The Newsroom Recap: Mission (Out of) Control

Will’s on a “mission to civilize” this week on The Newsroom, but the way he goes about it earns him more drinks to the face than an episode of Smash. Meanwhile, Jim gets some action, Maggie gets mad and Neal gets all hopped up about Bigfoot. Seriously. It’s like, a thing throughout the episode. Let’s go to Camera 1 and review what happened in “I’ll Try to Fix You.”

NEW YEAR’S (DISBELI)EVE | The New Year’s Eve party that opens the episode is a giant, blinking, Swarovski-crystalled ball of huh? that gets the hour off on an odd foot. I’ve worked in and around newsrooms for most of my career. If there’s any kind of celebration that goes on at midnight on Jan. 1, it most certainly isn’t attended by the highest-paid people in the company. They definitely aren’t clad in cocktail dresses and custom-made tuxes, and they decidedly haven’t slipped away from the mayor’s bash to sip Champange on the newsroom floor. Anyway, the setting allows Wade, Mackenzie’s doofy boyfriend and assistant U.S. attorney, to serve a purpose other than raising Will’s ire: He tips him off to the Department of Justice’s slashed budget. Without the needed moolah, he says, the DOJ can’t go after the big financial criminals Will rails about on a nightly basis. The party also allows Maggie to va-va up her voom in a sleek red number borrowed from roommate Lisa. And when Lisa arrives at the party, Don (I’m sorry, FunDon!) decides to hook her up with Jim. The looks between Maggie and Lisa, who was present via phone for Jim’s careful talk-down during Mags’ attack last week, are classic. I like to think Don might’ve picked up on them if he’d been sober but, yeah, probably not. Don suggests Jim take Lisa out on the terrace and… wait a minute. I forgot about the newsroom’s terrace. Disregard what I said earlier: If I worked somewhere I could hover above the masses during the Times Square New Years Eve melee and have access to a bathroom, I’d set up camp on Dec. 30. On the other side of the room, Sloan urges Will to go talk to a blonde who looks lonely. (She’s wearing gold lamé, Will. Even though she’s played by the lovely Hope Davis, run in the other direction!) Goldie’s name is Nina Howard, and Will’s on board with her plan to ravish him until he learns she’s a gossip columnist working on a “takedown” piece about a reality TV star. His distaste soon becomes a diatribe – so unlike him! – that lasts into the new year. (Side note: The  whatever shot of Sloan checking her BlackBerry at midnight while everyone around her kissed made me laugh out loud.) When Will tells Nina he thinks she’s worse than a heroin dealer, she tosses her drink in his face and lamés away. The interlude earns him some ink on the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column – Charlie’s quip about it being on page 10: so true! – the next day. Will points out the factual errors in the story, including the one about him being a liberal, and dismisses the whole thing. Just wait, Will…

STORIES WE MISSED | Jim’s got an idea for a regular feature: stories we missed, such as the misreported cost of Obama’s 2010 trip to India, the truth behind the Tea Party’s Second Amendment fears, what have you. Will likes it. In related news, here’s a story Maggie missed: Jim and Lisa are dating – and Jim lies to Mags about it. To make things worse, Don clues Maggie in about the whole thing and then embarrasses her as he outs Jim. (Four episodes in, I think that’s what I disike about Don the most – his need not only to be right but to make you feel terrible while acknowledging his rightness.) Meanwhile, Will’s dating streak from last episode continues with a gun-carrying, pot-toting friend of Sloan’s (played by Kathryn Hahn) and a Jessalyn Gilsig-ish chick who soaks him with her fruity drink when he criticizes her for liking Real Housewives of New Jersey. That incident lands him in Page Six again, incensing Sloan’s pistol-packing pal so much that she blabs to Nina Howard’s gossip mag, TMI. At a special Saturday meeting on the subject, Charlie realizes that ACN’s parent company owns the magazine, and that this sullying of Will’s reputation is part of what Leona Lansing referred to as “context” in The Meeting Upstairs. (I was starting to wonder when that would come up.) The upshot: Charlie tells Will, Mackenzie and Don about Leona’s threats to let Will go, and we learn that Will so wanted the ability to fire Mackenzie at the end of each week that he agreed to a non-compete clause during his contract negotiations. That’s equivalent to Bobby Flay agreeing in his Food Network contract to a clause that wouldn’t allow him to grill so much as a burger at a backyard barbecue if he ever left Iron Chef: America. In other words, ouch.

A BIG, HAIRY CONTRIVANCE | All episode long, Neal talks to anyone who’ll listen about the possible existence of Bigfoot. Predictably, no one cares. So he calls them all into the office on a Saturday to educate them about Sasquatch… and they all stay. At first, I thought the contrivance was just to show Maggie bitchily sniping at Jim, and wondered why they didn’t save that until Monday. But when Jim angrily orders her to cover the assignment desk (in the process, totally confronting her about why she’s actually mad, which she ducks), it all becomes clear: News of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting comes across the wire, providing a perfect opportunity for the News Night team to leap into journalistically responsible action. There’s a lot of hemming and hawing, during which Reese shows up to pressure Will to announce Giffords dead like other networks have, but Will and Mackenzie stalwartly refuse to do so without confirmation. When Maggie gets word that the politician is alive, the verbal high-fiving knows no end. For me, the moment is Newsroom in a nutshell: It’s simultaneously touching (Mackenzie’s “I’m sorry!” was wrought), victorious, preachy, funny and confounding – I don’t care how happy he is, there’s no way Will wants to hear what Neal has to say about Bigfoot now or later. Maybe it’s not his fault – I know I’ve made worse decisions with Coldplay ballads pumping in the background. (What did you guys think about “Fix You” in that scene? Though I like that song, I didn’t love it there.)

GIVE MY REGARDS TO … | Weekly musical theater reference round-up time! Will calls daytime and primetime cable staffers “Jets and Sharks,” and Nina adds to the West Side Story allusion with the suggestion that she and he could make like that musical’s protagonists, Tony and Maria; Will and Mackenzie argue over who’s more like Man of La Mancha’s Don Quixote; Will corrects Sloan when she confuses Annie Get Your Gun Annie Oakley with Oklahoma’s Ado Annie.

Your turn. Are you on board with Will’s “mission to civilize”? How long do you think it’ll be before Leona summons Charlie upstairs again? And are you as done with Don as I am? Hit the comments and be heard!

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