The Newsroom Recap: Sarin, Lies and Videotape

The Newsroom Season 2 RecapThis week, the clock on the Newsroom story we’ve known all season was going to blow up in the News Night team’s faces starts ticking down in earnest – and one key player is revealed as a liar who’s basically responsible for the whole debacle. Elsewhere, I fear there’s another misguided Jim hook-up on the horizon. (Ladies love the floppy hair, I guess?) Without further ado, let’s review the major developments that take place in “One Step Too Many.”

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SEEING RED| We open with the first Red Team meeting, a term which, forgive my nerdery, brings to mind the redshirts on Star Trek away teams every single time I hear it. (Come to think of it, though, the people in this room are about to be just as screwed.) For those needing a catch-up, the Red Team is a group of previously uninvolved ACN journos who are briefed so they can poke holes in a potentially controversial story, hopefully making it better in the process. Neal, MacKenzie, Jerry and Maggie present the Operation Genoa cover-up to Don, Jim and Sloan while Charlie looks on.

The trio of newbies, particularly Jim, is quite wary of the story. “I don’t believe it, either. And I also don’t believe in Santa Claus, but if I saw eight reindeer take flight…” Mackenzie says, setting up a truly ridiculous digression about the precise name and number of St. Nick’s sleigh-pullers. Jim pulls the conversation back on track so he can wax skeptical about Jerry’s pet project, and is it just me or is Hamish Linklater channeling angry Ross Gellar here? Dude, no one’s confusing a pterodactyl for a stegosaurus or refusing to pivot on command. These people are on your side. Chillax.

Mac and Charlie announce they’re going to visit a retired Marine named Gen. Stanislaus Stomtonovich, who is in a position to confirm that Genoa happened and whose history indicates he may be willing to help ACN with the story. By the end of the meeting, Don and Jim’s thoughts on the matter at hand are clearly “Hell no,” but Sloan is harder to read.

THE BITCH IS… ACTUALLY QUITE LOVELY | I’m going to ignore the silliness of Hallie calling Jim via Skype on his office computer because I’m just so relieved to see her not copping her usual ‘tude. In fact, she seems downright bubbly. As they make plans for her New York visit the following evening, she requests a favor. “Do it. Whatever she’s asking, do it. Do it now,” pipes up Gary CooperNotThatOne, who appears out of thin air. (Heh, and side note to Newsroom: How about giving us more Chris Chalk in the future? Thanks!) Jim’s new lady asks if he’ll invite Neal to dinner so Hallie can pair him up with an mtvU reporter she knows from the campaign trail. Jim’s hesitant to do so, but he caves when Hallie promises him plenty of “discretionary time” with her back at the hotel. (Side note: I said I was going to forget about the fact that this couple is having a very private conversation in a very public manner at work, but I just can’t. In what way is this a good idea? And does Jim not own headphones?)

As Jim and Neal wait for Hallie and mtvU’s Aubrey to finish up at a Romney benefit, we learn that it’s March 21, 2012. We also learn that Hallie cannot read a social situation to save her life, because she’s invited Romney flak Taylor to dinner as an irritable fifth wheel. Taylor makes it clear she’s coming just because Jim doesn’t want her to, and they argueflirt with such agility and vehemence that I become certain they will sleep together before the end of the season.

Their banter continues at dinner, when Aubrey shows Taylor the YouTube clip of Maggie bellowing at the Sex and the City bus. The rest of the dining party fades into the background as Jim and Taylor dominate the conversation, talking about Romney’s record and his gaffes and… I’m not really sure what else, because I’ve suddenly become busy donning a Kevlar vest to protect myself from Constance Zimmer’s guns. (Whatever you’re doing, mama, it’s working for you.) Jim exhorts the Romney rep to tell her boss to play up his business background and use his religious beliefs to his advantage. “It’s been suggested,” she says uneasily. And? “I was fired” – that very evening, as it turns out.

