The Newsroom Recap: Will's Voicemail Revealed!

The Newsroom Season 2 RecapNina Howard, you shifty little minx.

Last season, The Newsroom made a point of showing us you erasing Will’s high-as-a-kite voicemail of love to MacKenzie (which you obtained illegally via wiretap). That development made it seem like you’d put aside your sleazy, tabloid sensibilities – which bummed me out a bit – and become a foot soldier in McAvoy’s Mission to Civilize. Sure, you were going to stay on as the head honcho at the gossip rag TMI, but you were going to feel really bad about it. (Cue tiny violin of conflicted character sympathy.) Score one for Will, score zzzzzz for me.

But you resurface this week and, in one short scene at the end of the hour, prove you’ve still got little compunction about lying to get what you want. Plus, you answer a question that has lingered for nearly a year: What in the heck did Will say to MacKenzie in the rest of that phone message?!

Of course, other stuff happens, too: Jim attempts to start a revolution, Jerry gets a big break, and Don falls over. A couple of times.  It’s funny. Read on as we review what happened in “Willie Pete.”

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DON’T ASK, GO TO HELL | We first see Will mid-broadcast on Sept. 23, 2011, as he’s railing against the booing of a gay soldier who asked a question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell during a Republican primary debate. “How many different kinds of disgusting do you have to be to boo a man who volunteered to fight and die for you?” Will asks, incensed. He calls out the candidates for choosing not to renounce the booing, noting that if most of us were told we’d have to go to war, we “would go Corporal Klinger faster than you can pull on a yellow taffeta picnic dress.” (Heh – and yay for the M*A*S*H reference. Good God, I love that show.)

After the broadcast, Mac’s post-mortem with Will quickly devolves into her begging him to tell her what he said in the rest of his voice message to her the night of the bin Laden capture. “You’ve asked every day for two months,” he notes. (Oh really? Because we’re in Episode 3, and this is the first I’m hearing about it… You know what? Doesn’t matter. Questions are going to get answered soon, so let’s just keep things moving along.) MacKenzie tries to jog his memory. “I’m not just saying this because I’m high…” she starts, but he stands firm that he can’t remember what he said next.

A short time later, Mac throws out a theory: After the bin Laden broadcast, “for a minute, just a minute, you forgot you were mad at me.” He quietly closes her office door and informs her “I’m not mad at you” before softly yet forcefully reminding her that she was dating Brian “The Greater Fool” Brenner for four months while she was with Will. He may not be mad at her, but he’s definitely not pleased. “Sometimes, you’re not as cute as you think you are,” he says. Yeowtch and a little deserved, no? (Log your take in the comments.)

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE (BLONDE) | Will swings by Charlie’s office, where his boss has some potentially pain-in-the-tush news: Nina Howard knows Will wasn’t actually sick when Sloan and Elliot filled in for him on the Sept. 11 anniversary. (Again I ask, what gossip rag worth its salt would care about this kind of cable-news minutiae? Unless Will’s absence was caused by his attendance at Jen Aniston’s surprise wedding or his acting as doula at little North West’s birth – or those events’ late 2011 equals – why in the world would a tabloid care?) Charlie suggests doing nothing, but Will wants an on-the-record meeting with Nina so he can revive his Mission to Civilize. “Nothing about that idea is good,” Skinner notes. (Heh.) But Will is sure his “appeal to her God-given humanity” will work. The back-and-forth between Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston is great here, by the way.

When Nina arrives for the meeting and finds the Atlantis World Media executive dining room empty except for Will, a pianist and a security guy, she quips, “Am I about to be murdered?” (Heh.) They sit, and he offers her a mimosa. “What?” she responds. Nina! The answer to “Do you want a mimosa?” is always, always “Yes.” He gallantly tells her that he did not have the flu for the Sept. 11 coverage and that it was Charlie, not Reese or Leona, who pulled him from the assignment after his Tea Party/Taliban comment. Nina agrees not to run the story because she likes that he told her the truth. (I’m ignoring the fact that the pianist has launched into “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” because it’s a little too much even for me. Nina’s reaction – “Oh dear God” – sums it up best, anyway.)

