The Lab, under Pearl's leadership, has been part of a consortium bidding on the massively lucrative Durban Underground tender, a R60-Billion project that will ensure quite healthy revenue streams for the company and re-establish The Lab within the financial landscape of South Africa.
Most of the company's time, efforts, and hopes have been placed into this basket and it is the first major test of Pearl's strategy and leadership.
After The Lab loses out on the work, the company is at a crossroads of sorts. It's clear they cannot continue to put all their eggs in the government tender basket anymore, but it's also clear that relying exclusively on their bread and butter BEE deals will not enable the company to grow.
Monty advocates rigorously pursuing white capital; Pearl advocates raising The Lab's profile through the creation of the foundation to secure government work.
Ultimately, they pursue both: through Jaws' efforts, The Lab finds themselves back in the Underground consortium, and through Mingus' efforts, they manage to land the white capital of business mogul, Alex Gainsford.
However, it is never business as usual at the Lab and audiences can anticipate the triumphs and scandals as the characters navigate the personal and professional minefields of Johannesburg.
Monty, having been unseated as CEO of his own company at the end of Season 1, has on one hand the desire to see Pearl and the company succeed; on the other, as a matter of pride, he'd like to see Pearl fail in order to get the chance to reposition himself as candidate for CEO.
Monty is equally divided regarding his relationship to Andre and coming out as a gay man in corporate South Africa.
Eventually Monty will come to realise that he does love Andre and will seek him out in an effort to make the relationship work. In doing so, Monty will finally come face to face with his real demons and be able to exorcise them.
Pearl has achieved almost everything she set out for herself in the previous season: she's in charge, she's being taken seriously, and the company is pursuing her corporate and social agendas.
The question for her becomes whether achieving her goals has provided her with the fulfillment she was expecting. Pearl must examine where her priorities lie, and how she chooses to validate herself and her life.
It is Fikile, a man she meets and falls in love with despite herself, who provides the catalyst for Pearl to change.
When Season 2 begins, Chief Analyst Mingus is feeling the frustrations with his position at The Lab. He's clever, he's got all the ideas, but he's essentially an employee. He makes other people wealth, but there's no wealth for him.
Understandably, he is beginning to ask why he isn't positioning himself to be where they are.
His ambition will cause him to push his boundaries and limitations, and fueled by an over-whelming infatuation for the new and rebellious Samantha Mazur he launches into a radical journey of exploration and self-discovery.
Samantha Mazur joins the Lab as the new legal counsel and her impact is immediate as her natural combination of confidence and competence makes her indispensable to The Lab.
Ingratiating herself quickly to the other characters, Mingus is the one person her charm and charisma have no effect on.
Taking up the challenge, Sam sets about drawing Mingus out of his reserved shell and exposing him to some of the more risqué behaviour Sam indulges in her personal life.
It is Jaws however who journey's into darkness in this series. Having lost his wife and lover in the previous season, Jaws is without anything or anyone in his personal life to define him, he begins to pin his sense of self entirely on the professional.
In doing so, he starts to feel a growing sense of entitlement to the wealth and status he sees all around him, but lacks himself. Jaws' journey sees him straying further and further away from his moral centre.
Under Pearl's stewardship, the company achieves unparalleled success. But all of it becomes threatened in the end by Jaws and the two other partners, Pearl and Monty, are put under enormous pressure in being forced to make a choice between their friend and partner and the company they've both worked so hard to make successful.
Produced by Curious Pictures, the second season of The Lab was written once again by Barry Berk and directed by Barry Berk, Catherine Stewart and John Trengrove.
This season of The Lab was shot and edited on High Definition video by Director of Photography Jonathan Kovel, who also shot the first season, and Eran Tahor.
Season 2 Casting
Most of the Lab's original cast returns for Season 2, including Nambitha Mpumlwana as Pearl, Mothusi Magano as Mingus, Fana Mokoena as Jaws, Graham Hopkins as Monty and Terence Bridgett as Monty's lover Andre.
