The Newsroom: News Night Stands Firm On The Moral High Ground

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Episode recaps
Courtesy of HBO

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Tonight is the penultimate episode of The Newsroom series. While that is a little sad, it should be a very satisfying episode. Thinking back on my experience with Sorkin projects, I do however, worry that something major and not necessarily good is going to happen tonight. I expect more chaos than closure. Closure comes the next week. For now, we’ll have to settle for being unsettled.

We begin to the unnerving sounds that you’d expect with a jail, and a corrections officer trying to brace Will for the events that will follow. Something tells me his efforts aren’t necessary. After the transition to ’52 days later’, we discover Will has a cellmate. Ironically, some of you may notice him from our coverage of Gracepoint. The cellmate is Kevin Rankin who plays Reverend Paul Coates on Gracepoint.

All Will wants to do is read his book in silence. After all, if the FBI is banking on Will crack under the pressure they have dramatically misread their mark. The cellmate is fishing. Ultimately reveals that he is on his third strike for domestic battery. One thing lead to another. Seems like the FBI are not the only one who apparently misread their mark.

Cellmate: You tell me the source, then I’ll tell it to them on the condition they let us both go.
Will: It’s a hell of a plan.
Cellmate: Or I could just shake the name out of you.
Will: Stand up. I want you to see that I have four inches on you and you’re giving up thirty pounds. I’m not your wife. Raise your hands above your hips and I’ll knock you f— into next week.

Mack and Don meet with Charlie to view the new ACN promo. It is crisp and inviting. And is a complete and utter slap in the face to any journalist. Especially the ones set on a ‘mission to civilize’. Mack is visibly repulsed by the spot. Don is more confused. The spot ends with the hashtag, “#uracn”. To which Don claims, “looks like urine”. Charlie who appears to have little to no fight in him at the moment strongly encourages them both to just move on. Don sticks around to talk to Charlie. It appears that Pruitt wants Don to get the victim and the accused of a college sexual assault case on set at the same time. This is six different ways of stupid. Not only are they suggesting anyone with a smart phone can be a journalist, now we are introducing Jerry Springer rules into the newsroom. And Charlie seems content to let is slide.

Gary Cooper gives Mack the rundown of unimpressive developing stories. Mack is unimpressed, even with the Kanye and Kim’s kid is name “North West” joke. She does do a double take on the story about a woman who shot herself in the mouth on the steps of the Department of Justice. That woman was the source. Neal’s source and the reason Will is still sitting in jail. Mack runs straight to Rebecca’s office to explain what she knows. Rebecca begins to pick a direction, but instead declares something very near to everyone involved.

Rebecca: You’re husband’s getting out of jail today.

The addition of new, and I have to assume, Pruitt hires patrolling the twitter-verse has become a problem. Erin Andrews was swarmed by paparazzi on the other side of the country because ACN now has an app the staff are calling the ‘stalker app’. Sloan is past the point of apathy. Which means Don is past the point of apathy on her behalf. There is now a ‘ACN Digital’ which is worrisome on its own. What follows is a typical butting of heads. Don wants them to take down the app, they say take it up with Pruitt. Which is exactly the moment Sloan switches gears. Sloan is a very attractive character in many ways. One thing I’ve learned from watching this character over almost 3 full seasons is that when she gets quiet bad things are on the horizon. She’s offered to have the ACN Digital guy on the show to discuss his app.

Jim and Maggie have been sent to Russia. Considering our relative timeline, the hints to an NSA story, and Jim and Maggie walking through a Russian airport, one must deduce that this is where they break out the Edward Snowden storyline. Shortly after discovering the pertinent news outlets present at the gate, Jim feels more than confident that this is the flight that will take Snowden from Russian to Cuba. The problem is, they are not in the system as having a ticket for this sold out flight.

Will receives two visitors. One is Rebecca and the other is Lasenthaul. With the idea that the woman who shot herself is the source there is no one to protect. All Will has to do is confirm that the dead woman is the source. The FBI has enough circumstantial evidence retrieved from her laptop to be satisfied. This became more about the principle than the information a long time ago. No deal.

Brace yourself for this. The weird keeps getting weirder. Charlie Skinner comes to Mack’s office to inform her that she needs to make room for Lady Gaga’s manager to discuss her tweet about overturning the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA). I’m at a loss. There is something building with Charlie and I doubt its triumphant in nature.

In Don’s pursuit of a way out of the on campus sexual assault story, he travels to Princeton to find the victim. Which he does. They have a short and very Sorkin-like fast-moving discussion. Don gives all the telegraphed indications that if she were to do the interview, with the accused in the same room, it would be hugely beneficial to his standing with his job. Then he tells her he’s there not to do the pre interview, but to beg her not to do it at all.

I have made no attempts to disguise my feelings about any storyline that involves Maggie and Jim romantically. However, I would be remiss if not completely in the clouds if I told you that this wasn’t a Josh Lyman/Donna Moss situation. That’s a West Wing reference for those of you new to the Sorkin world. I really love the evolution Maggie has gone through from the African trip until now. All of that said, we just witnessed the commitment to the ‘u-turn’. Josh and Donna in the hotel on Santos election day for the West Wingers keeping score. Maggie strongly suggested that Jim call Hallie just to hear her voice halfway around the world. Jim made the decision, without saying so, to end his pursuits of Hallie and accept that Maggie has been the one all along. To my dismay.

