B.J. Novak

All posts tagged B.J. Novak

Courtesy of HBO

Courtesy of HBO

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Here we find ourselves on the doorsteps of a series finale we all hoped we could delay. The Newsroom has been every bit the Sorkin gem we’d hoped it would be. Even at its most unimpressive moment, The Newsroom still stands head and shoulders above 90% of what television has had to offer during it’s run. Jeff Daniels has been amazing. Sam Waterston has been career defining good. Each and every character has found a way to pull us in.

Thinking back to the pilot episode, there was about a 50/50 split. There were characters I liked immediately and ones that took time to grow on me. Reese Lansing, Don Keefer, and even Maggie Jordan. As we look back before the series finale, even the people I did not care for, have found a way into the proverbial heart. An ability that very few writers have, Aaron Sorkin accomplishes with resounding results.

Tonight is the last episode of the journey in the ‘mission to civilize’. The swan song for raising the collective expectation for what delivering the news should mean. The swan song for that dying breed of the honorable newsman. One last hurrah for us the viewer to experience something fictional, seldom found in day-to-day non-fiction.

Mack: Reclaiming journalism as an honorable profession. A nightly newscast that informs a debate worthy of a great nation. Civility, respect, and a return to what’s important; the death of bitchiness; the death of gossip and voyeurism; speaking truth to stupid. No demographic sweet spot; a place where we all come together.

I don’t mean to belabor the point here. The Newsroom took us on a journey of what could and quite frankly, should be the way things are done. We live in a place where ratings and appealing to the lowest common denominator is a blueprint for success. Whether it’s news or reality television, we are satisfied with the sound bite or deplorable. Not because it’s accurate or important. Because the requisite amount of people would tune in to watch this unimportant thing. And that number of viewers sells enough soda or car insurance or toys. The Newsroom, beyond the show, was a metaphor for where we are versus where we came from. At least within the construct of television news.

As recently as today, I saw on social media someone posted a link to the video of Will McAvoy’s first speech about “Why is America the Best Country in the World”. This person had no idea that this was from a television show currently running. And that becomes the bigger issue at hand. This is a remarkable show created by a remarkable writer. And that would be enough. This show like a few Sorkin shows before it will prove to measure beyond the scope of entertainment. This show vividly shows us a great many things about ourselves, good, bad or otherwise.

Everything Aaron Sorkin does has tremendous merit. Every mainstream project he’s ever completed increases in value. Like a great artist, his work is normally not truly appreciated until it is too late. I could have easily watched The Newsroom into a 6th season before even considering when it should end. So today is a bittersweet day for me and I imagine anyone who is a fan of The Newsroom or Aaron Sorkin. At the conclusion of tonight’s episode some will reflect and move on to whatever is next on their DVRs. The rest of us will wallow in re-runs of The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Sports Night, A Few Good Men, American President or whatever Aaron Sorkin works they may have at their disposal. Without any further delay, let us look forward and see exactly how this story ends.

We begin the series finale exactly where we should. At Charlie Skinner’s funeral. Everyone is present. All those we expect and some we might not have. Everyone except Mackenzie, because she’s outside having a very cryptic phone conversation. She quietly sneaks back into the funeral service. She attempts to whisper something to Will, who if famous masculine fashion misses it the first time. Mack tries again and only two phrases (under the circumstances) are required. “My Doctor” and “blood test”. A natural and convincing smile grows on Will’s face.

We immediately follow-up that great news with a three-year flashback that starts with Will yelling for ‘Ellen’. Those viewers who go back to the beginning know what this is. This is the Show Runners for The Newsroom taking a moment to show us exactly how detached Will McAvoy was. Not knowing Maggie’s name. Not knowing what Neal even does. Strong arming his executive producer. And Charlie Skinner watching the broadcast moments before the decision not to right the ship, but to rebuild the ship.