Will seems shocked by her easy acquiescence, so he leaves but returns a moment later to ask her out on a date. “I’d love to, but I won’t,” she says… because she’s heard the full voicemail and knows “You’re in love with MacKenzie.” He denies it. NINA: “The message said –” WILL: “You don’t have to say what it said.” ME: YES, YES, YES YOU DO. So here it is, folks, via Ms. Howard: “‘Hey Mac, it’s me. Look, I’m not just saying this because I’m high: I’ve never stopped loving you. You were spectacular tonight.’ Then there’s a pause, and you say, ‘Can you believe we got Obama?'” (Side note: Ha!)

NOT-SO-NICE NINA | With that taken care of, Will’s on the warpath for the leak. Sloan fears it was her (via a convoluted story about a wedding date with a guy who turned out to be Nina’s book agent) but TMI actually had the Sept. 11 scoop because it never stopped its nefarious phone tap. An apoplectic Charlie tells McAvoy to retrieve the recording of Reese admitting to the illegal eavesdropping, then he lets loose with a hilarious, “Will? We ride!” as they head up to the big boss’ office. Two things deflate their righteous fury: There’s nothing actually on the digital recorder (one of my biggest editorial nightmares writ large) and Reese couldn’t give a flying Fox News even if there were. Reese drops the recorder in the trash and dismisses them without a second thought.

Later in the episode, Mac calls Nina to thank her for killing the story and to ask if she had any inkling of what the rest of Will’s message might’ve been. Nina – who’s drying her hair, which will prove important in a minute – relates the part about MacKenzie’s kick-ass producing but omits any mention of Will’s ongoing devotion to his EP. Curious! Could it be because she’s clearly just finished a post-coital shower at Will’s? (Side note: Thank goodness Nina’s not quite the gossip-girl-with-a-heart-of-gold the show made her seem at the end of last season. This new wrinkle makes the character much more worthy of Hope Davis’ portrayal.)

SHOW ME THE ROMNEY | Jim’s frustration with the Romney campaign is starting to tick off everyone on the bus. After one petty interaction that ends with Harper asking advance staffer Cameron “Are you a cyborg?,” Hallie speaks for everyone when she says, “Are you a moron?… You’ve heard the only answer you’re going to hear. Learn how this works, because you’re driving the rest of us crazy.” But when a female Romney flak named Taylor is thrown into the mix, the discourse devolves to the point that one of Harper’s follow-up questions is: “Is there somebody inside you operating you with controls?” (Ha!) Jim’s disillusionment comes to a head one night when he tries to rally the rest of the reporters to join him in asking the tough questions. “Who’s with me?” he asks, a manic Jerry Maguire minus the fish. Hallie stands with him, so does a mustachioed guy who I’m sure has a name but who I always think of as Reporter Horatio Sanz, and… that’s it. “Oh god,” Hallie says as she returns to reality. The campaign tosses the trio and its gear off the bus, leaving the reporters on the side of the road at night in the middle of nowhere while the rest of the press corps motors away for another day of baby-kissing and stump-speechifying.

WOMAN UP! | Sloan and her EP disagree about whether she should voice her political views re: military drones during her financial show. In short, she did it against Zane’s wishes, and she tells him that Don backs up her decision. Which is true, except Don also told her to do what her EP tells her to do. But let’s push all of that aside for the moment and focus on the visual of Sloan’s EP leading one of the network’s top talent into Don’s office BY THE ARM like she’s a petulant toddler. I nearly used up this post’s italics budget on that last sentence, and I don’t even care: Why is Sloan so routinely treated like a little girl in the ACN newsroom, and why does she allow it? It’s lovely and all that Don stands up for her, saying that she’s smarter than pretty much anyone in the building.  But that look on your face, Sloan? Don’t fall for him just because he’s the only Y-chromosomed person in the news division aware of the obvious. You are smarter than pretty much anyone in the building. You’re also prettier than pretty much anyone in the building. Please don’t let the latter infringe on the former. (And the fact that you threaten your EP with a ball peen hammer at the end of the scene is heartening, but next time, don’t bury the lede, ‘k?) Also, because this fits nowhere else: Don falling over backwards in his teeny Hobbit office chair multiple times made me laugh out loud.

