While season 2 has felt a little unmoored since the loss of Zoey’s father, the show has found its heart again in this episode: addressing difficult topics by taking a hard look at them and not shying away from any of the difficult emotions. “Zoey’s Extraordinary Reckoning” shifts its focus from grief to the very real problem of racism within the fictional company SPRQ Point and throughout the world. Simon, Mo, and Tobin step into a spotlight that I sincerely hope they never leave. The raw emotion and topical discussion this episode addresses is important and will hopefully reoccur in future episodes.
The episode begins with Simon worried about the fallout from his press conference where he very publicly highlighted that SPRQ Point is disproportionately white, especially the higher positions and the board members. Zoey follows him to the elevator asking why he didn’t tell her, but Simon did try. He points out she should have put it together when a Black employee told her SPRQ Point devices weren’t recognizing Black and Brown faces. She apologizes and agrees that she needs to do better, but he asks for some time alone and heads to his office.
Later at Mo’s, Zoey tells Mo and Max what happened at the press conference. They are all proud of Simon for speaking out, and as Mo fetches tea, Zoey spills some to Max about her doing drugs with Danny Michael Davis. As a result, he now texts her all the time, cueing a text that says he’s spiraling with guilt over Simon’s press conference and bought a private jet for the African Children’s Choir. Mo suggests they ask him to invest in MaxiMo, and though Max is worried about using “guilt money,” Mo is all in and Zoey quickly gets them a pitch appointment for tomorrow. Mo says they need to get him to listen, and that gives Zoey an idea.
The next day she calls a town hall with the fourth floor hoping to spark safe and honest discussion about race in the work place. However, this backfires and results in only white employees speaking with “I took a knee at the company softball game,” “my stepdad’s Black,” and one even manages to make it about her own engagement. This is highly unhelpful and the Black and POC employees, including Simon and Tobin, are clearly uncomfortable and say nothing. It creates such frustration that Zoey hears a heart song of “Black Man in a White World” by Michael Kiwanuka sung by Simon, but with every Black employee as back up. No one feels heard or supported and the number is paired with incredibly moving choreography. She asks Simon to weigh in, but he says “I’d rather not,” and excuses himself. Realizing this was all a failure, Zoey ends the town hall with a “Wow, I really don’t know sh*t,” with a white title card running across the curse word. She follows Simon to the elevator and he tells her he’s concerned with the fallout from the conference; he’s heard nothing from Danny and just needs to get out of the office for a bit. He leaves to grab lunch with Tatiana. Zoey paces in her office as she voice to texts a message to Simon each draft more wordy, confusing, and worse than the last as she tries to apologize and express her desire to help.
Mo and Max meet with Danny to pitch their idea for MaxiMo. Danny is all for it, he loves the concept but a glitch occurs when Max attempts to show him the ordering process that allows all orders to arrive at the same time for one table. Danny suggests he ask some of the coders to help fix the coding error, and then asks how much money they need. He pitches $2 million which Mo is happy to accept, but Max quickly tells him $150,000 is plenty and Danny agrees.
Danny finds Zoey in her office (head down in frustration) to tell her the board wants Simon to retract his statement to clarify it was only his opinion and not the general outlook of employees at SPRQ Point. Zoey tries to explain why this is a bad idea but he brushes her off and delegates that tough conversation with Simon to Zoey. Zoey is more than a little uneasy at this decision, but Danny insists.
Max visits the fourth floor team looking for Gabe and Jared to help with the coding problem, but they were transferred. McKenzie is more than willing to help the “thirst trap,” aka Max, and though he, Tobin, and Leif never really got along, Max accepts the trio’s help. All three really love the concept and dive right in to brainstorming the issue with Max at the helm once again.
Anxious about her conversation with Simon, Zoey visits Mo at MaxiMo to ask advice on how to talk to him. However, Mo highlights the very real issue of Zoey asking her Black friend how to talk to her other Black friend. Mo, who is in the middle of overseeing a mural painting with two Black artists, performs a heart song with her friends, “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige, which fully encompasses how exhausted Mo is with Zoey’s… well, drama. Zoey realizes her misstep and leaves but makes sure to compliment the gorgeous mural, (one I’d love to have on my own wall).
“It’s hard enough for me to walk around this world as I am, and no, I’m not about to tell you how to talk to your Black friend at work. So go figure that out on your own.”