Meanwhile, Maggie’s drinking at the very hotel where Jim is planning to spend “discretionary time” with Hallie. No one’s buying Hallie’s story that Jim’s “fixing my computer,” or Maggie’s lie that she’s there with a college pal, but the ladies’ first meeting is cordial enough. Upstairs, Hal and Jim engage in about nine nanoseconds of fervent making out before she gets word that Romney’s added an event in the morning, meaning she has to be on a plane in 90 minutes. Jim later encounters Drunky McFallsapart once more in the lobby bar, where he encourages her to be careful about what she says about Operation Genoa when she drinks. Then she leaves with the bartender, and it’s sad all the way around.

LOOKIN’ FOR LOVE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES | Will is feeling unloved, so he does ridiculous things like commission News Night focus groups and listen to Nina, who’s calling him “honey” these days and giving him tips on how to be more likable to viewers. On her advice, he visits the channel’s inane morning show and – among other atrocities — dons a football helmet that, as Sloan later points out, makes him look like Michael Dukakis in the tank. In his anger, Will breaks up with Nina (I think? Hard to tell with blusterers like him). “Why didn’t you say that I shouldn’t care about the [approval] numbers?” he shouts at her. “Because you should,” she counters, once and for all cementing her position as Not Mac. Later, Sloan gives Will some sisterly advice about doing the kind of News Night he wants to do. (This scene seemed redundant to me – I’d rather see Will in action than hear Sloan tell us what’s going on in his head – but I’m curious to hear what you guys think. Log your thoughts in the comments.)

Meanwhile, Mac and Don hang loose at Hang Chews. He laments that he can’t compete with the guys Sloan dates (though if you don’t post pictures online of her in her birthday suit, Keefer, I think that would give you a leg up). I lament that the show has chosen to shoot the very beautiful Emily Mortimer from such an unflattering angle. It’s a sweet scene, nevertheless. Key takeaways: Mac knows Will and Nina are an item (if, indeed, they still are). and Don feels guilty about Maggie’s current plight – though Mac tells him he shouldn’t.

THE KEY CUT | Charlie and Mac go to Silver Spring, Md., to feel out the retired Marine general (played by Stephen Root, Justified). He’s odd. He doesn’t remember them calling the day before, and he insists on watching March Madness, no matter what else is going on. Nevertheless, he surmises that the news folk are there to talk about United States forces using chemical weapons on civilians – “We’re not playing basketball anymore,” he says cryptically – and agrees to let Jerry interview him, at home and in disguise, about Operation Genoa.

Dantana and Maggie show up on another day, only to have Stomtonovich kick everyone but Jerry out of the room before taping begins. (P.S. This would not happen – from what I’ve been told, this kind of shoot necessitates a camera operator and an audio person in the room, at the least.) Before Maggie steps out, though, the general clearly says “It happened,” which was the phrase in question when lawyer lady Rebecca interviewed Mags a few weeks ago.

The thing is, once Jerry starts recording, Stomtonovich won’t confirm what he promised to confirm. He speaks only in hypotheticals. So when Jerry gets back to ACN, he sneaks into an edit room and makes some creative cuts. What the general actually says: “If we used sarin, here’s how we used sarin.” What Jerry’s version – the one he shows Mac and the Red Team, even when asked for the raw tape — says: “We used sarin. Here’s how we used sarin.” DEAD TO ME, DANTANA. Charlie still wants another source, which sends Jerry into a tirade that ends with, “What your problem is, is that you like this president. You trust him.” Objective much, Jerry?

A lot of time passes, and Charlie gets his final source: A Marine they thought was dead but isn’t, and who can confirm what they already know about Genoa. In the present, Charlie briefly outlines the special report’s success: It aired at 9 pm on a Sunday and drew close to 6 million viewers.  “By 10:05, I knew we had a problem,” he said soberly (for once). “None of it was true.” Eep.

