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The Newsroom Recap: Men and Showers

Recap coming up just as soon as I Google “Chadwick Matlin hate.” Oh, what’s the first return? A link to last week’s recap? Fine. The whole riotous mass of you get a traditional recap, with all of its staid and comforting traditions. This doesn’t mean, though, that I won’t take Pride Goeth Before the Fall: An Oral History of NewsNight off the shelf before the season is through. In the meantime, those upset about the change can occupy the ACN building. McAvoy promised he’d bail you out if you get canned.

“The Genoa Tip” finds our heroes flailing through the cloudy waters of self-doubt, searching for meaning in a world that feels, for some reason, as if it’s scripted against them. Will’s Googling himself because he hasn’t yet discovered Twitter @ replies, Maggie’s (legitimately) worried she’s a failure at nearly everything she does, and Jim’s wondering how many Stellas he has to suck down before he can eavesdrop as well as Hallie.

This is a newsroom questioning itself, which, to be fair, is exactly what real newsrooms are like! Filled with a bunch of misanthropes scrambling to assert themselves, journalism is an existential gauntlet. What’s the point of going on-air every night if the people watching don’t like you? What’s the point of working twelve hours a day if your bosses don’t think your talent is anything but generic? What’s the point of trying to break news if you know you’ll never be as good as the supersonic cipher who’s always listening?

Speaking of! Poor Jim, senior producer humbled by the Boys on the Bus nature of beat reporting! All these competitors, slavering over the same morsels of canned air. How can Jim make his shaggy mark?

In unsure times like these he used to be able to talk to Maggie, but now they’re just cranky with each other. Maybe it’s because Maggie’s back hurts too much from sleeping on Sloan’s floor. Are there no couches at ACN? Apparently her dream of Jim and those Sex and the City DVDs (which she admitted to in last week’s recap) curdled into a nightmare, and she fled to the safety of Sloan’s sorority. Sloan, taking pity on the woman who was sleeping with the dude Sloan has a minor crush on, tells Maggie to take a shower. This is what female friendships look like in the Sorkinverse.

Empowered by this bit of compassion, the two women chase Maggie’s YouTube tormentor all the way to Foursquare — très 2011! — where they find her mentioning her unmentionables. And so off they trek to Queens, via subway.

Eventually Erica lies to Maggie, Maggie lies to Lisa, Lisa lies to herself, and somehow Maggie is still living with Lisa in a “landlord-tenant” relationship. This whole episode was the worst Sex and the City fanfic ever.

But at least that subplot helped distract Sloan from Will’s absence on the 9/11 broadcast, which he’s lied about and said was his choice, martyring himself in the process. Only Will McAvoy could manage to build his legacy while being punished. Amid that disclosure, we have this remarkable exchange:

Elliot: This is what I’m talking about, women and closets!
Sloan: What about men and showers?
Will: I’ve got an awesome shower. I love my shower.

Of his six showers a day, which one do you think helped Aaron Sorkin come up with that line? His skin pruned, his hair sopping wet, his robe slightly undone, there’s Aaron Sorkin reading another critic’s clammy scorn about his treatment of women in The Newsroom. And then, like an idea coming to Matt Albie at 4 a.m., he has the solution. He won’t just insult women in season two, he’ll generalize men’s foibles, too. Sorkin, satisfied, gets up, puts on a Steve Jobs keynote, and takes a nap on a bed of Emmys.

When he woke up, he bought the rights to WillMcAdouche.com. Poor Will, getting trolled by his own creator. This is what it must’ve felt like to be Jesus.

Will, shaken by the haters, decides to change his entire stylistic approach to his work (sound familiar?), and reverts to his most anti-activist self. Troy Davis? Convicted cop-killer, even if the jury made its decision based on shoddy evidence and lobbyists are skewing the parole board’s decision! (I’m no expert on Davis’s case, but the lobbyist detail appears to be apocryphal — I couldn’t find any news reports mentioning lobbyist pressure on the parole board.) Anwar al-Awlaki? Rightfully shot dead, even if the government won’t disclose under what legal precedent! (Awlaki was far closer to an American Taliban than the tea party, by the way.) Will McAdouche is not Will McAvoy. McAdouche trusts in secret, easily influenced decision-making processes. It’s the American Way!

