The Newsroom Recap: Mission (Out of) Control

Will’s on a “mission to civilize” this week on The Newsroom, but the way he goes about it earns him more drinks to the face than an episode of Smash. Meanwhile, Jim gets some action, Maggie gets mad and Neal gets all hopped up about Bigfoot. Seriously. It’s like, a thing throughout the episode. Let’s go to Camera 1 and review what happened in “I’ll Try to Fix You.”

NEW YEAR’S (DISBELI)EVE | The New Year’s Eve party that opens the episode is a giant, blinking, Swarovski-crystalled ball of huh? that gets the hour off on an odd foot. I’ve worked in and around newsrooms for most of my career. If there’s any kind of celebration that goes on at midnight on Jan. 1, it most certainly isn’t attended by the highest-paid people in the company. They definitely aren’t clad in cocktail dresses and custom-made tuxes, and they decidedly haven’t slipped away from the mayor’s bash to sip Champange on the newsroom floor. Anyway, the setting allows Wade, Mackenzie’s doofy boyfriend and assistant U.S. attorney, to serve a purpose other than raising Will’s ire: He tips him off to the Department of Justice’s slashed budget. Without the needed moolah, he says, the DOJ can’t go after the big financial criminals Will rails about on a nightly basis. The party also allows Maggie to va-va up her voom in a sleek red number borrowed from roommate Lisa. And when Lisa arrives at the party, Don (I’m sorry, FunDon!) decides to hook her up with Jim. The looks between Maggie and Lisa, who was present via phone for Jim’s careful talk-down during Mags’ attack last week, are classic. I like to think Don might’ve picked up on them if he’d been sober but, yeah, probably not. Don suggests Jim take Lisa out on the terrace and… wait a minute. I forgot about the newsroom’s terrace. Disregard what I said earlier: If I worked somewhere I could hover above the masses during the Times Square New Years Eve melee and have access to a bathroom, I’d set up camp on Dec. 30. On the other side of the room, Sloan urges Will to go talk to a blonde who looks lonely. (She’s wearing gold lamé, Will. Even though she’s played by the lovely Hope Davis, run in the other direction!) Goldie’s name is Nina Howard, and Will’s on board with her plan to ravish him until he learns she’s a gossip columnist working on a “takedown” piece about a reality TV star. His distaste soon becomes a diatribe – so unlike him! – that lasts into the new year. (Side note: The  whatever shot of Sloan checking her BlackBerry at midnight while everyone around her kissed made me laugh out loud.) When Will tells Nina he thinks she’s worse than a heroin dealer, she tosses her drink in his face and lamés away. The interlude earns him some ink on the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column – Charlie’s quip about it being on page 10: so true! – the next day. Will points out the factual errors in the story, including the one about him being a liberal, and dismisses the whole thing. Just wait, Will…

STORIES WE MISSED | Jim’s got an idea for a regular feature: stories we missed, such as the misreported cost of Obama’s 2010 trip to India, the truth behind the Tea Party’s Second Amendment fears, what have you. Will likes it. In related news, here’s a story Maggie missed: Jim and Lisa are dating – and Jim lies to Mags about it. To make things worse, Don clues Maggie in about the whole thing and then embarrasses her as he outs Jim. (Four episodes in, I think that’s what I disike about Don the most – his need not only to be right but to make you feel terrible while acknowledging his rightness.) Meanwhile, Will’s dating streak from last episode continues with a gun-carrying, pot-toting friend of Sloan’s (played by Kathryn Hahn) and a Jessalyn Gilsig-ish chick who soaks him with her fruity drink when he criticizes her for liking Real Housewives of New Jersey. That incident lands him in Page Six again, incensing Sloan’s pistol-packing pal so much that she blabs to Nina Howard’s gossip mag, TMI. At a special Saturday meeting on the subject, Charlie realizes that ACN’s parent company owns the magazine, and that this sullying of Will’s reputation is part of what Leona Lansing referred to as “context” in The Meeting Upstairs. (I was starting to wonder when that would come up.) The upshot: Charlie tells Will, Mackenzie and Don about Leona’s threats to let Will go, and we learn that Will so wanted the ability to fire Mackenzie at the end of each week that he agreed to a non-compete clause during his contract negotiations. That’s equivalent to Bobby Flay agreeing in his Food Network contract to a clause that wouldn’t allow him to grill so much as a burger at a backyard barbecue if he ever left Iron Chef: America. In other words, ouch.