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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  1. DMD says:

    Why is Jerry still in NY? Wasn’t he only there bc Jim left??? Oh and BTW Don is becoming my fave character!!

    • M3rc Nate says:

      I imagine because hes leading HIS story of Genoa, hes staying until that is fully seen through and finished. We dont see him doing Jim’s job anymore btw, all hes involved in in the NY office is Genoa.

    • M says:

      I know right?! Don is killing it this season. I never thought he’d be Captain Awesome so easily. And as always a close second/third are the master drunken hijinks of Charlie “The Best Boss Ever” Skinner, and Super!Moneyskirt Sloane.

    • Bluestem says:

      I wondered this about Jerry; is his pervasiveness only justified because Charlie and Mac keep tossing the hot potato that is the Genoa story to and fro but really want to take credit for coaching Jerry to catch and run with it? I’m trying to understand Charlie’s seemingly desperate motivation for wanting this to work; Mac seems to be holding onto her judicousness.

      • Steve says:

        Charlie just wants a definitive answer, one way or the other. Early on, he told Mac “I just want to know that it didn’t happen.” Then after the manifest convinced him it did, he told her “It happened, and we’re going to prove it.” I think, ultimately, his motivation for a definitive conclusion stems from the fact that his personal experiences. When Jerry says “We’ve committed (war crimes) before,” Charlie says “I know. I was there.”

  2. Chablis says:

    Nice recap. Annoying. Wil,Jim, Maggie.
    Annoying HBO show was 52 minutes?

  3. H.Houston says:

    I find it interesting that they have not shown Jerry being deposed at this point. I noticed in the previews they all immediately know he lied about it. The question I keep thinking is this… was this all a set up by Leona’s son to get rid of Charlie and Will… did he pay that guy who originally leaked the story to Jerry?

    • MurMaz says:

      If you watch the basketball game on the raw tape, there’s obviously a cut. That’s how everyone knows.

    • careyhealth says:

      Jerry is on the opposite side of the rest of the gang. He is suing AWM (the parent company, apologies if I do not have the acronym correct) for wrongful termination. The AWM lawyers are interviewing everyone else involved to get the scope of things. Those folks are likely also named in the fictional lawsuit, I would surmise. Jerry is the plaintiff, so he is not going to be interviewed just by defense counsel. They might all meet, but his legal team would definitely be there. I think Hamish Linklater is doing such a great job in this role. I hate Jerry!

      I now realize that I have not been thinking at all about the nature of the origins of the Genoa story, but I do love a fictional conspiracy!! Fun times ahead!!

    • Bluestem says:

      Reese or Leona have something to do with Jerry being there “at the right time” to “catch the story for sure”.

  4. Kristif8 says:

    Great episode except for the Nina stuff. She just doesn’t seem smart enough to me to keep Will engaged. The hour went by fast and I was totally into the episode. I adore Aaron Sorkin and pray this show gets a third season. We need more intelligent writing on TV. Let’s see how the shot clock on the bball game comes into play on Dantana’s edit of the comments.

    • M3rc Nate says:

      Ya with that comment “by 10:05 we knew it was all false” it makes me think a viewer will notice the game discrepancy and tweet it or something and that blow up so ACN hears about it and checks and sees that its true. The only chink in my theory is they say “we will blur out the game in post” so if it is blurred…can it be noticed by the public? Idk.

  5. Kathy V says:

    Clearly Jerry so badly wants the Genoa story to be true that he is willing to doctor the tape. The question is why?

    • M3rc Nate says:

      I see it as a few things, i think his “outburst” at the end of the episode is exactly whats going on internally for him. So much really is going on that’s disgusting, morally, ethically, legally (etc) wrong in the US (torture, abductions, wiretapping, etc) and this character has been working on a story that PROVES the US crossed a line so huge that military men (and women) and anyone who took part in ordering/knowing about Genoa would be tried for War Crimes. So after working on something for 7 months, then having the general tell him to his face that it happened, then on the camera do all that “here’s how it would happen” BS, he got so frustrated and pissed that he altered it so he said what he said off camera, which Jerry sees as fair i imagine. Like his water-boarding comment, he wants the US to have accountability for its actions, and with this story they will.