During this flashback we get something I thought we’d never see again as of last week. Charlie Skinner in a benevolent manner giving it Will regardless of how Will feels about that. He beats around the bush asking if Will ever plans on kids. Will gives some reply about being afraid to pass down some of his father’s demons and questioning if it’s worth it in the long run. Charlie then redirects the conversation back to the current state of the show. He is going news segment by news segment, pointing out deficiencies and missed opportunities on Will’s part. Trying to get passed the ratings and to begin talking about content. Charlie walks us all the way up the line in the sand. He even asks bluntly, “what are we doing?” Then just before concluding the flashback, Charlie leans back in his seat and says, “Being a father…it lives up to the hype.” The flashback washes away to reveal a truly joyous Will McAvoy smile.

When the funeral service concludes, Will and Mack struggle to get passed the lines and into open space. Will then, in first time Dad form, pulls Mack aside to ask 20 questions. We, in this moment, run down a relative checklist. Then in typical Will fashion he declares that the next 7 months will go smoothly because he is in charge of morale.

Will: Do we know if it’s a boy or a girl?
Mack: Yes. It will likely be one of those two.

Leona Lansing wants Mack to ride with her to the cemetery. She then ‘invites’ Pruitt to join them. Pruitt is clearly still ticked about the interview prior to Charlie’s heart attack. In a different limo, Maggie hold Jim’s hand in silence. Jim breaks out the ‘nice service’ line before Maggie interrupts him. Maggie was recommended for a promotion to ‘Field Producer, Washington DC’. An interview she would not likely be in line for, had Jim not recommended her.

In the Lansing limo, Leona outlines Pruitt’s problem. Pruitt owns a company that is not worth explaining. Multiple news stories have surfaced with allegations that Pruitt pays the woman of this company less. Less even that the national average. This then sparks an impromptu debate over the subject of unfair pay, conceptually. Mack gives her piece even though she doesn’t know why she was invited. Leona then informs Pruitt that today, she will help him out.

In yet another limo we find Will, Don and Sloan. Don and Sloan are almost having a non-verbal, eyes are screaming at each other conversation. Then Sloan speaks up. They think it’s important that Will know exactly what happened leading up to Charlie’s heart attack. It sounds exactly like you’d think it would. Sloan speaking a mile a minute and Will just taking it in. Then there will be a portion of the story that Don tells, which should alleviate any fault away from Sloan and onto Don.

New flashback takes us to Charlie and Mackenzie’s first meeting. At 11:30am on a Monday in a dark bowling alley. She is bad at bowling and it is apparent that she has been drinking. The two of them sit down and before you know it, she’s explaining the lack of career options she has. Then Charlie suggests that had she not been drinking and her head was clear, she might ask why Charlie was there (she is aware of who Charlie Skinner is).

Mack: …Hang on…YEAH. That’s for sure what I would have done.
Charlie: I want you to take over News Night.
(Mack stares blankly then leans back in confusion)

The flashback continues with Sloan Sabbath talking to Don and ripping Will’s interview pertaining to a news story that is right in Sloan’s area of expertise. Don let’s her rant and then fires back. Pointing out that she only talks about one subject for one hour. Don and his host are responsible for much more than that. He then goes on to explain how nothing she’s said makes any sense to even an informed person so maybe she should work on her job instead of ripping them for doing theirs. To look in her eyes, that might have been the moment that opened the door for their eventual relationship.

After trying to process what Charlie has just said, Mack begins to break down why it can’t work. She gives up the previous ‘romantic’ relationship. A relationship that has long since ended. She cites reason after reason and each time she does, Charlie agrees with her. Charlie points out that when the two of them worked together, they really put something special together. She keeps resisting based on her relationship with Will, or lack thereof. Charlie is pursuing her because of that very relationship.

