Watching The Newsroom is a lot like watching those fight-compilation videos on the WorldStarHipHop website: You know all this carnage and commotion doesn’t do anybody any good, but it’s just so fascinating to watch.
Much like the fight videos (and just about everything) on that popular ratchet site, The Newsroom often exhibits a wrongheadedness you can’t turn away from, and “Run” couldn’t be a finer example of that. It has the same issue that’s plagued this show since the beginning: Nearly all the characters (and, to a larger extent, Sorkin himself) make decisions, moves, and judgment calls, all of them bad. And, yet, they somehow walk away feeling vindicated, as though what they’re doing is right and just, even though they come off looking smug and self-entitled. “I’m a douche on the side of the angels,” Reese says in this episode, though that could apply to almost anybody on the show.
Speaking of Reese, we finally meet his half-sibling twins, Randy and Blair, who turn out not to be as dumb as Reese said they would be. Well, one of them — played by Kat Dennings, a.k.a. the buxom broke girl from 2 Broke Girls — knows a thing or two about business. The other one says things every once in a while when he’s not eating baked goods.
Anyway, Reese brings them in to the boardroom to discuss the takeover of Atlantis the twins have been plotting. It turns out when they turn 25 they’re gonna sell their controlling shares to Savannah Capital, which recently bought 6 percent of Atlantis without anyone knowing. Apparently, this unholy union’s first order of business when they do take over Atlantis is to get rid of ACN, which doesn’t seem like a bad idea right about now.
As Reese explains the greatness that is ACN (“We have a news division,” Reese tells them, practically with the same gravitas as “We have God on our side”), we immediately find out most of the news division is screwing up left and right. First off, there’s Neal, who is about to go to jail for getting stolen, classified documents from some crackpot. Even though he explained this fully to Will at the end of last week’s episode, he explains it again to Atlantis lawyer Rebecca Halliday — Marcia Gay Harden tones down the “liquid sex” flirtiness and gets back to no-nonsense mode — who tells Neal the same thing Will told him last week: You committed an act of espionage, and you’re going to jail for a long time, boy!
But McKenzie MacHale tells them that’s not the case. According to some inside dope from an FBI-agent informant (whaddup, Mary McCormack!), no journalist has been charged with espionage. So he’ll most likely go to jail for ten days for contempt. Whatever the hell happens, both Mac and Neal want to do the story — and Will does not, which leads to Will and Mac arguing for most of the episode, because you know how cute that is.
To be honest, I would much prefer watching Don and Sloan bicker, since their relationship is beginning to become the most entertaining part of the show. Getting together for a brunch buffet, they determine whether or not they’re a couple. They also determine whether or not they committed insider trading when Don bought some hot Chipotle stock after Sloan hipped him to the tip before she declared it on the air.
Meanwhile, on a train going back to New York, Maggie catches an EPA wonk (played by Toby Flenderson himself, Paul Lieberstein, who’s now a Newsroom executive producer) off-guard when she records him having an off-the-record phoner with a reporter, where he’s critical of the president’s treatment of the agency. Even though she convinces him that she can pull the scoop since it wasn’t off-the-record to her — and he convinces her that what’s she doing is, like, messed-up — she changes her mind and decides not to pick up the story. This obviously freaks out EPA dude, who suddenly decides to reward her sudden urge to do the right thing by giving her an embargoed EPA report that even the president hasn’t seen, as well as an exclusive interview with him later. By the way, all of this was done in the presence of an ethics-law professor (Jimmi Simpson), who, instead of being appalled by Maggie’s actions, asked for her number. So, an EPA report and some possible D — this was a very good day for Maggie!
To recap, we have ACN folk committing espionage, insider trading, and ethical no-nos. But the person who gets fired in this ep wrote a dumb, late-night tweet!? After two episodes, poor Hallie gets the heave-ho when she tweeted that the Republicans are rejoicing that the Boston bombing had nothing to do with guns. (They probably were, though.) Even though she took it down after she realized how bad it looked, she nevertheless got fired by Charlie when it got picked up by a website.
