Finally! After using this weekly recap to gripe and complain about the drop in quality on ‘The Newsroom’ this season, Episode 6 (‘One Step Too Many’) delivers the kind of fun that has been missing so far this year. It’s by far the best episode of Season 2 to date.
For those of you wondering what I’m referring to when I keep bitching about what Season 2 has lost over Season 1, the opening scene of this episode is a perfect example. Here, we have the entire team (minus Will McAvoy) being briefed on the evidence gathered so far for the Genoa story. Suddenly, instead of debating Genoa, the group finds themselves in a witty back-and-forth about how many reindeer Santa has, and what their names are. A few scenes later, Sloan is in Will’s office pitching a story about Disney’s ‘John Carter‘, telling Will that Disney is one of the few corporations still putting out a product that people want. “Except John Carter,” Will fires back. Rimshot! Yes, this is the kind of playful banter that has been absent during most of this season, and it has a welcome return this week.
All playfulness aside, this is also the most important episode this season involving Genoa. Charlie and Mac are able to track down a retired General (Stephen Root), who they believe will admit on video that the military used sarin gas on civilians in the Genoa operation. The General agrees to go on camera in front of Jerry, but only in front of Jerry, then proceeds to say things like, “If we used sarin…”. At the end of the show, we’ll see Jerry editing that footage so that the General appears to say “We used sarin…, giving viewers at home one good reason why the ACN team got fooled into thinking the story was rock-solid, and assuring that Jerry won’t be a member of ACN (or probably any other news organization) once his tampering is uncovered.
Genoa isn’t the only storyline going on. Will (who is still very much a secondary character this week, which continues to be a problem with Season 2) is so concerned about his popularity with the home audience that he has arranged a polling test of viewers (those lines you sometimes see at the bottom of the screen measuring reaction and often used during Presidential debates) to review how he’s doing with his broadcasts. Still dating Nina Howard, she talks Will into going onto ACN’s morning show, where he’s immediately humiliated by the hosts by being asked to wear a helmet and throw footballs through a tire (all for charity, of course!). McAvoy reacts by taking out some of the stage lights with his first throw, then immediately tracks Nina down and breaks up with her.
Jim gets a bit of good news when he learns that Hallie is coming to New York and wants to meet him for dinner. The bad news is that she has a colleague she’d like to join them as a double date with Neal. Things go from bad to worse the night of the dinner, when Romney campaign spokesperson Taylor (Constance Zimmer) also joins them. The dinner is nothing short of a disaster, with Neal’s date already drunk before it starts and ranting about her love of the Ron Paul campaign, and Taylor taking shots at Jim for some of ACN’s stories about Romney. When Jim challenges Taylor about bringing up certain issues to Romney himself, she informs him that she has… and has been fired for it.
Jim eventually has a chance to be alone with Hallie back in her hotel room, but she receives an urgent call and the notification that she needs to be on a plane to Colorado in 90 minutes. Having already seen Maggie drinking alone in the hotel bar after dinner, Jim goes back down to talk to her – worried that her alcohol abuse will cause her to reveal information about Genoa. But it appears that Maggie has already hooked up with the bartender, and the two head off together, leaving Jim there alone.
Episode 6 concludes with a flash-forward to the deposition by ACN lawyers over the Genoa story. Charlie is the one under the gun this time. He reveals that he disovered the story was bogus about five minutes after ACN’s special aired.
Although we now know that Jerry’s tampering with the interview footage is a big reason the rest of the news team thought that the Genoa story was legit, it still doesn’t explain the half-dozen or so other sources they’ve obtained to date, or some of the physical evidence they have. Hopefully, viewers will see before the end of the season just how those other sources could have been misinterpreted. I find it somewhat of a stretch that any respected journalist with an established career such as Jerry’s would intentionally doctor an interview just to get a story on the air, or that the person being interviewed wouldn’t have to sign-off on the version being aired, but if it results in the final episodes of this season being as entertaining as this one, I’ll happily go along for the ride.