A BIG, HAIRY CONTRIVANCE | All episode long, Neal talks to anyone who’ll listen about the possible existence of Bigfoot. Predictably, no one cares. So he calls them all into the office on a Saturday to educate them about Sasquatch… and they all stay. At first, I thought the contrivance was just to show Maggie bitchily sniping at Jim, and wondered why they didn’t save that until Monday. But when Jim angrily orders her to cover the assignment desk (in the process, totally confronting her about why she’s actually mad, which she ducks), it all becomes clear: News of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting comes across the wire, providing a perfect opportunity for the News Night team to leap into journalistically responsible action. There’s a lot of hemming and hawing, during which Reese shows up to pressure Will to announce Giffords dead like other networks have, but Will and Mackenzie stalwartly refuse to do so without confirmation. When Maggie gets word that the politician is alive, the verbal high-fiving knows no end. For me, the moment is Newsroom in a nutshell: It’s simultaneously touching (Mackenzie’s “I’m sorry!” was wrought), victorious, preachy, funny and confounding – I don’t care how happy he is, there’s no way Will wants to hear what Neal has to say about Bigfoot now or later. Maybe it’s not his fault – I know I’ve made worse decisions with Coldplay ballads pumping in the background. (What did you guys think about “Fix You” in that scene? Though I like that song, I didn’t love it there.)

GIVE MY REGARDS TO … | Weekly musical theater reference round-up time! Will calls daytime and primetime cable staffers “Jets and Sharks,” and Nina adds to the West Side Story allusion with the suggestion that she and he could make like that musical’s protagonists, Tony and Maria; Will and Mackenzie argue over who’s more like Man of La Mancha’s Don Quixote; Will corrects Sloan when she confuses Annie Get Your Gun Annie Oakley with Oklahoma’s Ado Annie.

Your turn. Are you on board with Will’s “mission to civilize”? How long do you think it’ll be before Leona summons Charlie upstairs again? And are you as done with Don as I am? Hit the comments and be heard!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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34 Comments
  1. juliebestry says:

    Jessalyn Gilsig-ish? Really? (I guess it’s pretty faint damning if the only nit I have to pick with this review/recap is that I didn’t see anything remotely Gilsig-like in Will’s Housewives-following, drink-tossing date.)

    • bigfan says:

      totally thought it was jessalyn gilsig. until it was clear it wasn’t. great recap. the annie get your gun/ado annie reference was beyond lol.

      • wordsmith says:

        While I enjoyed the Ado Annie/ Annie Oakley reference (yay musical theater references! Bring ‘em on!) I don’t buy that Sloan would have made that mistake. She’s clearly a very educated person, and Annie Oakley was an actual historical figure famous for being a sharpshooter – seems like common knowledge, especially in Sorkinland, where everybody knows everything about everything.

  2. cjeffery7 says:

    i AM done with Don.
    is it weird and totally nuts that i liked Sloan and Will together?

  3. Dennis says:

    this show is so very left wing, i’m done with it. i like the show for most part but it is so very left agenda driven it kind of ruins it for me, if it were more politically balanced it would be great

    • AJ says:

      What you didn’t believe Will is a Republican? Don’t worry, I didn’t buy that load of bull either. So far the show has gone down the list of left wing talking points and taken the time to slam all the important conservative figures at the same time. I wonder how long it will be before he has his character go on a rant about Bush.

      • charissa29 says:

        Maybe Will did rant, but what is vastly more important is did he get the facts right. Wouldn’t you WANT to know if the people you are getting supposed facts from are blatantly lying? I would.

        • wordsmith says:

          Exactly. The whole point of the show is not that the liberal agenda is correct, it’s that a bunch of the voices on the far right are just spouting complete nonsense. It’s not leftist per se, just pro truth. I have a hunch they’ll go after the Dems too if they can find something equally juicy that they’ve been so completely and publicly wrong about.

