In this week’s Newsroom, despite last episode’s Leona ex machina, a post-Genoa air of despair hangs heavy over Atlantis Cable News. What’s more, the action takes place on election night, a traditionally hectic evening. So how is it that one of the worst times in News Night history makes for one of the best episodes in the HBO drama’s two seasons?
You know what? I’m not even gonna question it, so much did I enjoy the pacing and laugh-out-loud lines from the episode. Go ahead and secure your hanging chads, because we’re about review the major developments in “Election Night, Part 1.”
RESIGN YOURSELF TO THIS | During a meeting in Will’s office, lawyer Rebecca repeatedly says something Charlie and McAvoy don’t want to hear: Not only will Leona not accept their resignations (and Mac’s), she’ll sue them if they try to leave. Jerry is planning to file in the morning, Charlie points out, and the details included in it will embarrass everyone at the network. The bowtied boss is planning to go up to the executive level and plead his case at Reese’s election-night viewing party, but Rebecca doesn’t think that’ll work. You know what is working? The legal hotshot’s party ensemble, a look she describes as “liquid sex.” Get it, Marcia Gay Harden!
Will is remarkably calm as his boss gets more and more unhinged. Why, you ask? “I’ve appointed myself in charge of morale” for the evening’s six-hour election coverage, he says, kicked back in his desk chair. “That’s what we’ve come to?” Charlie retorts. Poor Charlie – he is truly (hilariously) undone in this episode, the first evidence of which is when he does a quick recap of Jerry’s preposterous wrongful termination litigation and screams, “We have gone to the zoo!”
After Rebecca leaves, Charlie pulls it together to inform Will that Mac is taking the situation very badly… and that thanks to the clause the News Night host went to such lengths to include in his contract, he is the only person in the organization who can terminate MacKenzie’s employment. And with that in mind, Will prepares to anchor the channel’s 2012 election results coverage.
WAITING FOR THE BLAST| But before he can get to the set, Mac comes into his office and… good God, woman, what has become of you? How do I put this gently? You look like… You might need… “You look like you were grown in an environment where it’s dark and damp,” Will observes. He’s not wrong. Once they get past the fact that she’s not sleeping, he wants her to put the Operation Genoa disaster out of her mind so they can produce some excellent election TV. But she has another idea.
“Say what you want to say to me,” Mac demands, drawing a parallel between breaking his heart six years ago and ruining his professional life with the fake war-crimes story within the past week. Calling him “a bomb that hasn’t detonated,” she asks “if we could Hurt Locker this thing” (heh) because he still hasn’t forgiven her for their first spot of bother. He’s trying not to engage but he can’t help it when he asks how long he should have been mad at her for lying/cheating, and she replies “28 months.” “You seriously came up with a number?” he replies incredulously. (Ha!)
Later, MacKenzie is far too irked when she becomes aware that her Wikipedia page says she attended Oxford, even though she actually went to Cambridge. “It’s funny, the things people try to control when they feel like they’re not in control” Neal comments, and though I’d customarily cringe at such a blatant summation, the fact that an overtired Mac isn’t even listening to him saves the moment. Kinda. (Sorkin, I expect more of you.) I do love Emily Mortimer’s delivery in this exchange, which takes place right after Neal promises to help his boss fix the error:
MAC: Thank you. Ruling India was wrong.
NEAL: It’s a little late.
MAC: I know!
But the episode ends on a down note for the strung-out executive producer as she begs Will once more to fire her and shoots off some hurtful things about him. When they dated, “I was a good guy,” he says huskily. Then: “You’re fired, end of the broadcast. Please don’t tell anyone.” He’s doing it because he cares about her and this will put her out of her misery (or at least give her a little push toward the exit of her misery), and I don’t for a second think MacKenzie will wind up leaving News Night, but Jeff Daniels is really great here and the whole thing leaves me frowny.
ELSEWHERE AT ACN… | Up at the party, Charlie bends Reese’s ear about how he should really let the News Night gang go. “If a news outlet doesn’t have credibility, it doesn’t matter what else it has,” Skinner says. As it turns out, Reese agrees with him: He wants to fire Mac, Charlie and Will and cut Jerry a check so he’ll go away quietly. But “My mom says I can’t.” (Heh.) And with perhaps the most words we’ve heard Leona’s son string together since the series began, he riffs about how she badgers him for grandchildren and wonders whether he’s gay. The tirade, like so much of the episode’s dialogue, is quite funny. When it’s done, Reese sends Charlie back downstairs to make final calls on national races.
Speaking of which, Jim accidentally got Michigan and Mississippi mixed up, leading him to accidentally have the network call a race for the guy who’ll probably win it – but hasn’t yet. And given Charlie’s directive for anyone who messes up to run out of the building and never come back, Jim surreptitiously tries to fix his error without anyone really noticing. Meanwhile, former Romney flak/current Republican strategist Taylor joins Sloan, Elliot and Will on air to parse the results. My favorite bits from the coverage include “elephant in the room,” Taylor’s under-the-table fist pump, Sloan’s total botching of the gay-train-conductor-Klan-whatever-the-hell-that-story-was and both Will’s “Are you ready to have some fun?!?” and his “I apologize. I was trapped by my own sentence structure.” (Don’t think I won’t be busting that one out in a future recap.)
Behind the scenes, Maggie and Don get word of a story that has the potential to be huge. Great!, Charlie says, “As long as it’s not a potentially libelous story about misconduct in the armed forces, I’m listening.” The looks on their faces are fantastic as they fill him in on Gen. David Petraeus’ alleged affair with his biographer and the related, seedy, Florida socialite-involved side story. Cue Skinner breakdown in 3… 2…
Now it’s your turn. Were you happy to finally have an idea of when Maggie cut and dyed her hair (the week before this episode)? Did you love Jim’s “Your hair is the color of goodness?” comment to Hallie? Do you think anything will come of Jerry’s side suit against Don? Does anyone but Sloan care about her Gary-signed book? And did you guffaw like I did at Don’s dry “That’s some good television!” as Elliot crowded into the decision desk? Sound off in the comments!