It's what Stephen likes to call the "After-Afternoon After Party", a forced gathering of his guests in the greenroom after taping has wrapped. Josh is shouting something about David Wright's healing back and the Mets' chances in the upcoming season, but Keith can't really hear it over whatever the hell Stephen is demonstrating to Rachel, something that involves a monkey and mushy green banana and a lot of borderline-obscene hand gestures. Rachel has her head hanging between her knees, her hands covering her red face, near wheezing, and Josh is starting to lose his cool, too. It's no wonder Keith doesn't hear the click when he pulls the door closed against the outside noise.
He grabs a bottle of water out of the little cooler next to the card table someone has set up in the middle of the room and pulls his chair close to Josh's, trying to regain control of some part of the conversation.
"Needless to say, it'll be interesting to see how it's affected his technique," Keith says. Josh nods, but it is obvious that Keith has lost him. He sighs and looks over at Stephen, who has his hands up in the air.
"So, the banana is half-peeled--half naked, if you will..." Stephen flashes a smile at Keith as Rachel's shoulders sink. "And the monkey says--"
"No, no..." Rachel chokes, then wheezes. "The monkey is not allowed to talk!"
"But the banana has been talking the whole time. You didn't have any problems with that."
"That's different," Rachel answers. "You said it was a special banana."
"A special banana. So that's what's wrong with you two," Josh says, grinning. "I always heard the banana peel thing was an urban legend..."
"That's not even funny," Rachel says. "None of this is funny."
Josh shrugs. "All I am saying is I could use a special banana or two right now."
"But what about David Wright?" Keith tries.
Josh nods. "Well, I don't think--"
"But the monkey..." Stephen grins.
"I don't want to hear about the monkey!" Rachel groans. Stephen flashes her a mock-offended look.
"But what about a special talking monkey?"
"Stephen, I'm sorry, but I hurt," she says. "The Mets are better than this banana pain."
"Thank you," Josh says. "So, I don't think--wait." He frowns at Rachel. "You're not a Mets fan, are you?"
"She lives in Massachusetts," Keith answers. "What do you think?"
Josh grimaces. "That might be worse than the Yankees."
"Nothing's worse than the Yankees," Rachel says.
"Not even mushy green bananas?" Stephen asks.
Rachel sighs and stands up.
"What?" Stephen asks.
"I need a moment." She walks toward the door.
Keith leans back in his chair, then jumps up, following her. "I'm coming, too."
"Please do," Rachel says.
"Oh?" Stephen calls after them. "No monkey business, you two."
Rachel rolls her shoulders and reaches for the door handle.
It doesn't turn. Rachel looks up at Keith. "Did you do something to the door?"
"No." He frowns and steps a little closer, jiggling the handle and then pushing against the door. It doesn't budge. He looks back at Stephen. "How does this door work?"
"It's a door," Stephen answers, smirking. "You turn the handle and then push."
Keith pushes a little harder, and Rachel does as well. They push together as if it is some sort of trick door that just needs two people pushing at the right angle to open it. They get nowhere.
"Stephen..." Rachel sighs. "Come fix the door."
"Maybe the lock just needs a mushy green banana." Josh laughs.
Stephen grins as he crosses the room. He shoulders his way between Keith and Rachel and gives the door handle a try.
"It should just--" he pauses, twisting his wrist with a flourish. His hand slips off the handle. He frowns. "It should just open, but... Keith, what did you do?"
"I didn't do anything," Keith answers. "I just shut it."
"Shutting isn't nothing," Stephen says. "Shutting is everything."
"You let me!" Keith says.
"You waited until I was distracted, telling the tale of the banana, and then slinked over there and--"
"I don't do 'slink'."
"Slunk, then. You're a sneaky one, Olbermann, slinking and slunking. Everybody knows it."
Rachel rolls her eyes and stalks back across the room, dropping into Keith's seat next to Josh. "So, what about David Wright?"
"Oh, I was just telling Keith that--"
"I am entirely forthright!" Keith shouts. "I have build my career on my openness and--"
"Oh, God," Rachel leans in toward Josh. "I miss the monkey."
Josh raises his eyebrows and nods toward Keith. "He's standing right there, talking rather loudly."
Rachel snorts. "Does that make Stephen the banana?"
"He is a little mushy…"
"But not green."
"Give him long enough and maybe."
Rachel sighs. "I just want to get out of here."
"We can't, remember?"
"You called Michelle Malkin a mushy banana with lipstick!" Stephen cries. "How is that--"
"I did none of the sort!" Keith shouts.
Rachel whispers, "Technically true..."
