"The Newsroom" Recap: 5/1
Charlie Skinner kicked off the plot this week, receiving an anonymous phone call from a tipster. Foreshadowing in ladled on, as the mysterious voice on the other end of the line simply gives a time and the instruction to “go to work.” For the second time in the history of The Newsroom, the setting is a boisterous office party, now located at Will McAvoy’s home instead of the workplace itself.
Inside the party, a monologue from McAvoy reveals that it has been a year since the pilot took place. After taking a moment to bond with his crew, McAvoy ends up swallowing a bellyful of intoxicating substances. Citing an old baseball injury, he consumes a combination of vicodin and marijuana cookies provided by Kaley, Neal Sampat’s girlfriend. After a brief powwow, the party rolls on: McAvoy jams out a number with Jim Harper on dueling acoustics, and Kaley shreds through a round of Guitar Hero.
Jim finds the time to excuse himself from the festivities to tuck into his laptop, only to be disturbed by Maggie Jordan, just as he was during the program’s second episode. She sticks her nose into his relationship with Lisa Lambert, discovering that Lambert recently dropped an unrequited “I love you” on the office’s resident nerdball.
This week’s display of structural virtuosity takes the form of parallel story structures, splicing in scenes from a situation on an airplane featuring Sloan Sabbath, Elloit Hersch and Don Keefer. Throughout the episode, the trio bickers with themselves, the airplane’s crew and their fellow passengers. Delays have them stuck on the tarmac for the episode’s duration, while they itch to get broadcasting.
Back at McAvoy’s pad, the game is afoot once Kaley receives notice of a tweet by Dwane “The Rock” Johnson. He’s waxing patriotic; it’s a clue towards the news behind Skinner’s secretive phone call. The date is revealed: May 1, 2012. This week’s real-world scoop is the death of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of United States military forces. News Night’s staff is ushered hastily to their battle stations back at the studio to cover the surprise subject matter.
With McAvoy ostensibly out of commission, Skinner plays the part of ‘ol fashioned discerning newsman, stalling his staff from breaking the story without a concrete go-ahead from the White House. He cites the death of a number of Navy Seals involved in the operation, saying the story is simply too monumental to distribute without the utmost confirmation.
On a personal tangent, Harper and Lambert spend some time attracting and repulsing each other. In a bit of dialogue akin to the first episode of this season of Louie, Lisa asks Harper to do her the favor of letting them break up but simply not protesting. He fulfills his part of the interaction, saying okay, leaving her to walk away haughtily. By the end of the episode, things are things patched up, with Harper performing a Zach-Braff style turn of self-demeaning romanticism.
The remaining bulk of this week’s episode focused on individuals’ response to the news of Osama’s death. Kaley is illustrated in sharp relief, receiving some counseling from Sampat and Harper. The fatality does little to abate the lingering grief of losing her father in the collapse of the world trade center.
On the plane, a feverish face off between Keefer and a stewardess finally breaks when a glance at the pilot tugs Keefer’s heartstrings. Announcing the news to all on board, he cracks a bleary eyed grin when his audience reacts with cheerful enthusiasm. “We reported the news,” he says with a shrug. Likewise, the hold on breaking the story back at News Night is dispelled when Joe Biden, an old chum of McAvoy, has greenlit the piece.
The realism of these human reactions is arguable. But more discreetly, it is telling that the creators of The Newsroom choose to discuss the event in this manner. The responses that welled up in Kaley and Keefer are totally alien from the image of the journalist as a cynic, removed from nationalistic or personal tendencies. Such an illustration leaves little room for person-to-person characterization, rather defining the tone of the show at large.
The conclusion of this week’s episode also underscores Aaron Sorkin’s evident penchant for foreshadowing. Skinner’s mysterious informant suggests that phone-tapping scandals will be next on the agenda for McAvoy and the News Night crew, leaving audiences with something of a cliffhanger when the credits begin to roll.