Mack: Don’s a smart guy and from what I hear a good EP, what makes you think I have better luck than Don making your car go fast?
Charlie: Because Will doesn’t care about impressing Don.
Mack: You’re not offering me the job in spite of my history with Will, you’re offering it to me because of it.
Charlie: I’m offering it to you because you’re my best hope of turning our flagship news hour into something we can be proud of.
Mack: He hasn’t returned any of my phone calls or emails or letters in…years. I don’t think he’s all that interested in what I think of him.
Charlie: That may be the only thing he’s interested in. (Charlie stands up) An offer’s on the table, Midterms are in six months, and another Presidential campaign in two years. Take the offer and you’ll have a chance to frame the debate. Or pass, but then you never get to complain about the news again.

The very next shot is Mack walking up to will call at a venue to pick up her ticket to the debate at Northwestern. We even find Jenna (the student who Will will eventually rip on stage, and who will eventually work for Will) outside getting her ticket as well. While they wait in line, Mack notices Jenna writing something down. She’s curious so she asks if the lady will ask a question to the panel? This is where Mackenzie gets the question that Will is destined to obliterate and he does so because Mackenzie provides him with the answer while he thinks of a way to sidestep the question.

Back in real-time Pruitt tries to spin to Leona what he and his PR Firm are going to do about his perceived problem with women. Pruitt believes he has all the steps in place to make this go away. Leona leans in and suggests that Pruitt has a PR problem because he has an actual problem.

The part of the story Don was going to tell Will that would take the pressure off of Sloan was the college girl who created the website for those victims of sexual assault on campus. As Don tells it, it was a bad story that Pruitt wanted. Pinning victim vs accused in studio live. It would have been Jerry Springer on network news. Don explains how this was a standoff between Don and Charlie and Charlie lost. Then Will asks if they should go bury Charlie now or if Don and Sloan believe they’ve already done that.

Back in the past Charlie views the Northwestern speech via YouTube like the rest of the planet. Then we find Will (on vacation) explaining to a bartender who honestly could not care any less that the ‘lady in the crowd’ that provided an answer to the question like a producer would, was a hallucination. The bartender’s phone rings. He asks if his patron is Mr. McAvoy and hands him the phone. It’s Leona. Will apologizes for the embarrassment, but Leona doesn’t care.

Leona: You’ve made a career out of being likable.
Will: I’d like to make a career out of doing the news.
(a long pause)
Will: Leona…?
Leona: Who’s stopping you? (she hangs up before he can respond)

Sloan shows up again a Don’s office (still 3 years ago). She is there to adequately explain what she tried and failed to do before. She explains it in a way that most people should understand. Don follows it wonderfully. Right as she begins to bring her explanation to a close, he cuts her off. Admits that he is no longer the EP of News Night. He then goes further by admitting that Will doesn’t like to come off as rude on camera. Finally a step even further, admits that Will blew the interview. That everyone concerned would have been better off if they let Sloan keep the interview. We’ll call this moment #2 that opened the door to their eventual relationship.

Here’s a fun fact, Jim Harper is impressively good at playing the guitar. I did not know that. Mackenzie shows up at Jim’s apartment. He’s recently broken with a long distance girlfriend and he’s been drinking. Mack lays it out rather quickly and he is resistant. Then Mack pulls out the book Charlie sent her as a metaphor of his intentions. The book was Don Quixote, which as we know plays a relevant part in a future episode. So, Charlie really did orchestrate this in the most literal terms.

Will is outside Charlie’s wake talking to three female staffers and one male. He says that it is “suddenly” important that he monitor his health. That’s when he realizes he’s smoking a cigarette and puts it out immediately. Then removes all the others from the pack. The Martin asks why ‘suddenly’? Will deflects. Then Tess figures it out. Then Kendra and so on. Martin still has no clue. Fearing he’s violated some spousal trust, he immediately backpedals and insists they are forget the conversation ever happened.

Maggie is getting mixed signals or misinterpreting signals that aren’t present in regards to Jim recommending her to DC. I was really starting to come around to new and improved Maggie Jordan. If she messes this up, I’m going to be significantly upset with her.

