Julianna Margulies, who plays Laura, makes this episode look a lot more fun than it is.
Caption

Julianna Margulies, who plays Laura, makes this episode look a lot more fun than it is.

Cory, latecomer to the crusade for decency

Cory starts this episode fighting on the phone with Fred, demanding that he stop trying to plant stories that smear Hannah. Fred is a man with little to lose, so he demands in response that Cory get the case settled already, threatening to reveal that Cory was part of negotiating Fred's departure and paying him off and claiming that "the woke mob" won't like it if they find out.

In a flashback, we see that Fred engineered his own departure, really, telling Cory to take the reins in his place and send him off scot-free, which he compares to Ford pardoning Nixon. ("In this situation, I am the Richard Nixon guy" is apparently something Fred thinks is a good thing.) Fred says he will reveal all if Cory doesn't get the case settled.

Of course, last week we were told that Bradley forced Fred's firing and Cory's hiring as CEO, and it's not clear when in this sequence that would have happened, but I have long stopped expecting consistency. And when Fred says that he will stop sparing Cory if Cory doesn't protect him, I'm just not sure what he's talking about. It would have been the board who paid off Fred, not Fred's replacement.

Cory apparently considers Bradley his morality consultant, so he goes to see her and says, "This wrongful death suit, it is heavy." Good one, Camus. "It's easy to forget that she was a real person," he continues. I mean, it shouldn't be that easy?

Kyle, Cory's assistant, apparently has a friend who spotted Bradley and Laura together, and later, Kyle tells Cory that the hot goss is that they're dating. Cory is like NUH-UH THEY ARE NOT, because it seems he's in love with Bradley. He flashes back to the Bad Times when she still had dark hair, when she told him she was going to go to the Board and threaten not to come back from her suspension (?) unless they rehired him (what?). And it looks like Bradley and Cory were going to make out, but it's not clear here whether they ever did, because he stops thinking about it right before they either do or don't, I guess.

Cory pays a visit to Hannah's father, played by the great David Paymer. Cory tells him (actually yells at him and lectures him) that he should just take the money in the settlement, because there's going to be a smear campaign against Hannah if he doesn't. Somehow, Mr. Schoenfeld fails to see this as a gesture of kindness.

When Cory can't get Mr. Schoenfeld to back down, he talks to one of his besuited goons, who reminds him that the only thing that will keep an outlet from publishing a salacious story (like Fred's Hannah stories) is offering them another salacious story. If only Cory had one! He texts Bradley, who is mid-pajama-hang with Laura, and he figures out that she's in Laura's room. He gets Bradley to agree, without knowing what he's talking about, that anything Cory can do to bury the stories about Hannah would be the right thing to do.

It's not clear why Alex (Jennifer Aniston) is so determined to treat Chip (Mark Duplass) badly, but she's really laying it on thick in this episode.
Caption

It's not clear why Alex (Jennifer Aniston) is so determined to treat Chip (Mark Duplass) badly, but she's really laying it on thick in this episode.

Vegas, baby, Vegas

The other big story is the Vegas debate, where Alex is scheduled to moderate and Bradley will lead the coverage before and after, and honestly, doesn't this network have any other news figures (besides Eric, who's also moderating)? No reporters? No anybody?

On the private plane to the debate, Laura is there, too — it turns out she was able to book an interview with Mayor Pete so that she could tag along. Alex is having back problems, and she's complaining about that, and complaining about Laura, and complaining about everything. She demands an Advil, and Chip mutters "get it yourself" (correct, you are an adult, and he is a producer, and if you want a personal assistant you can hire one), and she's like "WHAT?" and he corrects himself to "It's coming," and honestly, she is terrible.

Once they land, Alex and Chip realize that Maggie — of "what's in Maggie's book?" — is also there in Vegas. She's there for the debate, although Alex, of course, assumes Maggie is there to torment her personally, because Alex wakes up every morning, sees the sun, and thinks, "Oh, look, it's me, the body around which all things revolve."

