Perhaps I was reading into things in light of the rampant speculation about Katie Couric's possibly imminent departure for the CBS Evening News anchor spot. But this veteran Today watcher sensed a distinct mood of nostalgia on the set this morning.
Katie Couric was back after a couple weeks vacation, and all the crew members went out of their way to remark on the reunion of the regular cast. Beyond that, there was something in the air as somber as Katie's black outfit, as if the cast sensed this might well be the last week they were together as a unit.
Lauer: "Haven't seen you for a couple of weeks. Good to have you back." The pair jokingly shook hands as if they were meeting for the first time.
At the end of her news recap, Ann Curry threw it back to "Katie, Matt and Al" adding "it's nice to see you."
Matt observed "we haven't been together in a month-and-a-half, well, maybe two weeks."
Al Roker chimed in: "You missed the excitement of George Mason," an allusion to the surprising NCAA basketball tournament run of the university from Katie's home state of Virginia.
Lauer: "Unfortunately it ended, but they had a great run."
Did Matt have only George Mason in mind, or were his words an epitaph for the current Today show team?
An aside: perhaps to demonstrate that she hasn't lost her fastball, Katie went out of her way to speculate as to how the Jill Carroll matter might hurt the United States. She asked NBC reporter Richard Engel how damaging would be Carroll's videotaped criticisms of President Bush and the war.
Engel, perhaps now most famous as the object of Laura Ingraham's ire, responded on the assumption that Katie was asking how the statements would affect Carroll's own reputation, with the answer being not much at all. Katie clarified that what she had in mind was the way in which Carroll's criticisms might hurt the United State's image in the Arab world.
Katie was no doubt disappointed by Engel's answer: "I don't think it will do much to affect the US's image in the Arab world. This is one of many hostages. People in Iraq were sympathetic to her case, but won't be hanging on every word she said and her denouncements of the war."
Not to worry, Katie. If indeed you're moving on to CBS, you're sure to have other opportunities for a parting shot at the president.
Finkelstein lives in Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle'. Contact him at: email@example.com