The overplayed Stella saga continues this week.
All eyes are on Stella Bak this week. After letting Paul Marks know what his callous, manipulative treatment did to her while she was a college student in one of his tech incubators, thanks to the yet-to-be-aired Alex Levy Unfiltered interview, you might recall that the guy went and offered her a job. Not just any job — the Job. The president of UBA job. The job is currently occupied by Cory Ellison. Now, while Cory is a psychotic asshole most of the time, Stella also considers him someone who took a chance on her at one point. What’s a tech gal turned head of the news division for a legacy media company to do?
On one hand, this is everything she’s been waiting for. Once Amanda hands Stella the super-secret employment agreement from Paul and her team crunches the numbers, they all agree that this is a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing. But signing the agreement comes with a risk: If the deal between Paul and UBA falls through and Cory finds out what was going on behind his back, Stella will most definitely lose her job and everything she’s worked for up to this point. Then again, a short but potent conversation with Mia reminds Stella that “there are only so many jobs at the top” and “white men don’t give them up willingly.” She also reminds Stella that it’s not like she’s above getting her hands dirty. She’s “stepped over a few bodies” to get where she is today. “The only difference between us and them,” Mia tells her, “is that we let the ghosts torment us.” Now, listen. The Morning Show is patently silly, and I do not take it seriously 92 percent of the time for health reasons, but wow, wow, wow, what a sentiment! If only Mia would do anything remotely close to this apparent cold-killer life philosophy she has at the moment. She is yet another character (cough, Bradley Jackson, cough) whose personality changes with the tides. Regardless, at this moment, Mia empowers Stella to say, you know what? Fuck Cory Ellison. She takes one step further toward signing those papers and throwing him under the bus.
Would Stella’s attitude toward Cory change if she knew the emotional torture he is not only going through at this very moment but that he apparently lived with his entire life? Would it change if she knew he was raised by some frighteningly hellish psycho who can really harmonize on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”? Maybe! Let’s meet Cory’s mommy, shall we?
Things take a turn when Bradley mentions they won’t be able to stay for dinner because she has to go, you know, deliver the evening news. Martha’s mood changes. She lays a guilt trip on him about his father leaving them and no one wanting to be around her. It’s quietly and expertly done, and Cory gives into it. Of course, they’ll stay for dinner. Martha just happens to have a bunch of live lobsters to whip up, so that’s great news for everyone. (Except for the lobsters, I suppose.)
Things level out for a bit until Cory mentions why he’s there: to talk to her about not getting involved with his big business deal — meddling moms, am I right? It doesn’t matter how carefully he phrases “Please back the hell off,” Martha gets upset and leaves the table anyway. She never raises her voice, really, which I think is the part that makes it the most unsettling and uncomfortable. She lays into him about how women of a certain age are ignored and forced to stay silent. Cory walks off into the next room and begins to play “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to calm her down, which works, and the two share a little duet. Surprisingly, none of this is a fever dream. Not even the part when Bradley starts to tear up thinking about her own mother and not about how this whole dynamic is totally fucked.
In the car ride home, Bradley tries to get Cory to talk about growing up with a mother like that, to assure him that he can confide in her, and she reminds him that he’s a good person (which is debatable). As they head back to UBA for the big UBA and Valentino fundraiser for FIT, they soon have bigger problems on their hands — everybody does. The SCOTUS leak about reversing Roe v. Wade comes out.
As if The Morning Show didn’t torment us enough with that flashback to 2020 and 2021, now we have to relive the alternating rage and heartbreak that came with the news of women’s bodily autonomy being ripped away, so that’s cool and fun. Why does The Morning Show hate us so much?
In the midst of people processing what’s happening, Bradley delivering the breaking news, and Alex and Chip making The Handmaid’s Tale references that feel too soon even now, Stella gets a visitor. Her friend Kate has arrived in the middle of the chaos to tell her old friend that Paul Marks fired her for having an opposing viewpoint in regards to some project they were working on. She worked for him for 12 years, and one day, she showed up, and her badge wasn’t working anymore. While Kate may have shown up looking to commiserate with someone who understands how horrible Paul Marks is, she quickly realizes Stella is not that person. She’s suddenly making excuses for the guy, protecting him, and Kate knows that he must have offered Stella something really good to get her back on his side. With a little “this is how you are with him, he owns you,” a hint of “you two belong together,” and a dash of “you’ll always choose him,” Kate is off.
While Stella and Kate’s friendship might be ruined, the encounter does make Stella take a hard look at what she’s doing with Paul. She goes to see Cory, and, in a surprise turn, she tells him exactly what’s happening behind his back. In an even bigger surprise, Cory tells her to sign the papers. He wants Paul to trust her. He wants to see how this all plays out. “It’s not the first time you’ve been underestimated around here,” Cory tells Stella. Now they have the upper hand on Paul Marks.
But just because Cory has a plan doesn’t mean he’s not pissed as hell. Stella’s news, paired with his time with Mom, has rattled him up. Like his mother, Cory can change personalities in an instant. We see him do it here, with Leonard. The two, thus far, have had a pretty affable relationship, but here, he makes sure Leonard knows who is the real boss. He tells him to do his job and get the board in line to back Cory’s plans. When Leonard tries to pull rank, Cory reminds him of who disposed of both Fred Micklen and Cybil Reynolds. “[…] Their heads are on pikes in the armoire of my office where I keep my extra shirts,” he tosses in for good measure. Suffice it to say, Cory’s in a real mood at the moment!