The Newsroom Recap: Meltdowns, Menace, Muscle and Mind Games

This week’s episode of The Newsroom featured a death threat, deep soul searching and an engagement ring – and that was just in Will’s storyline. In related news, Sloan picked the wrong time to man up, but after lots of yelling and a little lying, all is well… for now.So visit the makeup chair and adjust your earpiece as we review what took place in “Bullies.”

THIS JUST IN: WILL’S NOT NICE | Will stumbles over the News Night sign-off, which is our first tip-off that something’s not okay in Angry Anchorland. When Mackenzie presses him, he admits that he’s suffering from insomnia and doesn’t want to rely on sleeping pills — “I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the Triboro Bridge eating scrambled eggs in my pajamas,” he quips. It’s getting so bad, though, that he actually shows up for the therapy session he’s been paying for (but hasn’t attended) for four years. He’s surprised to realize that his shrink died two years ago, and that the guy’s son  — played by go-to guest mensch David Krumholtz – has taken over the practice. And when the young doc wants to ask a few questions before giving Will the pills he’s suddenly decided he wants, we get our framing device for the week. (Though the therapy-as-a-way-to-get-at-backstory thing isn’t terribly inventive, I much prefer it to a meeting room full of executives haranguing Sam Waterston. Carry on, Newsroom.) Now lay back on your couch, because here’s a quickie version of the session: Will had a lot of therapy and was on anti-anxiety meds after Mackenzie cheated on him; Will’s dad was a physically abusive alcoholic who tormented him, his mom, brother and two sisters; and after someone left a death threat comment mentioning Will’s home address on the News Night Web site, ACN mandated that Will have a bodyguard – which is why Everybody Hates Chris’ Terry Crews as the highly muscled Lonny is sitting in the waiting room, leafing through old magazines. In flashback, we watch a very tired Will, on the same night as the botched show sign-off, interviewing a black, gay Rick Santorum rep about the then-presidential hopeful’s stance on same-sex marriage. Will makes his point – that Santorum’s remarks show him to be someone who would not support the rep, even though the rep says they’re good friends —  then makes it again and again. He sharpens the point so much that it eventually pokes through my TV and lodges itself in my eye, something that would’ve been less annoying than watching Will beat up this dude. The exchange goes beyond shouting match, with the guest ultimately owning Will in front of the entire News Night audience. Back in therapy, the doc quietly points out that Will treated this underserving man in a similar fashion to the college girl who asked an innocent question at the Northwestern panel event in the pilot. Yep, Will’s a bully just like his dad, and this is news to no one but him. Too bad for Sloan, the revelation comes a little too late.

DOMO ARI-… UH-OH | Sloan, who apparently is fluent in Japanese, helps out the News Night team by facilitating an interview with an old acquaintance who’s the spokesperson for TEPCO, the Japanese company that operates the Fukushima nuclear power plant. This is in mid-April, 2011, just after an earthquake in Japan precipitated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown. Off the record, the flak tells Sloan that the situation is far worse than the company will officially admit. (Side note: With the Japanese fluency reveal and all of Sloan’s economics degrees, is Aaron Sorkin trying to prove that all of the high-minded stuff taking up room in her brain is squeezing out common sense and romantic savvy?) When Don needs a 10 pm fill-in for Elliot, he taps Sloan – and a little go get-em advice from Will sets her up for her downfall. He cautions her not to let guests get away with telling the audience things she knows aren’t true, so when the TEPCO rep sings the company song about how bad the power plant is, she goes after him – in Japanese. For, like, minutes at a time. Despite the fact that what he told her on the phone was off the record. She ignores Don, whose reaction in the control room is legitimately hilarious, but can’t sidestep Charlie’s verbal strafing in the middle of the newsroom after the show. His tirade starts with, “What in the name of holy f–k was that about?” and ends with him putting her on paid suspension and calling her “girl” as she hollers, “Don’t call me ‘girl,’ sir!” (A well-acted scene, all in all.) In the end, Sloan agrees to tell a little on-air lie about not understanding the difference between the Japanese words for “four” and “seven,” which will save the job/honor of her TEPCO pal and will allow her to return to work, albeit as an apparent idiot. But TEPCO will also admit that the nuclear mess is much worse than the company first stated. Yay… I guess? Are we assuming that absolutely no one in the audience understands Japanese and could figure out what Sloan and the rep actually said on-air? Yes? Well, okay then!