    • Mandy says:

      Also, as Mac pointed out when Jerry first brought it up, he wants his award and whatever he will get for breaking this story. This would be the biggest news story in years and all the accolades would be his. That being said, he truly believes it happened and thinks people deserve to know. (I might be giving Jerry the benefit of the doubt because I sooo adore Hamish Linklater, but I would like to think he isn’t totally evil)

    • Steve says:

      He wants so badly to PROVE that it is true, because he knows that it IS true. Between being told that five witnesses aren’t enough, and then this General says “it happened” off camera but gets all vague and hypothetical off camera when he is SO close to having the confirmation he needs to run the biggest story he could ever hope to have…obviously what he did was really, really, really wrong, but that’s why he did it. He snapped.

  6. SFTC (@sftc) says:

    Silver Spring, Md., *not Silver Springs. Silver Springs is a Fleetwood Mac song.

    • Sarah says:

      As someone who lives in Washington DC, I am always amused by how it is portrayed on television. That neighborhood was not very Silver Spring-like. Potomac MD, McLean VA, Washington DC…so many other options that would have made more sense. Anyway…I liked this episode! I like the Sloan-Will interactions — another commenter put it well about how he can talk to & with her. I like this season much more than last, mainly because I like the overall arc of knowing that something goes awry & telling the season in flashback. I love Marcia Gay Harden as Rebecca, and I am excited to see how the whole Genoa storyline falls apart and impacts everyone. (I realize this comment does not add any intellectual value, but cheers to Monday morning small thinking!)

      • Marc says:

        Maybe not Silver Spring proper, but it could pass for a development in an unincorporated part of Montgomery County with a Silver Spring, MD 209XX address and zip code.

  7. M3rc Nate says:

    Ok i get how the Maggie thing (bringing home guys) makes sense considering what shes been through. But if the implication is shes sleeping with a string of random guys she picks up…in what would are we supposed to believe Jim would want to be with a woman that does that? I mean obviously down the road they (writers) are going to push them together again, maybe even have them date…who would date someone after they did that?

    • dlferriola says:

      It is obvious that Maggie is traumatized by what happened to her with that child dyng on her but they should have put her in therapy to deal with it the right way instead of how she is handling it. Jim is going unnderstanding & will end up helping her & loving her in the end more. Jerry needs to go down for editing that interview & causi.g this mess.

      • Paloma says:

        They debriefed her with HR and sent her to see a psychiatrist as soon as she came home from Africa and she was given a prescription for Paxil (an SSRI) that she refused to take. We learned this during her deposition. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

  8. Brendan says:

    With regards to Sloan’s conversation with Will, yes it was a tad redundant, but I think the point of that (as well as his conversations with Nina) was set up two episodes ago by Will’s statement of “I don’t have many people to talk to.” With Will’s loneliness causing a need for audience approval as a running theme of the season, I took the counseling from Nina being overridden by the support from Sloan as an indication that he may be turning a corner in that regard. In particular her comments about trying to fill the hole Mac left picked up on that thread for me. So it was really more the fact that Sloan was talking to him than it was what she said that was important.

  9. Mandy says:

    I love all the Sloan/Will scenes. This two are great together and their relationship is sweet but always quick and concise.
    Don is growing on me with every episode.
    If everyone is aware of Maggie’s situation, how is no one but Jim saying anything?!? Jim is the last person who should be saying anything considering their previous relationship. Mac went through stuff in Afghanistan. Why is she not talking to her?

