This week’s headlines
The focus is squarely on Operation Genoa this week.
Mac assembles her ‘red team’ – Don, Jim and Sloan – for an initial meeting to stress-test their progress on Genoa. Despite Jerry Dantana‘s full-hearted backing of the story he has been pursuing for over six months – and the distraction of trying to name all nine of Santa’s reindeer – the team aren’t satisfied that they have anything more solid than hearsay,
Mac and Charlie track down retired General Stanislaus Stomtonovich, whose memory appears to be less than wholly reliable but nonetheless mentions sarin gas without prompting. He agrees to be interviewed by Jerry – and only Jerry – the following day. However, when it comes to confirming the use of sarin during Genoa, he speaks only in vague hypotheticals, implying he had no direct oversight of the mission. A frustrated Jerry doctors the footage to make it appear that Stomtonovich did confirm that sarin was used in the extraction mission.
Even then, that is not enough to wholly convince the team to green-light the story given the general’s questionable memory. However, five months later – it’s now late August 2012, as a montage reveals the Republican National Convention is about to take place – a member of the marine rescue team mistakenly believed to have been killed in action contacts ACN, providing the last piece of the puzzle.
Two months later in the future timeline, Charlie tells lawyer Rebecca Halliday that News Night ran the story on a Sunday evening to record ratings, only to realise almost immediately that they had got it horribly wrong.
Will goes to town on a key religious supporter of Republican candidate Rick Santorum about the way he is bringing his faith into his campaign. Reviewing focus group data the following day, he worries about his likeability. Sloan quotes Psych 101 at him, telling him he has sought love from his audience to replace what he lost when he and Mac broke up.
Nina Howard persuades him to go on ACN’s morning show to play up his folksy side. It’s a disaster. Will breaks up with her and gets chewed out by his ‘little sister’ Sloan.
Jim and Hallie go on a double-date with Neal and drunken MTV reporter Aubrey. Romney spokesperson Taylor Warren gatecrashes their dinner and trades barbs with Jim before revealing that she has just been fired from the campaign. On returning to their hotel for some ‘discretionary time’, Jim and Hallie find Maggie drinking alone in the bar. Hallie is called away at short notice to cover an event. Maggie ends up leaving with the barman.
Sloan goes out on a date with a player from the New York Giants. Don confides in Mac that he doesn’t want to repeat the same mistakes of his office romance with Maggie and that he’s intimidated by how he could possibly compare to a professional athlete. He also advises Mac that, even if the Genoa story is true, she should seriously consider whether they want to be the people who tell the country that their military has committed war crimes.
The season arc takes a giant stride closer to its resolution as Jerry, blinded by his lengthy pursuit of a career-defining story, deliberately does what Maggie accidentally did with the Trayvon Martin 911 call last week, namely edit a recording to misrepresent the truth. He then further compounds the deception by showing the doctored recording to the red team, and not the raw footage Mac requests. Everyone misses the tell-tale evidence of an edit having been made: there is a noticeable jump in the basketball game coverage that is visible in the background behind the general’s seat.
In the initial red team meeting, it’s mentioned that it isn’t possible to go to Pakistan to interview potential eyewitnesses first-hand, as it’s too dangerous for American nationals. Alternatives such as using a local ‘fixer’ are also quickly dismissed. Why does the team not make more of an effort to locate a credible witness for a story of this magnitude and sensitivity? They seem to give up on this far too easily. Could they not have used Neal to try to find someone online, as he did with his early source Hamni8 or in the case of Amen in Cairo (in the season one episode Amen)?
Will and Sloan’s dynamic seems to have evolved from season one’s mentor/protegee to more of a big brother/little sister relationship. It makes sense: Sloan has grown professionally over the past couple of years and she is the closest match to him in terms of intellectual ability. Meanwhile Don – whose scene with Mac continues to humanise him and make him seem like the most well-rounded member of the ACN team – edges closer to actually asking Sloan out. Which is understandable, really, as Sloan – and Olivia Munn’s delivery of Aaron Sorkin’s tongue-twisting dialogue – continues to be all kinds of awesome.
We still don’t know what caused Maggie’s spiky red haircut, though. I’m past caring on that front, just as I’m going to gloss over the coincidence of Maggie – perennially penniless Maggie, remember – being a regular at the (undoubtedly expensive) bar of the same upscale hotel that Jim and Hallie are staying in. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world …
Nonetheless I liked this episode a lot. The Genoa storyline finally kicked into high gear without having to be shoehorned around the featured news story of the week. Don and Mac shared an introspective moment which expanded on both their characters. Only Neal was short-changed this week, a repeating problem with a good character who could be utilised so much more to provide the audience’s eye-view of events in the newsroom.
There’s a real sense of momentum now building in the main storylines, which will hopefully propel us into the final three episodes of the season.
And finally …
For what it’s worth, Santa’s nine reindeer are: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen and, of course, Rudolph.
The Newsroom continues on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 9pm.