Tonight’s Red Team intro delivered exactly what one hopes for in watching The Newsroom: intelligent discussion and quick-witted asides, all within the context of professionals whose gut decisions based on limited facts could change the world. The sparkling "One Step Too Many" gave the staff of News Night plenty to do outside the context of producing a broadcast, letting personal stories breathe alongside the impending Genoa broadcast greenlight. The shift away from individual news-item pursuits in favor of a larger group focus on the alleged cover-up allowed for some heartfelt and humorous character groupings while still providing the ACN journalists with an assignment worthy of their expertise.
Which is not to say the events of March 21, 2012 went unrepresented. Rather, the Romney campaign’s infamous Etch-A-Sketch flub, and related discussions of appropriate religious consideration, colored both Jim’s group date with Hallie (and Taylor) and Will’s continued efforts to mend his reputation. The former included the sort of variables that make for a potentially disastrous evening to experience, albeit one that's enjoyable to watch: a drunken MTV journalist with a passion for Ron Paul, a professional enemy, and the whole calamitous event standing in the way of Jim and Hallie’s "discretionary times."
What hit most about this thread was how the execution of all these elements never reached for anything more than a simple playing-out of expectations. Jim and Hallie's effort to maintain pleasantries kept the overall tone enjoyable instead of squirm-worthy, so that a confident, unpredictable obstacle felt authentic and surprising when it arose later on. Neal told off the drunk Ron Paul woman, but not too harshly; Jim conversationally butted heads with Taylor, and Taylor nonchalantly admitted to being fired for making strategical campaign suggestions in line with Jim’s. Her noble removal made an already engaging character more sympathetic, and it's seemingly in line with a major Newsroom theme that pops up every once in a while: Sometimes an unmet goal is the fault of people who refuse to pursue it, and sometimes that pursuit fails because of stronger forces. And so, it wasn’t for lack of trying that Jim and Hallie’s night at the hotel got put to a stop by a last-minute assignment from her superiors, because sometimes hey that’s just how things go in this business.
Stephen Root’s portrayal of Stanislaus Stomtonovich was a highlight of the hour, and made for a pairing of Charlie and Mac that offered comedy ("foul him—foul him now!") as a lead-up to some expertly paced shop talk ("General, we never mentioned sarin"). Stomtonovich’s insistence on watching March Madness was both charming as a character trait and seamlessly folded into the night’s second-best metaphor (blue ribbon goes to the "reindeer" opener). The possibility of a Genoa confirmation created in Dantana the same impatient energy an audience feels moments before a huge revelation, and it’s to The Newsroom’s credit that the show was able to harness such an element. Whereas we the viewers can’t alter the outcome of events, Jerry couldn’t bear being so close to his story without secretly nudging the needle in a true, manipulative Iago moment that felt in keeping with two other Shakespearian references (Mac's "Mrs. Macbeth," and later in the episode, Will's quote).
Mac shared another favorite runner of the night, sitting down to drinks with Don in a rare tete-a-tete that casually covered Don’s insecurities with Sloan, the trustworthiness of Jerry Dantana, and Don’s history with potentially peace-threatening news. The producer scored major likability points last week in talking Sloan out of her funk, so it was nice to still see him express self-doubt about whether she’d go for him or not. Guys do this! Pro-athletes are intimidating, Sloan is a real catch, and workplace romances don't always yield the best results. That Don boasts a resume with the 2005 Newsweek story about a Quran toilet-flushing at Guantanamo Bay only makes him more appealing of an expert, and gives stakes to a story that already seemed pretty devastating. Not only will careers end, but there will be an international backlash. News Night had better be careful not to "break one of God’s rules."
It’s not necessarily Nina’s fault that Will had a humiliating time on ACN Morning, but her encouragement didn’t help his situation either. After all, he was the one holding his own focus groups. Every trip down to ACN’s frothy program feels queasy in a sensational way, and Will’s unease immediately registered on his face. Sure, he wants to be likable, but not this way. Which was why it was so satisfying to see him peg that light tree and come to some agreement with his "little sis" Sloan during another entertaining—and psychologically illuminating—bit of back-and-forth (even though we kind of knew everything she told him, it’s nice that he knows it). "Self-love my liege is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting," quoted Will from Henry V (more Shakespeare), hinting that McAvoy’s acceptance just might be around the corner, probably in the same neighborhood as his "Goldilocks planet."
– Was Jim just pulling rank on Maggie after his night with Hallie didn't work out?
– Was it rude of Jim to advise Maggie on how to keep secrets?
– Who had better advice: Don to Mac, or Sloan to Will?
– Was Dantana's outburst at the end of the episode refreshing or unwarranted?
– What was your favorite metaphor of the night: Goldilocks, Reindeer, or Knife-Basketball?
– Will the basketball game in the background be the giveaway that Dantana edited the video?