DIGGING IN THE DIRT | Here’s a truly breaking development: Don is not so much of a gigantic tool that he doesn’t notice Maggie and Jim’s growing affinity for each other. And the pair’s mutual adoration is hard to miss when Mackenzie tasks the staff with digging up “opposition research” on Will before another tabloid story hits. It’s a contrivance in two parts. First, it allows us to watch Jim and Mags flirt (though when she revealed that she’d confused Georgia the country with Georgia the state and then added “LOL” to a sympathy card because she thought it meant “lots of love,” I practically screamed with him, “How are you still working here?!”). Second, it reveals that Will was offered a late-night gig at Fox in Los Angeles while he and Mackenzie were dating. The executive producer, incapable of letting anything emotional settle for a moment or two, makes a beeline for Will’s office and demands that she be absolved of her guilt: Though she did cheat on him, she cries, he was never going to marry her because he planned to take the job in California. Will then unlocks a desk drawer and pulls out a Tiffany ring box with a honkin’ huge diamond inside. Whaaaa? My immediate question: Why would you keep that at the office? I get my answer when Mackenzie is so thoroughly knocked off her game that all she can do is stammer and exit quickly. But we later learn that Will bought the ring earlier that week, just to mess with her (ha! and also, twisted!)… but we see him ripping up the receipt, which means he means to keep the bauble. Hmm… But seriously, Will, put that thing somewhere safe, would ya?

MUSICAL CUES | The only musical-theatre reference I picked up this week referred to opera, not Broadway, and it came when Charlie called Sloan “Madame Butterfly” as he shredded her to bits. If you heard something I missed, mention it in the comments.

Now it’s your turn. Do you think Will’s growing as a person? Do you want to see more therapy sessions? Did your perception of Don change, even a little, from seeing him scared about losing Maggie? 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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  1. B MO says:

    All Respect to Damon Gupta as Sutton Hall. Good stuff for Olivia Munn as well. Getting a lot better.

    • Dani says:

      I stopped watching the show live after the second episode, and only now just caught up online on a rainy afternoon to 4 episodes I missed. I think the show has gotten way better. A big part of it was adjusting the tone and pace from what I think everyone expected- it’s a far more romanticized approach to news than West Wing was to politics. Sloan is becoming my favorite character. I’m glad it got a season 2 pickup. Want to see where this goes. As long as Sam Waterston isn’t the new Mrs. Landingham. Let’s avoid that.

  2. JAO says:

    I’m just along for the ride … don’t need to analyze, categorize or aggrandize. Love this show and I just flow where it takes me!

    • Melissa says:

      Agreed and thank you, why can’t people just enjoy without commenting…oh wait.

    • JLR says:

      I agree. I think the dialogue is brilliant, and I love every minute of the show. I do miss some details here and there, but I don’t care. I think that this is one of the best shows on t.v. right now.

  3. Slizabeth says:

    I don’t know if this is a stage reference, but they kept talking about confusing Sarah and Sandra Bernhardt… Sara Bernhardt was a french (stage) actress.

  4. Liam Tait says:

    I really enjoyed this episode, probably the best one yet. Olivia Munn is really showing she’s more than just the ‘hot girl’ so many people are happy to categorize her as. Sloan is quickly becoming my favorite character on the show.

    • ThatGirl says:

      Couldn’t agree more Liam, Olivia Munn brought it in this episode, the girl can act! Fantastic character. Hopefully the writers won’t bring in the ‘hysterical woman’ they seem to be doing to all the other women in the show. Sloane is such a cool, smart character.

