Despite not having anything to do with a historical news story, nor even featuring any scenes of characters delivering an on-the-air report or commentary, the second episode of the final season of ‘The Newsroom’ is another solid one, once again reminding viewers of how entertaining this series can be when it’s firing on all cylinders.
The episode begins with Reese meeting his half-brother and sister, twins Blair (Kat Dennings) and Randy (Chris Smith), who will inherit 45% of ACN’s parent company, Atlantis Media, when they turn 25 in just a few days. They plan to sell their shares to Savannah Capital, which already owns 6% of Atlantis. This would give Savannah majority control of Atlantis. Reese has trouble convincing his siblings to change their minds, and soon Charlie comes into the meeting and joins the argument.
Meanwhile, Neal is being counseled by Will in a meeting with ACN’s chief lawyer, Rebecca Halliday (Marcia Gay Harden), about the leaked government documents he solicited from his source. Rebecca tells Neal that he has committed espionage and violated Title 18 Code § 641, the USA PATRIOT Act, and a few other laws. Will tries to convince Neal to keep his mouth shut. So long as ACN doesn’t run the story or tip off the government about the documents, Neal won’t have to worry about jail time.
At a shooting range, Mackenzie meets with old friend, Molly Levy (Mary McCormack), who is an FBI agent. Mac poses a hypothetical question about what would happen if a reporter made contact with a leaker of secret documents. Molly tells Mackenzie that the FBI wouldn’t care about the reporter as much as the leaker, and – at worst – the reporter may see 10 to 30 days in jail before all is resolved. Mackenzie then takes this information back to the newsroom and joins the conversation with Neal, Will and Rebecca about what their next move should be.
Maggie is traveling back from Boston on a train when she overhears an EPA official (Paul Lieberstein from ‘The Office’) giving a phone interview to another reporter, during which the official criticizes the President. She moves to the seat behind him and asks a man there, who we’ll soon learn is named Jack (Jimmi Simpson from ‘It’s Always Sunny’), if he’ll take her iPod and pretend to listen to it. He does, while Maggie crouches down in her seat and records the official’s conversation on her cell phone. Once the official finishes on the phone, Maggie confronts him about overhearing his conversation and asks him if he’d like to go on the record or if she should just report what she’s already heard.
In the most lighthearted parts of this episode, Sloan and Don go out to lunch and debate about getting the buffet. Sloan doesn’t want to be seen eating unhealthy in public, so she asks Don to fill up his plate with stuff that she wants to eat. We also learn that Don has purchased stock in Chipotle because of a tip he heard from Sloan, who then informs him that they’re now white collar criminals guilty of insider trading. I don’t think this is going to be much of a serious plot point, as it’s really just a method for the two to more closely examine their relationship together, which they do humorously throughout this episode.
As if this episode didn’t already have enough going on, we get one more additional storyline where Hallie confesses to Jim that she tweeted – on ACN’s official feed – a joke about Republicans being happy that the Boston Marathon bombing has finally given them a national tragedy that doesn’t involve guns. Hallie deleted the tweet shortly after posting it, but sure enough, other web sites start picking it up and running with the story. Charlie finds out about this and goes ballistic. Jim tries to protect Hallie, but Charlie has to fire her – although he tells her that he’ll keep her name out of the press. However, Hallie decides to give herself up and tweets from her personal account that she made the insensitive joke.
Back on the train, Maggie has a conversation with the EPA official, during which she realizes that she was rather underhanded in the way she got the information from him. She promises not to run with the story. This results in two things for Maggie. First, the official gives Maggie an EPA report that won’t hit the President’s desk until next week, plus an exclusive interview with him. Secondly, Jack reveals that he’s a law professor who teaches ethics and was really impressed by her change of heart. Jack asks for Maggie’s number and promises to call.
Leona barges into Reese’s meeting with the twins and tells them that she’ll pay them $1 per share more than what Savannah Capital is offering. Blair insists on $2 per share over the asking price, and Leona agrees. The only problem is that she’ll now need to come up with $4 billion to pay the twins and save the company.
As this episode wraps up, Neal intentionally tips off the Department of Defense about the leaked documents so that ACN can run the story. Regardless of the consequences to himself, he starts the ball rolling while everyone else debates what to do. As soon as Will figures out what Neal has done, he pulls him aside and asks for the name of his source – though viewers never see or hear if Neal really gives up the information. He also gives Neal some advice about getting out of town, dumping his cell phone, not using any credit cards, etc.
Will then asks his intern Jenna to put a restaurant menu in his office, and instructs her to come back to the office to get it a few minutes after the FBI shows up. The newsroom is raided by the FBI shortly thereafter. One of the agents in charge is Mac’s friend Molly. The FBI demands to know where Neal is and begins to seize every hard drive in the building.
In a meeting in his office, Will tells Molly that he also knows the identity of Neal’s source. Molly explains that the situation is much graver than the hypothetical Mac asked her about, and Neal could wind up in Leavenworth for the rest of his life. Jenna then comes to get the menu as Will requested. He says that it’s time to order lunch, then jots something down on the menu and gives it back to Jenna. The episode ends with Neal outside next to a trash dumpster, smashing his cell phone. He has Will’s restaurant menu. On it are written two simple words: “Neal Run.” Neal burns the menu and the credits roll.
Considering that Season 3 only has four episodes remaining, Aaron Sorkin has given viewers a number of interesting stories to follow – particularly what will happen with Neal, and if Leona can come up with enough money to save her company. I’m also glad that it seems like Sorkin is keeping Maggie and Jim apart this season. I’m still not 100% sure they won’t eventually wind up together, even though the characters are obviously wrong for each other. I like the Sloan/Don relationship. It feels much more modern and the two actors really work well together.
I’ve found that most of the episodes of this show I enjoy, the majority of viewers hate, and vice versa. I’m guessing that this entry wasn’t quite as popular with the rest of you. So, what’s your verdict on this week’s ‘The Newsroom’?