The Newsroom Recap: Gather Ye Rosebuds

Episode 9: Jeff Daniels.
Episode 9: Jeff Daniels. Photo: Melissa Moseley/HBO

Regular Newsroom recapper Chadwick Matlin is trapped in a high-rise where the lights have gone out. He’s in charge of rationing cell phone and laptop power and wont be able to make it this morning.

“I hate these guys. I don’t know why you don’t.”

It’s no surprise that the News Night-ers have a bit of that old West Wing arrogance about them. They are the righteous ones and they are here to do good and if you get in their way, well you can just eat them and that’s the end of the conversation. God, for a second there, I thought McAvoy & Co. were actually going to get that Republican debate. It was one of those, “it’s so ridiculous it might work” situations that ended up being simply, “it’s so ridiculous.”

But of course they were never going to “win the debate.” (In case you missed the subtle writing work here, “winning the debate” wasn’t actually about “winning the debate.” It was about “winning the debate.” Of life.) The idea of cross-examining presidential candidates as if they were on the witness stand is an inspired one. And an utterly fantastical one. No candidate alive, no matter how smart or confident, would ever agree to this format. Not because it completely changes the way debates have been run for several decades (two minutes, rebuttal, enough time to say something pat, generally not enough time to hang oneself with one’s own words), but because this wackadoo format is as much about the moderator as it is about the participants. In a courtroom drama, when a cross-examination is taking place, it is the attorney who is the star — your Paul Newman or Matthew McConaughey or Joe Pesci. Not the witness. As the guy from the RNC and Brian the New York magazine reporter both rightly point out, this is about Will. It was hubris. And so they lost the debate. (Also, they “lost the debate.”)

Which means they made those political a capella club sweatshirts for nothing. (Cut to several seasons from now — it’s the Newsroom’s final episode, the show has been canceled, and a Mumford & Sons song plays as the scene cuts from staffer to staffer, opening drawers and closets and armoires, pulling out their sweatshirts and looking longingly at them and remembering the time when they did something right and true and silly.)

Which also means that they traded in their principles to cover the Casey Anthony and Anthony Weiner stories for nothing.

Other Characters, Moments and Story Lines of Note

* Even if we hadn’t seen the moment in last week’s post-episode teaser where MacKenzie asked the staff if anyone knew anyone who knew Casey Anthony, we would have been right in expecting someone to know someone to know someone who knows Casey Anthony. Because that’s the world of The Newsroom. Is it a stretch? Yes. Have we passed the appropriate number of coincidental acquaintance-ships surrounding significant news events? Possibly. Does The Newsroom care? No. This is nonfiction wrapped in fiction slipping on a banana peel. So Maggie’s roommate Lisa, who will cut you if you ruin Valentine’s Day for her, happens to have gone to high school with Casey Anthony. Which is a tenuous connection, and everyone knows it. Not that that stops Jim and Maggie from heading over to Lisa’s boutique (Flounce!) in the middle of the day and interrupting  her session with a typically ditzy Sorkin-ian woman in an attempt to get her on the show. It’s appropriate payback for the two times Lisa has completely had a meltdown in the middle of their place of employment. If the ACN front desk doesn’t have her picture taped up with a Time magazine Osama bin Laden “red x” over it, I don’t even know. (Next week, the man who stole Sloan’s virginity, while also introducing her to the magic of economics, will turn out to be Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.)

* After Lisa talks about abortion on the air, someone spray paints “Baby Killer” on the front of Flounce. In New York City. They found out where she works on her Facebook page, so Jim says, “Shut the page down!” And instead of saying, “Shut my page down, what the fuck are you talking about?” she just stands there. Right then, Will walks in like some urban cowboy through a very insistent cloud of steam, a moment only slightly less majestic than Charlie walking through the New York Public Library last week. No one questions why their boss is there.

* The name of the News Night team’s karaoke joint is Hang Chew’s. It’s apparently on 44th Street next to Virgil’s BBQ. The only reason the show’s young staffers would go there instead of to Jimmy’s Corner down the block (tip — best and cheapest dive bar in the Times Square area) or really anywhere else in the neighborhood is because where else would abide a bunch of schmos who bring their laptops to a bar?

* The Jim and Maggie and Don and Lisa foursome. Those nine words are all I am interested in writing about that storyline. I find the Neal/Trolls/Sloan subplot much more interesting, even though that subplot is not at all interesting. Was it anyone else’s first thought upon seeing Neal sitting in the dark in a tank top in front of his computer that he was masturbating to pictures of Sloan? Between his mentions this week and last of both her breasts and ass, it’s not an unreasonable thought. Instead, we found that he was intellectually masturbating, deep in the troll chat rooms, where he finds that someone wants to kill Will. “Shut the page down!”

* Have you noticed how zoom crazy the cameramen are on this show? Just rewatch the scene where Mac and Will are talking about the mysterious white flowers in Will’s office. There is a zoom with every cut, either short or long.

* I know it’s her thing, that it’s like a Holly Hunter in Broadcast News thing, but MacKenzie’s screaming/yelling fits, which bookended this week’s episode, are becoming slightly frightening. I’m expecting her to have a heart attack right in the middle of one, which would make a great Season One finale cliffhanger, and then the season two premiere episode can be titled “Heart Healing/Debt Ceiling.”

* I’m writing this in a vacant karaoke bar, and it’s now 7 a.m. and they’re kicking me out. Your regularly scheduled recapper will be back for next week’s finale.

The Newsroom Recap: Gather Ye Rosebuds