Newsroom Recap: 'This Is Some Good Television'

The Newsroom Season 2 RecapIn this week’s Newsroom, despite last episode’s Leona ex machina, a post-Genoa air of despair hangs heavy over Atlantis Cable News. What’s more, the action takes place on election night, a traditionally hectic evening. So how is it that one of the worst times in News Night history makes for one of the best episodes in the HBO drama’s two seasons?

You know what? I’m not even gonna question it, so much did I enjoy the pacing and laugh-out-loud lines from the episode. Go ahead and secure your hanging chads, because we’re about review the major developments in “Election Night, Part 1.”

RELATED | Jeff Daniels: The Newsroom Renewed for Season 3

RESIGN YOURSELF TO THIS | During a meeting in Will’s office, lawyer Rebecca repeatedly says something Charlie and McAvoy don’t want to hear: Not only will Leona not accept their resignations (and Mac’s), she’ll sue them if they try to leave. Jerry is planning to file in the morning, Charlie points out, and the details included in it will embarrass everyone at the network. The bowtied boss is planning to go up to the executive level and plead his case at Reese’s election-night viewing party, but Rebecca doesn’t think that’ll work. You know what is working? The legal hotshot’s party ensemble, a look she describes as “liquid sex.” Get it, Marcia Gay Harden!

Will is remarkably calm as his boss gets more and more unhinged. Why, you ask? “I’ve appointed myself in charge of morale” for the evening’s six-hour election coverage, he says, kicked back in his desk chair. “That’s what we’ve come to?” Charlie retorts. Poor Charlie – he is truly (hilariously) undone in this episode, the first evidence of which is when he does a quick recap of Jerry’s preposterous wrongful termination litigation and screams, “We have gone to the zoo!”

After Rebecca leaves, Charlie pulls it together to inform Will that Mac is taking the situation very badly… and that thanks to the clause the News Night host went to such lengths to include in his contract, he is the only person in the organization who can terminate MacKenzie’s employment. And with that in mind, Will prepares to anchor the channel’s 2012 election results coverage.

WAITING FOR THE BLAST| But before he can get to the set, Mac comes into his office and… good God, woman, what has become of you? How do I put this gently? You look like… You might need… “You look like you were grown in an environment where it’s dark and damp,” Will observes. He’s not wrong. Once they get past the fact that she’s not sleeping, he wants her to put the Operation Genoa disaster out of her mind so they can produce some excellent election TV. But she has another idea.

“Say what you want to say to me,” Mac demands, drawing a parallel between breaking his heart six years ago and ruining his professional life with the fake war-crimes story within the past week. Calling him “a bomb that hasn’t detonated,” she asks “if we could Hurt Locker this thing” (heh) because he still hasn’t forgiven her for their first spot of bother. He’s trying not to engage but he can’t help it when he asks how long he should have been mad at her for lying/cheating, and she replies “28 months.” “You seriously came up with a number?” he replies incredulously. (Ha!)

Later, MacKenzie is far too irked when she becomes aware that her Wikipedia page says she attended Oxford, even though she actually went to Cambridge. “It’s funny, the things people try to control when they feel like they’re not in control” Neal comments, and though I’d customarily cringe at such a blatant summation, the fact that an overtired Mac isn’t even listening to him saves the moment. Kinda. (Sorkin, I expect more of you.) I do love Emily Mortimer’s delivery in this exchange, which takes place right after Neal promises to help his boss fix the error:

MAC: Thank you. Ruling India was wrong.
NEAL: It’s a little late.
MAC: I know!

But the episode ends on a down note for the strung-out executive producer as she begs Will once more to fire her and shoots off some hurtful things about him. When they dated, “I was a good guy,” he says huskily. Then: “You’re fired, end of the broadcast. Please don’t tell anyone.” He’s doing it because he cares about her and this will put her out of her misery (or at least give her a little push toward the exit of her misery), and I don’t for a second think MacKenzie will wind up leaving News Night, but Jeff Daniels is really great here and the whole thing leaves me frowny.