They are joined by Shannon Esra (Hard Copy, Snitch) as the new legal counsel Samantha Mazur, and television newcomer Shoki Mokgapa in the role of Pearl's secretary, Tumi.
The series was cast by Moonyeen Lee. Supporting actors this season include Vusi Kunene, Esmerelda Bihl, Lillian Dube, Keketso Semoko, Mncedisi Shabangu, Anthony Coleman and Paddy Lyster.
Regular cast members from the first season who did not return for the second are Catriona Andrew (who played legal counsel Nadine Shakanovsky, Jaws' lover), and Dada Koyana, who played Pearl's secretary, Vuvu Sibiya.
Season 2 Cast and Characters
Simon "Jaws" Benghu
Played by Fana Mokoena
When we last saw Fana Mokoena's character, Jaws Bhengu, he and Monty had made peace over the fact that Jaws had betrayed Monty by initially voting against him in the shareholders meeting.
He and Monty formed an alliance with the intention of allowing Pearl to drive things while secretly trying to steer from the back. And while Monty has forgiven him, we get the idea that Jaws is still not feeling completely comfortable with himself about this.
At the end of last season, Jaws had lost both his mistress, Nadine, and his wife, Tsholo, as a result of his infidelities.
In the interim, we discover that Jaws has moved into his own place and Tsholo has filed for divorce. Jaws' financial situation has become precarious – he's supporting two households and he's earning less money as a result of The Lab's present situation.
And although his finances are tight, unfortunately Jaws is trying to keep up the pretence of his status and finds himself borrowing more and more to cover his expenses, sliding deeper and deeper into debt.
He's facing quite a large divorce settlement with his soon to be ex-wife and doesn't really have the money to cover it.
Additionally, Jaws' reputation is also somewhat in tatters, partially due to The Lab's predicament, but also due to his indiscretions having become public.
As a result, all of Jaws' hopes are pinned to The Lab's successful bid for the Jo'burg Underground work as a means to restore both his reputation and his financial situation.
When this falls through, Jaws finds himself at the bottom of a financial well he has no hope of climbing out of.
Jaws' emotional predicament is this is the first time in his life he has ever truly been alone. We get the sense that Jaws has always needed someone by his side, whether it was his wife or Nadine. Jaws needs companionship and now he has no one to help him make sense of his life.
Jaws cannot be alone, and this becomes a very dangerous place for him to be. The women in Jaws' life have always helped to keep him somewhat grounded, somewhat focused. Without this, Jaws becomes a loose cannon.
Without anything or anyone in his personal life to define him, he begins to pin his sense of self entirely to the professional. In doing so, he starts to feel a growing sense of entitlement to the wealth and status he sees all around him but which he himself lacks.
Jaws' journey sees him straying further and further away from his moral centre.
Played by Nambitha Mpumlwana
When we last saw Nambitha Mpumlwana's character, Pearl Lusipho, she had been made CEO of The Lab as a result of her professional relationship and strategic efforts in orchestrating wealthy businessman Makubela's bail-out of the company.
She had also ended her romantic relationship with the Minister of Trade and Industry, making it quite clear she'd rather be on her own at this point in her life.
Pearl has certain advantages as CEO: she recognises that the people working for her are her greatest asset as leader. By recognising their abilities and their contributions she can get the most out of them and for the company.
She has real values which she will not compromise. She has emotional maturity and so she's able to put her ego aside when her authority is challenged to find a way through a problem and retain control of the company through good strategy and politics.
In the interim between the seasons, Pearl has been focused on two projects: the Jo'burg Underground consortium and the creation of a foundation to serve her interests in seeing real broad-based black economic empowerment.
We get the sense that she's placed all of The Lab's resources into the Underground bid and has let the foundation, as well as the company's bread and butter BEE deals, slide somewhat.
