The Morning Show 3×06 “The Stanford Student” is yet another one of those episodes of television that really makes us wonder how we’re supposed to choose a specific WTF moment for our “Feels of the Week” roundtable. The performances remain as fantastic as ever, and it’s long past time for SAG-AFTRA to get a fair deal…but seriously, WTF are some of these characters thinking? And why should any viewer even care about the majority of them anymore? When people continue to make terrible choices, with less than zero self-reflection, and even the good ones continue to fall for horrible people’s traps…is this not just drama for the sake of drama at this point? Which, to be fair: Sometimes, that’s fun! Just…not here.
So, let’s try to make some sense out of all of this. Ok? Great.
“The Stanford Student”
The Morning Show 3×06 may have several moving parts, but this is very much Greta Lee’s episode. And, despite the many elements of this story that don’t work, Lee’s performance is simply too good to deny. From the initial shot of a clearly unhappy Stella, almost swallowed up by a crowd that’s moving her forward whether she wants to go with it or not, right through to the ending moments, Lee gives us something that screams about Stella’s pain even in the quietest of moments. The emotion is simultaneously laid bare before viewers, so we can put it all together, and hidden from view just enough that you…maybe don’t know what’s going on until it all comes full circle.
But those of us who pay attention to all the tiny details will see in this performance a person who is, quite literally, suffering in silence while everyone else watches — and most don’t bother to notice. The tension is strange, the confidence and casual demeanor in Stella’s early meeting with Paul forced. It’s off. And then, as soon as he says she is one of the reasons he was interested in this deal to begin with, the “girl boss” mask simply drops. Only momentarily, of course.
Then, as soon as Paul leaves that meeting, we see Stella’s nerves come out in full force. And as the episode continues, mostly seeming to focus anywhere but on Stella, the truth of the matter remains right there in Lee’s eyes. In the tension in her body when Chip comes to ask if she knows about any skeletons in the billionaire’s closet. It’s clear that she’s lying when she says she barely knew the man…but only to viewers. The people in Stella’s actual “world” can’t bother to slow down long enough to look. (Again, suffering in silence is the name of the game.) And, most certainly, Lee gives us so much in terms of Stella’s vulnerability and outright fear when she finally delivers that one line from the character to Chip: “We need to talk.”
Later, when Paul offers Stella Cory’s job, it’s heartbreaking. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to see that this man is manipulating and using her. He’s making her feel worthy — making her feel seen and heard — and he’s doing it to shut her up. It’s all just another ploy to make his deal go through. As in, to get what he wants. But if you see that look of “what if,” of hope, and maybe a little bit of pride in self that Lee delivers in Stella’s closing moments, it’s difficult not to also be proud of her. Because she does deserve this. She’s just getting the offer in the worst possible way — without even realizing it.
Because. Well. Let’s tap the sign again: There are no “good” billionaires. And Paul is starting to show his true colors here. He’s garbage. Stella, Alex (we’ll get there in a minute), and everyone else is all to happy too fall into his trap. And we really would love to ask, yet again, how The Morning Show got here.
Is Alex Levy ok? (J/K…we know she isn’t.)
We’ve touched on this before, but Alex Levy really has the worst taste. And we actually gave her far more benefit of the doubt with Mitch than, in hindsight, she probably deserved. Now, though, there’s really no excuse. In The Morning Show 3×06, she goes into her interview with Paul Marks intending to prove something. “Alex Unfiltered” is supposed to be all about holding people accountable and “unfiltered” interviews, right? Just kidding!
We could have a conversation about how powerful men can manipulate people very easily. Or we might even be tempted to discuss billionaires with a lot of practice in “charming” and fooling others. After all, the only way for them to get to be billionaires is to lie, cheat, steal, and otherwise bend other people’s will to their own. That is, however, not a conversation we’re going to actually have about Alex’s choices in “The Stanford Student.” Most easily, we’re well past the point of “fool me once, shame on you” with her. More to the point, though, she is the toughest person at that meeting with the entire staff. She was the one against this merger from the start, and she is the one who flat out asks Paul if he became rich by stealing someone else’s idea. (Yes. The answer is just about always yes.)