  5. Robin says:

    Kudos to Olivia Munn’s performance as Sloan.
    As a fan from her G4 AOTS days I am gratified she’s been given such a great character to play. Sloan was obviously written expressly for her. Sorkin must be a Munn fan. One never can be too sure of the depth of someone’s talent unless it is given a chance to shine and I feel that Munn delivered in this episode. Gratifying to have confirmation my fandom isn’t misplaced.

    • rowan77 says:

      Sloan wasn’t written expressly for Olivia Munn, but once an actor has a part, tailoring the part to the actor’s strengths is standard. Munn lived in Japan and is fluent in Japanese, so, hell yes, Sorkin is going to use that to the show’s advantage. I liked that Will, who has been trying to be a better person realizes in this episode that he has a long way to go and that his behavior was backsliding. He’s the bully he’s always despised – but isn’t that the way? This episode reminded me a little of a West Wing christmas episode where Josh had to see a psychologist because he was becoming too combative and it turned out his behavior stemmed from (***11 year old Spoiler Alert!!***) the night he and the President were shot. The Christmas Caroling sounded like sirens in his post-traumatic stressed mind.

      Back to the Newsroom. Olivia Munn really is surprising people, including myself. The first episode in which she appeared, she was stiff and unfunny. Now she’s really settled in and is showing acting chops we never knew existed. The show keeps improving week after week. I really don’t understand the reviews where people said the show went off the rails in the 4th episode and never recovered. The 4th episode was great and it keeps getting better.

      • Robin says:

        I stand (sit, actually) corrected. Of course writers begin to write to actors’ strengths. What was I thinking? Still, I’m pleased that she did so well. Maybe the director should get some credit for pulling a good performance out of her, I don’t know. Obviously I wasn’t there on set. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed this episode and remain happy for her that she’s got a good role on a good show. It seems like success requires so many things to line up right that it’s amazing anyone’s Hollywood career works out!

  6. Mike says:

    Glad to see them finally doing something with Olivia Munn. Her every scene has been such a pleasure to watch. While this episode as a whole was not my favorite to date, the show is certainly great as a whole. I’ve watched every episode at least twice so far. When was the last time you were able to say that about a series?

  7. kate says:

    The fact that these people are so good professionally but so messed up personally is sort of the point, I think. Mackenzie and Will are both clearly messes on personal levels and clearly in love with each other but unwilling to admit it. It makes for conflict and some pretty hilarious comedy. Sloan is less of a mess, but not as good at dealing with people as she is at her work. I don’t know why critics/tv writers/etc seem to think that this is some kind of huge flaw in the writing instead of something being done on purpose.

    • lp81 says:

      Agreed! One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen is Mac’s ability to be such an amazing producer, but how her personal life is a wreck. The criticisms being that if she is such a great producer, she should have her personal life in order.

      I know plenty of people who are fantastic at their jobs, but have numerous personal problems outside of work. I know plenty of people who are failures in their jobs, yet manage to have exciting social lives.

      Instead of looking at this with some sort of doubt or negativity, I look at it as a positive. It makes, for me, Mac more real. I’d personally find it more unrealistic if she was perfect at her job and her social life.

      Was also impressed with Munn’s performance this episode and agree that it was one of the best episodes yet. Very much looking forward to what Sorkin has planned next.

  8. jane says:

    Ugh, getting really tired of all the critics’ complaints and mockery of this show. Is it perfect? No. But some writers came into this with negative preconceived notions about Sorkin’s work and have continuously been unable to let go of those ideas and just enjoy the show. The characters are amazing and I already feel SO invested in all of them and each relationship. Sloan was awesome this week, Charlie’s scenes were once again hilarious, heartfelt, and greatly acted, and Don becomes more dimensional and likable each week. Will and Mac’s story is still the best part of the show for me; never thought Emily Mortimer and Jeff Daniels would have such perfect chemistry! I think too many critics want this show to be as “realistic” and dark as most premium cable dramas, but that’s just not Sorkin’s style. He has always been about comedy, philosophy, screwball romance, and totally effective shmaltz. It’s not exactly the “in” TV formula right now (see: the depressing worlds of Mad Men and Breaking Bad), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great! Good TV does not equal Epic Grittiness. Good TV is just good writing, whether it be realistic or fantastical or just heightened, sometimes sillier versions of real life. Anyways, love the show, wish it would last longer than 10 episodes per season!