ELSEWHERE AT ACN | After meeting with Jerry’s Operation Genoa source, Mac gives the producer the go-ahead to try to verify his tale about the U.S. using white phosphorous (nicknamed “willie pete”) and/or serin gas on civilians. Just when a dubious Charlie and Mac are about to kill the story, some translated tweets seem to prove that the attack actually did happen… Neal basically calls Mac a bourgeois princess out of touch with the common man, and that somehow makes her sympathetic to his passion for Occupy Wall Street. (Side note: Yeesh.)… Maggie takes the wrong type of malaria medicine and freaks out about it at an incredibly inappropriate time (how completely out of character!).

MY DESTINY CALLS AND I GO | In our ever-evolving tally of the series’ musical theater references: During the Mission to Civilize conversation in Charlie’s office, Will brings up Man of La Mancha. Again.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? 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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39 Comments
  1. Mick says:

    Whoever directed this episode did an atrocious job, between the zooming in and out at horrible moments or the shoddy transitions between scenes. It was bad.

    • mogie428 says:

      I saw a similar comment early on and didn’t see it. By the end, I certainly did. There was a weird set up between Charlie and Will that seemed to zoom in on Will twice without moving away from him. Makes you long for the days of Schlamme.

    • S. says:

      Gonna need to stand up for the director by shifting the blame where it’s likely due. I noticed what you noticed, and I sympathize. I hated the style, and it’s happened in other episodes. Earlier, I was all set to blame Greg Mottola who did two of them, then I realized another was with Alex Graves and the one tonight was Lesli Linka Glatter, both of the latter two have worked with Aaron’s words and Tommy’s aesthetic before to great effect. Lesli’s nominated for an Emmy right now I think. It’s not their faults. I’m thinking this is Alan Poul’s idea. He’s basically Aaron’s Tommy on this, the director-producer on set. I think the camera’s zooming in on things the way a cameraman/woman would do if out trying to get the news and you never know where the important thing is gonna be. It’s POV (I guess that’s the term) is floating around a bit and when there’s something “important” either in terms of event or emotion on this show, it zooms in to focus. Interesting in concept, do not like it in execution. This is not found footage for God’s sake, it needs to look better than this. If anybody wanted to do a Kickstarter campaign to raise whatever you gotta raise to pay whomever you have to pay to get Tommy on The Newsroom, it would totally squash the Veronica Mars campaign like a bug. I’m guessing he can’t work on HBO for some reason like contractual conflicts with his production company, but there has to be something that’ll make that go away.

    • Joe says:

      Glad someone else noticed this. I thought the steadicam guy or his AC had made some mistakes and they had no choice but to use the footage. It was bizarre and really the first time I noticed the zooming at inopportune times. Brought me out of the show for a moment. Camera work should never do that.

  2. Mogie says:

    I’m still confused why Nina and “TMI” care about Will and “NewsNight” too. I’ve worked in gossip media and we could honestly care less. If it’s not Bieber or Kardashians, no one’s going to buy the magazine or click the story.

    • Tammy says:

      maybe it was more Nina interested in Will on a personal level and using her TMI job to get to him…… also why she is willing to bury the story so quickly to get on Will’s good side.

  3. rebecca says:

    I knew that Nina Howard was up to know good but a little confused about the last scene..thought this was the best show of the series this year…was the woman who was the Romney aide on the bus the same woman who was a friend of Ari’s in Entourage?

  4. Kevin Dillon says:

    Disagree, think Page Six, I know you may have worked in gossip, but don’t people click for Matt Lauer, Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, Robin Roberts etc ? Maybe not as much as Beiber of course, but I think that makes sense

    • Mogie says:

      I can see Nina going after Will for being high on the air, especially for such a big report. But for faking the flu for 9/11 coverage? It’s not like he gave money to terrorist organizations or believes the entire event never happened, like those that don’t believe in the Holocaust.

  5. Sam says:

    May not be the a reality tv star but gossip is gossip right?

  6. Jones says:

    Anyone else completely done with Maggie? She’s more awful this season than last.

    • mogie428 says:

      Second being done with Maggie. Aaron should go drop her off in Mandy-land (TWW).

