There's no discussion at all of what Daniel did two weeks ago; he's just sitting down for a nice interview with Peter Bullard, one of those boring "I'm an equal opportunity offender!" comedians, played by Dave Foley. Daniel is supposed to be hyping up Bullard's streaming show on UBA+, but instead, he mentions that Bullard once referred to Daniel himself as "mincing." Bullard practically chokes on his tongue and says he doesn't think he said that. Daniel is certain he did. Mia tells Daniel in his earpiece to drop it, so he does. But later, Cory drops by and tells Mia and Stella that this is no good: Bullard is mad, and he's a prized commodity. Cory says, "He's making us money. He's allowed to be full of [shuffleboard]."
This is what I mean when I talk about how weird this show is. Daniel's big performance being totally ignored doesn't feel like it's part of a coherent story, and it's not because there aren't threads of a coherent story to be told about Daniel: his grievances with Alex, his frustration with his career, his increasingly fraught relationship with Mia. But ... what?
Alex hasn't been seen since her vanishing act from the Vegas debate. (This worked out for Bradley: It turns out that Bradley did such a good job stepping in that they're also going to have her moderate the one in Phoenix.) Chip keeps trying to cover, claiming that Alex will be back, you know, soon, probably. Stella and Mia pull him into an office (soon joined by Cory) to push harder, but Chip keeps stalling. Cory wants a big name to fill in until Alex comes back, and you'll never guess what name they come up with: Laura Peterson! Because according to the law of conservation of main characters, someone you never heard of last season can now be the long-time most important asset the network has.
Laura finds Chip sitting in the dark by himself and asks after Alex, managing to slip in that she spoke to Maggie, and she knows Alex went to Maggie's room in Vegas and wigged out about the book. Chip chalks it up to pain pills and muscle relaxers. When she's gone, Chip tries to call Alex, but she doesn't pick up, and we see that she doesn't seem to be at home.
Mia overhears Chip talking to Rena and realizes he's been bluffing all along and he has no idea where Alex is. Mia tells him that his only job was to "babysit a $25 million mistake" and he can't even do that effectively. Mia even yells at Rena for having this private conversation — and relationship — with Chip. Chip steps in and tells Mia to take it out on him and not Rena. Their conversation moves to Mia's office, where Mia rips into Chip for lying to her, and Chip says he is genuinely just trying to help. "Then get me my [gosh darn] lead anchor back," Mia says. "Okay, boss," Chip says.
Chip barges in at Alex's place, only to run into Isabella (one of Alex's flacks) watering the plants. Isabella acknowledges that she doesn't know where Alex is either; Alex told her she was going away and not to tell anyone. Chip presses Isabella on the fact that Alex has left a lot of people in the lurch, including Mia, and Isabella unloads this very weird rant about Chip being the kind of mediocre white man who gets too many second chances. This speech honestly sounds like it was written for something else entirely and then dropped into this scene, because as many second chances as Chip has gotten, Alex has gotten just as many, and the person who gave Chip this second chance was Alex, and it was because she felt guilty!
A quick reminder: Alex has been treating Stella like garbage, Mia like garbage, and Chip like garbage. She threatened to sue Maggie for publishing truthful information about her by lying that it was false. There are certainly mediocre white men on this show and elsewhere who get too many chances, but this is a weird speech to stick in the middle of a scene in which Chip is following a direct order from Mia to figure out where Alex is, which he tells Isabella. Of all the people to use "you're a mediocre white man" as a defense, it's in the mouth of a paid advocate for a wealthy and powerful white woman who has been acting like a Grade-A jerk? Why?
Bradley and Laura don't know it, but Cory and one of his besuited goons are hard at work trying to sell the Bradley/Laura story, in exchange for killing the Hannah stories.
Laura doesn't initially want to sub at TMS (you'll remember she worked for TMS's rival morning show, so she knows about getting up that early), but Bradley is very excited about working together, so that's how Laura gets to yes. But when Bradley goes to her apartment to pack some stuff so they can go in together in the morning, her troubled brother Hal is there. Bradley texts Laura that there has been a hitch in the Slumber Party Plan, so she won't be back.
