’s not going away. At the end of the episode, Cory gets a call from his legal team, who informs him that it’s clear Hannah’s family doesn’t want to settle. They’re asking for $119.2 million dollars, which happens to be the exact amount of money that UBA paid Fred so that he’d go quietly into the night. They’re sending a very loud message.
• Daniel seems to be the only person at TMS concerned with reports of the coronavirus showing up in Washington (most are still on the “it’s like having the flu” train). It’s only after some discussion — and Alex trying to overcorrect and be super supportive — that Daniel gets put on a plane headed for Wuhan to do some reporting.
• It feels like we should pay attention to that tension brewing between Stella and Yanko after Yanko makes an offhand comment about the “sham impeachment.”
• Please, please, please tell me that Doug the Agent will be back at some point. That Doug/Alex dynamic was too good not to return to it.
• Cory just up and firing that lawyer after making a truly disturbing joke about Hannah and NDAs was a great moment.
• “I think we can all leave with the flesh we came in.” I WILL OFFER ZERO CONTEXT FOR THIS.