…but even with all of these things, and even after her little (hypocritical) nudge from Bradley, Alex doesn’t just fall for Paul’s brand of bullshit, she falls for Paul. He barely has to do anything — deliver a few practiced lies, make some believable enough “deer in headlights” looks when pressed with difficult questions…and tell some sob story about how he was an asshole but now he’s better. Or however he put it — pretty sure all we heard was “blah, blah. Poor me. I’m a dick, but that’s everyone else’s fault.” So, even after Alex made huge deal out of Chip and Isabella’s workplace relationship, even after the Mitch of it all, and even after hearing the story of “the Stanford student,” Alex is like, “yeah. Let’s bang the guy who’s buying the whole network.”
The chemistry between Jennifer Aniston and Jon Hamm is fantastic — but we don’t care. And sure, maybe the whole point is how easy it is for a Paul Marks to use people…but have we not already told this type of story — and much more effectively — on this series? Are we doing a cautionary tale about repeat victimization but in a way that’s simultaneously both cartoonishly clear and “gray area” vague? Whatever the intent, the outcome is…not good.
Bradley’s gone Bad-ley
No but seriously, where do we unsubscribe from “The Insurrectionist Family Fluff”? Because this is just…there is so much wrong. Where do we even begin to WTF with this? Should it be with the mere fact that, with not much time to even try to process this new (bad) “side” of Bradley, we have to see a whole episode with Hal and his happy family coming to visit? Or should we discuss how Bradley manipulates Hal into not doing the right thing by forcing him to watch a sad terrorist cry about being in jail and losing his family because he believed a would-be dictator’s lie? Perhaps, instead, we should point out the very bad tantrum Bradley throws because it’s all about her and what she has to lose if Hal does the right thing?
Because, you know, we must have missed the gun to her head that forced her to delete footage and lie to the FBI in the first place. While we’re at it, did someone also force her to tell her brother he’s “weaponizing” his sobriety by saying he needs to tell the truth as part of his recovery? Because wow, is that not it. Hal is correct, actually, that continuing to lie and manipulate is not sober behavior and the exact opposite of what he needs to do to stay clean. Terrible mockery and refusal of support from Bradley here.
But wait! There’s more! Bradley also just flat out plays with Laura’s emotions here. “Let’s go to dinner! Or how about not? But ok. I’ll show up, yet clearly be upset about something that I refuse to discuss with you because somewhere, deep down, I still have the sense to know you’d hate what I did. So, instead, I’ll try to start the same fight that broke us up, the one about how you hate my family — even though you’ve repeatedly said you don’t — and then leave. Even after you try to be open with me about how my fucking with you is…fucking with you.”
That’s…that’s basically the story of BradleyLaura in The Morning Show 3×06. Certainly, there’s Laura’s part in it — the way she lets herself be so vulnerable with Hal and basically begs him to give her a chance. But it’s based on the many lies Bradley’s telling. Laura thinks she’s the problem — that the tension between her and Hal is the problem — but she’s not. No. Bradley is the problem. Bradley’s lies, Bradley’s refusal to do the difficult —but right — thing, and Bradley’s inability to have a real conversation about pretty much anything that isn’t self serving. Even then, the self-serving stuff is…what it is.
So, the reconciliation at the end of the episode is great and all? But it’s based on a series of lies. Basically, let’s just enjoy the fluffy stuff and pretend like nothing else is canon. Because, really, if the characters themselves can ignore their reality, viewers may as well get to as well.
More on The Morning Show 3×06
- “Critics are calling the deal reckless, even dangerous. And as a former employee of UBA, I have to agree. Should a billionaire with an outsized aversion to the press be handed a legacy media company at a time when truth matters more than ever?” Stan Laura Peterson.
- STFU forever, Paul. Every time this man opens his mouth to try to pretend like he “gets” it, he proves that he does not give a shit. He’s so flippant and falsely “aw, shucks” about everything. It’s…ugh.
- “I have absolutely no desire to determine what is and what isn’t newsworthy.” Sure, Jan. And he only claims it’s “Stella Bak’s job, and she is more than capable of doing it” because he has a way to gain excessive power over her. He promises her Cory’s position to silence and control her. Full stop.
- “Does that answer your question?” “Not entirely.” How did we go from this to Alex fucking him? Explain it like I’m the inferior child this asshole billionaire thinks I am.
- “You can’t set a fire and then expect a cookie when you put it out.” First of all, Cory’s total lack of self-awareness here is superhuman. And second, Alex did not “set a fire” when it comes to Paul initially dropping out.