ELSEWHERE AT ACN… | Up at the party, Charlie bends Reese’s ear about how he should really let the News Night gang go. “If a news outlet doesn’t have credibility, it doesn’t matter what else it has,” Skinner says. As it turns out, Reese agrees with him: He wants to fire Mac, Charlie and Will and cut Jerry a check so he’ll go away quietly. But “My mom says I can’t.” (Heh.) And with perhaps the most words we’ve heard Leona’s son string together since the series began, he riffs about how she badgers him for grandchildren and wonders whether he’s gay. The tirade, like so much of the episode’s dialogue, is quite funny. When it’s done, Reese sends Charlie back downstairs to make final calls on national races.

Speaking of which, Jim accidentally got Michigan and Mississippi mixed up, leading him to accidentally have the network call a race for the guy who’ll probably win it – but hasn’t yet. And given Charlie’s directive for anyone who messes up to run out of the building and never come back, Jim surreptitiously tries to fix his error without anyone really noticing. Meanwhile, former Romney flak/current Republican strategist Taylor joins Sloan, Elliot and Will on air to parse the results. My favorite bits from the coverage include “elephant in the room,” Taylor’s under-the-table fist pump, Sloan’s total botching of the gay-train-conductor-Klan-whatever-the-hell-that-story-was and both Will’s “Are you ready to have some fun?!?” and his “I apologize. I was trapped by my own sentence structure.” (Don’t think I won’t be busting that one out in a future recap.)

Behind the scenes, Maggie and Don get word of a story that has the potential to be huge. Great!, Charlie says, “As long as it’s not a potentially libelous story about misconduct in the armed forces, I’m listening.” The looks on their faces are fantastic as they fill him in on Gen. David Petraeus’ alleged affair with his biographer and the related, seedy, Florida socialite-involved side story. Cue Skinner breakdown in 3… 2…

Now it’s your turn. Were you happy to finally have an idea of when Maggie cut and dyed her hair (the week before this episode)? Did you love Jim’s “Your hair is the color of goodness?” comment to Hallie? Do you think anything will come of Jerry’s side suit against Don? Does anyone but Sloan care about her Gary-signed book? And did you guffaw like I did at Don’s dry “That’s some good television!” as Elliot crowded into the decision desk? 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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62 Comments
  1. Gary Cooper (Not That One) signing Sloane’s book was a delightful callback to Margaret telling Leo she could fake the president’s signature.

  2. HRG says:

    Great episode. Loved the whole show. Can’t wait for next week.

  3. Mick says:

    I have to agree with Mackenzie. Will has punished her for years and continues to punish, but is bewildered as to why she thinks he is a bomb ready to explode. Also Mac is a little dense, even in his “punishment” Will calls her the most attractive woman he has ever laid eyes on and yet she doesn’t get that he is in love with her?

    • James Butler says:

      I like your summation of Will’s feeling for Mackenzie, he still loves her but was hurt deeply by her cheating. I truly enjoy this show with it’s twist and turns and Leona is something else as the boss while her son is an idiot.

  4. Tom Charles says:

    What continues to baffle me is how the death threat/site hacking storyline never really got any resolution. We’re just expected to forget about. I’m thinking the explanation must be off in Mandyland somewhere

    • Brendan says:

      The real explanation is that Brooklyn 99 got picked up so Terry Crews was unavailable, but with a time jump between the season 1 finale and season 2 premier it’s not implausible that the death threats on the internet simply died down.

      • Tom Charles says:

        Well yeah that explains Terry Crews not being available, but there couldn’t have been a brief deus ex machina explanation? I mean I had had hopes with the board problems in the season premiere and the prank call in the one episode that we might get something but…..nada

    • David4 says:

      They were all the viewers that thought the show was too liberal. ;)

      • Tom Charles says:

        something from Sorkin being liberal? Next thing you’re going to tell me is there are people out there expecting water not to be wet

  5. V^2 says:

    I was under the impression there was no new episode next week. Can someone confirm/clarify

  6. Chablis says:

    Charlie yelled: We have gone to the zoo!”

    This ep was part 1 of 2 with finale next week

    Great recap Kimberly.

  7. j says:

    “How is it that one of the worst times in News Night history makes for one of the best episodes in the HBO drama’s two seasons?” Um… Because that’s what drama is.