To grieve for his neutered ego, Will gets nostalgic and watches video of his 2001 self, the same way you scroll through old Facebook pictures when you’re having deep thoughts about your receding hairline. Except Will uses a major national tragedy in which thousands died as fuel for his self-discovery. On the Newsroom spectrum of metaphysical-self-realization-through-national-tragedy, Will’s 9/11 moment falls squarely in between last season’s Osama bin Laden rager and Gabby Giffords’s Coldplay moment. (This, of course, is the problem with using real news as a vehicle for fictional characters’ accomplishments: Sorkin can’t help but lessen the import of the event by bending it to his commercial product’s needs. But that conversation is as dated as a Netflix-Qwikster reference by now.)

Anyway, Will needs to protect the American people from harm just like he did ten years prior, and just like he did for his family 30 years before that. So Will goes home and writes a script for Elliot and Sloan’s 9/11 broadcast. At least Will still knows how to patronize. I’ll protect you, kids, as long as you say exactly what I tell you to say. Will McAvoy, a regular Cyrano de Bergerac.

But who will protect Will?! Surely not MacKenzie, too busy calling Will a “douche bag,” and thus reinforcing his greatest fears at the moment. That leaves it to Neil to be the inadvertent hero.

“No one wants this to be a story as much as me, the guy who’s considered a joke in the office because until now the only stories I’ve pitched have had to do with mystical beasts roaming the mountains of my imagination,” Neal says to Shelly Wexler when they rekindle their romance on Wall Street. Shelly remains cold, but Neal impresses her by getting tossed in jail for standing up to a cop.

Will, jealous that he hasn’t stood up to anyone in a month, heads to the precinct, to tell a cop he’s had the flu. It is, rather obviously, a metaphor for his 40 days of wandering in a desert of self-doubt. But now Will has found his land of milk and honey, and it’s citing NYC penal codes.

And you know what? Will was right to not let the haters get him down. As Elliot said earlier in the episode, “there’s always one.” And so now we return to Pride Goeth Before the Fall for a brief excerpt about the Genoa tip seen in “The Genoa Tip.”

Neal Sampat: Late August and early September were weird — I remember thinking that Jerry had been hired to not do very much. He just sat around on the phone all day; Jim would at least stand in the control room with Mack.

Kendra James: While Jerry was reporting the Genoa story, he was a real cynical prick. So he fit right in.

Maggie Jordan: Jerry was a real mentor to me back then. I asked him for advice and he actually gave me more than a three-word answer like “Be more specific.” Of course his point that Africa mattered because it was where we’d next send soldiers to die ended up sending me there to die inside. So …

MacKenzie McHale: When Jerry first told me the military used sarin gas, I was dubious. Surely, if that were the case, we would have found out. But he told me the mission was performed by the bin Laden soldiers, and that’s why it hadn’t gotten out. If only No Easy Day had already been released, I would’ve known the whole thing was bullshit, because not even the bin Laden guys kept quiet.

Rebecca Halliday: It’s a shame MacKenzie had let her New Yorker subscription go unread. If she hadn’t, she would have read the piece about bin Laden’s capture, sourced in part through interviews with Navy SEALs, and known Jerry had a bad case of confirmation bias.

Stray matter:

  • What do we think? Is Jerry, like Stephen Glass and The Wire’s Scott Templeton, a fabulist? Or just a journalist susceptible to facts too good to check?
  • Did Rand Paul sign on as one of Aaron Sorkin’s advisers? This season is only two weeks old and already it’s devoted more time to drones than any other cable news program circa 2011.
  • Love how ACN keeps a history of their employees’ abusive domestic childhoods in their personnel file. Lets people like Charlie really get to know his staff.
  • Don spent all offseason reading David Grann, apparently. What a saintly race warrior that jerk is!
  • While Jim and Maggie are talking in the bar, Toto’s iconic “Hold the Line” is playing in the background. Great musical cue for the Jiggie ’shippers: Hold the line; love isn’t always on time. Woah-oh-oh.
Photo: Melissa Moseley/HBO