"Our not being able to get out?" Josh asks.
"No, the Malkin thing," Rachel says.
"Oh," Josh answers. "I think I remember that." He looks around. "Is there a trap door or something?"
"Maybe a tunnel that leads to the room under Stephen's desk?"
"She had her goons writing death threats to a New Jersey school teacher!" Keith is right up in Stephen's face, and Stephen is grinning.
Josh sighs. "I heard there's a secret bar down there. Might make this whole situation more tolerable."
"Hmm. Maybe there's booze in here somewhere, at least..." Rachel stands up, crossing to the far end of the room, where there's a full-sized refrigerator and a small chrome sink. She swings open the door and starts rooting through a stash of assorted cheeses. She's found a drawer of half-rotting fruit when Josh taps her on the shoulder.
"Look to the left."
Rachel raises her head and sees the other door. "Should we tell them?"
"Let's see if it works first." Josh reaches out and turns the handle.
The door swings open. Josh steps through it. Rachel looks back over her shoulder, sees how red Keith's face has gotten, and then follows Josh out into the hallway.
They make turns at random, sneaking down the hallways with their shoulders hunched, just for the hell of it, giggling every time they meet someone in the hall. Eventually, they find an exit door that isn't alarmed and push it open.
It's dark outside. Josh looks at his watch. It's only 7:30.
"So, what do we do now?" he asks.
Rachel squints at the street lights, then grins at him. "Buy you a drink?"
Josh smiles back. "It's early. Why not?"
They end up at a place that is really too fancy for either of them, but the cocktails are incredible, and they're both on their third when Josh brings up Rachel's Rhodes scholarship. She counters with his Fulbright, and they both end up embarrassed for knowing as much as they do about each other's educational pedigrees.
They've moved on to number four, and are talking about Obama's recent vacation-cum-economic meeting with Bartlet and some of his old advisors when Stephen's text buzzes through.
u left us
Rachel ignores it, jerking forward to slap Josh's hand when he reaches to pluck the cherry out of his Manhattan.
"You said you watched my show."
Josh jerks his hand back. "I do!"
"Then don't eat the garnish."
"Maybe I was just playing with it."
"If that's the case, then I don't want to hear--" Rachel makes herself blush.
Josh laughs. "Double entendre time already? I thought you could hold your liquor."
Rachel takes another swat at his hand. "You started it. And where did you get that idea? Has Keith been telling you things?"
He laughs and swats back at her hand. "I mean, just from watching your show and all. I know about your love affair with booze."
"Well, then, if you watch my show, you know that--"
Rachel's phone buzzes again. She sighs and picks it up.
rachel its bad
She rolls her eyes, then texts back,
Just use the back door. Josh and I are having drinks. Come find us.
can i leave keith?
Rachel looks up at Josh, grimacing. "Trouble in paradise."
"They're still locked in there?"
"We need to go?"
Rachel pays the tab, but lets Josh leave a tip. They down the rest of their drinks and wander back out into the night.
It takes a few wrong turns and a little too long, but they eventually find the studio again. The man at the registration desk recognizes both of them, and they get past without having to betray how drunk they are.
It takes them even longer to find the right greenroom, but after several locked doors and empty rooms, they push their way into the correct chaos.
Keith and Stephen are both tieless and sweating, slumped together, back to back on the floor. The card table has been overturned, and the case of water is empty. Stephen looks up, wild-eyed, and shouts when Rachel and Josh step into the room.
"Oh, thank sweet baby Jesus, you're here."
"What on earth..." Rachel looks them both over.
Keith stands up. "Nothing. Nothing at all."
Josh crosses his arms over his chest, eying Keith, then Stephen. "You two look like you could take a drink."
Stephen wrestles his way to his feet. "No, I'm okay. We should go home."
Rachel's eyebrow cocks. She glances over at Josh. He smiles and shrugs.
"Come on," Rachel says. "Josh is right."
Keith clears his throat. "I don't think--"
"It's early," Josh says, nodding at Rachel.
Rachel nods back. "And whatever you guys got into is probably not as bad as Josh and I can come up with in our heads if we go back out without you."
Keith goes white, then red, then starts to sputter, but Stephen stops him.
"Okay, we'll go, but only if you're buying," he says.
"I got it this time," Josh says. Rachel answers his offer with a little bow, then steps forward, slipping her arm around Stephen's.
Josh moves toward Keith, reaching out to him, but then thinks better of it, dropping his hand and jerking his head toward the open door.
Rachel and Josh lead them into the hallway, then through the maze of hallways and out into the night.