  8. May says:

    It was some of the best 50 minutes of television I’ve seen in a long time. The dialogue was spot-on, and, as usual, Emily Mortimer and Jeff Daniels were perfect. Sam Waterston was his usual amazing. Everything was incredibly believable and amazingly written. Sorkin’s still got it.

  9. Ana says:

    Definitely one of the best hours of TV in a looong time. The dialogue on this show is just so amazing and the deliveries are perfection. And can I just say that Marcia Gay Harden should guest star on every TV drama this fall, she is spectacular, that “liquid sex” line was pure awesomeness.

  10. B says:

    Are we suppose to feel bad for Maggie or something?

    She is so annoying.

    • M says:

      I had been a complete Maggie/Jim. But I’m actually digging the Don/Maggie “I’ve seen you naked, so I can totally give you $h!t,” vibe. It brought a little depth to her story line that has only been focused on how she inexplicably went off the deep end in a slow burn.

  11. omilf says:

    I LOVE THIS SHOW!!! I loved Reece’s rant and Charlie all of it. It just keeps getting better and better!

  12. JB says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that Don bought Sloans book? Great Ep

    • tnsmoke says:

      Oh, never thought of that….that would be cool. I’ve fallen in love with Don this season. Season 2 has been awesome.

    • Deb says:

      Oh, excellent thought! Didn’t occur to me and it makes perfect sense. As for Don, I fell headlong into his camp the first season when he announced to Reese: “She’s a person. A DOCTOR pronounces her dead, not the news.”

  13. Ezzy says:

    This a great show. Great writing and acting. Loved this episode but it could have easily been one big 2 hour finale. I’d be shocked if HBO doesn’t pick this up for a 3rd season. I do have one thing I wonder about though: Why won’t Leona accept their resignations when it’s the right thing to do? Wouldn’t that solve a few problems? Also, Jerry’s at fault for being fired so why is he suing when he knowingly edited the tape?

    • Meg says:

      Jeff Daniels has already said it’s been renewed for season 3. The network still has to confirm, but I think season 3 is a lock.

      Leona isn’t accepting their resignations or settling because Jerry was wrong. As you said, he knowingly edited the tape and defrauded the rest of the crew. So why should Charlie, Will, and Mac lose their jobs because Jerry did something wrong? He wasn’t the only one who deceived them (Charlie’s source, and we still don’t know who Will’s source was), but he only did it so he could get his name on the story.

  14. It doesn’t make sense that Don bought Sloan’s book. My guess is that the high bid was because of the internet pictures posted by the jerk she dated. She will be furious.

  15. Pérola Cardozo says:

    So… Can this episode only get an emmy? Please? I mean… That was on fire!!! The best thing in Newsroom is that, even if the beginning of the season is not all you expect, it always end amazingly!!!

  16. Danish says:

    The people who write the dialogue for the show need a special commendation, there always seem to be such hilarious moments between the cast members… I have 3 favorite bits from the episode
    1. Will’s ‘Mac did they teach you that at Oxford?”
    2. Sloan’s “What if i keep talking in rhetorical questions until you just can’t take it anymore?”
    And 3. has to be Charlie’s “We have gone to the zoo.” speech, i was genuinely rolling on the floor after that one. And Reese’s brilliant delivery of “My mom says I can’t”, probably one of the funniest things I’ve heard on a TV show in a long time.

    • Mark Borghardt says:

      I agree, 3 good ones, but the funniest HAD to be when Sloan said “In fairness, he did anchor a report about a democratic president committing war crimes and that wasn’t even true”. I almost pissed by pants.

      • Magically Suspicious says:

        That line was the best part of the entire episode. And the episode was great. Olivia Munn has really found a place to shine in this role. I can’t imagine anyone else in as Sloane.

    • M says:

      That little hitch in is voice, where you could tell he was both ballsy enough to say his mommy wasn’t telling him what to do and man enough to go through with it despite the embarrassment. That right there was gold.

  17. JL says:

    Sam Waterston was BRILLIANT in this episode. His “we have gone to the zoo!” rant was one of the best monologues the show has had. And seeing the guy who’s usually cool, calm, collected and the voice of reason completely flip his lid over the incredible pressure everyone is feeling, it was just phenomenal.

