‘The Newsroom’ 2.09 Recap: “What I Have Can’t Be Taught”

One wonders if ‘Election Night, Part II’ was written with the thought that it might be a series ender for ‘The Newsroom’. The Season 2 finale has no cliffhangers, and at least two major characters wind up at points in their relationships that almost certainly would have been saved for later had Aaron Sorkin and crew been assured early that the show would see a Season 3. The result is a finale that’s probably a little more cheerful and a little less edgy than I hoped, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

This episode basically ties up all the loose ends of Season 2, including some of the smaller storylines that were started last week. As the finale gets underway, Charlie still insists that Leona accept his resignation, Sloan still tries to figure out who bought a signed (but not by her) copy of her book, Jim still attempts to cover up the fact that he called the wrong state (Missouri instead of Mississippi) in ACN’s election coverage, and Will and Mac still bicker over their failed relationship.

While the news team works hard on their election coverage, the rest of the network staff has a big party elsewhere in the building. It’s there that Charlie tracks down Leona (Jane Fonda), insisting once again that she should accept his resignation over the Genoa story. Last week, viewers learned that Reese would follow his mother’s instructions regarding anyone resigning. This week, Leona tells Charlie that she’s letting Reese make the decision on his own. As Charlie leaves the party, he crashes into a waitress serving drinks and discovers that it’s Maggie’s friend and Jim’s ex Lisa, who’s working there for some extra money.

Sloan gets frustrated on the air. Every time she tries to add a point or make a comment, Will keeps interrupting her. She also continues her effort to track down the identity of the buyer who won her book for $1,000 in a charity auction. Neal tracks down the bid history, which shows that a single person using different fictional aliases intentionally drove the bidding up on her book. The name for the winning bidder was Sidney Falco, Tony Curtis’ character in ‘Sweet Smell of Success’. Later, she sees a poster for that movie in Don’s office, and realizes that he bought her book. Signing her own copy, she gives it to him and kisses him in front of everyone in the control room.

Although Jim is still dating Hallie (and talks to her via Skype during most of the episode), he’s still worried about Maggie, and goes to see Lisa at the party when he learns she’s working there. Lisa reveals that Maggie cut her own hair, which they both see as a sign of distress. However, Maggie has never told Lisa what happened to her in Uganda, and Jim encourages Lisa to talk with Maggie about it.

Taking a break from doing election coverage, Will and Mac get into another argument about their past. Will blurts out that the engagement ring he was going to give her was just a joke and that he was never serious about proposing to her. Mac is so upset that she asks Will to leave for fear that she might hit him.

Charlie and Will have a conversation in Will’s office about the fact that they chose to run the story about a congressman who made comments about women using rape as an excuse to get abortions (and thus, making voters in a small district aware of whom they might be voting for) instead of the bigger story about David Petraeus resigning in scandal. Charlie comes to the conclusion that they did the right thing, and even though Genoa was a lie, they didn’t do anything that any other newsroom wouldn’t have done with the same evidence. The fault was with Jerry and his doctoring of the interview, not with them. When Will goes to agree that they did nothing wrong, he starts to say he can’t live with Mac taking the blame for Genoa, and suddenly realizes that Mac did nothing wrong during their relationship either.

While Will goes racing off to find Mac, Reese arrives in the newsroom to tell Charlie that he’s decided not to accept anyone’s resignation. Charlie replies that he wasn’t planning to offer any. Will finally finds Mac, pulls out the diamond ring he’s saved in his desk all these years and proposes to her. She accepts.

This is a solid ending, but overall Season 2 wasn’t nearly as entertaining or fun as Season 1 (though I know many will disagree). After stumbling through its first five episodes, the final four reminded me of how good this series can be when it’s firing on all cylinders. The good news is that (if Jeff Daniels’ Twitter feed is to be believed) HBO has renewed ‘The Newsroom’ for a third season.


  1. Aaron Sorkin has worked in television long enough that he should know that musical montages are super-hacky. Ugh, what an awful scene. The bit where Sloan conveniently finds the posters of every movie referenced in the auction bids in Don’s office was also pretty cliched and lame, but the payoff where she kisses him was great. (I used to find Olivia Munn annoying, but she’s terrific on this show.)

    Will proposing to Mac felt forced and contrived, and I cannot imagine any two actors looking more uncomfortable kissing each other on camera than they did.

    That said, this was a pretty good finale overall. It definitely felt like it was written as a series ender, though. Numerous storylines are abruptly wrapped up at the last minute. That’s weird, because I thought I’d heard that HBO renewed this for a third season pretty early on.

    Shannon knows that I disagree with him on the quality of the season as a whole. I think it was a huge improvement over the wretched mess of the first season. I was ready to give up on the show after the S1 finale, but this season pulled me back. I will watch again next year.

  2. Timcharger

    “Aaron Sorkin has worked in television long enough that SHE should know…”

    Typo, right Josh? You’re not trying to say musical montages are girly?


    “I will watch again next year.”

    So no rants in Season 2’s review thread?

  3. I’ve heard the “fits one head, do not iron clothes while wearing them” dialog in so many Sorkin shows that i was blank eyed… Until the punch line “i want Dantana to iron his clothes while wearing them” Tat.was.gold.

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