Gabrielle Union as Mary Jane (BET Networks)

I’ll give it to Mary Jane—Justin certainly is a lot more attractive now that he’s dropped the icebox where his heart used to be, but that still doesn’t make up for why Mary Jane and Justin are on the pathway to a hookup. With the midseason finale next week, there will soon be an end to me shaking my head at the TV and giving a murmuring benediction asking that the show bring back Mara Brock Akil.

Lee, to the chagrin of Mary Jane, needs time to process his ex-wife Zoe’s request about donating his sperm so she can have a baby with her girlfriend. He comes through by making the most sensible decision he could: turning down the request and committing to working on having a child with Mary Jane. I don’t know that I’m over that awkwardly close display between Zoe and Lee last week, but if this is all about M.J. allowing someone to love her, then this is endearing, even as we see this wrench of a relationship with Justin hurling at our heads, seemingly out of nowhere.

I do absolutely enjoy Kara and Orlando together. Kara squirms because her own vulnerability makes her skin crawl, while Orlando is obliviously persistent in declaring his love for her in the most public way possible—on national TV, with full government name and a headshot. So much for privacy: “Orlando loves Kara Lynch.”

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There’s nothing that can calm Kara’s nerves as the paparazzi enter her life, even as the public relationship opens up career doors that she’s been pining to walk through, like being invited to Garrett’s top-secret celebrity poker game. It’s not entirely out of left field for Kara to force herself to break up with Orlando, but that development gives no credit to Kara’s growth or the nuances of being a career-minded woman in a relationship with a celebrity.

This show threw subtlety out the window this season, opening the door to cliché and the obvious. So Kara makes the illogical move to force a breakup with Orlando by claiming that she got what she needed from him and now she needs to focus on her career, even though, as he points out, this relationship boosts her career. Damn, sis.

Mary Jane is still trying to play chess with Ronda and her cock-blocking ways. Entirely blown away by Justin having her back, M.J. thinks she has Ronda checkmated when Justin slyly pitches a show he knows Ronda will insist on doing, which will send her to the Virgin Islands for the day. That leaves her anchor chair empty, and it’s up to her co-host, Aaron, to decide which correspondent gets to fill in.

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Throw in a few more savvy moves by Mary Jane, who knows her co-worker Natalie and another co-worker are both sleeping with Aaron in order to get in his good graces and fill the spot. So much for HR policy, but it was quite simple to cause an argument between Natalie and Aaron, which leads him to announce that Mary Jane will fill in for Ronda.

So it appears that Mary Jane has a one-up on Ronda, but oh, there’s no way Ronda is going to allow that to play out. Ronda brings her story back from the Virgin Islands in time to waltz into her anchor seat after Mary Jane had been prepped and primed to sit in it. Morning shows start at 5 a.m., so this isn’t a “She hopped on a plane to get to work by 9 a.m.”; Ronda pulled an all-nighter and ordered a private jet to keep Mary Jane from a major opportunity.

Mary Jane is pissed, rightfully so, and there’s Justin to calm her down and, in the heat of the moment, lay a “surprise” kiss on M.J. What about his girlfriend? What is the point of this? Mary Jane in the workspace has always been about the long game, skillfully maneuvering and executing flawless interviews to make her commercially viable with integrity, someone who presses back on issues critical to the black community.

This season, Mary Jane has been reduced to having catfights with Ronda that sideline any opportunity for M.J. to flourish or have any real career growth, all while heading into an uncharacteristically bad decision—even for Mary Jane—to hook up with Justin. This reduces much of what Mary Jane has stood for and meant to the graciousness of the show, which had inspired a lot of colorful dialogue between black women. The show used to make points that made us nod our heads in deep agreement, furrow our brows in disbelief and take moments to self-reflect: “Damn, I might not want to acknowledge it, but Mary Jane was so right/wrong ... ”

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Mary Jane, in the one frontier she was so damn good at—her career—is now thin-skinned and insecure and pedaling backward. Now we have to wait till the midseason finale to see how Mary Jane finishes bringing the house she never really found in New York City crumbling down.