The Newsroom Recap: Can I Get an Amen?

The Newsroom is a dangerous place to be this week, with injuries both serious and hilarious plaguing the ACN staff. We also witness revolutions huge (Egypt) and ginormous (Will hugged Mac!) in an episode that includes Valentine’s Day, extortion and edible panties. Let’s render some footage and review the major events of “Amen.”

YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION | The action opens on February 10, 2011, while News Night is covering unrest in Egypt following President Mubarak’s refusal to resign. Ten o’clock anchor Elliot is reporting from his Cairo hotel room because it’s very dangerous outside, a fact that infuriates Don so much he storms out to find someone who can report from the ground. Maggie nearly beheads Jim as she busts in to let Mackenzie know that (take a deep breath and stay with me here) Wisconsin teachers protesting Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to curtail the power of some public sector unions have him trapped inside a newspaper office. Mac, Jim and Maggie all talk over each other for a moment, then Mags and Jim run to the edit bay to cut packages on both Egypt and Wisconsin. Allow me to shorthand: There’s one editor on duty, time is of the essence, Maggie makes a Broadcast News reference and then physically runs the Wisconsin footage back to Mac. “I didn’t trip over anything on the way!” the blonde cries, somehow opening the thick glass door into Jim’s forehead again. Oh Newsroom, if you were trying to win your way into my heart by sprinkling your high-minded sermons with physical comedy, it’s working. After the show, there’s bad news: Elliot decided to go report among the masses and was beaten savagely with a rock. He’s alive, but he’s gotta come home. The News Night team knows it needs a local who can document what American crews can’t, and Neal says he’s got the perfect guy. (There’s also extended discussion of a scene from the inspirational football flick Rudy, which will be useful later.) His untested freelancer, whose Twitter handle is “Amen,” or ancient Egyptian for “the hidden one,” connects with them via Web cam. Though he’s scared to do so, he agrees to appear on News Night without his face covered and to be identified by his real name: Khalid Salim. “This is history, and you’ll never forget tonight,” Neal tells him. You’re not wrong, Neal. Shortly after Khalid does a great job of relating Mubarak’s stepping down, the young freelancer goes missing.

RUDY! RUDY! | Elliot returns, sore but safe, and Don unsuccessfully pushes Charlie to show the world what happened by putting him on camera. Turns out, Don feels guilty for encouraging his anchor to go down into the fracas and report. He’s later absolved when Elliot tells him he couldn’t have stopped him from doing so… which is where I call journalismnanigans. Suddenly Elliot is an engaged, go-getting citizen of the world? This is the same man who couldn’t string together two intelligent sentences about the Congressional elections a few episodes back. You give him a sat phone, and all of a sudden he’s Anderson Cooper? Anyway, Elliot works his contacts and finds that the Egyptian army has Khalid and wants $250,000 for his safe return. The situation has Neal so worked up that a few seconds of watching Rush Limbaugh joke about journalists being kidnapped causes him to put his fist through his computer monitor in anger. Jim channels his inner medic again and quickly assesses that Neal’s broken a few fingers. Not to be outdone, Don sprains his shoulder trying to break down Reese’s door in an effort to get the network to pony up the ransom. (It’s funny, because Don’s an idiot.)  In the end, Will quietly buys Khalid’s freedom, but Mac figures it out. And in a recreation of the aforementioned Rudy moment, his staff members line up outside his office to chip in on the cost. He protests, but it’s all symbolic, you see. Tears gather in his eyes. “You did this?” he asks his ex. She nods. He pulls her into a hug. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

HEART OF THE MATTER | Let’s rewind for a minute. Amid all of the Egypt chaos, the gossip rag TMI informs us that Mac’s boyfriend, Wade, has been using her to get on News Night in an effort to raise his profile in advance of a possible run for Congress. “That’s only what it looks like,” Will argues. “What else matters?” Charlie counters, and he’s right. The story makes it onto ACN’s own morning show (kudos to those actors for nailing the inane banter) and turns Mackenzie into a boldfaced name… making her even more enticing fodder for TMI. Gary Cooper, who used to work for Nina Howard’s publication, lets Will know it’s going to run a piece about how Mackenzie almost got her crew killed in Pakistan… and that TMI regularly accepts hush money to kill pieces. This, of course, gets Will’s journalistic panties in a twist. But his love  professional regard for his executive producer propels him to meet Nina at Hang Chew’s and almost write her a check for $50,000 – which would ostensibly buy him a silent partnership in her new restaurant but would actually make the Mac-trashing piece go away. But Nina casually refers to herself and Will as journalists, and you know our guy just can’t let that stand. So he threatens her and leaves… and that’s that? (For the record, I have a hard time believing that a gossip mag usually concerned with the likes of Jennifer Aniston would care about the incompetence of a no-name cable-news producer. Can’t really see that grabbing eyeballs on the newsstand.) In the meantime, Wade and Mac break up after he confesses he was using her. “In this order: Leave, lose the election, go to hell,” she tells him. Pretty slick, Mac! Less slick: Jim, who is kinda dating Maggie’s roommate, Lisa, but doesn’t want to do anything with her for Valentine’s Day. Maggie does all the legwork so Lisa will leave her and Don alone during their romantic evening at the Four Seasons – she buys gifts and a card and even tells Jim what to write – but he totally forgets to meet Lisa for dinner. Yeowch! She shows up at the newsroom hollering for his head (which he slams against Mackenzie’s desk in a futile attempt to hide – John Gallagher Jr.’s got some serious pratfall skills) but her ire is assuaged when he apologizes. His apology may have been helped along by her admission that she’s wearing edible undergarments – to which Maggie and I both say eewwwwww.