    I’m interested to see what happens with Mackenzie… never in a million years thought Will would go through with it.

  18. M says:

    This episode kept bringing the feels. Sam Waterston is a comedic god. Also I think this is the first time I’ve seen Futurama’s Amy speak without a sterotype asian accent. I kept blinking to make sure I was seeing it right.

  19. Matt Meyer says:

    What does Charlie yell in the Newsroom near the end of the show?

  20. CSDiva says:

    Seriously? I truly cannot believe there are so any people who didn’t understand what Charlie says after Don & Maggie hit him with the “scoop”. Is everyone deaf? His outburst is completely understandable, literally & figuratively.

  21. Ann Whisenhunt says:

    This is the best drama on TV, and it’s a shame it’s only a few weeks a year! Really should run 20 eps a year! I want to liquify it and wallow in it until my fingers are pruny.

    Totally love all the actors! I want to know what was the final straw that caused Maggie to change her image. I think it has something to do with Lisa, her room mate. Jim needs to get his head out of his ass! He fell out of love with Maggie very quickly! I think Don bought Slone’s book. Can’t believe Will fired Mac, unless I don’t really understand why he did it. Was he trying to help her, or hurt her? I hope the next ep has Will forgive Mac, or at least let her know he still loves her and maybe they could work on him forgiving her. If Mac has always believed Will cared more about his professional image than his personal life, it could help explain why she was tempted away by another man.

    • Ezzy says:

      Ann,

      Let’s see what I can say here:

      I think that Sloan and Don will end up together (it seems obvious to me)
      Maggie cut her hair I think while in Africa

      As to the Will and mac thing: She begged him to fire her but I’m sure that won’t stick. Also, in this week’s episode coming, the ring issue is brought up so I expect a proposal. They genuinely still have feelings for each other. I honestly think that he’s trying to help her and I’m not sure she realizes it or not.

      • Amber says:

        One thing I have to say, Maggie clearly did not cut her hair while in Africa. It was probably some time short before the timeline of this episode, if you have a clear timeline of the episodes and events in them.

        • Ezzy Klein says:

          Then the editing was out of sequence because there was dialogue said while she was in Africa about “being scared of blondes” or something like that. Also something about diseases but the next scene had her cutting her hair. For some reason it never was explained.

          • Steve says:

            Not at all. The scene in Africa was the teacher telling Maggie that the child(who dies) has never scene her hair color before, and he tells him that it’s called blonde and “it’s nothing but trouble.” It was with that memory that Maggie decided to cut her hair, months later, in her own apartment. There was never any indication of when exactly that happened, only that it was between the trip to Africa and her deposition. It was never fully explained, but I think that was done intentionally just so we could figure out for ourselves that she’s still not “fine” and she still thinks about Aftica all these months later.

  22. Ann Whisenhunt says:

    Ezzy and Amber,

    Thanks for your responses. What I meant about Maggie’s hair is that there must have been something – that caused her to do that. We know that she cut it within a week before the election, long after she returned from Africa, but before she was questioned about Genua by Rebecca. Obviously she has been on a downward spiral all season, but there had to have been something that made her snap – and change her image. I thought it might have been a fight with Lisa because I read that Jim talks to Lisa in ep 9. But when I saw the clip of Jim talking to Lisa, I don’t think Lisa had anything to do with it. Whatever the reason, I hope this is the first step toward Maggie healing.

    I hope Will and Mac work out their problems! I did read that the ring will be mentioned in the ep, but I doubt Will would go from not forgiving her to proposing in one night. Maybe he just mentions he still has it, because he hasn’t given up hope.

    Happy watching!!
    Less than 24 hours to go!

    • Steve says:

      I would not be at all surprised if Will proposes in this episode. I think him firing her is what will finally allow him to forgive her; he’ll realize that he still loves her, can’t do the show without her, and doesn’t want to live without her.

  23. Y says:

    It seems to me that Jeff Daniels part in Newsroom season 2 was: Less forceful and we saw less of him. While I love all the characters, I tune in to see Jeff Daniels be the kind, arrogant, bright, take no prisoners, kind of guy. I did not see that this season nearly as much as the first season. I hope Sorkin goes back to the first season format, because Daniels was missed this season. I miss the rants!

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