Will is so much more pleasant when he’s high. Considering how insufferable he’s been the last six weeks, how did we not figure out sooner that all he needed was a pot cookie (and a Vicodin, and another pot cookie)? Sober Will demeans people for any display of intellectual weakness; Stoned Will lauds people for any display of Guitar Hero prowess. Sober Will doesn’t want anyone in his apartment; Stoned Will is so calm he doesn’t notice when the people in his house throw a remote out the window. Sober Will wears $4,000 tuxes; Stoned Will can’t tie a Windsor knot.
So, more pot for Will, and for Jeff Daniels, who channeled Dumb and Dumber to turn in his best performance of the year. Daniels was all jutting lip and sly smile, even when he stood in the background, absorbed in whatever softball-hero fantasy had seized his brain. But when it was go time, Daniels and Will sobered up enough to deliver the news. And so did his colleagues, reveling in the ability to turn rumor into fact, and to turn that fact over to the people. On a plane, in a newsroom, on the air — news is power no matter the audience.
Our episode begins at Will’s apartment. Charlie’s out on the porch talking with a phone sex operator; they keep bringing up Deep Throat. Inside, Neal, by the grace of Bigfoot, is still dating Tom Haverford’s ex-girlfriend, and she’s basically a bro’s version of a manic pixie dream girl. She has a marijuana connect, she can play Guitar Hero with her eyes closed, and she knows how to flirt with the boss (that cheek kiss!). We’ll forgive her for calling Neal “boo.” Maggie and Jim are talking with Lisa, who’s somehow FaceTime-ing without a Wi-Fi signal (not available until fall 2012) and telling Jim she loves him. MacKenzie is entertaining the possibility of a three-way with Jim and ACN's National Security correspondent.
Eventually, everyone hears the news that there’s going to be news, and they start to make their way to the Bank of America building that Atlantis World Media has somehow co-opted. Everyone, that is, except for Don, Sloan, and Elliot, who are stuck on a plane, bitching about FAA regulations. Don takes his frustration out on a flight attendant. The flight attendant just so happens to be a woman.
They, like the rest of the News Night crew, are trying to figure out what the president might announce, which would be a process far more exciting if everyone watching HBO didn’t already know. For a moment I was hoping Sorkin would split with reality and not have the episode be about Osama bin Laden. In that alternate timeline, Neal is a prophet — we have established contact with alternative lifeforms. The president comes on to announce that the aliens say they’ll only speak with one person: Neal Sampat. (This would not be The Newsroom’s most absurd deus ex machina.) Neal is whisked off to a top-secret situation room in Washington, where he’s put on the interstellar line. “Hello?” Neal says into the microphone. It’s garbled, but the aliens are saying something back. “What is it, son?” President Obama says. “What’d they say?” The camera cuts tight to Neal, who has a fluttery smile. “Amen,” Neal says. “They said Amen.” Obama looks confused. Neal: “Don’t you understand? It means he’s the key — the key to it all. We must find him.” Cue the score; smash-cut to black; tune in next week.
But instead of Ameneal fan-fic, it’s just the ho-hum news that America’s most wanted terrorist has been shot dead. And thus begins one long reelection ad for Barack Obama. How else to interpret an episode that actually has the line: “Lives and a presidency were put on the line,” that is uniformly approving of a military action that violated Pakistan’s sovereignty to protect America’s, and that plays Obama’s speech over the end credits with the reverence of a church sermon? But at least Kaylee still feels crappy that her dad died. In case you didn’t know, that kind of thing doesn’t just go away “like an on off switch,” no matter what brave, legacy-risking Obama decides to do.
While Will was forgetting to check his e-mail in case Joe Biden sent a note, Maggie, Jim, and Lisa are doing their stupid little dance. Lisa loves Jim, Maggie loves Jim, Jim loves himself, around and around we go on a carousel of self-absorption. Lisa breaks up with Jim because Maggie loves Jim but then that proves to Jim that Lisa might be worth loving and so Jim asks Lisa out on a proper date even though they’ve already been set up on many dates because of Maggie. People: just get it over with and have an orgy. You can use Don’s hair gel as lubricant.
Just before ACN goes on with the news of Bin Laden, Charlie’s anonymous sex friend calls back. Turns out he works for the NSA, not NSFW, but he is still calling to tease Charlie. It appears Jane Fonda was every bit the Murdoch doppelgänger she appeared to be, and TMI has been pulling a News of the World, hacking into private information. What will we do once TMI is shuttered? Will Hope Davis land on her feet? I hear she’s looking to get into the restaurant business.
But that’s a plotline for another week. For now, it’s Bin Laden. Will figures out how to tie his tie in time to deliver the momentous news: Osama bin Laden is dead. Don, likewise, cuts his hissy fit the moment a man shows up in the cabin — only women are to be berated in public! — and, after a slow pan across the pilot’s wings, delivers a clunker to end all clunkers. “Our armed forces killed Osama bin Laden for you tonight.” Yes, the Navy Seals killed a terrorist on behalf of a flight crew.
Which was worse: this scene, or the slo-mo Coldplay Gabby Giffords debacle a few weeks ago? Does treacle even have gradations? Or is it like unique — only a state of being, no thing being more unique or treacly than another? If there’s any show that can answer that question, it’s The Newsroom. Just ask the guy who put on his FDNY hat to watch the president’s speech.
- “Flight attendant crazy lady.”
- Only person hit on by a stranger this episode: Sloan. Only person hit on by anonymous fan e-mail: Sloan.
- Lisa: sexy, and that’s just about it. Can you imagine a guy on The Newsroom making her dud of a joke about Navy Seals getting laid?
News We Couldn’t Get Two Sources to Confirm:
- MacKenzie’s “Do it for me, Will,” as he’s about to go on air had a touch too much sexual energy, no?
- What, you thought Charlie wouldn’t know that the Rock has a cousin who’s a Navy Seal off the top of his head?
- Still waiting for the terrace to be used for something other than an emotional reveal.
- At one point, with Don and Elliot on the plane, there were six name-drops in six seconds, setting a new Newsroom record. All of last night’s: Joint Special Operations Command, Helene Cooper, Leon Panetta, Bob Gates, Timothy Geithner, Wesley Clark, CENTCOM, Cantor Fitzgerald, Ted Baxter, Jay Carney, and Fast Five. What’d I miss?