  9. bobbie says:

    I love this show. It’s so well done. I am completely involved from the start to the end of every episode.

  10. Polly says:

    It’s amazing how every episode of this show makes me crave for more.
    Huge kudos to all the cast and to Aaron Sorkin!!!

  11. Alex says:

    I hope we’ll see David Krumholtz again, the scenes he and Will shared were fantastic.
    The show is getting better and better. I agree about Olivia Munn but also Jeff Daniels is doing a excellent job.

  12. I loved Olivia Munn in this episode. Sorkin makes me a little annoyed because sometimes his female characters are awful. Sloan is the only one that seems to have a lick of common sense (even though what she did wasn’t the smartest thing ever). I think this is my favorite episode of the season so far.

  13. Another week another hate-filled diatribe against Republicans, from the so called Republican character. Judging from a lot of these comments many people here are clueless. I’m still waiting for him to attack and rant against the Democrats for an entire show. If you went by this show they have never done anything wrong. After all, the show is about a journalist “who only wants to give you information you need in the voting booth.” I guess we don’t need any information about the Democratic candidates? I’m sorry, but it is a serious flaw in the show to keep harping on how the main character is a “registered Republican” but does everything possible to sway your vote towards Democrats by constantly attacking Republicans. He will try to spin it as a Republican character upset with the direction of his party, but it is just liberal speak for “here is why we don’t like your party and why you HAVE to be more like us.” Wrong.

    • Krista says:

      I really have to ask why you’re watching this show lmao. It’s one thing if you’re a moderate thinker when it comes to politics, but if you’re clearly right-leaning and you’re consciously watching an Aaron Sorkin show? That’s called masochism. I mean hey, it’s your prerogative. But to complainers in the same vein as you, it’s just like…what did you expect?

      • TV Gord says:

        This is part of the problem with today’s culture. You’re now even expected to watch your entertainment shows based on your political beliefs. Stop and think about how absurd that is.

    • lp81 says:

      Did you miss the episode where Will says his party is being hijacked by irrational and radical people? Will is a moderate Republican and is appalled at the way the “Tea Party” took over the Republican’s message. That’s why he’s railing against the far right in each episode. It’s not about being against Republicans or Democrats, it’s about speaking truth to stupid. Will is trying to wake people up to the fact that the Republican party, as it was, is no more, and that, unless people are willing to learn about what is going on, it’s going to continue going down that path. The show is far less partisan than Sorkin’s last show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was a show for liberals, about liberals, made by liberals.

  14. This is probably my favourite episode to date. Sure, it’s not perfect (and I still think Maggie needs to be fired ASAP) but it’s entertaining. I will say that Sloan, Don and now Will are my three favourite characters. I also love seeing Neal and Charlie, and even Jim is great when he’s not around Maggie. Mackenzie has her off moments but she’s getting less emotional and stupid, so that’s good. And I really just enjoying watching the show now. Maybe it’s because this episode had less Mac and Maggie, but if the second season had the show consist of Will, Don, Neal, Sloan, Jim and Tess, I’d be happy. Even throw in Elliot and have Mackenzie come in occasionally, and I’d be 100% hooked.

  15. Bamtam says:

    newsroom is becoming mys fav thing on tv right now and its part thx to the witty electric dialogues, the incredible alchemy between will and his XP, olivia munn AND terry crewws are both a beautiful surprise i loved a lot. did anyone felt weird when Don screamed during the heated exchange between munn and her boss? i felt right at that very second the same way i think he felt:’she is this far from rage resigning. or being fired.’
    This episode was the best to me and i can’t the end of the series (the later possible) to swim in BD bonus content and what not.
    i never was convinced by olivia munn’s talent and i’m glad i was wrong. i’m glad she learned how to use her brows though there never been too much activity up there in her past project. until now.

  16. The ring costed $87,880.