Absolutely no one, except for maybe Charlie, has a good time in The Newsroom this week. While the beetle-browed news boss blinks in disbelief over an Operation Genoa windfall, his underlings engage in petty bickering, day-drinking, wallowing, sniping, error-making, almost-job-losing and D-list-stardom-busting. Oh, and then someone dies. Put on a happy face – you’re gonna need it – as we review what happens in “News Night With Will McAvoy.”
A LOT GOING ON | The entirety of this week’s episode takes place on March 16, 2012 – the day of coordinated bombings in Syria and the release of the recording of George Zimmerman’s 911 call. It’s also the day that Will’s dad collapses and is taken to the hospital for a heart issue, an update that the host receives during a commercial break in that evening’s show. Upon hearing the news, MacKenzie urges Will to leave a voicemail for his father, despite their contentious relationship. “Nothing bad is going to happen if you’re kind to him right now,” she says. (You’ll remember that Will talked about his father’s physically abusive tendencies during a session with Dr. Habib last season.) “I really do think that tonight is one of those nights where you should do everything I tell you to do,” MacKenzie advises, not long after shooing away a kinda bitchy Neal for bothering Will with a Twitter issue during the broadcast. “How exactly would that be different from every other night?” McAvoy deadpans back. (Heh. Also, side note: I’m going to start wearing a producer’s headset wherever I go. Then, whenever I’m losing an argument or someone is annoying me, I can get that faraway look Mac does, tap my ear and say, “30 seconds” as I bustle off to do something that is ostensibly more important than whatever currently has my attention. I think this is a solid plan.)
In the newsroom, perhaps still smarting from Mac’s dismissal, Neal is less than accommodating when Jim needs help unblocking a phone number. How can he do it? Jim asks. “By listening when I taught you to do it,” Sampat snarks back. Hey there, Grumpy Cat — It’s probably good to remember that underneath the moppet hair, and despite his utter inability to keep private conversations out of the workplace, Jim is still your boss. Though I see how you might forget that, especially as he suddenly has nothing better to do than hover over Maggie’s shoulder as they wait for the audio file of Zimmerman’s emergency call to download. It takes a long time – but let’s look on the bright side: If it were quicker, we might not have learned that Maggie is drinking to forget what happened in Uganda, and that her nightcaps are starting to bleed into her day job. (Side note: I’m a little sad. I liked Maggie’s mean, plucky streak – in all its anti-Hallie, pro-sluts glory – when I thought it was driven by anger and jealousy. What a letdown to realize it’s just fueled by good, old-fashioned booze and sadness.) Jim quietly corners Gary CooperNotThatOne and asks how long it took him to “straighten out” after returning from Africa. “I wasn’t holding the kid,” Gary responds. Touché.
DON’T DRINK AND EDIT | Later, Maggie makes an error while editing the Zimmerman tape; it sounds as though he’s offering information about Trayvon Martin’s skin color out of the blue instead of answering a direct question from the 911 operator. Did it happen because she was pressed for time and scrambling? Probably. Does it help that, when it happens, she smells like the floor of a bar and is still wearing her clothes from the day before? Not at all. When Jim disciplines her, she goes on the defensive, immediately bringing up his Romney interview giveaway from the previous episode. But her vitriol fades quickly, and she is certainly not OK as she says, “I never remotely prepared for this scenario.” Understatement of the year, honey.
IT GETS BETTER WORSE | So when News Night has to re-air the entire recording and apologize for Maggie’s bad edit, it means they have to bump their final guest: a Rutgers student named Jesse who was booked to talk about Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide after his roommate used a webcam to spy on him kissing another man. Based on a tweet Jesse sends prior to his scheduled appearance, Mac realizes that he’s going to use News Night as a platform to come out to his parents… and she is not having that. When he calls her a bitch for preempting him, she calls him out for using the death of Clementi – whom he didn’t even know – to further his own screwed-up stardom. “I’ll put up color bars before I put you in front of my cameras,” she says, softening only slightly before bidding him goodbye with, “You were going to get killed. I did you a favor.”
She re-enters the studio to prep Will on the correction, and he tells her that he got word his father died about 12 minutes before. But we already knew that, no? Will had no fight in him for the latter part of the broadcast; something had to be wrong. Though Mac tears up, Will assures her he’s fine and he wants to continue the show. But when they return from the break, he takes too long of a quiet moment. The control room freaks until he looks into the camera with red-rimmed eyes and says, “Well, I guess it’s just us now” before launching into the Zimmerman tape explanation.
PICTURE IMPERFECT | Reese has nude photos of Sloan that were posted on a revenge porn Web site. She initially claims someone superimposed her head on another woman’s body but soon comes clean: She’d been dating an AIG consultant around Christmas, she’d given him a camera, they’d had a few drinks and they’d christened the gift with their own little Hustler shoot. She dumped him the night before this episode, so he’d gotten even in a very public fashion. (Side note: Raise your hand if the small similarity between this storyline and Olivia Munn’s real-life alleged photo entanglements made you a little uncomfortable.)
The humiliation is so crushing, Sloan ends up sitting on the floor of an office in the dark for much of the episode. That’s where Don finds her when he, too, starts to freak about something stupid he did. (Shorthanded: He made a stupid joke, someone at a Web site took it seriously and wrote a post about it and now he’s worried that he’s ruined someone else’s life.) But Sloan’s screw-up way trumps Don’s, so we spend most of their scenes watching her try to get her groove back. “There was no way to see this coming,” she cries. Sloan, bubbeleh. While I do not think you – nor any woman who is confident in her body, life, relationship or all three – should ever feel bad about anything she does consensually, there have been enough cautionary tales about this sort of thing that you’re going to make me do something I do not like to do: agree with Don. When he sad-flirts with you and says you date losers because you don’t have a high opinion of yourself, he’s exactly right. (Though when you choke out, “I want to die,” I can’t stay stern at you, you pretty little mess.)
When she finally gets a little gumption back (see? it only took an hour!), she solves Don’s crisis with one sentence and then shows up at her ex’s place of business. She interrupts a meeting, punches the offending jerk in the nose and kicks him in the crotch. (I’m no financial analyst, but I have a hunch his… stock isn’t going to drop for quite some time.) She snaps a pic with her Blackberry – you go girl, I guess? – and then strides out, Don there to stop the d-bag from following her.
THE MOST IMPORTANT NUGGET FROM THIS SECTION IS THAT CHARLIE WAS IN AN A CAPPELLA GROUP IN COLLEGE | Yeah. It was called The Whiskey Sodas, and they used to smoke a lot of weed. Only they called it “chicken” on the expense report so they could get reimbursed – and using that totally unshakable logic, he determines that the puzzling substance listed on a helicopter requisition doohickey he gets from a mysterious government source is actually sarin gas… meaning that Operation Genoa really happened. Oh Charlie, I hold you to a higher standard. Don’t get caught up in this hoopla, I beg you! (And I really, really need a copy of The Whiskey Sodas’ entire oeuvre.)
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Didn’t Mac seem a little meaner than normal? What was that “Tonight, I root for your failure” nonsense about? Any thoughts on the pranksters? Sound off in the comments!