Last week, in Newsroom fashion, we sat through a very compelling season premiere. A return to the form of season 1. By its conclusion, we felt that all so familiar feeling. The sympathy shared by the sense that ACN and News Night were staring into the eyes of a three-headed monster named conflict. Number one was the downward trend of ratings as fallout from Genoa. They are in a steadfast attempt to earn the public’s trust again. Number two was the understanding that while not his intention, Neal very well has committed espionage. And number three was Sloan adding up the breadcrumbs to equal ‘hostile takeover’.
Tonight’s episode begins with Reese on his best behavior (for now) giving his half siblings a tour of the building while both parties involved are fully aware of what is being attempted. The siblings are silver spoon fed rich kids hell-bent on getting the largest nest egg for a couple 25 year olds maybe ever. It’s slightly unclear if there is a motive beyond that. By taking inventory of the tempers in the room, I’d say there might be a hint of resentment or even revenge.
Neal and Will wait in their station meeting room for Rebecca Halladay (the lawyer from the Genoa case played by Marcia Gay Harden) to arrive. In a little less than 3 minutes of simply discussing the beginning of the very basic timeline of events, Halladay is certain that Neil has in fact committed espionage. If they run the story, which seems very much an afterthought in the negative column, they would have to contact BCD. Calling BCD and asking the question will automatically set off the ‘trip wire’. BCD would be inclined to alert the defense department. The Defense department would tip-off the FBI. Then the FBI would descend upon ACN and take Neil away. Neal is still thinking like a journalist. Willing to do the time to report the story. Will does not accept that.
Mack goes to a FBI shooting range with a friend of hers who works for the FBI. The idea is that she could float vague concept by this friend and the friend could tell Mack just how much trouble we’re looking at. Based on the vague version of the story this friend believes jail time for refusing to reveal the source would be in the ballpark of 10 days.
Point of reference. As it has been pointed out, I am arguably the biggest fan of The West Wing maybe on the planet. So when I discovered that John Gallagher Jr (Jim Harper) is the same John Gallagher Jr that played the high school kid who volunteers for the DNC and ends up chauffeuring Toby, Josh and Donna around the state of Iowa in the episode “20 Hours in America”, I thought it was cute. A nice little innocent connection to the West Wing.
As we’ve proceeded, using premises of story lines from the West Wing, actual dialogue exchanges, and even as recently as tonight using actual places (i.e. Equatorial Kundu) it’s beginning to wear thin. I get it, there’s only so much original stuff a person can make. However, it’s starting to be too much. Predictable even. Would it surprise you to know that Mack’s FBI friend is played by Mary McCormick who also played Commander Kate Harper who appeared in 48 episodes of the West Wing?
The following scene is another step in the direction I mentioned the last week of ‘Maggie rebuilding herself’. In the premiere, Maggie was asked to do a job that most thought was above her. She went out and nailed it. Now, she is on a train out of Boston when she recognized someone who works for the EPA babbling about things he should not be saying in a public place. She takes advantage and gets as much of it as she can. She then approaches the man about it. She covers her bases journalistic-ally and legally, but there is something that seems wrong about getting a story this way.
Don and Sloan are getting lunch at a nice restaurant. I’ll save you the time on this one. Consider what you know about Don and Sloan separately, add the Sorkin style dialogue, and it’s on the subject of are we or are we not a couple. There was one detail of note. Don tells Sloan that he bought shares of Chipotle after she said they’d have a good day. Which was before she went on the air to share such news publicly. Which, makes it a basic insider trading thing somehow. More to come on that I’m sure.
Jim returns to the studio to find Hallie at her desk long after she shouldn’t be. Jim can’t read the signs. She takes him into the control room to inform him of this immense mistake she made. Jim’s reaction is pretty great. The impact of this mistake will end with Hallie being let go, to put it nicely.
Jim (reading the tweet): Republicans rejoice as there is finally a national tragedy that doesn’t involve guns.
Back to Don and Sloan, the conversation leaves the area of insider trading and transitions into the realm of ‘are we a couple’? To which Don assumed they were and Sloan has a hard time categorizing what they are, exactly.
Don: Do you consider us a couple?
Sloan: I don’t understand that question.
Don: Yeah you do, because this is exactly how I act in the same situation. I pretend I’m stupid and hearing impaired. Do you consider us a couple?