      • Ryan says:

        I agree so far with the issues they’ve taken on. Prime example, the “2 billion trip to India”. I *remember* watching CNN take Bachmann to task and her refusal to admit that number was too high. At one point she said “trillion”. Seriously?! These people represent us?!? Also, they aren’t going after important right wing political figures so much as right wing newscasters and entertainers (Palin certainly falls into the latter category). Don’t worry though republicans, we are only at January 8, 2011. I’ll be appalled and convinced of liberal leanings of they let Obama off the hook for the solar panels and the unemployment rate but as of today (in show land) we aren’t there yet so chill out.

    • rowan77 says:

      Gee, So you’re saying that pointing out lies and misrepresented facts to the US population is purely used my liberals only. Will and the News Night team are about presenting facts as they really are, not spun to a political agenda. Limbaugh, Palin, Bachman and others all lied to the American public about Obama having a strict gun policy that he’s forcing on everyone. That is a blatant lie. One that creates fear and distrust purely for political and financial gain for the right-ringers. THAT is a FACT. Tea Party leaders openly either mislead or simply didn’t understand what raising the debt ceiling actually meant. Political leaders refusing to learn about important economic information because their misrepresentation of facts won them their seat – never mind what damage having misinformed and undereducated leaders can do to a country. And you think that pointing this out is a bad thing because the morons doing this happen to be leaders of the right-wing agenda? I guess you like being lied to. I don’t. He’ll get to the left-wing lies and misrepresentations, but those tend to not be blatant lies thrown out there even when there’s proof they are lies. The right seems to think facts are not relevant. Look at Romney and the Bain fiasco. He’s caught in a major lie – with continually mounting evidence that he either lied to the SEC (a felony) from 1999 – 2002 or is lying to the American public now. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

  4. maltru says:

    A) I actually really liked their use of “Fix You” and thought it fit the moment. B) It’s Quixote, not Quijote.

  5. Rrrrrr says:

    This episode was a total snooze fest until the last 10 minutes.

  6. kate says:

    I laughed my butt off at this episode. “I decided to live my life like I’m alive.” I liked that after all Don’s douchiness, he had a human moment at the end there. This show is so much fun. I love a good laugh, and I’m really glad that this humor is sharper than just fart jokes or sex jokes.

  7. Margaret says:

    i loved seeing hope davis & jeff daniels together again! saw them in god of carnage on broadway, they were fabulous!

  8. The Jim and Maggie moments are always my favorite but I did want to see what Maggies reaction was going to be to Lisa as well as Jim since Lisa knows Maggie likes Jim. Don is an utter douche why he had to humiliate Maggie like that with he phone call is beyond me. As soon as Kathryn Hahn came in the scene I was really hoping that wouldn’t be the last of her but unfortunately I dont think she willl be back.

    • rowan77 says:

      Don did that to Maggie because he sees that Jim and Maggie have chemistry and Jim has a crush. He doesn’t want to lose his girlfriend so he’s trying to drive a wedge. Don is very much a douche, regardless of whether he’s a good news producer or not.

  9. Mel says:

    I thought the first half of the episode was a little too focused on the relationships, and that ruined the story telling of behind the scenes of a news show that Aaron Sorkin does so well. I hope they reduce the romance angles a little (we are only 4 episodes in after all, plenty of time for all of that, with another season) and focus more on Sorkins strength of showing real life behind the scenes of something big.

