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[This story contains spoilers from The Morning Show season three, episode seven, “Strict Scrutiny.”]
Much of The Morning Show‘s seventh episode centers around network news host Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) joining her boss Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) on a tense visit to his mother’s house outside of the city. Cory’s mother, played by Lindsay Duncan, is a firebrand in her own right, and Cory pays her a rare personal visit in hopes of curbing her political influence with the DOJ to his advantage amid the potential sale of their network, UBA, to billionaire tech titan Paul Marks (Jon Hamm).
“It was a proud moment for women everywhere when you told the world on live TV that you had an abortion,” Martha Ellison (Duncan) tells Bradley. And the compliment is twofold for the Apple series audience: It’s a reminder that Bradley is a pioneer for women’s rights — she fearlessly ignited a media firestorm when she revealed her teen abortion during her first day as the new co-host of The Morning Show in season one. The line also foreshadows the real-world news about to hit the series’ timeline, which is set slightly in the past.
Most of The Morning Show news team is having a big fashion night out when the headlines hit that Roe v Wade will be overturned. Anchors Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) and Chris Hunter (Nicole Beharie) and their teams are in full glam and gowns, as UBA partners with Valentino to support a Fashion Institute of Technology’s (FIT) scholarship program, when their phones begin to ping about the Supreme Court leak around the Dobbs v. Jackson decision.
“I can’t understand this,” says Alex, as the women on the news team begin to wrap their heads around the landmark decision. “They’re quoting medieval law to justify this shit,” adds Chris. Bradley, who is heading back to the city with Cory when the news come through, and Alex head to the office to begin reporting on the leak. “It’s back to coat hangers and dark alleys my friend, can you fucking believe this?” Alex tells her producer Chip Black (Mark Duplass). “Maybe we change your name to Ofchip,” he quips, referencing The Handmaid’s Tale.
Chris, meanwhile, visits the bathroom on her way out and confronts a gaggle of supermodels who are clueless about the news.
“Women are going to die of ectopic pregnancies while doctors get sued trying to save lives,” she passionately explains. “Rape victims will be forced to carry their assailants child and the maternal mortality rate will skyrocket, mostly for women of color, because that is how shit rolls in this country!”
The prescient warning is by all accounts shrugged off by the models, who exit the bathroom. Chris then makes a move that will reverberate: She draws on the mirror in red lipstick: “Abort the Court.” She then takes a picture of herself giving the message the middle finger and posts it on her social media.
The episode ends with Bradley reporting on the leak. In the background of all of this, UBA president Stella Bak (Greta Lee) gives Cory a heads up that Paul plans to replace Cory with Stella as CEO once the deal goes through. And Alex and Paul’s steamy relationship is on the brink of going public, as Chip walks in on them kissing and a leading gossip site threatens to publish a similar photo.
As The Hollywood Reporter previously reported, The Morning Show once again read the tea leaves to plan for the likely overturning of Roe, and crashed in the storyline when the leak was made public in May 2022. New showrunner Charlotte Stoudt and her writers revisited the script while in hard prep on the production to include Roe’s overturn (which was made official on June 24, 2022). The season then began filming in August.
“The most surreal moment for me was having a script that had already had aspects of [Roe’s overturn] in it and then the headline hitting us in real time in our real lives,” Kristin Hahn, Aniston’s producing partner with Echo Films, told THR in an interview earlier in the season. “I just remember the shock and pain of it, and we were working on notes on the script. It felt very, very surreal. We were living art imitating life a lot. It was very mishmashed, particularly for that episode.”
The episode leaves many of the women in the series on the precipice of action — some are fighting for a seat at the table, and all of them are raising their voices to be heard. But perhaps what stings the most is the message left by Martha Ellison, who kicked her son out of her house, in a scene of verbal abuse, when she realized the reason for his visit.
“It’s so interesting what happens when women get older,” she says, while furiously scrubbing a cooking dish after their disastrous dinner. “You carry this wisdom. No one cares. We’ve survived the death cult of Capitalism, but really, you just want us to get out of the way, don’t you? You want us to be silent. Quiet as the grave.”
The Morning Show releases new episodes Wednesdays on Apple TV+.
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