The Red Team is in action.
After several references to it earlier in the current Season 2, “One Step Too Many” — Sunday’s (Aug, 18) Aaron Sorkin-written episode of “The Newsroom” — marked the official debut of the group assembled within Atlantis Cable News to dissect the Operation Genoa story before it made air.
It was a lot for the room to digest, with the inference that American troops used sarin gas overseas leaving most of the attendees in stunned silence. Mac (Emily Mortimer) and Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater), the producer determined to follow through on the so-called “Genoa tip,” led the recap by citing known information and sources.
Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) immediately was skeptical of the story, with Don (Thomas Sadoski) also questioning much of what was presented. And when asked for his take, “voice of reason” Charlie (Sam Waterston) stated simply, “I think it happened, and I think we’re two inches away from proving it.”
A retired Marine general was deemed the most credible source to confirm Genoa happened. Mac and Charlie went to visit him, not exactly ingratiating themselves by knocking over his garbage cans upon their arrival. “It was regular negligence,” Mac explained.
The general (played by superb character actor Stephen Root) initially mistook them for Jehovah’s Witnesses, then was distracted by watching March Madness basketball on TV as they questioned him. And once he realized what confirmation they sought from him, he began to clam up.
Charlie was persuasive, though, and the military man agreed to talk provided “you black out my face [and] alter my voice.” But he also allowed, “I don’t know how many years I’ll have left after this thing goes on the air.”
Elsewhere, Sloan (Olivia Munn) pondered using one of the Walt Disney Company’s most notorious flops of recent times as the basis for a “News Night” financial commentary: “They may take it in the teeth on ‘John Carter,’ but nobody’s going to get hurt.”
As she discussed the idea with Will (Jeff Daniels), he really was thinking about a focus group he initiated … with himself as the focus. Later on the air, he debated a Rick Santorum supporter on the subject of politics and religion, using a wealth of Santorum and Mitt Romney clips to support his points.
In the aftermath, now-girlfriend Nina (Hope Davis) warned Will he was “just asking for it” by tackling such issues. She also posed a troubling question to him — “Are you being sacrificed so that Mac and Charlie can do the show they want to do?” — and encouraged him to “just be you” in making a morning-show appearance to gain more favor with viewers.
The “softer” Will attempted that, but he wasn’t wild about having to toss footballs to raise money for cancer research. He told Nina afterward, “I have to write a huge check to Sloan-Kettering, and then, I absolutely have to break up with you. They’re both important.”
Returning to the office, Will got a thorough assessment from Sloan, who reasoned Mac’s return to his personal and professional lives had much to do with his state of general discontent. He apologized to Sloan for “embarrassing the whole team” with his morning-TV sojourn. “I love you, Will,” she responded,
Jim and his former Romney-campaign reporting peer Hallie (Grace Gummer) clearly were looking forward to an in-person reunion, as confirmed by their Web chat. But Hallie wanted to turn the date into a double, intending to pair off Neal (Dev Patel) with an MTVU reporter.
The event at which Jim met Hallie also reunited him with a nemesis, Romney media maven Taylor (Constance Zimmer), who also was invited to dinner by Hallie — resulting in a hugely uncomfortable Jim, and for good reason — as the ever-argumentative Taylor made sure. Eventually, she revealed the cause for her behavior: “I was fired tonight.”
At the bar in the hotel where Jim and Hallie were going to stay, they ran into Maggie (Alison Pill), then Jim’s plans were completely short-circuited when Hallie had to fly to cover a Colorado event ihe next morning. He then went back to talk with Maggie, only to see her leave with a stranger who’d bought her a drink.
A bar also was the setting for a heart-to-heart between Mac and Don. She inquired why he hadn’t asked Sloan out yet, and he replied he was hesitant since he’s sometimes her boss when she appears on the program he produces. “That’s stopped absolutely no one” at ACN, Mac replied. However, it didn’t stop Don from reinforcing to her his belief that the Genoa story should be dropped.
Back at the general’s house, the interview was being set up, but the subject insisted on having only Jerry present for the questioning without field producer Maggie. And sitting in the shadows that he had mandated, the general failed to answer the directly posed question of whether sarin gas was used.
A determined Jerry then returned to network headquarters and secretly employed creative sound editing to turn the general’s response “If we used sarin, here’s how we used sarin … ” into just, “We used sarin.”
Charlie didn’t know of that deception, but the supposed evidence still wasn’t enough for him. He wanted another source, prompting a near-meltdown by an agitated Jerry. And a giant twist was in store, one that would land Charlie in the hot seat opposite ACN lawyer Rebecca (Marcia Gay Harden) — and that very much echoed the true-life Tailwind scandal Sorkin has said he used as a creative basis.
A supposedly deceased Genoa source wasn’t deceased after all, and he called the newsroom to debunk the story. And the episode closed with deposition witness Charlie stating the fact that has been behind “The Newsroom’s” Operation Genoa premise from the start:
“None of it was true.”
What did you think of “The Newsroom” this week?