Better Late Than Never: 10 Random Thoughts On Studio 60 Episode 18

Credit: NBC

We are literally four episodes away from the Studio 60 series finale and this episode kicks everything into high gear. Some loose threads are taken care of. Even more loose threads are left by the wayside. (Whatever happened to Martha O’Dell? How did the FCC fight pan out? Did Zheng Tao hold up his end of the bargain? What about Kim Tao? Did she start juggling both comedy and viola classes? Did the board end up voting out Wilson White? What about Halle? What’s going on with her?) It’s a shame when seasons are canceled and not allowed to continue to tie up these loose ends, but at least it looks like the big arcs are going to, especially with Danny and Jordan.

What I wasn’t expecting was for this episode to take such a dark turn. This is a sketch comedy dramedy. Not a full-on drama. Granted the past few episodes with Harriet and Matt and Matt’s popping pills and Jordan’s pregnancy have made it more drama than comedy. It still has its moments, though. I’ll let you read through my thoughts so you can see just how crazy this episode was.

  1. Political humor. Sorkin did it well in The West Wing because The West Wing was directly situated in politics and it wasn’t presented as a sketch. Not only that, the dialogue was much wittier and it often didn’t rely on such heavy circumstances. This sketch does. Hence why it doesn’t work. When it worked in The West Wing it was because Sorkin was poking fun at a fictional president. Here, it doesn’t work quite as well. 
  2. Mary Tate coming in to distract Matt on show night doesn’t seem like such a good idea. Especially now that Harriet and Matt are talking again and Harriet has made it quite clear that she still has feelings for Matt. And, once again, this whole storyline, while realistic, doesn’t quite fit into the tone of the show. It still bothers me. 
  3. Oh, man. Suzanne. If Matt and Harriet weren’t such an all-encompassing thing, I think Matt and Suzanne would be cute together. Suzanne knows Matt, probably better than most everyone else besides Danny and Harriet. She caught Matt in the thick of a burgeoning drug addiction and revealed that her mom was addicted to Percocet and slit her wrists when Suzanne was 10. She’s coming from a place of empathy and she wants to help Matt so much. You can tell. Kudos to Merritt Wever for this scene. Beautifully done. 
  4. This whole thing with Tom’s brother is giving me major anxiety here. I know they’re in the middle of a show. I also get that they’re in the middle of declining ratings and every little bit helps, but not telling Tom that his brother is missing and has been missing for a full two days is a little heartless. I mean, Tom is obviously off-kilter already. He knows something is going on. He’s not stupid. 
  5. Jordan and Danny continue to be adorable despite the fact that their cuteness devolved into an argument. This is why interoffice relationships don’t work. Or at least, that’s why we’re told they don’t work. You can’t bring the office into the bedroom and you can’t bring the bedroom into the office. Which is the same thing but indulge me. 
  6. It’s official: Tom and Lucy are the cutest couple in the universe of this show who happens to be cannon. I love them so much. 
  7. Damn, damn, damn. I love any bit we get with character development and what we just got with Danny and Matt and Danny being told that Matt was on pills was phenomenal. That was intense and Whitford knocked it out of the park. I felt his pain. I could hear his pain, his desperation. That is a bloody fantastic actor at work, folks. 
  8. “I’m not writing the show any better high than I was straight.” “You were writing it worse.” Stab me in the heart, why don’t you? This entire scene is better than this entire episode has been. Right there. More of this, please. 
  9. “I can’t feel the baby kick.” Nope. No. You don’t get to just drop this on me right now. No, you don’t. This is not cool. Not at all. I’m beyond worried now. First Tom and now Jordan and the baby? Nope.
  10. The last five minutes of this episode is one of the best five-minute endings to an episode I think I’ve seen in a really long time. It’s right up there with the “Two Cathedrals” ending in The West Wing. This is Sorkin at his best. Hands down. No one can write a penny dropping quite like he can.

I might have overstated the fact that this episode was crazy. It wasn’t, but I had enough anxiety going through it that it felt crazy. With Tom’s brother getting kidnapped by Taliban forces, Jordan’s baby crisis, and Matt’s drug crisis with both Suzanne and Danny, my emotions went through the wringer. This is only the second time I’ve cried in this series but I really wasn’t expecting that ending.

Nate Corddry as Tom slayed my emotions. We know he’s a funny actor and has fantastic comedic timing as well as fantastic chemistry with the other cast members, but like most things in this episode, I was not expecting his emotional performance to be that devastating. When he finds out about his brother, via a breaking news segment no less, he shatters a TV screen and bursts into sobs that hurt my heart. I could feel the heaviness in my chest and it resonated far beyond the confines of the screen. It made me not only sad but also angry as the audience knew something was up far before this moment but Simon and Harriet chose not to say anything to Tom. I can only imagine what will be broached over the next few episodes. Only I hope they will broach it. I’ll be sad if they don’t because I feel like it’s an important part of Tom, Simon, and Harriet’s relationship.

What I also loved about this episode, besides Corddry’s phenomenal performance, was Whitford, Perry, and Wever’s arc with Matt and the drugs. The scene when Suzanne point-blank asks Matt if he was high at that moment and the story of her mother afterward is a powerful scene. She recognizes the signs of addiction. She knows what it looks like but I was surprised that she was the one to ask. It was a brilliant choice by Sorkin who upended the expectation that Harriet would be the one to notice, but no. It was Suzanne. It also allowed Wever to wow the audience with her quiet, understated, and nuanced performance. This is the first thing I’ve seen Wever in and I adored not only the moment but also how her character has grown. I have no doubt that had the show continued, she would have become an integral and irreplaceable member of the main cast.

As for Whitford, the scene in Matt’s office between him and Danny solidifies what we already know about Whitford, he can portray more in his voice and his minute facial expressions in under ten minutes than what most actors can do in an entire two-hour movie. As I mentioned in the list, the audience can clearly hear that Danny is distressed. It is obvious in every desperate movement as he tries to find Matt’s stash. This is a man who is clearly worried about his best friend and who is also worried about himself. This is the first time in over 100 days he’s been in close proximity to the very things that wrecked his life and caused him to be unable to direct a film for two years. There’s no doubt that not only was he looking out for Matt, but he was also trying not to let desire get the best of him. Whitford portrayed all of that stunningly and I loved every moment of it. The ending and this small arc with Matt, Suzanne, and Danny are the only things that made this run of the mill episode far more intriguing.

Shelby Arnold
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