Whoever made the decision to use “Stayin’ Alive” as the song playing over Cory’s manic stroll backstage of UBA Upfronts deserves a major pat on the back. It is both chaotic and obvious and it made me cackle. It is so perfectly on the nose in the most Morning Show way. I will not elaborate on that — if you watch this show, you know exactly what I mean. Cory Ellison knows these Upfronts are do or die for both UBA and him personally. If he can’t secure enough ad revenue from the ad exec assholes, then he can’t secure the loan he so desperately needs to keep the company from financial ruin. He lost Paul Marks. He cannot afford to crash and burn here.
In his true demon form (complimentary), Cory puts on his easy, breezy, everything’s totally fine and I am in complete control of the situation face while rubbing elbows with VIPs, but in private, you know he’s freaking the fuck out. And while Cory thinks he’s the one who will save the company, isn’t it funny to note that while he’s throwing his fancy Hamptons after-party, it’s two women who are doing his dirty work? At least he had the caterers move the raw bar out of the sun. He isn’t completely useless.
This “working” “lunch” was so horribly uncomfortable that I felt like I needed a shower afterward. The two guys Stella is supposed to win over are as smarmy and scummy as it gets. They just want to toss back martinis and make casually misogynistic comments for several hours during the middle of the day. Stella wants to look like she can keep up, but eventually, when they don’t quit, she makes a deal with their waitress to bring her drinks with water instead of gin. Eventually, one of the guys susses it out and, now super drunk and with no inhibitions to stop his inner skeeziness, he tells Stella that he’ll agree to more than her asking price IF the waitress licks up the spilled drink. Oh, and she’ll get a $20,000 tip, too. You can see Stella breaking inside, knowing how degrading and awful this is, but she also wants to close. She sits there and basically allows the whole humiliating thing to happen. She gets the ad money, and Cory is pumped, but Stella is not a closer. She sobs in the car on the way to the Hamptons. You can see how unwell she is.
And, as it turns out, she can’t even attempt to rationalize what happened by saying she’s saving thousands of people’s jobs. Just as Cory makes a deal with the company, giving UBA the loan they need now that they’ve secured more than enough ad revenue, Cory learns some disturbing news. Fred Micklen — yep, that Fred Micklen — turns up at his Hamptons party, and after he and Cory trade some vicious digs at one another with smiles on their faces (seriously, it’s an art), Fred informs Cory that he is actually a consultant for the company giving UBA a loan. Cory will have to run every financial decision by Fred. Fred will own Cory and he will make him pay. And that’s nothing to say of, as Cory points out while he is crushing what is left of Stella’s soul, what will happen when word gets out that the disgraced Fred Micklen is “still creeping around UBA.” They’ll never recover. Cory can’t take that loan, and everything Stella endured was for nothing, and Cory, along with the network, might actually be done for good.
But wait! What angel is emerging from the heavens (or, a fancy helicopter landing on the beach)? It’s Alex Levy, and she is followed by none other than Mr. Paul “Turns Out I Love Wilderness Reform Camps” Marks. How did these two end up together and how did Alex convince him to give UBA a second chance? Simple. She stalked him through the streets of New York City, forced him into her tiny car, and bought him tickets to a few carnival rides on Coney Island. It works! Listen, I’m not a billionaire, so I have no idea what their deals are, but it might be carnival rides. It doesn’t hurt that Paul and Alex have been flirty since the moment they met and she said, “he’s tall,” or that they spend the day just hanging out and getting to know each other. Also, a Mitch Kessler apologist screaming in Alex’s face about how she’s a cock tease and “cries rape,” and Alex rising above it and allowing herself to be “the punching bag” seems to really seal the deal for Paul.
The entire excursion, including Alex’s vulnerable speech about how she vowed to change things at UBA and wants to “finish what [she] started,” works. Paul showing up at Cory’s party means the deal is not completely off the table, and Cory knows it immediately. “Un-fucking-believable. Alex Levy brought home the kill,” Cory whispers to himself upon seeing who steps out of that helicopter. Is he impressed? A little angry? Somewhat horny? Probably all three. Upfronts, baby!
Even if Paul Marks swoops in to save UBA financially, it’s not like there aren’t still issues. This place is on the verge of imploding at least four days a week. There is, of course, still some digging out to do after the whole, as Chris refers to it, “Jemima-gate” and Cybil’s ouster. Thankfully, Chris is using her newfound power at UBA to perhaps force some much-needed change. At the party, she chats up the new Chairman of the Board, Leonard, and when he begins to feed her the same party line bullshit about how UBA will be working on correcting pay inequity “as an institution” without any concrete action, she doesn’t hesitate to call him out on it. In fact, she doesn’t hesitate to mention that she has a whole new slew of followers on social media after everything that went down and wouldn’t they be interested to know what is or isn’t being done to correct UBA’s mistakes? Leonard seems sufficiently scared into, at the very least, bringing it up at the next board meeting.
You can tell Chris feels a little uneasy by her thinly veiled threat, and she says as much to Yanko. Oh, Yanko. The man remains such a weirdly problematic, paranoid weirdo. He gets very serious about warning Chris to be careful wielding the social media mob — they can easily turn on you. Chris thinks she can handle it, but Yanko tosses out the ever-ominous “no good deed goes unpunished” line, and now I’m worried about what might befall Chris as the season progresses. Yanko was a weatherman for a long time; he’s well-versed in predicting oncoming storms, you know?