The Newsroom, “Red Team III”

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We’re finally closer to the present, and we finally hit a massive climax in the arc presented to us at the beginning of the season! This was definitely a much better episode for this season – better paced, and well written, and with much more purpose and movement for our main story of the messed up reporting of Operation Genoa.

As I predicted last time, we see the rest of the News Night crew under the gun with Rebecca Halliday so she can piece together the story and see if she can argue against Jerry Dantana’s unlawful termination suit – which, by the way, makes me totally hate him more. What a baby, he can’t face the fact that he TOTALLY DID SOMETHING ETHICALLY HORRIBLE IN THE NEWS. I took a class in college on this very topic and ntotally nerded out and got into it – this is the notorious stuff people remember about people like him, and will never be lived down! It’s the thing that destroys the integrity of what people who try to present news, try to make documentaries do. It’s so ethically frustrating, and I love that The Newsroom tries to tackle the topic, and this episode has proven that they’ve done right by reflecting upon the ethics of Dantana’s actions. BUT I digress.. 🙂

I love that we start with Don talking to Rebecca Halliday – his character is much better written this season. Him alone and confident and NOT as an antagonist works so much better for me. I appreciate his wit and his bluntness talking about how he thinks Dantana’s case is ridiculous to Halliday. He says it at the top: “He cooked an interview!” The question of this episode is… how does everyone find out?

We watch as Rebecca now hunts for if there was “institutional failure” for everyone on the Red Team and the team investigating the story were able to see the holes before Jerry got fired, and to see if anyone had any doubts, and detected something was up. There are amazing subtle performances here from Don, Sloan, and Mac, all of whom quietly show they were still skeptical but because everyone was working hard and were presenting otherwise sound facts, they would support the story.

As described by additional members of the team (i.e. Jim, Neal, and Sloan) the final red team meeting occurs, and Will is finally aware of the work the team has been doing. With Will’s blessing, they go to air with the story. Of course, it’s sensational! Their ratings for that broadcast are the highest the network has ever seen. So why can’t they enjoy the glory? Immediately following, everyone in the news team is looking for reaction. The immediate reaction, of course, is from Stomtonovich (last week portrayed by Stephen Root) who immediately noticed that his footage was cooked and was furious. Everyone on the news team instead looked for other reactions from other news sources – whether any other news organizations picked up the story, or if the White House and Pentagon would make a statement. Nothing…

Then, Sloan recounts a broadcast for Don’s show with Eliot Hirsch, another fellow anchor, while coolly and quietly saying they believed their story was solid at that moment in time. They booked the first witness for Genoa, Eric Sweeney, to do a live interview with Eliot on his show. As Eric recounts the tale of Genoa, Don and Sloan realize he lied about one of the facts he gave to Dantana and his team. They immediately finish the interview and call an emergency meeting. From here, all the pieces basically fall apart slowly.

As Mac tries to recount all the facts with the team, she mentions Dantana and Maggie being present at the interview in the room with Stomtonovich. This is where another small puncture appears: Maggie admits that she was asked to leave the room when Dantana filmed the interview. Mac and Jim are outraged to hear this – they only have hungry Dantana to account for the interview. Charlie stops the premature Dantana attack and Mac asks the team to dive back into their evidence to look for additional holes.

Charlie also goes back to his “guy” in DC to see if he can further pick apart his source. This part of the story was a little too far-fetched for me, but whatever. Apparently, Charlie’s DC source, who approached him with the inventory sheet that hinted at Sarin being the mystery gas listed for “Genoa,” faked the inventory sheet and inscribed a secret message on it as revenge for Charlie’s organization firing his son during an internship, leading the son to relapse into drugs and die. VERY EXTREME, and super crazy. Would you really go through such great lengths as a government official to take down a news organization? I don’t know. But we realize here too that another piece of evidence is highly questionable.

Now, from here on out, we have Will back in the room with Rebecca. He starts waxing poetic about circumstantial events that were at first overlooked, but because they were overlooked it allowed other things to happen and appear. Totally a metaphor for how Genoa happened, and perhaps even for how Mac figured out the grand mystery. She pokes into Will’s office while he’s watching sports, and asks why there are two clocks for certain games. He explains the purpose. We see the wheels start to turn in Mac’s brain – knowing that Dantana was the only person in the room, she remembers the basketball game playing in the background of Dantana’s interview with Stomtonovich.

The day News Night retracts the story is the same day Benghazi breaks out in the news. The news team concentrates on getting the facts together and building the story, connecting loosely the Benghazi attacks and then the riots in Cairo. It’s the anniversary of 9/11. Someone brings to Mac a shot clock. Kind of silly that she needed a physical clock to think about it more, but whatever. It becomes the image that enlightens the epiphany.

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Again, we have the Avid love affair and we watch Mac poke around in the Avid with the cooked raw footage. It features the unblurred basketball game, which she is now paying attention to. Brilliant and succinct scene happens after she finds what she needs: Mac confronts Dantana in the elevator and notes how the shot clock jumps in the interview. She says, “you forgot about the shot clock.” Dantana has a screaming fit about how he wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t believe the story was true, then soundly accepts being fired WHILE OF COURSE noting that he does not want to say anything more without a lawyer present.

Just as Will and the team start making decisions about broadcasting about Benghazi, Mac enters the room, in quiet tears.

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She announces they have to retract the story.

We fast forward back to Will, who admits a quiet defeat to Rebecca. The whole episode she grilled other members of the team, asking if they had any doubts, why they didn’t speak up, hinting that they can be called out on institutional failure and force ACN into a settlement for Dantana’s unlawful termination claim. But with Will, Rebecca’s attitude seems a little different. She’s apologetic, as Will brings us into a precise point in time. He announces that he’ll cover the election and then resign with Charlie and Mac. Rebecca apologizes that they’ve come to that decision and conclusion.

My only issue with this episode is the final scene. While, yes, it gives us cause to continue to root for justice for the News Night team and stay on their side, it’s a little much. Jane Fonda, you’re fantastic, but this was very much a “Why is this happening?” moment for me. She enters the ACN fancy dining hall/conference space to meet with Charlie, Mac, and Will so that they can officially resign, but she, under the influence, dances around the topic before saying she refuses to take the resignation. The only thing great about this is her rant about how Dantana totally did wrong, got what he deserved, and how she doesn’t want him to just walk away with a settlement. Awesome. We don’t need to hear you compare Will to Daniel Craig and make up stupid nicknames for Mac.

With only two episodes left, I’m curious where the rest of the season will go. Now that Rebecca has resolved to continue defending the case and now that there’s the call to action to not let Dantana just walk away and “win” after doing something wrong, how much further do we go? The next two episodes are called Election Night I and Election Night II, so I’m guessing we’ll be suspended in time and resolve everything within Election 2012. I’m excited to see justice be done, and figure out how News Night can regain public trust.

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