As previously mentioned, in Laura's room, Bradley and Laura have what looks like a slumber party, where Laura reveals that she suspects Alex outed her to the show where she was working back in the day, and that Alex froze her out in her worst moments. So it's no wonder Laura doesn't much trust Alex and doesn't think Bradley should trust her either.

WHAT'S IN THE BOOOOOOK?

Alex is freaking out because Maggie is going on TV with Audra (Mindy Kaling) to promote her book about TMS, which is now basically just The Book. Alex runs to Chip and says that he really needs to get her a copy of The Book, and she accuses him of having a "s****y attitude" because he doesn't think he can get a copy of an unreleased and highly secret book just because she says so. She immediately apologizes, but seriously, Alex: Just stop being a trashcan. Entirely. Start asking yourself, "Would a trashcan do this?" and if the answer is yes, do something else.

But after they're in Vegas, Alex continues to be obsessed with The Book and with protecting her reputation from people finding out things about her that are true. Chip acknowledges that he spoke to Maggie off the record, but he insists that he tried to protect Alex, not harm her.

None of this satisfies Alex, who goes to Maggie's room late at night (presumptuous!) and demands to know what's in The Book (unacceptable!). She goes through Maggie's stuff (see above: trashcan!) until she finds a book cover, which reveals that The Book is called The Wrong Side Of The Bed. Maggie tells her that since it's truthful, there's nothing in it about Alex that Alex doesn't already know. Maggie eventually realizes that Alex's real concern is that The Book says Alex slept with Mitch, which Alex fears will bind her to him in people's minds forever. Alex just keeps on lying that the idea that she slept with Mitch is false and libelous and has to be taken out. Maggie is not impressed. Do not come for Marcia Gay Harden, people.

Before you know it, we see that Bradley has taken Alex's place moderating the debate, because Alex has begged off due to illness.

Purely from a filmmaking perspective, Mitch (Steve Carell) is now being positioned as if he's starring in a series of ads for grief counseling.
Caption

Purely from a filmmaking perspective, Mitch (Steve Carell) is now being positioned as if he's starring in a series of ads for grief counseling.

Karma is a Mitch

Paola is working on her documentary, and Mitch — who is 100 percent a nice, gentle Sweater Guy now — is helping her. She asks why he's quarantining with her instead of alone, and he says, "I like your company." He also says they will not be sleeping together, if that's what she's thinking, and I guess the idea that Mitch is overcorrecting and avoiding intimacy is supposed to be sad, and it absolutely isn't. He calls himself "pretty damaged," which ... I guess, but maybe "pretty damaging" would be more accurate.

Paola says the fact that he's damaged makes her feel "at home." Later, she talks him into letting her interview him for the documentary. And when she does, he is in Reflective Mitch mode. "I didn't want to be this person; I didn't want to hurt anyone," he says. (Carell is selling the heck out of this with every bit of solemnity he's got, but this abrupt self-awareness that seems to have been conferred on him by Hannah's death alone is just a story that can't be saved.)

Mitch tells Paola about how he bullied Hannah right before she died. And he says mournfully that this, unlike all the other things he did, can't be written off as ignorance. Hey, guess what, dude! None of the rest of it can be "written off as ignorance" either! A guy in Mitch's situation not knowing he shouldn't pressure women who worked for him to sleep with him in 2017 was active ignorance at best; it was a refusal to know. "This was the result of cultivated ignorance" and "this can be written off as ignorance" are two different things.

Miscellany

Yanko is still trying to work his way out of the "spirit animal" thing, which is going to involve him sitting down with members of the Seminole Tribe. Yanko keeps returning to his "I'm not a racist, I'm Cuban, Stella is using racism as a weapon against me" defense, and he says he's not participating in this stunt, and Mia looks tired. I feel you, Mia.

Stella experiences some viciously racist street harassment, and ... I understand why the show chose to include it. But at least in the short run, instead of really digging into the ways it affects Stella, they make it part of Yanko's story of being cancelled over a single comment. Specifically, it becomes about how he steps up to defend Stella from racists and winds up in a fight that's caught on video. See, Yanko is good!

I'm not sure who decided this should be an "oh no, cancel culture" season, but I'll tell you: It's not pretty.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.