On Laura's first morning at TMS, her opening move is to say no to the very first thing they ask her to do: wear a Groucho nose and glasses in honor of Groucho's 130th birthday celebration. (Ah, yes, the all-important 130th birthday. I believe the classic gift is ... moon rocks?) I like to think she said no just to say no, just to establish that she could say no, which isn't a bad thing to do if you have the power to do it.
During a break in the show, Bradley and Laura see the piece online (planted by Cory and the goon) that reveals that they're dating. Bradley disappears to her dressing room to quietly freak out, and Laura gets Daniel to cover so she can follow. (I'm not sure whether "can you cover the next segment?" is this easy with live television, but what do I know?) Bradley insists she's not embarrassed about this revelation specifically; she's just very private. You can tell that Laura, while sympathetic, finds it tiresome dealing with somebody who is where she was many years ago in terms of being a publicly queer person; she wishes Bradley would recognize that it's not as hard as it used to be to find yourself in this situation.
Every single alert on Bradley's phone is about herself and her alleged relationship, which is hilarious. No other news! Relationship gossip only! When Laura calls later, Bradley admits that she's still hiding in her dressing room. Laura gives her some pretty good but hard to hear advice about how she needs to get some therapy and deal with how she's feeling, just like Laura once did.
When Bradley finally gets herself to go home, she learns that her brother has been taking frantic calls from her mom all day about Bradley being with a woman. Hal further reveals that he's been using, and he really needs help. Being around her, he says, will help him fix his life, but not if he has to listen to their mother complain all day about Bradley. Bradley says their mother is not their problem to solve, and he doesn't need Bradley, he needs rehab — and she'll even pay for it.
Cory shows up (of course, Cory started all this, remember) at Bradley's and tells her that the network doesn't expect her to respond to all this nonsense. Bradley cries about how she comes from "rotten roots," and Laura makes her feel happy, and Hal reminds her of those rotten roots. "You are your own thing," Cory responds helpfully (?). Obviously, he does not reveal that he outed her to serve another agenda, but you have to believe that's going to come up at some point. Bradley goes for a "maybe it's all for the best" sentiment, and then they part. "You're leaving tomorrow," she announces to Hal when she's back in the apartment, and he swears at her in response.
Cybil checks in with Stella as the latter is preparing to talk to a post-beatdown Yanko. Rather than display any sympathy about Stella being harassed, Cybil gives Stella a dressing-down over everything that's been going wrong at TMS. This includes Alex's vanishing act, which is rich, of course, since Stella didn't want to hire Alex anyway! Cybil tells Stella she'd better realign her loyalty to Cybil and away from Cory (which is, again, rich, because Stella would love not to be dealing with Cory), and Cybil practically spits that Stella should "show some character." They did it! They made me not like Holland Taylor.
Let me just say: I really like Greta Lee as Stella in these moments; this is a pretty good story, in that Stella's frustrations aren't just generic soapy stuff. They're about how she feels like she's expected to run interference for literally everyone, including the white boss who won't listen to her. She's currently being wedged in between white people who outrank her with either hard or soft power and employees (including POC employees) who she's expected to do the unpleasant work of bringing to heel. There's a really promising, interesting story with Stella, I think, if they care to tell it.
Fresh off this discussion with Cybil, Stella meets with Yanko. She's grateful, of course, that he defended her against the racist street harasser, but she suspends him anyway. Of course, Cybil had pressed Stella to rise above her personal feelings — in other words, to prove her professional bona fides by being no more concerned about racism than a white executive would be, which is gross, Cybil! Yanko keeps up the "a good guy just can't win" routine about how he got in trouble over "spirit animal," and now he's in trouble for beating up a racist. You can't engage in cultural appropriation, you can't beat up racists, what can you do? Yanko asks this very thing, and Stella says that what he can do is "the weather," and the whole thing is just real sad.
Not only is Alex sweating The Book, but now Mia is too, because there's an excerpt coming in Vanity Fair, and Mia doesn't know what Maggie is saying about her. When Mia does finally get to read the excerpt, it says that Mitch targeted Black women, like Hannah and Mia. Keep that in your back pocket, because it's going to come up again.
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