A couple of quick notes/thoughts:
Alex appears in the promo commercial for Wednesday's episode so no worries about her missing any more episodes this season. My expectations are still pretty low but at least there's something.
I kind of gave it a glancing mention in my recap a few nights ago, but the more I think about "All Things Being Equal" the more unhappy about how sub-optimal Alex was intellectually portrayed in it. They really made her out to be not her usual smart self.
Finally, also last Wednesday, several of the cast members (including Ariel) attended the season ending episode/Emmy consideration screening. At that screening, there seemed to be a cautious optimism that there would be a ninth season. And Ariel mentioned she wanted to see Alex's role evolve more into life as an adult, so if there is a ninth season she does expect to be back. I still wouldn't be shocked if things fell apart at the end (I would assume we'd find out this week or early next week what happens), but it is looking better.