Now, even though what she did was a numbskull move, that’s the thing that gets you fired at ACN? As someone who worked for a news organization once, I used to get turnt up and say outlandish things on my Twitter page on a regular basis. The closest I got to harsh punishment was when they told me to tone it down or delete it completely.
Well, after five weeks of employment, Hallie is out the door. (So much for that whole “We’re a family” ethos that Will and Charlie keep cramming down our throats.) Neal is also out the door — and, also, on the run. As everyone complains about whether or not to do the story, not to mention getting their laptops and hard drives confiscated by the FBI when they eventually show up, Will (apparently using ESP) knows that Neal purposely called the BCD for a comment. Then, after Will tells Neal he knows his name now, he informs him he needs to get out of town. (Sorkin still has Will give Jenna a “Neal, run” message on a takeout menu, so Neal can dramatically burn it in a Dumpster later.)
At this point, I’m just wondering if Sorkin is rubbing our faces in the mess he’s created with this show or if he’s truly dismantling it because he knows what a mess he’s created. Let’s be honest here: Even though Blair’s motives appear to be wholly selfish (Dennings indeed came out with the bitchy, resentful cat claws), ACN should be liquidated. The place is a damn disaster. Hiring Mac and getting rid of its if-it-bleeds-it-leads news-gathering definitely hasn’t done them any good, especially since they’re in fourth place. Not to mention the place has been a lightning rod for scandals big (GENOA!) and small (remember when Sloan’s nude photos leaked?). Then again, ACN may get the last laugh now since they’re being investigated by the FBI. They may get more people watching again once this news team actually becomes the news.
Man, I just can’t turn away from this!
I’VE BEEN THINKING, I’VE BEEN THINKING:
- This week, we had Will calling Neal “mofo” and Charlie greeting Randy and Blair by saying, “Randy and Blair are in the house!” Add Mac’s “help a brotha out” line from last week and even Leona referring to Atlantis as “my hizzy” last season, and I’m starting to wonder if Sorkin takes glee in showing how culturally awkward and out-of-touch his older characters (and, therefore, Sorkin himself) are by having them talk hip-hop slang.
- I know there had to have been some House of Cards fans out there who saw Jimmi Simpson and briefly thought, Of course, Gavin Orsay is the leak sending Neal the documents! But, alas, he was playing another character (or so he says – he seemed way too laid-back to be both an ethics-law professor and taking part in Maggie’s duplicitous scheme). And speaking of Simpson, I don’t care how many prestige dramas he appears on. If he doesn’t return as Liam McPoyle when It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns in January, I’m gonna be pissed.
- Getting back to Don and Sloan, they certainly had the best lines this episode. From Don realizing he’s being “Don Keefered” when he asked Sloan if they’re a couple to Sloan’s hoochie-mama double shot of “Are you for real?” and “Then what about the sex?” which led to them having an quiet elevator ride with Jim. (This made me think how on-the-money Seth Meyers was in his Late Night “The Sorkin Sketch” parody when he made a similar, embarrassingly funny outburst in front of people.)
- Man, Reese has definitely came around to the ACN way of looking at things, right down to giving a rambling, pedantic monologue to Randy and Blair about how Leona started Atlantis. Remember when he was pulling dick moves like hacking into Mac’s phone and deleting voice mails?
- As maddeningly mediocre as this episode was, any time an ep has Jane Fonda popping up to curse like a sailor and put her foot down as Big Bad Mama Leona, I can’t stay mad at it.
- Whenever I see Jeff Daniels and Marcia Gay Harden together (or even Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis from the past two seasons), two thoughts pop in my head: I wish I would’ve seen them all in God of Carnage on Broadway, and I wish James Gandolfini were still alive so he could round out the cast and do a guest shot here, too.
- “Can I point something out to you — you’re giving a monologue.” “Everyone does where I work.” Like I said last week: most meta season yet.