Leona’s angle to help Pruitt continues but with marginal clarity. Pruitt explains what happened with the Bree interview and asks how can he not fire Mack and Sloan. Then Leona transitions back to Charlie. She explains that he wants a news director he will fight with. He also doesn’t want the ACN he thinks he wants. He wants the fight, because the fight means both sides are doing their jobs. It feels like Leona is leaning towards a recommendation for Charlie’s replacement that Pruitt probably won’t like at first glance.

At ACN the ‘digital team’ are working. And by working I mean not working and ripping movies for the fun of it. The one of the ‘digital team’ computers suffers an error. Then another. They frantically scurry to find the problem. One guy suggests they got hacked. Then Bree says, “this wasn’t a hacker, somebody just walked in”.

Neal: I shut it down from my phone.
Bree: Are you Neal?
Neal: Yeah.
Bree: Welcome back man…
Neal: The nine most overrated movies of all time?
Bree: We thought it’d be fun.
Neal: For who?
Bree: For movie fans…?
Neal: I see you went all the way back to the Matrix. 1999. All time and 14 years are two completely different units of measurement, but my question is why is overrated more fun than overrated? You embarrass me.
Bree: I what?
Neal: It took me a long time to build ACN Digital. I was laughed at by the people in this newsroom. People I respect did not respect what I did around here, but I built this into a tool. I gathered, expanded upon and disseminated it into information that is useful. I kept telling my colleagues and my bosses that the internet is user sensitive just like most things. And I watched from a thousand miles away while you proved that. You embarrass me.
(Neal turns slightly to the other guy)
Neal: Build a page that says the site is down for repair.
Guy#2: For an hour?
Neal: For a week. We’re going to rebuild the whole thing.

Mackenzie finds Will staring blankly from the middle a young boys room. Then he demands that they finish the renovations on the apartment so they can sell it, buy a house, with a pile of leaves in the front yard and a flat street for riding a bicycle on.

Charlie’s widow escorts Don into Charlie’s home office. Don interrupts. He quickly blurts out that he may have contributed to Charlie’s heart attack. He begins to outline the circumstance, she cuts him off and explains that Charlie didn’t want the story. Charlie was banking on Don fighting him over it. Her words of what Charlie thought of Don are moving. Don’s non-verbal reactions are that of a figurative son unaware of his figurative father’s affection. Which is made more poignant when you remember that Charlie needed to be restrained from Don in the pilot episode. Mrs. Skinner passes Don a large manila envelope. She wanted Don to have Charlie’s yellow bow tie.

Will makes his way to the garage where Beau is strumming a cello. Earlier, Charlie told a story of his grandson Beau and that he was a musical savant. There was a story about a song called ‘How I Got to Memphis’. Memphis being a metaphor for wherever you are. Will starts to play the song and sing the lyrics. Beau joins in with the cello. Jim comes around the corner. He picks up another guitar and begins to play as well. They are joined by spectators, Gary and Tess. And more join them. There is a large crowd that gives a large ovation. When the crowd dissipates, Will looks to Beau. Acknowledges that he knows that Beau would confide in Charlie. Will makes an offer to do the same, if he’d like.

Mackenzie approaches Will and asks if he told anyone. Memo to new mothers who give the news to the new father. You need to specify that we aren’t supposed to say anything. Otherwise we will out of excitement. His scolding is preempted by Pruitt. He would like a word. It is a short conversation and before they depart for the car, Mack asks one last time if Will would like to say anything on Charlie’s behalf. A running line throughout the episode.

Will: Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me everybody. I just want to say…I’ve been trying to piece together what happened last Monday night. People keep giving me their accounts, seems everyone feels responsible for Charlie dying and of course ridiculous. It was Sloan. Charlie Skinner was crazy. He identified with Don Quixote. An old man with dementia who thought he could save the world from an epidemic of incivility simply by acting like a nut. His religion was decency. He spent a lifetime fighting its enemies. I wish he could be here. To learn the name of his successor, like I just did. Our new boss. The new President of ACN is Mackenzie McHale. (Long pause) So this fight is just getting started. Because he taught us to be crazy too. You were a man Charlie. A great big man.

