‘The Newsroom’ 2.07 Recap: “An Institutional Failure”

Episode 7 of ‘The Newsroom’ is the one that viewers have been waiting for all season long. The Genoa story finally makes it onto the air and the lies behind it begin to unravel. While the episode contains less of the humor and banter that fans have come to expect from the series, for once the more serious tone seems appropriate.

There’s a lot of flashing back and forth in time in ‘Red Team III’, as the head of ACN’s legal team, Rebecca (Marcia Gay Harden), interviews a number of the major players in the Genoa story, including Don, Jim, Sloan and Will. Viewers already know that Jerry has doctored the interview with the retired general. This week, we learn that he’s both been fired over it and is suing ACN for wrongful termination. His lawsuit claims that he’s just a scapegoat for an “institutional failure.”

The title of this week’s episode refers to the third team that looks at the information and evidence gathered for the Genoa story. The only notable new member of Red Team III is Will. The others seem to have been part of at least one of the prior two Red Teams. After viewing all the interviews and documentation, Will gives his opinion that the story should be run and adds that he has a source that has told him the same things. However, no one in the room ever asks if Will’s source might be the same source that Charlie has been using for the story.

As good as this week’s episode is, it’s not without some logical problems. In last week’s recap, I expressed my doubts that a senior producer would be able to both doctor an interview tape and air it without someone getting approval from the interviewee before it went live on the air. This week’s main issue comes from something we’ve heard Charlie say on the show in prior weeks. When interviewed by Rebecca in previous episodes, Charlie stated that he knew there was a problem five minutes after the Genoa show went on the air. However, in this episode, problems don’t start to spring up for the ACN crew until after the entire special has wrapped. Even then, it takes a few days for Charlie and the others to discover how they had been duped. It’s a minor quibble perhaps, but an annoying one.

Speaking of Charlie, Sam Waterston hasn’t been given a whole lot to do in Season 2, but he gets a juicy scene in this episode, when he goes to meet his contact (the man who gave him the munitions report with the questionable listing on it) in a parking garage and learns the truth. It turns out that ACN had hired the man’s son as an intern a while back and had to fire him for postings he was making about the newsroom on the internet. The son was a drug addict, but had been clean while he was an intern. After he was fired, he relapsed back into drug abuse, overdosed and died. The contact blames Charlie for his son’s death. Providing the false information was his form of revenge.

The other sources of the Genoa story begin to unravel as well. During a live interview on the air, an ACN reporter discovers that one of the military men interviewed actually suffered brain damage and his particular injury’s top symptom is memory loss. Mac also realizes that she was very leading in her questioning of another source, and the answers he gave were in line with what he thought the general stated in his own interview, rather than any actual information he had himself.

Thanks to an earlier conversation with Will about clocks in sporting events, Mac thinks to go back and look at the raw interview footage with the general. She notices the shot clock on the basketball game in the background jumps all over the place. Why no one noticed that the players are also jumping all over the place up to this point is anyone’s guess, but for the point of drama I’ll go along. She confronts Jerry in an elevator. He gives a very lame defense of why he did it (i.e., he knew the story was true), and Mac fires him on the spot, adding that no one will ever trust their network again.

The episode concludes with Charlie, Will and Mac ready to offer up their resignations to Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda). Lansing, who has just come back from seeing ‘Skyfall‘ and is also high (at least according to Charlie) refuses to accept them. She’s determined not to give Jerry a dime in his lawsuit and to keep her current team in place. When Charlie protests that they’ve lost the trust of the people, Leona directs him to “Get it back!”.

‘The Newsroom’ takes a break next weekend (most likely due to the Labor Day holiday), but returns on September 8th, when hopefully we’ll finally find out the answer to this season’s biggest remaining question: Why and when did Maggie chop off and dye her hair? (Sarcasm, folks… Sarcasm!)


  1. Timcharger

    No comment from Josh this week with the exact opposite opinion?

    This was the best episode of the season. No, it was the worst… This week was slightly below the middle of the pack for the season. No, it was slightly above average…

    • I thought this was a good episode, though I don’t buy Leona’s sudden and inexplicable change of heart or refusal to accept their resignations. She spent most of last season looking for excuses to oust these guys, and now she’s their biggest defender?

      Otherwise, this was a very suspenseful, well-written and performed episode. The show needs more Jane Fonda. The way she tears through scenes really shakes the whole series up. It’s the best role she’s had in decades.

  2. The reason the Basketball players don’t jump around is that he didn’t clip them in the cut. Only the corner of the TV was inside of the outline of the General. I totally knew that was coming when they made a big deal about the TV being in the shot.

    • In the scene where Mac rewatches the footage to look at the shot clock, you can clearly see a jump cut where the where basketball players in the frame suddenly disappear.

      As to why neither she nor anyone else noticed this before, they might have assumed that the broadcast cut to a replay. Without being able to see the entire screen, they didn’t have enough context to know that it was wrong except for the shot clock. Even more likely, they were focused on the general and their eyes weren’t drawn to the game.

      What I find contrived about this part of the storyline is Jerry’s repeated explanation that he couldn’t frame the TV out of the shot because he wanted to get the military paraphenalia on screen. Yet it’s a pretty wide shot he’s set up. He could have easily zoomed in a little or moved the camera a smidge without losing any of the military stuff. But that’s a minor quibble explained away by Jerry being rushed and not feeling concerned about seeing the TV.

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