But this has had little consequence for The Lab; by all accounts she and the company are doing well as the anticipated front-runners for this massive government tender.
Pearl's dilemma as the season begins is that she has achieved almost every goal she set out for herself in the previous season: she's in charge, she's being taken seriously, the company is pursuing her corporate and social agendas.
The question for her becomes whether achieving her goals has provided her with the fulfilment she was expecting. Superficially, the answer to this question is yes. But deep down inside, Pearl has a growing sense that something is lacking, something is missing from her life and this is the terrain she'll be exploring in this season.
Her challenge will be to find meaning in her life once she's achieved everything she's set out to achieve and everything is going right for her.
The vehicle for this challenge becomes Fikile, the man she meets and falls in love with despite herself. Through him she is forced to examine where her priorities lie, and how she chooses to validate herself and her life.
Played by Graham Hopkins
When we last saw Graham Hopkins' character, Monty Atkins, he had nearly lost his company and as a result of the de-listing and the bail-out from Donald Makubela, Monty found himself demoted from CEO to COO (Chief Operating Officer), effectively making him number two to Pearl.
Monty's strategy at the time, as revealed to Jaws, was that having Pearl as CEO might not be a bad thing (having a black female face for the company) and that he and Jaws would try to steer things from the back seat for a while.
Privately, we got the sense that while Monty was being pragmatic with this new strategy, secretly he had lost quite a lot of face and that he was not entirely happy with his new position.
In the intervening months, Monty has been “biding his time”, allowing the Lab to salvage its tattered reputation under Pearl's new stewardship, but waiting for an opportunity to re-assert control over the company.
The possibility of winning the Underground tender represents a major achievement for Monty, as it would serve both the company and his own financial interests.
Monty's dilemma is: on one hand he wants to see Pearl and the company succeed to serve his pragmatic interests; on the other, as a matter of pride, he'd like to see Pearl fail in order to get the chance to reposition himself as candidate for CEO.
It is this tension that will play out in the early episodes of this season and form the two faces of Monty: the public face (the confident, affable Monty) and the private face (the frustrated and embittered Monty).
Monty is wrestling with his own identity in the professional world: he's a gay man who is not ‘out' in any public way and deep down he fears the repercussions if this knowledge comes to light.
At the heart of Monty's journey is his relationship with Andre. This season for Monty is an exploration of a real relationship between two adults, although for many reasons, Monty is not entirely comfortable in this relationship: the real core issue Monty has to deal with is his own inability to love, and the fear of loving someone.
Monty will have to come face to face with his real demons and be able to exorcise them.
Charles “Mingus” Khati
Played by Mothusi Magano
In the previous season Mothusi Magano's character, Mingus Khati, was very much the outsider: not just as an ex-pat trying to find his place in South Africa, but also because of his personality.
At the end of the first season, Mingus made an unsuccessful play for CEO of The Lab, mainly as the pawn of Lord Spriggett. Through this, his ambition to realise his dream of becoming CEO by the age of 30 was thwarted, and he was forced to swallow his pride and ambition by agreeing to stay on serving Pearl in his original capacity as Chief Analyst.
He was also left with the challenge from Makubela that despite all his achievements and his abilities, he's still a nobody in the South African business community.
In the interim, Mingus and his journalist girlfriend, Mbali, have moved in together. There are problems in the relationship, but the real tension between the two is the fact that Mingus can never really trust Mbali following her betrayal of his confidence in order to further her career in the previous season.
Mingus can't really share what's going on in his professional life with her, and the two of them can't really find common ground socially - two factors that eventually sound the death knell of the relationship.
When this season begins, Mingus is feeling the frustrations with his position at The Lab. He's clever, he's got all the ideas, but he's essentially an employee. He knows he's much smarter than the people he's making rich and understandably is beginning to ask why he isn't where they are.