    • GottaHaveEmAll says:

      Soooo sick of Maggie. Just when I think she can’t get any more annoying, she rises or sinks as it were. Ugh. I turn away when she’s on-screen. Its uncomfortable to watch. I think Sorkin is trying to shoot for quirky with this character and its not working – spastic and pathetic is what comes across.

  7. Chablis says:

    Good not great ep. Great recap. Yes sick of martyr Maggie.

  8. May says:

    Seriously, who the hell did not know what was in that message? It was predictable at best. The episode was great, though. I’m loving Emily Mortimer’s work.

  9. Mimi says:

    Question: Is Jim ever going to return to New York?

  10. Chablis says:

    Only if he brings his new friend. That would throw Maggie for a loop.

    • Joe says:

      This romantic subplot is literally turning into Jim/Pam/Roy/Karen Fillipelli on The Office.

      I’d love to see Sorkin take a left turn here and have Jim really fall in love with someone new and move on from Maggie instead of holding a torch for her.

  11. Mel Meister says:

    Nina went after Will because Reece told her to do it. He is her boss as well as Will’s.

  12. Chablis says:

    Ah good point. I expect we will see more of mama’s bit Reece in the future.

  13. GottaHaveEmAll says:

    Love the episode. The dialogue is always a win for me. Charlie and Will’s conversations are always magic. Loved both interactions with Don and Sloan. But I don’t want Sloan with Don, even though its obviously headed in that direction.

  14. Joel says:

    Who is the actor that played Zane?

  15. Myke25 says:

    I’m liking that this season is less about the inter-office relationships and more about covering the news. That said…Jim should consider Maggie a bullet dodged, and just get back to work…Mac needs to get over the voice mail message, and get back to work…Don and Sloan should just get a room already, then break up and get back to work…and Will should know that screwing Nina will not translate into saving Nina and get back to work.

  16. H.Houston says:

    I am looking forward to next weeks episode… it appears that we will finally find out what happened to Maggie. I understand this season is pretty much all flashback… which is kind of nice because it doesn’t feel like that. I like how they slowly dribble in the meetings with the lawyer to remind the viewers that we are in fact watching flashbacks that lead up to the point of the depositions.

  17. Tammy says:

    Anyone else looking for Rory on the Romney bus?

  18. Matthew says:

    Okay, some of the dialogue is getting a bit out of hand. Also, Maggie’s freak out in the MIDDLE OF A MEETING was completely and laughably stupid. She’d have been fired instantly in a real office setting.

    Other than that, the story’s getting good at least. It’s funny watching this Genoa thing head for a spectacularly destructive end.

    • Cin says:

      Newsrooms are not a “real office setting” — sorry, they just aren’t. They are the wild west of the work world in some ways. You can get away with so much.
      I’ve heard a whole lot worse in news meetings and post-morts than Maggie’s little freak out. I’ve seen reporters tell each other to go f*ck themselves, I’ve heard people obliterate other people’s ideas. I’ve seen people run out of the room in tears. That was nothing.
      Think about it: reporters are basically paid to stick it to authority and to question society (or they perceive themselves that way.) Not playing by basic rules can be seen as an allowable quirk.
      In some ways, the absolute honesty of a newsroom setting is very refreshing.

  19. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Ever since I watched the scene where they showed the audience at the Republican debate booing the gay soldier, I can’t stop saying in my head, “I was saying Boo-urns.”

  20. Joseph says:

    Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston are magical. Good to see Hope Davis again. Who knew Olivia Munn would be this perfect for Sloan? I hope they bury the Jim-Maggie-Don story this season for good. But most of all, I love Emily Mortimer and everything she does on the show. She is a fantastic actor. If she wasn’t on every week, I wouldn’t watch. All the criticism this show faced last season especially over the Mac character was not deserved at all. It’s fabulous part and extremely well-written. Mortimer just kills it each episode.

  21. mosesgunn says:

    I continue to believe that the reason Nina Howard had that voicemail was because Will, in his incredibly high state, simply called Nina instead of Mac and left that voicemail. It also explains why Mac never got the voicemail in the first place…because he never left it for her in the first place.

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