Nikki sits down and asks for the page-eight rundown. That's the province of gossip columnist Hildy Baker, and it's time to brace yourselves for Lili Taylor's longest line in the entire episode. "Stripper-turned-wheelchair jockey gets $450 million. Quote-unquote, 'I'm so happy,' sobbed the grieving bimbo," Hildy reads. Subtle swipe at Anna Nicole Smith, Lili, but be careful about insulting creatures of Satan. I hear one of her breasts personally doubled our gasoline prices and the other is responsible for such terrors as nutrition-information labels and Cop Rock. The sports editor spouts something about the Mets and a strip-club barroom brawl. The camera pans around the table to an open newspaper, from which Tom Conti's voice drifts. "Hapless Hurlers in Topless Bar," Conti lobs at the editor in thick brogue. Everyone giggles. He's Si Beekman, he's short, and he's the most hands-on newspaper publisher ever. Usually, they don't bother with editorial decisions. The Metro editor says something about the insect count in the city, Brooke makes a biblical reference, and Lili snags her second line. "Call Sting," she grins. "He's always good for an ecological Armageddon kind of quote." And the pop-culture quips are flying. "Mrs. Benton?" Nikki says, addressing Brooke. Ordinarily, calling her "Mrs. Benton" would send Brooke into such a fierce tizzy that her breastbone would snap, but Plot Exposition planned ahead and slipped valium into Brooke's morning coffee. She's got a story about rats in four-star kitchens, to which Si cracks, "Waiter, there's bubonic plague in my soup!"
Again, the crowd goes wild, but only because he signs the paychecks in this place. I'm waiting for more than one story per editor, but in a hick burg like New York, there must not be much news to debate and cover. Nikki tags for the front page either the rat story or another piece about metal pollution at a New Jersey school. "Toxic Tots," suggests Si, but he rejects it as the lead story, preferring the Chicago fast-food shooting despite Nikki's protest that such things aren't of local interest. "It's the archetypal American nightmare," Si argues. "Violent death in a clean, well-lit place. Didn't Benton get a Pulitzer for something like that?" Just updating the medal count: that's three references to Wallace's award, two pop-culture quips and zero attempt to flesh out any supporting players beyond Brooke's marital status. I guess they figure Wallace alone has enough flesh for everyone.