He has ambition to become the rain-maker, the empire-builder, but doesn't understand his own limitations, particularly when it comes to social networking and the importance of relationships in business.
Mingus' desire is to push his boundaries and test his own limitations. This is the starting point for his journey - Mingus is in fact very methodical, very much in control.
But something comes along that Mingus never expected that will send him spinning out of control and this is Samantha, launching him on a radical journey of exploration and self-discovery.
Samantha's attempt to help Mingus develop social skills and develop a network begin as a project but as her efforts pay off, we witness the changes in him, the blossoming of a new Mingus who can relax and enjoy himself.
It's a welcome change and it naturally leads to Mingus falling completely head over heels for the woman who has opened the door for him.
Mingus and Sam's relationship is essentially a love story, one that starts in the classic romantic comedy mode but quickly takes a left turn.
Played by Shannon Esra
A new entry into the world of The Lab, Samantha Mazur comes in as the replacement in-house legal counsel. A young professional, she comes from a lot of money, her father having been a successful retail empire merchant.
Her parents were loving but absent, and she never wanted for anything while growing up. She studied finance and law overseas, both in the UK and the States.
Though she never speaks about it, she was in a failed marriage while out of the country and this is partially the reason for her return to South Africa.
Incredibly bright and capable, cultured and charismatic, beautiful and sexy, Sam is a real thoroughbred – put her into any social or professional context and she will flourish.
Because of her upbringing, she is fearless and has never doubted her right to her station in life. She's never had any real responsibilities and for her, life has been a game.
She is supremely confident because she is good at what she does. She's never been intimidated by anyone, regardless of power or status, and this combination of confidence and competence makes her indispensable to The Lab.
Somewhat of a maverick, she is unafraid to speak her mind or challenge her superiors, especially when she's right (which she is most of the time).
While Sam might have all the tell-tale signs of being a grown-up spoiled brat, she is a genuinely warm and effusive person who enjoys other people and has a good, if not slightly wicked, sense of humour.
The complete professional at work, she is adventurous in her personal life: parties, drugs, sex – none of these things are strangers to Sam and for her there really is nothing that is taboo.
But she never lets anything get out of hand. After all, everything is just a game for her.
Deep down Sam is vulnerable. She enjoys the thrill of romance but most of the time it's been with people one would never have expected her to be with.
She does fall in love but given her penchant for men who are not very logical choices, there is always a sell-by date attached to the relationship. She'll throw herself into love but has always treasured the get-out clause that she tends not to reveal to her lovers.
Mingus starts off as an enigma to Sam and while her playful flirtations and banter serve to ingratiate herself with the other characters in The Lab, they have absolutely no effect on Mingus.
Initially she finds him unsettling. She sees this as a challenge, so she is determined to find out just what makes the guy tick.
When she gets to know him better and realises he's not arrogant, but rather somewhat shy and misunderstood, she begins to see him as a project, much like the other social or artistic projects that she's indulged in over the course of her life.
What Sam doesn't anticipate is her own feelings developing for Mingus or the repercussions for the two of them when they choose to pursue them.
As long as she can keep the relationship in safely undefined terrain, she's comfortable. But when Mingus decides he no longer wants to play games, that he's offering her unconditional love, this all becomes too much for Samantha and she will back off.
Ultimately, Sam will realise that what she really needs is the kind of love that Mingus has to offer, but by the time she makes this realisation, it will be too late.
Season 2 originally aired on SABC3 from 11 May to 3 August, 2008, on Sundays at 20h00. On 8 June, 2008 the series moved to 19h30 to cater to the live broadcasts of the Soccer Euro 2008 tournament. Episodes 5 to 8 were on at that time. It returned to the 20h00 timeslot as from 6 July, 2008.
Season 2 aired on SABC1 from 12 January to 5 April, 2012, initially on Thursdays at 20h30 and later - from Episode 8 (which aired on 1 March, 2012) - on Thursdays at 22h00.