The third episode of The Newsroom wasn’t a total disappointment. “Willie Pete” is good and bad, much like the show as a whole. Though gains were made, white phosphorous isn’t the only thing that’s burning through potential.
- Director: Lesli Linka Glatter
- Writers: Michael Gunn, Elizabeth Peterson and Aaron Sorkin
- Cast: Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston, Hamish Linklater, Chris Messina, Grace Gummer, Tess Westin, Hope Davis, Mark Atteberry, Chasty Ballesteros, Brad Bennett, Harold Bridgeforth, Shaun Brown, John F. Carpenter, Aya Cash, Chris Chalk, Rosemarie DeWitt, Wynn Everett, Cameron Gharaee, Joel Johnstone, Margaret Judson, Thomas Matthews, Kosha Patel, Adina Porter, Tara Sands, Trieu Tran, Riley Voelkel, Charlie Weirach,
Episode Title: “Willie Pete”
Jerry continues to investigate Genoa as Maggie and Gary ready themselves for Africa. Meanwhile, Mac challenges Neal while Will and Charlie stir up AWN drama. Elsewhere, Sloan seeks out Don’s advice.
- The Draw: Hear this: Sloan will not be a partied to your sexism. It’s unclear what talisman Olivia Munn holds that prevents Sorkin from making her succumb to the bumbling idiocy that Emily Mortimer and Alison Pill are forced to suffer, but it’s working. If Maggie is the question then Sloan is the answer. It’s a shame the latter doesn’t cancel out the former. Watching Sloan’s EP drag her through the newsroom like a Catholic schoolgirl in need of a ruler to her palms was terrifying. But like last season not even the men around Sloan will allow her to be objectified. Don compliments the 50 IQ points she has over everyone, while politely telling Zane the weird bearded EP to shove it. As usual she didn’t need the help; eviscerating Zane was probably her easiest confrontation thus far. Be thankful—moments like this are the show’s saving grace.
- In Defense of Shoes: This is the Mac that everyone wants to see. She commands her staff with the strictest of standards, and doesn’t succumb to available opportunities to besmirch her progress. She speed reads, she mocks, she’s humble, and she congratulates other women. Jerry stupidly searched for someone to bounce military facts off of; Charlie proudly proclaims her the office’s military expert. Mac not only pushes Neal to validate his obsession with Occupy Wall Street, but takes a stand on, “the pajama party’s,” pathetic protest plan. If there be any out there that takes a pot shot at her character for sniping about her shoes be ashamed; her scolding of Neal was her strongest moment this season, footwear included.
- Trickle, Not Flow: Another week, another tiny morsel of information on the mysterious Genoa time bomb. You’d think that the episode where Jim’s seat filler Jerry and Mac meet their military whistle blower in person would be chocked full of intrigue but that’s what you get when you assume. Instead it’s at the tail end of the episode that Maggie’s idea of checking for tweets in the area pays off—bully for her—since someone live tweeted the entire military action. And that’s all folks. What has become glaringly obvious is Jerry isn’t much of a senior news producer. He just assumes that the small town in question doesn’t have any electricity and is ready to take the snitching soldiers at his word even though there are helicopter discrepancies in his story. He’s wholly ignorant of Mac’s eons of experience covering the military; more and Jerry looks like the liability that dug this hole.
- Bus or Bust: Not much happens on the Romney bus even though the episode was campaign-heavy. Jim continues to harass the Romney staffers that stonewall any and all questions, bemused by the reporters that have already scarified their inquisitive nature for a seat on the bus. He’s succeeded in getting kicked off said vehicle along with Guy That Shout Tequila and Grace Gummer who looks a lot like her sister, okay? Still, most of the news issues in the episode are mentioned here: Romney’s stance on a woman’s right to choose, jobs, the economy, and the real GOP debate moment where an active service member was booed for being gay in the military. Jim’s Sorkin speech fell flat on the bus and with us; check the video to see why Charlie’s quick barb about the moderator was more of a standout.
- Mushy Stuff: This week is mercifully free of Maggie and Jim drama. Maybe we love Sloan too much, but her rapid fire flirting with Don was more enjoyable than any other quasi-relationship, although no actual progress was made. Dark humor that it was, Don’s commitment to his theory that book agents like the one Sloan went to drinks with, abuse their spouses had us in stiches and more than a little curious on its validity. On the other side, Mac and Will are all the sweeter with one another, even while reminding each other and everyone else of their past pain. Obviously that won’t do, so Will hooks up with Nina Howard, who lies to Mac about that erased message from last year. As always, they go two steps forward to go 20 steps back.
- Black Out: It feels wrong to have to say this when Charlie’s involved, but how did neither of these idiots check the very important blackmail tape for actual blackmail? Overplaying your hand doesn’t cover it; someone will have to invent a new phrase for marching into your boss’s office to put him in his place only to discover you have no evidence. This leaves Will and everyone else in a very precarious position. Without the recording where the Lansing’s admit to hacking Will’s phone all bets are off. It’s unclear whether it was accidentally erased, never recorded or tampered with. Regardless, choppy waters are ahead for News Night 2.0.
- The Other Woman: Maggie is the kind of girl that swallows medications without researching the side effects. Of course Mac had to hip her to the danger of the medication her fair skin warranted before the rundown. At this point these meetings are less about figuring out what goes where in News Night’s lineup and more about who Will’ going to yell at and how Maggie will embarrass herself. This time she believes the paranoia and anger the pills cause manifested in less than 10 minutes, rather than the three weeks. The violence she tried to cloak is now public knowledge. Right now Maggie is nothing more than a caricature of a character.
- “The audience members who were booing were in Orlando. Soon they’ll surely be in hell, though not soon enough.”—Will
- Will: “I look like an idiot!” Charlie: “Could be worse.” Will: “How?” Charlie: “I could look like an idiot.”
- “God didn’t give her humanity, that’s why she’s a gossip columnist.”—Charlie
- “Snark is this idiot’s version of wit and we’re being polluted by it.”—Will
- “And if you ever lead me by the wrist through that newsroom again I’m going to take out each of your Goddamn knuckles with a ball peen hammer.”—Sloan
“Willie Pete” gave us a strong Mackenzie, and for that we will forever be grateful. Sloan needs someone to join her on the high ground, but without all the smugness that Will manages to ooze anytime he mentions his mission to civilize. Progress is what we need with every news story, with the Genoa mystery, and with our characters. Improving one person and story a week is not enough. Be the show that News Night claims to be, and our hearts will thank you.
The Newsroom airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO.
What did you think of the episode?