Don has made every attempt to convince Mary (the rape victim) to not do the interview. Both sides, to me, seem perfectly justified. Don’s angle is that nothing good can come of it. As he says, “it will be covered like sports. Teams will be formed”. There is a reason that reputable news sources rarely if ever put victim and accused on at the same time. On her end, if her story can save even one future victim, it’s worth doing. Don was siding a little too heavy on the side of, ‘eventually an innocent person will fall in the name of revenge’ angle. But they both have a valid argument.

Edward Snowden is not on the flight. However, the bigger story to us-the viewer is the inevitable moment when Maggie brings up Hallie again at that perfect moment when Jim’s willingness to admit and opportunity converge, creating the confession of feelings. The natural next step is new and improved Maggie is overjoyed at this new information and her reaction most closely resembles, ‘took you long enough’. That would be the natural next step. That was not the actual next step. Maggie’s been holding onto the part about Jim not calling from New Hampshire. Dwelling on the past and maybe even going so far as to hold a grudge about it.

Rebecca meets Lasenthaul in a hallway outside an assumed office. Rebecca is going to file a motion that will ultimately get Will released on the grounds of “enough is enough”. To our collective relief, Lasenthaul has no intention of contesting the motion.

Jim, sitting as instructed in the back of the plane content to watch an episode of Star Trek is interrupted by Maggie. She wants him to get his seat back. Always awkward. You can’t un-switch seats with someone, it’s uncomfortable at best. Clearly, Maggie has taken time to weigh all of the important information and this time taken her own advice. “If you like her (him in this case) that shouldn’t stop you”. It was a quote intended for the Hallie situation, but it works here too. She leans in slow as if to say something, then abandons any attempt at words and the lean becomes a kiss.
Sloan’s interview with the father of the Stalker App is going exactly as one might think. Calm, but directed. This guy actually believed he was there to promote the app. When in reality he was there to be Sloan’s punching bag and eventually the face of exactly why citizen journalism is a bad idea.

Sloan: What does ‘x’ equal?
Bree: It would be silly to name an exact dollar amount.
Sloan: You’re paid 55 thousand a year…
Bree: Well that’s private…
Sloan: Sorry, that’s almost twice the national average for a family of four. Do your piles of cash protect you from this interview in which I am intentionally stripping you of your dignity? And by the way, I’ve managed to do it without lying once.

Upon the interview’s conclusion Charlie comes barreling around the corner demanding to know if Sloan was put up to the interview. Mack interjects that it was an intervention. Then Charlie demands to know about the college girl from Don. So, Charlie is not getting any satisfactory answers to his questions. Questions I believe, he is compelled to ask because he has been playing the intermediary attempting to save people’s jobs. Just then Pruitt storms in and demands that Mack and Sloan leave the building immediately. Then he threatens to fire the entire staff. Which may actually be the line of demarcation, to borrow a Sorkin-ism. It appears that Leona Lansing wrote into the contract (either Charlie’s or that sale’s) that no one can fire the staff except Charlie.

Charlie: I’ll be back in a minute.

Sorrow filled last words. Charlie Skinner is Leo McGarry. We’ve known all episode long that there was something building with Charlie and it wasn’t going to be good. I for one, was expecting a blow up of massive proportions that ends with his resignation. This was larger. A heart attack with the eventual passing. This is a very sad moment in the timeline to be sure. However, a part of me sees this as a ‘Coulson moment’. A tragedy that brings the team together.

I have skipped over a scene of monumental importance. Throughout the episode we see Will verbally sparring with his cellmate. Suffice it to say that for the most part, on the surface, this is just another angry guy. A guy that has a history. A guy that takes issue with Will’s station in life. The guy that grew up to be ‘Harvard elite’. Who talks down to normal people. And at one point, Will agrees, “down is where some people are”. Will talked about this man hitting his wife. Not matter of factly, but as the primary reason as to why a person like Will can look down on someone like this. The cellmate identified that Will’s father probably was a drunk. Even when Will demanded the man stand up so he could inform him that Will would knock him out if he so much as raised his hands. I never saw it. Full disclosure, this historian of Sorkin for the fun of it-me, did not see it coming. The brilliant Aaron Sorkin just ‘I see dead people’d me.

For those that did not watch the episode and have come here for a detailed account. There was a moment when the cellmate looked at one of Will’s photos of his Dad and fishing. The cellmate said, “maybe your Dad was just trying to teach you to fish”. I didn’t even get it then. When Will is released from jail, we find him cleaning up his belongings. Including the pictures. He pulls the picture of he and his Dad fishing. The camera focuses to reveal that the man who was the cellmate was actually a manifestation of Will’s father. He was never really there. Brilliant stroke by a genius painter in Sorkin. Very well done.

This leads us into next week. The conclusion to this great story. Sorkin himself has eluded to the masses that fans of the show will be pleased with how it all comes together in the end. I’m still processing how I could be pleased about Charlie Skinner dying, but we’ll put a pin in that one. From where I sit there are only two possibilities. 1) The team bands together and their collective efforts convince Pruitt to sell ACN back to Leona for a minimal loss or 2) They figuratively burn the whole darn thing to the ground. Will and Mack take Will’s sizable net worth and start-up a new cable network. Thus forcing all of us to prey for a spin-off series. I wish I had more insights, but I will be tuning in with incredible anticipation next week like everyone else. So, make sure to check back to NJATVS for more updates and the climactic Series Finale recap of the Newsroom.

Courtesy of HBO

Charlie Skinner, one of the best characters in modern dramatic television.  He will be missed.

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