  10. AJ says:

    Sorkin should just stop trying to say the lead Character is a Republican lol. He has to be the most liberal Republican I have ever seen if that is the case. I mean really, for a Republican he sure is well versed in the liberal agenda. The Tea Party is evil. Michelle Bachman is evil and an idiot. So is Sarah Palin. And Rush. And Beck. He made a comment in the last show I think where he said we need a “sane opposition party” or something to that effect. Does that only apply when Democrats are in control? And then the centerpiece of the episode. Why has Obama failed to ban guns? That is something that liberals are holding against Obama as a failing, not Republicans. For a Republican, he sure does hate his own party. I could understand if he is trying to suggest that the best of both parties are the people that lean towards the middle, but he bashes conservatives too much and only calls out Obama and the Democrats out on issues that are important to liberals who expect Obama to do their bidding. I think the only respectable thing about the episode was where he called out the media for spreading stories that are blatant lies. What I didn’t respect is that he ignored the fact that this happens with both right and left leaning news agencies. Yet again, he only picked on conservatives for a story about Obama. And the end had an overwhelming sense of “if only Obama had banned guns, then Gabby Giffords would not have gotten shot in the head.” Maybe so, maybe not. And more importantly, should we let an act like that be the end of a constitutional right, or should we focus harder on not letting a crazy person with a history get their hands on one without punishing all the law abiding citizens. It’s too bad the show is set a year or so back. Operation Fast and Furious would have been an interesting addition to the story. I wonder if he will ever mention it in the show next season?

    • AJ says:

      Oh I forgot there was another redeeming point in the episode. His stance on all these gossip shows, websites, and magazines. I have to agree, I have never seen the point in reading TMZ or watching any show that has Real Housewives in the name. I don’t care what stupid thing a celebrity that barely graduated high school did today. Nor is it any of my business what goes on in their personal life. I know sites like this depend on their fair share of media gossip for stories, but that is not really the same. I am more put off with things like “Justin Beiber doing 100 mph on a highway because an ahole with a camera is chasing him.” These camera guys are just paid stalkers hiding behind freedom of the press. I also agreed with him that writing pieces solely based on you desire to take someone down a notch are unethical and unprofessional.

  11. t says:

    Three things:

    1) As other’s have stated, it seems that Will only keeps repeating he’s a Republican to excuse his liberal bias or wave a shroud over it – show us, don’t keep telling us.

    2) It’s pretty obvious that Sloan is setting him up right? Points out a girl alone who happens to be a reporter he’d not get along with, sets him up with a friend who brings out drugs and a gun, and then another with the same interests as the first to set him up again?

    Pretty much guaranteed that Sloan is working against them in this and the shot of her over the end looked like she was on the outside and not quite in the game….. pretty sure that’s where this story is going.

    3) And the the boyfriend telling him the other side of the case is so very much a Sorkinism of the boyfriend of the Dana (the producer) in Sports Night giving the same talk to Casey (the anchor) about how his job in the DA couldn’t get someone convicted because of money, etc, etc… it’s another repeat.

    • Matt says:

      To your point 2.

      1. The first girl she didn’t know who she was. It wasn’t until Mac said something that she knew, so there was no intent there.
      2. There was nothing here to set him up really. Crazy sure, but this doesn’t get him in the papers unless he screws up afterward. Bad setup but those happen.
      3. she didn’t set him up with this girl. After the crazy chick he even says to stop helping him. He wouldn’t have accepted another setup by her.

  12. daviduter says:

    Expecting way too much I know. But this show would be infinitely better if they would hammer the left every now and then. You know, stay true to the “truth” the show professes to uncover. There is plenty of material to cover from that end as well. Disappointing, if not unexpected.

  13. Epicurious erin says:

    The clear Republicans jumping all over this have just proven what the rest of us have already seen..that you can longer call yourself a Republican unless you are on the far right. Because Will McAvoy criticizes the Tea Party, Rush, Beck and Bachmann- the most right leaning conservatives I’ve ever seen – he is now a liberal? Are you kidding me? The character is a rich, white celebrity with serious elitist tendencies (fun as they are!), HE IS THE 1%! He just happens to believe that hurricanes are a result of nature and not gay marriage. Quick! Fire him before he tells everybody to occupy Wall Street!

    • daviduter says:

      Have zero problem with his character hammering the radicals. Point being there is plenty of ammunition and story lines to hammer from the left. Its disingenuous if those “truths” don’t get a story line in the coming episodes. We have an incompetent mental midget hanging in office right now, piles of material and not a single line from the first 4 episodes. We’ll see.