Sloan: Do you consider us a couple?
Don: I do that too Socrates…
Sloan: We are…
Sloan: OK, let me just say that…Here’s what we are…
Don: Bring it.
Sloan: I love spending time with you.
Don: Ohh huh ooh man. I can’t believe I’m getting Don Keefered.
In the board room, Charlie is trying very diligently to persuade the siblings to be a part of what is happening at AWM and not tear it down when Reese gets a text alert. He hands the phone to Charlie and tells him to take care of it. The ‘it’ in this scenario is Hallie’s tweet making headlines. Thus, we get the sporadically used but always enjoyed Sam Waterston curse fest. By the end of which, Hallie has invited herself into the room and takes her release admirably. At this point I’m keeping a tally of what feel like recycled West Wing bits. Not inspired by or borrowed from, but direct recycling. This is straight out of the “Take Out The Trash Day” episode. They won’t slip these passed me.
Maggie still on the train, has rescinded her attempt to use the EPA employees public phone call as the lead in to an eventual story. The moral ambiguity was enough for her to drop it. At this point in the episode she has tried to explain that she is just not going to run the story. The EPA guy cannot fathom a reporter simply dropping it for moral reasons. In the meantime of which, she and the slightly creepy guy sitting across from her hit it off. He’s a law professor at Fordham who teaches ethics, ironically. Eventually the EPA guy gets it and in turn gives her a report that even the President of the United States has not seen yet and offers an exclusive interview to be conducted on Monday, keeping her ahead of everyone else.
Leona Lansing enters the board room and rips the siblings a new one with a lovely anecdote about the definition of the word literally. Then promptly kicks them out of her board room. The long and short of it is that Leona plans to offer the siblings 1 dollar more per share than Savannah Capital thus giving Leona 100% of the company and the siblings billions of dollars.
Will signals Neal out of the meeting room and into the air studio. After a pleasant but vague bit of small talk that firmly impresses upon Neal the level of respect Will has for him, Will moves on. He suggests that Neal find a place to go to that he can reach without using a credit card. Leave his cell in his apartment. Will is suggesting Neil run at least for a couple of days so that Will can act at the negotiator. And subsequently the only other person on the planet that knows the name of the source.
Rebecca, Mack, Charlie, Don, and Sloan sit in the meeting room having sidebar conversations when there is a knock on the glass. The FBI has arrived. Earlier, Neal called BCD and given them his name. One of the FBI agents is the one from before. Curiously, she made her social relationship with Mack information available to all including her partner. Even more curious is that she intentionally lied in front of everyone by telling some story about not seeing Mack since last Christmas. Even though they saw each other a couple days earlier.
A previous detail I left out because I was not completely sure where it was head deals with Will, Jenna and retrieving take out menus. Will asked Jenna to get some take out menus. Put them on his desk. Then after ‘they’ arrive come back for the menus. Now that the FBI are in the building and before they get into anything of substance, Jenna knocks on the door and asks for the menus. Tuck that away.
The feds begin the search. Retrieving hard drives and searching work stations. The guy looking through Neal’s work station notices that a filing cabinet has been broken open. Earlier, when Neal got up to go to the bathroom (to call BCD and tip-off the FBI) Rebecca insisted that he leave the flash drive to prevent him from doing something stupid. He tosses his filing cabinet key to Will. Every assumption should point to the idea that Neal still has the flash drive.
We see Neal walking into a side alley (small) parking lot at the end of which is a dumpster. He breaks his iPhone thoroughly enough that he could remove some important part of the tech. He then takes out the Chinese takeout menu and opens it up. He lights it on fire, but not before we read what Will wrote in it.
Now boys and girls, I kept a tally. There were 9 recycled West Wing story lines, scenes, or details that stuck out to me like a sore thumb. I don’t begrudge Aaron Sorkin from reusing some successful pieces from previous shows. The issue I have is that they feel almost identical. Equatorial Kundu? Really it seems to me, you could just google a map and pick a different impoverished nation. Firing Hallie, Leona ripping the siblings, etc. Change the names and tweak the dialogue and its the same stuff. I say this knowing full well that Aaron Sorkin would be on my top 5 people in the world to have dinner with and whose brain I’d love to pick. 99% of the viewing audience is not going to catch it, but I thought I’d share it for perspective purposes.