- “You’re even prettier in person.” Me when I meet my faves at conventions.
- “I’m not going to let you starve on my watch.” Clearly, since she also won’t turn him in for actual treason.
- “I remember you telling me that I wasn’t cut out for tech.” Stella knows not to believe in the bullshit “friendly” banter, at least.
- “You don’t need me to tell you how stupid that is, do you?” When you watch Bradley’s choices this season…
- “How are you going to keep me out of it? Five minutes after you confess to the FBI, they are going to charge me with destroying evidence and making a false statement. Both of those are felonies, Hal.” Ok so then…don’t fuck around in the first place. Wild, I know.
- “You want to be my favorite oligarch.” He’s disgusting, actually.
- “All right, fuck it! Let’s do it!” When you have to motivate yourself to sit through this after the atrocity that was the flashback episode.
- “Shit, like. Hit and run, dead strippers, blood transfusions from a 12-year-old boy kind of thing.” I…fear Chip’s imagination.
- “The loss of your family…do you feel like it was worth it?” “What the hell do you think?” “I think that we don’t pay enough attention to the collateral damage of all of this.” I do not have the energy to waste on how revoltingly WTF this whole segment is.
- Billy Crudup, in the background of that terrible interview scene, portraying Cory as just menacingly sick of the whole thing…Genius work. And why am I having to identify with Cory again????
- No but seriously, we’re trying to humanize the folks that were on the same side as the “Camp Auschwitz” nazi. Fuck this.
- “Because, in my experience, Hal doesn’t show up unless things are about to get fucked six ways to Sunday” “Look: I am handling it.” “Like you did last time?” Again, why am I like “Cory, go off” again? Gross.
- …he could maybe, like, be less predatory about it, though. Too much to ask?
- Julianna Margulies with that slight curl in her hair. Help.
- “We meet up at Cory’s party. You invite me to dinner and then cancel. And then, tonight, you call me at the last minute. Suddenly, we’re back on. And I don’t know where your head is, but I know it’s not here.” This.
- “Would you just talk to me? I feel like we’re on a bad first date” The way Laura waits her out, and then Margulies does that little…motion with her head…so good.
- “Bradley, it’s me. You can tell me anything.” Promise she can’t!
- “Because then I realized, that you will do anything to get ahead.”
- “It’s what we do. We hold people to account.” If this episode has taught me anything, it’s that no, you don’t. Neither one of you does.
- He is playing games with not being dressed for this interview.
- “I think we can all agree at this point, it’s probably healthier to smoke a pack of cigarettes than it is to log on to Twitter. But good luck keeping people from scrolling.” He actually makes sense here. I recommend taking your scrolling to Mastodon or Firefish.
- “I think the news can be fixed, and I’d like to give it a try before it’s too late.” Here we have “only I can fix it” bullshittery. Back on brand after making half a grain of sense.
- “Sounds like you don’t have a lot of respect for people that do the news. Should we be concerned about that? Partnering with someone that doesn’t respect us?” LOL, considering the “partnering” Alex does after this.
- “Nail his ass.” I am Chip. Chip is me.
- “But you did make them sign an NDA and then took a progressive idea and converted it into a predictive policing tool. I mean, we both understand the concept of an NDA. One person wins, and the other person is silenced. So, is it fair to use them against young college students when they might not be experienced enough to understand the implications of what they’re signing?” But she still fell for his faux “nice guy” act. Even after: “Well, this student did not feel very good about it. And, in fact, suffered debilitating depression, as well as a suicide attempt.”
- I can hate everything about this storyline and still be in awe of the work Joe Tippett and Julianna Margulies do together. It’s called multitasking.
- No, Laura, you don’t need the man’s blessing, though.
- The way her voice catches on “I know I could.” That “no!” to start the line about Hal seeing Bradley. The jacket.
- Alex and Paul. Ew.
- What the people want: BradleyLaura. What the show gives the people…this inappropriate hookup scene instead. Burn it all down.
- I’d laugh about blowing off Cory, except it’s gross how this asshole doesn’t have to take a multi-billion dollar business deal seriously.
- “I was awful.” Was?
- “Hal’s fine. It was nothing.” Just a little insurrection!
- Stella’s reaction to watching that interview. Ouch.
Thoughts on The Morning Show 3×06? Leave us a comment!
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