If Shanna’s “battered wife” metaphor holds, then this scene is the flowers HR buys Carol to convince her that, okay, from now on, things will be good again. I didn’t mean that “you’re in this as deep as I am” talk, I’m so sorry. Let’s make a baby together! He starts this conversation a bit suspicious (“rather long lunch”) and ends it conciliatory and comforting. I’m not sure which of those two he is in panel 3; he could be saying “Gosh, the things we’ve done are awful, I’m sorry for putting you through them,” or he could be suspecting that she has indeed found someone else to confide in, and that’s why she took the long lunch.

He’d probably guess her mother, or a sorority sister, or someone she’s had a couple of dates with in her rare off-work hours. A reporter would be nowhere on the list. But the nature of their work is such that her telling anyone about it could be dangerous.

Carol knows this and dodges the question. She’s not ready to confess her disloyalty to him and never will be: as we’ll see, her brain starts working overtime to convince herself those moments of disloyalty never happened. Hey, it’s her job to handle the things he’s too busy to handle, right? So she’ll handle this. In “exchange,” she confesses something of much lesser importance she’s been keeping from him. He takes it very well indeed, which leaves them united, for now, in hoping they can get their working relationship back to (hahahahahaHAHAHA) normal.