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Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Newsroom, Episode 5: Tahrir Square, Valentine's Day, and Lots of Cheese

Posted By on Sun, Jul 22, 2012 at 9:01 PM


Last week, we complained that the theme tune to The Newsroom was a bit cheesy and didn't match the punchy, fast pace of the show. Guess we spoke too soon because this week, we're sad to say that the sappy, overly dramatic theme actually matched (at least some of) the show's content. Partially because there was some Valentine's Day poop involved, partially because everyone is so darn over-over-earnest this week. 

The episode opens with the Tahrir Square protests that forced President Mubarak out of power and the difficulties the news team are having with getting great footage because their correspondent is stuck inside a hotel, where he will be safe from the violence.

In the frenzy of News Night chaos, Maggie accidentally slams Jim's head into a glass door, which isn't terribly subtle, metaphorically speaking, given her behavior towards his amorous little face the last few weeks.

Will McAvoy and his sour -- but still amorous -- face points out to the entire team that Mackenzie has to count on her fingers to figure out simple arithmetic. "And Will took tap dancing lessons when he was 11," she counters. When they enter the conference room for the daily meeting, Mac continues, "Will cries every time he watches the movie Rudy."


Will conveniently hammers through a plot synopsis of Rudy: "First he's gotta make the grades to get into school, then he's gotta make the practice squad, then he's getting creamed by guys twice his size but he doesn't care because it's all about the team. And all he wants is to just once be on the list to dress for a game. And it's the last game of his last year of college and he's not on the list.   

"So one by one, the players come into the coach's office and put the jerseys down on the desk and say 'Coach, I want Rudy to take my place on Saturday.' And there's a whole line of players standing outside of the coach's office, holding their jerseys." Yes. We're bored too. Sorry. We only mention it because it's relevant for something coming up later.

Jim starts bleeding at the table from the door to the head incident, so Maggie nurses him and cleans his head wound. Of course she does. Mac, meanwhile, suggests getting a non-American stringer to report from Tahrir Square so they get better information and more action-based footage. Neil immediately says he "has the guy."

click to enlarge charlie.jpg

Mac and Will get called in to see Charlie. Will's in trouble for being in gossip rag TMI too much, after pissing off gossip columnist Nina Howard in last week's episode. But it's Mac who's in real trouble. Turns out her boyfriend is running for Congress, and helpfully, didn't let her know this. This is a problem because News Night has apparently featured him on the show five times in six weeks. Mac is distressed: "He was using me." Will tries to be comforting: "No one in their right mind would risk losing you ... " (And this is where the thick coating of cheese starts to melt down all over everything, for most of the rest of the episode.)

Neil's on-the-ground stringer is named Amen and is apparently "fearless." Sticking up for this person in the face of Will's distrust of a stranger, Neil says: "I know him. He's just like me. He is me." (Cheese!) "Our fathers were both mechanics ... Neither of us will ever get a college degree, both of us are idealistic about the Internet. I was on one of the trains ... " Neil goes on to describe the scenes of carnage he witnessed during the terrorist attacks in London, and explains that, in the midst of the chaos, he filmed footage with his phone, sent it to news stations and "knew then that [I] wasn't going to be a mechanic." Oh dear god, could this be more heavy-handed? What's up Newsroom? We usually love you, but you're testing our nerves this week.

We find out that the correspondent in Egypt just got beaten with a rock after leaving the safety of his hotel room and going down to Tahrir Square. The decision is made to bring him home immediately.

Mac meets with Sloan and asks the economist to teach her some things because she's agreed to appear on a panel titled "Is TV News Equipped to Cover the Economy?" Mac confesses to knowing nothing of the subject, despite watching Sloan's nightly segment on News Night: "I have been listening to you very closely and I do not understand a word you say."


Later, the channel's morning show host publicly speculates on whether Mac was "playing favorites" by using News Night to boost the profile of her boyfriend. Then the douche brings up Mac's past relationship with Will and gives details of the e-mail Mac accidentally sent out to everyone at the TV station about her infidelity during her relationship with Will. Charlie forces the douche to stop gossiping. Will and Mac gaze at each other longingly. We prefer it when they're bitching at each other.

Maggie sets up a perfect date for her roommate Lisa and her secret love, Jim, and asks him to pretend he came up with it for Lisa all on his own. Because if Lisa is happy, then Maggie and Don get left alone to frolic in the Four Seasons for Valentine's Day. Jim isn't keen but Maggie gets terse: "Do not screw me on this, Jim!" We don't understand why she's so angry, when last week it seemed like she was finally realizing what a vindictive douche Don is. Totally inconsistent.

Neil and Amen, the Egyptian stringer, talk via Skype in front of Will, Charlie, Maggie, Jim, and Mac. Mac gives a series of instructions to Amen and tells him he must de-mask and give his real name while on air. Neil gives him a pep talk about this being the "Berlin Wall moment for the Middle East." Amen hesitates but agrees to cooperate. As we all know, his initial hesitation means something terrible is going to happen.

During a break in News Night, one of the nameless office guys tells Will that he used to work at TMI and that the magazine and Nina Howard accept "protection money" to keep certain names out of the gossip columns. When Will finds out later that TMI is planning a reputation-killing story about Mac, he meets with Nina Howard and pays her off to stop it from happening, in the form of becoming a "silent partner" in a restaurant with her. He does at least threaten to destroy her if she pursues Mac any further.

Our favorite thing this week is, far and away, Sloan Sabbith. She is the perfect antidote to all the cheese and heavy-handedness of this week's episode. Her sharp and sarcastic conversation with Mac in a bar, as she tries to teach Mac basic economics, is one of the more joyous incidents in the weird episode. "Do you have any human knowledge?" Mac asks her. "I have been told I have not," Sabbith replies. Some real dry humor finally!

The rock-beaten correspondent comes back into the office to a hero's welcome, while Neil stresses about the incredibly predictable disappearance of Amen. Like we didn't see that one coming! Amen's been taken by the military who want $250,000 to release him. Will snaps into action and says he'll talk to the station about getting the money together.

Meanwhile, Mac's evil Congress-running boyfriend shows up because she's been ignoring all his calls and they have it out in the street, resulting in her telling him to "go to hell." All we can think about is Mac's bare legs and the surrounding snow. If this was real life, her teeth would be chattering. She is not dressed for February in New York. We are distracted.

Lisa shows up and yells because Jim accidentally stood her up. She ends up going home with him anyway. Jeez, lady, desperate much?

Finally, Mac asks Will not to pay anyone off on her behalf and we find out that Amen has been released and is safe thanks to his captors being paid off. But it wasn't the TV station that sent the money -- it was Will. The big softie. Then -- get ready because this is the Rudy part -- one by one, all of the news room comes into his office with donations towards the giant fee he just paid. Because it's all about the team. Honestly, this episode is so unsubtle at every turn, we feel like we're getting beaten with a brick. And it gets worse. Will then gets a standing ovation.

So, a request, Newsroom. Reel this nonsense in a bit. Shit got really weird this week. And after a near-perfect episode last week, we are beyond disappointed.

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