DON’T CRY FOR ME | I only caught one musical theater reference this week: Don mentioned that Elliot was out on his Egyptian hotel room’s balcony “singing a song from Evita.” If you heard one I missed, shout it out in the comments.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think of the gathering Koch brothers storm and how it’ll affect News Night? Were you amused or disappointed by Mackenzie’s complete ignorance of all things economic? And do you think Will’s threat will do the trick and still Nina’s poison pen? Sound off in the comments!

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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21 Comments
  1. Margaret says:

    cheers to John Gallagher Jr for finally getting some props! saw him in Spring Awakening on broadway, he’s a major talent :)

  2. Mel says:

    This is a fantastic show, I cannot get enough. Don seems to grow on me and then he does something stupid and i hate him again. I am hoping the Koch brothers storyline will continue and there will a little more continuity between episodes.

  3. CJ says:

    Jim had a seriously bad run as far as head injuries go – definitely kudos to the actor for making it seem real enough that I could all but feel the pain. I loved Will’s speech about what makes a real journalist. And the procession of people chipping in toward Khalid’s ransom was truly touching. (But seriously – that many people actually carry checkbooks these days??? Might have been more realistic if Will just kept getting messages about money received to his PayPal account.) And finally, Neal showed some true self-restraint – he made it several seconds longer watching ol’ Rushie than I would have before punching the screen.

    • Jess says:

      i always have my checkbook with me. Am I an odd 25 year-old for not using Paypal? oops! I agree about Will’s speech. Totally moving and inspirational!

    • kate says:

      anybody with a checking account has checks/can write checks. not exactly the impossible fantasy you describe, especially if someone plans it in advance.

  4. What’s cute about demanding someone date your friend and get her hopes up on Valentine’s Day? I so desperately what there to be a likable female character on this show.

  5. Eli says:

    Best episode of the show so far, for me at least.

  6. Loved the episode. Jim getting hit in the head repeatedly was funny, Neal’s storyline with Khalid was touching, as was the aforementioned moment at the end with the Rudy homage. I’ve always loved how Sorkin writes about the importance of loyalty, and it’s one of my favorite characteristics of Will.

  7. Michelle says:

    I’m hooked! I love this show and thought tonight’s episode was great. Jeff Daniels is amazing! Emily Mortimer who I wasn’t all that familiar with has grown on me. The combination of these two actors equals pure on screen chemistry, more Mac and Will please. Newsroom truly has it all going for it, and let’s keep it that way too!

  8. james says:

    Love this show so much. I find it hilarious and dramatic.

  9. mrsTV says:

    Last weeks episode gave me hope that things would continue to get better and then we got THIS. It was horrible and hokey. Seriously bad. I’m sorry but airing all your business in the office just does not happen like that. Also, an AP would NEVER talk to her boss or anchor the way she does. It’s as if everyone is equal at the show, which NEVER happens. Sorkin needs writers who’ve actually have some knowledge how relationships happen and function in a place like this. Just like The White House, there is conflict of interest concerns and secrecy amongst colleagues.

  10. Lovenr says:

    My new favorite show and this episode was all around awesome!

  11. Claire says:

    Jeff Daniels is so great…he has made me love Will.

  12. cj says:

    i love olivia munn and i want more sloane! which i got, and it was awesome, but i could still use more frazzled mac and no-emotion sloane friendship timez.

  13. Fido says:

    Still not warming to the comedy bits and not buying Mackenzie as top notch tv producer and X LAO as a drunk, but my question re: the ep – how come, when Amen appeared on the screen at the end of the ep, how come a whole bunch of the nearby standin-line people didn’t all look over, then go over to wave and say “great to see you’re alive”, what with them all lining up to give Jeff $$$$$ because he paid Amen’s ransom.

  14. Country Queen says:

    I live in Wisconsin, so it’s very interesting to see how they cover the Union busting and that hot mess we experienced last year. I hope this show gets the message out that our newsrooms need to be cleaned up. This is an important issue that we should all care about. Newsrooms being unbiased is something we should all want no matter what side of the isle we fall on.

  15. skitnica says:

    I missed smart TV for far too long, glad I caught this show.
    Go Will!

  16. Brent says:

    Amen is the worst character on this show, by far…

  17. Jessie says:

    I’m a huge a fan of Aaron Sorkin and I love The Newsroom, but I HATED the Valentine’s sub-plot in this episode. HATED IT. Suddenly Maggie completely changes character overnight? Last week she was so upset about Jim sleeping with Lisa she literally couldn’t hide it, and now she’s orchestrating the perfect Valentine’s night for them?! And she’s doing it solely so that Lisa won’t ruin her perfect night with Don?! There’s just no way she would encourage (force) Jim to shower Lisa with gifts on Valentine’s when she has feelings for him. And what woman would set her best friend up for a fall like that – getting a guy to pretend to like her when he really sees her as just a booty call. She wouldn’t let her best friend within a hundred miles of that situation. The whole thing just made Maggie seem selfish, cold and uncaring, and only concerned with getting to stay in the Four Seasons. And btw, no woman in the world would buy sexy lingerie for the guy she secretly likes to give to her best friend. No way. Ridiculous. This storyline would have worked so much better if they had simply changed Maggie’s motivation – since both Lisa and Jim know that Maggie has feelings for Jim, she did it to pretend to them that she didn’t anymore (like Donna trying to get Josh to ask out Joey Lucas in the West Wing). And because she felt sorry for Lisa. And she could have felt bad/sad about it. What she actually did was awful and completely unrealistic.

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