    • canadian ninja says:

      Good questions. Do we know if someone other than Jim knows of her drinking-notyetbutsoon-problem? I figure Jim would be protective of her until a bigger screw-up forced him to tell Mac. Also Jim was also in Afghanistan and I do not think the Jim/Maggie thing should preclude him from talking to her.

    • nonniemb says:

      I too would like to see more interactions between Mac and Maggie. I loved their initial one in episode one; but I guess Mac has had a lot going on, so. Also, with the story being false, obviously they’ll have to fess up to that to the viewers; so how is ACN going to bounce back as credible? Maybe if they can just blame it all on Jerry (because it is all his fault) then they as a station won’t look as bad? Either way, i really hope it’s picked up for a season 3!

  10. May says:

    I really liked this episode. It added a lot of good points to the plot, without making everything look too staged. I feel like Genoa is having huge implications on their personal lives, which is very realistic. The cast is doing a great job, especially Emily Mortimer. It’s not exactly unexpected, but certainly welcome. On Reese being behind this whole faux-genoa story, I’ve had it on my mind for quite a while. We already know he’s a criminal, we only need to ask ourselves what kind of criminal he is.

  11. I think is one of the best shows on tv. Emily Mortimer is amazing.I really like the episode, The scenes Wiil-Sloan are really perfect they are a great actors. Can´t wait for the next one.

  12. johnthemoz says:

    The giveaway that will bring this all toppling down is the basketball game in the background during the interview. Anyone paying attention in the newsroom (and they all should have been) should notice the jump in the sports-footage where the general appears to be talking *without* a cut. The fact that the tv’s position is referenced early on kinda foretells it…

  13. M says:

    Does this mean Nina’s finally gone? (I agree it was hard to tell…) For someone who can’t let go of betrayal, Will seemed to easily dismiss all her backhanded crap from last season. I understand what Mac did was on a complete different scale but Nina still gunned for him and his staff on more than one occasion. Mr. McAvoy needs to go back and watch the recaps. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one that reacted to the copious amounts of “Honey,” sprinkled throughout. It gave me aspartame poisoning.

    • SydB says:

      I think the reason he can deal with Nina’s baggage but not Mac’s is because he doesn’t really have feelings for Nina. Mac is the love of his life. Much tougher pill to swallow.
      Also, love the relationship between Will and Sloane. Not only is it incredibly sweet and sincere it’s the only truly healthy relationship on the show.

  14. S says:

    I loved West Wing because I could believe those folks were super smart. I can’t buy The Newsroom because journalists just aren’t, in general, as intelligent as they’re being portrayed, particularly the broadcast folks. They’re all 30-second sound bite simpletons. The reason you never see anchors like Will on cable is because they DON’T EXIST. And that takes all the wind out of the series.

  15. Marc says:

    I’m waiting for Will to make a crack about Dan and Casey being more serious journalists than the clowns on the morning show. Please, Disney, let Sorkin reference Sports Night.

  16. Jerry said at the beginning that the “dead” marine is the only one who confirmed the story, was it just me?
    Did Jerry produce this marine so he’ll have a second source ?

  17. Spitey Spice says:

    Is anyone wondering what spurs Maggie to cut and dye her hair? We know why, but she hasn’t done it yet and it’s almost a year later by the end of last night’s show. Anyone else think she’s going to have a bad night with one of the dudes she goes home with? For the first time, I wondered if she and Jim actually will get together. I hope they don’t – at least not until after she gets professional help.

    • Jules says:

      Yes, she will have one awful night, or the guy will point to the fact that she is blonde, etc etc and she will freak out. Also it may have to do with the night the Genoa report comes out, no? Maybe she gets crazy anguished about it and dyes her hair? Also, I just re-watched ep. 4 and she completely lied to the lawyer. She clearly says “He didn’t say “it happened””. Why do you think that is? Is she trying to defend herself and ACN? I think for the interview what will be key is (as you all have said) the game behind Stomtonovich. Also, Jerry might point out that Maggie came in drunk/hangover/tired from the night before with the barman.