Back at the studio, Mack offers the EP job to Jim. He hesitates as he believes it should go to Don. Don turned it down in favor of building something at ten o’clock. Jim accepts. Jim immediately finds Maggie and tells her to cancel the interview in DC. As Executive Producer of News Night, he is promoting her to senior producer. As excited as she is, she informs him that she will still interview for DC because it is what she wants. Jim replies with a lovely confession. That he doesn’t care how many states away it is, this is something more. Maggie agrees. They agree to travel arrangements that would suggest a real effort to make a long distance relationship work.

Maggie: Have you been in many long distance relationships?
Jim: Yes.
Maggie: Did any of them work?
Jim. No.
Maggie: Why is this going to be different?
Jim: I wasn’t in love with them.
Maggie: Wait…what?

Sloan is clearly having a hard time processing Charlie’s death. Don walks towards her and picks up a large manila envelope and says, “Nancy wanted me to give you something.” Don gave Sloan the bow tie that Nancy gave to Don.

Mack is pushing back slightly on the promotion to News Director. Citing that it’s only the articles uncovering Pruitt for being gender biased that he would give a woman such a promotion. Will’s point is why does it matter? She’ll get to do the job.

The remainder of the episode is a cleverly shot slow crawl of each of the major contributors to the show. From Will to Mack, Jim, Don, Maggie, Sloan, Neal, the graphics guys, etc. It is slow and lacking any audio polish. This is these people doing the job they were all brought along to do. Journalism was supposed to be a calling. These men and women are simply answering the call. And there is a swelling of pride that comes with the privilege to do just that. Close up of Will at the News Night desk just as the lights come up. Will looks directly in the camera and says…”Good evening.”

Courtesy of HBO

Courtesy of HBO

. . .

“You know what kiddo, in the old days. About ten minutes ago, we did the news well. You know how? We just decided to.” -Charlie Skinner

Courtesy of HBO

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

Courtesy of HBO

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

Courtesy of HBO

Courtesy of HBO

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Gary Cooper comes strolling into work singing a song from the musical “Anything Goes”. Oblivious to what has happened since our last episode. He turns the corner expecting to see a quiet newsroom. Instead he finds more FBI agents than employees.

Gary is met almost immediately by the lead agent. The exchange obscenities. The agent trying flex his authority and Gary flexing his grasp of legality. Eventually, Will jumps in to toe the line between we’re cooperating and don’t say anything.

The power struggle continues. The agents demanding that everyone do exactly as they say, while the staff tries to casually make their lives easier by suggesting the proceedings don’t have to go down this way. Will suggest that they are just doing their jobs. Then Charlie Skinner steps up and does his job. By calling the LA control room and informing them that ACN will be going live in 3 minutes.

Don and Jim head into the control room. Don claims that Charlie just called Domino’s and they need to make it look like they are about to go live even though they are not. Maggie jumps into the control room to get the ball rolling and question how they have never picked up on how to actually run a news broadcast. Meanwhile, Gary comes out strapped to a camera and Charlie asks the lead agent for his first name so they can put it in the banner.

With the fake special report about to not go live in the next 10 seconds, agent Molly tells them to stand down. And for a moment, ACN-1, FBI-0.

Rebecca (the lawyer) with every one of legal consequence on the phone negotiated a relative ‘cease fire’. The FBI and any agencies of authority will stand down until Friday. At such a time as all of the pertinent people will meet at Main Justice to tell the authorities everything they know minus the name of the source in the hopes that the Justice department can connect the dots without the name of the source.

Rebecca (to Charlie): That stunt with the cameras? That was not cool.
Charlie: Neither am I.

Maggie attempts to hand off her EPA report to Jim. Jim is difficult, but in a comedic way. The end of the world as we know according to the EPA in a report that is an inch thick is not exactly riveting television. Jim reluctantly agrees to try to move it up the pecking order. So this feels more like a Jim Harper segment and less like a Maggie Jordan segment. His words.