  14. Krista says:

    I don’t understand why people are dissing this show. It’s pretty much The West Wing, only with different (and already equally compelling, in my opinion) characters and a different setting. Same type of dynamics and ideology and melodramatic, impassioned speeches of hope and idealism. Which, you know what? Is a great freakin’ formula; a formula that made TWW one of the greatest shows, ever, not to mention a critic and audience favorite. So why the hate now? Is idealism and political passion no longer ‘cool’? Too quixotic, as Mac would say? Idk idk. Maybe because the current political atmosphere is way more prickly and divided than it was during TWW. But people who don’t like it shouldn’t act surprised or disappointed; this is everything I expected and hoped for (and more) upon hearing that Sorkin was developing a new series for TV. I say, why deviate from his familiar recipe when said recipe happens to be wonderfully smart and compelling? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’ve missed hearing his distinctly critical-yet-hopeful voice on my TV every week.

  15. malcom1985 says:

    As a registered republican, there’s nothing wrong with the show. If you truly paid attention to these topics from nearly 2 years ago, you would have seen the same thing. The show isn’t telling you a lie, they actually said these ridiculous things. I question the intelligence of anyone who really thought Obama spent $200 million dollars a DAY on a trip to India. No one can be that dumb. As I said, as a republican, even I don’t agree with where the party is going anymore. These “figureheads” of the party are no longer based in reality or fact, and simply say whatever they can to sensationalize a current topic. There are so many alarming things going on with the Republican party now. I can’t vote for or support the current leaders of the party, just because they’re a Republican. They’re flat out crazy and it’s scary as hell that these are the people trying to run this country and have so much influence.

    The Newsroom however, is a very entertaining show for what it is. I enjoy it quite a bit, and this past episode is one of the best so far. I like the show more when there’s more humor to it, and there’s plenty of it in today’s politics.

    • dan says:

      Malcolm, I’m a Democrat and I’m thrilled that someone gets it. Everyone who’s complaining about Will being “liberal” has forgotten what “Republican” is supposed to mean. Sorkin’s dialogue and the speed with which his always-amazing actors flow into it, mean that it is possible for them to spend an hour talking about vacuum cleaners, and I’d watch it just to hear them all talk.

      I don’t understand why this show is getting slammed so much. I’ve loved every episode even if I don’t love episode. There are very few shows like that for me, and I’m always happy when I find one.

    • O'Brien says:

      Thank you so much for this. There are a lot of people who espouse membership in the Republican Party, but think that means social conservatism and a constant litany about how “poor people are taking our money.” The GOP philosophy is actually about smaller federal governemental control, with more independence on the lower levels, with the idea that this is a huge country, and smaller government allows people to be flexible in the type of governance that they need to impliment to be effective, which results in less spending on the federal level. It was not formed for the purposes of being crazy or saying crazy things. It was not formed based on social conservatism at all, which seems to be what the Tea Party has been geared towards for a while, now. The debate between Democrat and Republican dates back to our founding, of Federalist v. Anti-Federalist, of states’ rights v. more centralized federal control. The fact that people don’t understand this is one of the more serious problems with our country.

      I also say all of that as a Democrat, and look at that, world – both sides of the political fence can agree on something, and no one died (probably). I’m sure the show will attack Democrats when prompted; it’s just that my own party has been pretty useless for a while, and done nothing of note. The point is, however, that if we’re going to have a discussion, let’s at least have an honest one. The argument that President Obama is a secret Muslim fascist is, well, nuts. So is the idea that all members of the Tea Party got there because they hate immigrants and might be forming survivalist camps since “the end is near.” People have gotten crazy. For the most part, we’re a nation of moderates, and we want to make a good decision, but we can’t do that if we’re not informed. So, Sorkin is seeking to “civilize” us. Don’t worry; you’re supposed to feel patronized, but Sorkin’s so quippy that I mostly forgive him.

      And the show totally slammed President Obama on gun control. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  16. bobbie says:

    The Bigfoot thing is more about the logic of excluding things that you don’t know – how you need to keep your mind open to actual facts – it’s a decision-making protocol than it is about an actual Bigfoot. Bigfoot as unproved is not the same as “Bigfoot does not exist”. Thinking skills required. I’m sure these mental acrobatics are necessary for an actually good news reporter.

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