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!