Meanwhile, Charlie’s assistant informs him that Leona and Reese Lansing are on their way down. Which is odd in that Charlie always goes to them. Leona does not have 4 billion to throw at the twins. And they have exhausted any conventional means to get it. The only way to get it is to ‘spin off ACN’. AWN is the parent company that owns ACN. If they sell ACN they could get enough in the sale to fight off the twins. There is a tech analyst who left Goldman Sachs to start-up his own company. He has the requisite money, but he also has ideas.

The last thing the iconic desk man of a successful news network wants to hear is that new ownership has ‘ideas’. Ideas mean change. Ideas mean lack of control. Considering that the alternative to this guy buying ACN and maybe making some changes is that the twins will dissolve all of AWN including ACN. A lesser of two evils situation. But now we are faced with Will and other being forced to attend the Correspondence Dinner. Normally a hard ticket to get. The problem here is that last year Will ripped the Correspondence Dinner and promised that ACN would never return.

Don has the new HR rep in his office. The scene is about Gary Cooper and the amount of romantic escapades with subordinate employees. The end of the scene is more critical. The HR rep is probing Don over his alleged relationship with Sloan Sabbath. Denying everything Don appears calm. The rep leaves headed for Sloan’s office. Don taking his time, wipes his mouth with a napkin, calmly stands up, then frantically races to Sloan’s office just to say, “we’re not dating”. Which Sloan replies with her monotone, “okay”.

Mack and Molly met in secret in a women’s sauna. This allows Molly to give Mack just enough information to help her make the right decision concerning her people. After work with the seized hard drives, the FBI is compelled to believe that they can tie Neal to an attempt at more documents. Molly strongly suggests that Mack do whatever she must to get Neal to come in. Mack then meets with Don and Jim. She asks them to get Neal a message to come in however they can.

Maggie’s EPA story and interview for Will. As Maggie predicted it was a story about the end of the world. More specifically, a child has already been born that will die at some point in its life due to the planet failing. This was literally a laugh out loud situation. As I’m watching this and hearing this dire end of the world narrative, the reactions around the room make it very funny. Almost as if the people not in the interview look around every few seconds and say, “did he really just say that?”

Will, Mack, Charlie and Rebecca sit in a conference room at Main Justice. The Assistant District Attorney for National Security enters the room. He is brash and forceful. He takes shots at everyone at the table to display the idea that he is in control. Anything short of giving up the source will not be good enough. Then he claims that Will is the one who orchestrated all of this. That is the point where Will has a moment that only Will can deliver. Transcribing it would be great, but it would lose its gravitas. Suffice it to say that Will said only what he needed to a that the ADA for National Security bungled this whole situation and now Will can’t help him anymore.

The entire staff is in the White House for the Correspondence Dinner. Up to and including the new HR rep who really believes he will catch Don and Sloan as an item. Charlie wants to meet with the staff before meeting their new ‘option’. Except he just walked through the door. Lucas Pruitt (played by B.J. Novak of the Office and Mindy Project fame) may put a halt to that idea. He is abrasive to say the least. He wants to turn ACN into a large family of networks that get their news from crowd sourcing. He’s a quirky rich guy who thinks he’s buying a new toy.

Outside a woman walks up and sits down next to Mack. She is the source. Not only that, but she also is applying her own pressure for Mack to run the story within the next 96 hours or she will post the story herself.

The staff has gathered in a room where Will McAvoy is graciously taking his picture with whomever happens to be at the party who wants to. It’s Will gladly radiating his own fame. Mack walks in like she’s seen a ghost. Charlie picks up on it. The kid at the front of the line finally gets Will’s attention by flashing a folded piece of paper. Will empties the room of ‘fans’. The kid has a subpoena for Will to appear before a grand jury.

Will (looks to Mack and Charlie): You think it’s possible I’m not as big a TV star as I thought?