At work, Tobin tells Simon that he was inspired by Simon speaking up but Simon points out how he joked about it at the town hall. Tobin says he’s more low key, but Simon’s not impressed. Zoey meets with Simon, explaining that the board wants him to walk back what he said. This is Simon’s fear realized and he chooses to have the hard conversation with Zoey. He tells her he feels alone in this battle and that she can’t rewrite an experience she knows nothing about. She tries to say she understands a little, she’s a woman in the tech world. He explains that’s not the same experience that he faces as a Black man within the company or in the world. He’s been asked, “Nice office, how’d you swing that?” and constantly has to prove he deserves to be present. Zoey agrees it’s awful but Simon continues,
“It’s the truth. I have to constantly amputate parts of who I am to make other people feel comfortable in my presence. So they feel safe, so when I walk on the elevator they aren’t startled when they see me.”
Zoey tries again, she just sees Simon when she looks at him, and Simon perfectly voices why that’s not helpful, “Simon is a black man. You seeing me as only Simon denies a fundamental part of who I am.” Her telling him to walk back his statement is asking him to deny that part of himself, asking him this makes her part of the problem. He refuses to clarify the statement. As he walks away a small piece seems to fall into place for Zoey.
Zoey seeks out Danny to have a hard talk about what Simon said. Danny gets defensive; he didn’t invent racism and he has a foundation! But Zoey reminds him there is a real problem within the company and she thinks they should listen instead of asking Simon to retract his statement. She leaves him with that thought.
Max and the team brainstorm what they could be missing in the coding on the MaxiMo app, tossing out “funny” nicknames in the process. Zoey check in and congratulates Max on Danny’s investment when Tobin has a breakthrough in the error. Everyone is excited and one coder jokes, “it’s a good thing we outsourced it to Slumdog,” a dig at Tobin’s Indian heritage. He laughs it off by making an additional joke, but he is deeply affected and sings a heart song “The Tracks of My Tears” by The Miracles (Kapil Talwalkar gives a brilliant performance). It’s rare that Tobin lets his guard down, but when Zoey asks him to her office following the song, that’s exactly what happens. Tobin explains he jokes because he’s first generation and so he never feels like he fits in.
“Do you know how shocked people in other departments are when they meet me and I don’t have an accent or I’m not the guy delivering their shawarma? Happens all the time.”
Zoey encourages him to speak out but he counters, “To who? HR? Danny Michael Davis? What am I going to say? ‘People are treating me like an Indian guy’? Guess what Zoey, I’m an Indian guy.” She encourages him to have Simon’s back because clearly he feels the same way that Simon does, but the same fear that kept Simon silent for so long also lives in Tobin and he rejects her idea.
Simon talks to Mo as he fixes lights in the building stairway. Simon says he knows if he doesn’t retract his statement he’ll be slowly iced out and given no opportunities to rise within the company. Simon begins to cave, but Mo tells him,
“You are a gorgeous Black man with a big heart and you shouldn’t have to put your head down anywhere. And if you can’t be your whole self then they don’t deserve you.”
It seems to give Simon strength and he decides he’s going to quit. Just then, Zoey arrives home and apologizes to them both. Simon tells her his plan to quit, and she doesn’t argue, saying she supports whatever choice he makes.
The next morning, Zoey arrives to find McKenzie staring in amazement at her phone. She shows Zoey that Tobin posted on social media about his experiences within SPRQ Point. The post blew up overnight and received hundreds of similar comments from SPRQ Point employees all over the world. She finds Tobin and congratulates him on posting, and he says he never expected the outpouring. Moved and excited by the volume of posts, Zoey and Tobin races into Danny’s office to stop Simon from quitting. Inside she finds that Danny and Simon are already aware of the post and having a hard conversation about the issues in SPRQ Point. Danny plans to officially change the board meeting topic to address the racial equality issues, “because that’s what heroes do.” Everyone shuts that statement down real fast.
At the meeting, Danny steps aside to let Simon, with Tobin and Zoey’s support, lead the discussion with the all white board. Simon shares a few of the stories and says diversity committees and workshops aren’t going to create the kind of change that needs to happen within company culture.
“It’s about being inclusive in the rooms where decisions are made.”
As they pack up to leave, Leif awkwardly apologizes to Tobin for benefiting from the system but Tobin assures him they are good. Leif is relieved and they head off to grab a beer together.
Mo hosts a party at MaxiMo where Tatiana is reading off the SPRQ Point commitments thanks to Simon speaking up. In fact, this whole party is to celebrate Simon speaking up and affecting change. He thanks them all for their support and Mo proposes a toast. There is such joy that Zoey hears a heart song, “Tightrope” by Janelle Monáe, from Simon, Mo, and Tatiana. (It’s paired with more brilliant choreography, making it a great closing number on this episode!) Zoey asks Simon how he’s feeling after everything that’s happened in the last few days, and he simply answers, “Relief.”
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist will go on a short hiatus but will return Sunday, March 28 at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT and remain in its former Sunday time slot going forward.