This week on The Newsroom … Leona and Reese face a battle for control of ACN’s parent corporation. Maggie wrestles with her own ethics after she overhears a sensitive conversation. And Neal brings down an FBI raid on the entire team.
This week’s headlines
I would love it if you guys would stop committing federal crimes.
AWM lawyer Rebecca Halliday (Marcia Gay Harden) tells Neal that he has violated both the Espionage Act and the Patriot Act. Despite Neal’s protests (“a truth that matters can’t stay hidden”), Will says ACN won’t run the story to protect him. However, Mac disagrees with her fiancé, saying they have to report it after she confirms with her friend, FBI agent Molly Levy (West Wing alumnus Mary McCormack), that no reporter has ever been charged under the Espionage Act and the worst that is likely to happen to Neal is that he will be thrown into jail for a few days for contempt for refusing to disclose his source, a fate which Neal considers a badge of honour.
Neal secretly calls BCD (the PR firm responsible for planting the fake story that led to the Kundu riots) asking for comment, knowing that this will trigger a response from the FBI. Will engineers a warning to him to get off the grid for a couple of days as Molly and an FBI team arrive with warrants to seize every hard drive in the newsroom. But when they search Neal’s desk they find his locked drawers broken open, with the flash drive containing the stolen documents gone.
Outside, Neal dumps his phone and sets light to a takeaway menu on which Will had written the message ‘Neal, run’. As one might say, shit just got real.
I’m a douche on the side of the angels.
Reese and Leona Lansing (with a small assist from Charlie) face off against Reese’s half-siblings Randy and Blair (2 Broke Girls’ Kat Dennings), who are intending to sell their combined 45% stake in Atlantis World Media the moment they turn 25, a sale which would see the closure of the unprofitable ACN.
Leona offers to buy the twins out instead, giving her ten days to raise $4 billion.
Jack: You’re giving a monologue.
Maggie: Everyone does where I work.
Maggie is returning from her coverage of the Boston marathon bombings on the train when she hears Richard Westbrook, a senior Environmental Protection Agency official, criticising President Obama on the phone. She records the conversation and then confronts him, telling him he was on the record and that it’s a newsworthy story. However, she relents, apologises and in return receives an advance copy of an embargoed environmental report and the promise of an exclusive interview.
In so doing, she impresses and subsequently hooks up with fellow passenger and law professor Jack.
Congratulations. We’re white collar criminals.
Don tells his ‘money honey’ Sloan he made a small profit from a stock tip he got from her, which she tells him constitutes insider trading if they are in a relationship
The pair dance around whether they are now a couple. Don tests her with a fake invite to his parents’ anniversary party. She retaliates by pretending to tell him she’s in love with him. They come out as a couple to the rest of the team.
I don’t care if she wrote the collective works of Tolstoy. She wrote *this*.
Hallie sends and deletes a tweet in bad taste poking fun at the Republicans. It’s nonetheless picked up by Buzzfeed and she comes into the newsroom knowing she’s going to be sacked. Charlie saves Jim from the embarrassment of having to fire his girlfriend by doing it for him. Having outed herself to prevent suspicion falling on anyone else in the newsroom, Hallie starts receiving job offers from a variety of online news outlets.
This was a cracking episode, bristling with thought-provoking drama and no small amount of humour – Don and Sloan are just the cutest couple ever, not least because their individual flaws make them that much better together – and weaving five loosely intersecting storylines around each other without any one feeling lightweight.
Although a number of topical news stories are touched upon, these are secondary to the two main fictional storylines around Neal’s whistle-blower story and the AWM takeover. The Newsroom has always been at its best when the news stories it revisits are secondary to the character drama rather than driving the central narrative and force-fitting the characters’ actions to them, and this is a prime example. There are echoes of real-world stories in both the espionage and hostile takeover plots, but the fact we don’t know how these particular stories will end makes them immediately engaging.
Just as season two saw the gentrification of Don Keefer, so this season has completed the rehabilitation of Reese and Leona from ratings-obsesssed bad guy network execs to ACN’s most powerful advocates. Remember, in season one Reese was tapping phones and Leona was trying to engineer Will’s sacking – now they’re his biggest fans in a turnaround that still requires a degree of suspension of disbelief at the extent of the retcon that has been carried out. Still, it’s always a joy to have Jane Fonda back on the show.
As he did in last week’s episode, Aaron Sorkin looks at the negative impact of social media and citizen journalism, as a momentary aberration from an exhausted Hallie costs her her job and she is immediately courted by online outlets hoping she will have an axe to grind with ACN which will boost traffic. Sorkin’s suspicion of social media and citizen journalists is well documented, but his argument is not entirely without merit given the constant drive to break the news first, create enough content to fuel at 24-hour news cycle and measure success in shares, likes and retweets.
Finally, having been borderline incompetent in season one and a traumatised mess in season two, it’s good to see that Maggie has finally emerged as a competent professional this year. Better late than never, I suppose. I’m guessing that Hallie’s sacking and this EPA report scoop will allow Maggie and Jim’s orbits to overlap once more.
And finally …
At the shooting range, Mac mentions “factories blowing up in Texas” to Molly. This refers to the explosion on 17th April 2013 (a few days before the timeline of this episode) at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, which killed 15 people and injured more than 160 others as the emergency services were dealing with a fire at the facility. The explosion was caused by a large stockpile of ammonium nitrate which had not been reported to federal authorities.
Leona refers to the updated definition of the word ‘literally’ to indicate emphasis or strong feeling, as an alternative to its traditional meaning in reference to an event which actually happened. Merriam-Webster added this alternative meaning, based on the common misuse of the word, to their dictionary in March 2013.
Hallie’s sacking echoes a similar incident at MSNBC from January of this year, where a staffer was fired for sending a tweet taunting conservatives over a Cheerios Super Bowl ad starring a biracial child.
Don says that Neal’s anonymous source might be “one bad day away from being Ted Kaczynski”. Better known as the Unabomber. between 1978 and 1995 Kaczynski planted or mailied numerous home-made bombs, killing three people and injuring 23 others.