It’s a good thing Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda) didn’t accept those resignations.
If she had, she’d have had a greatly diminished staff on a critical evening at Atlantis Cable News, as “Election Night, Part I” — the first half of the Aaron Sorkin-written Season 2 finale of HBO’s “The Newsroom” — indicated in its opening scene Sunday (Sept. 8).
In an “off the record” video chat with Hallie (Grace Gummer), Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) revealed that not only had Will (Jeff Daniels), Mac (Emily Mortimer) and Charlie (Sam Waterston) offered to resign over the Operation Genoa debacle, many other major players at ACN also had planned to. And the news that Leona wouldn’t accept left Hallie in utter disbelief — and wanting to report it as a story.
Charlie still pressed forth with wanting to resign, though attorney Rebecca (Marcia Gay Harden) warned that Leona would sue. “The woman who’s always wanted to fire us won’t let us resign,” noted Charlie, adding with more irony that “the unhappiest guy in the building is in charge of morale” for the night. That was Will.
With Rebecca heading to an Election Night 2012 viewing party that network president and Leona’s son Reese (Chris Messina) was throwing, Charlie and Will hugged it out before the anchorman went into the studio for what likely would be a long evening of coverage.
Sloan (Olivia Munn) and Elllot (David Harbour) debated over which of them would focus on one particular race, while former Romney media maven Taylor (Constance Zimmer) readied for her new role as an ACN analyst. And Jim, who had suffered at Taylor’s hands and words on the campaign trail, clearly relished having the tables turned with her on his turf now.
Maggie (Alison Pill) introduced herself to Taylor with the declaration, “I hate Jim, too.” To which Taylor offered to share something before Jim learned it, which also tantallized Sloan.
Neal (Dev Patel) informed Sloan that a book she’d signed sold at a charity auction for $1,000 … only for Sloan to admit she’d never gotten around to signing it, and that someone else must have done it in her name. Feeling hugely guilty, she asked Neal to help her find the person who bought the book.
Maggie shared with Don (Thomas Sadoski) the information Taylor had given her, a controversial comment from the past by a congressman — and the politician’s office offered to “trade” something if Don would hold off on doing anything with it.
Mac fretted about settling the still-threatened resignations before Leona answered with a lawsuit that would detail “every embarrassing thing that’s gone on here in the last 14 months.” Will cautioned Mac to focus instead on the Election Night matters at hand, and he also wanted a time-out from talking about Genoa.
Nevertheless, Mac pressed the issue, deeming Will “a bomb that’s about to explode.” Believing he held her responsible for the internal Genoa situation, she demanded to know “what the punishment’s going to be this time.” She accused him of still holding her six-years-earlier liaison with an ex-boyfriend, during a relationship break with Will, over her.
“King George forgave America in less time than it’s taking you,” Mac insisted. And in turn, Will claimed he had never punished her. “I’m sorry I didn’t explode for you,” he said. “It’s a long night,” she replied.
Charlie gave an inspirational pre-telecast speech to the staff, indicating the American election process is “the envy of the world.” And referencing the Genoa controversy, he stressed, “It’s critically important that we not make any mistakes tonight.”
A montage depicted the newsroom becoming a flurry of activity as last-minute coverage prep kicked in, and as the telecast began in earnest, Will started to call the results of various races.
At the viewing party, Charlie tried to talk Reese out of joining his mother in filing the lawsuit over the resignations the next day. Charlie maintained others at ACN not directly involved in the Genoa report shouldn’t be tainted by those who were. Reese agreed, but added that when it came to accepting the resignations, “My mom said I can’t.”
Jim continued talking with Hallie, who was still with the Romney campaign, via video — each covertly grilling the other for information. And after Maggie entered the scene and left, the conversation turned to Hallie suggesting that Jim find out why Maggie gave her hairstyle such a change.
Elliot didn’t stir much excitement in his report from a command center where results were being tallied (shades of Megyn Kelly visiting such a room much more effectively on Fox News Channel last November). More heat came from Mac’s unhappiness in discovering from Taylor that a Wikipedia entry on her was in error about which university she’d attended (Cambridge, not Oxford).
The mystery of who signed Sloan’s book was solved when Gary Cooper (Chris Chalk) admitted to it, and while Neal was still wrapped up in that, Mac asked him to correct her Wikipedia page.
Rebecca informed Don he was about to be named in a separate lawsuit by fired ACN producer Jerry Dantana, who claimed Don interfered with his getting a job elsewhere — and Don copped to having cited Jerry as a “sociopath” when called for a reference. Rebecca knew, and shared with Don, that it was part of Dantana’s overall strategy to get the network to settle with him.
As for no Election Night mistakes, a whopper became apparent as Jim realized an erroneous note he’d made led Will to call a race too soon. Despite the extreme closeness of that race, Jim hesitated on making an on-air retraction, gambling that the too-early call would hold: “Who’s going to notice?”
But when Charlie strode though the newsroom with a job application for the New York City Department of Sanitation, declaring it would go to “the first person who ‘eats it’ tonight,” Jim pondered whether it would be better to make the retraction after all.
On the news set, things got intense when Taylor called out Will as “a Republican who spends an awful lot of air time reporting stories about crazy Republicans being crazy.” To which Sloan responded, “in fairness,” that Will anchored a report about a Democratic president and war crimes “that wasn’t even true.” Which pretty much silenced the studio.
Already nervous about her professional future, Mac wasn’t made less shaky by the fact that Wikipedia wouldn’t accept the correction to her page. “We’re going to get this right,” she insisted to Neal. “Because.”
As Will left the studio during a commercial break, he advised Taylor to keep her personal politics out of on-air analysis. And Jim tried to get the erroneous election result taken out of the on-air scroll, wanting to keep his flub as contained as possible.
Mac was ready to make herself the ultimate sacrifici
al lamb over Genoa as she ordered Will, “Fire me! You’re the only one who can do it.” He countered by invoking their past — “I was a really good boyfriend” — and accusing her of thinking he wasn’t firing her because “that would make me look bad.”
And a deeply somber Will then informed Mac, “You’re fired. End of the broadcast. Please don’t tell anyone.”
As for the bigger story that congressman’s office promised? Don relayed it by telling Charlie, “David Petraeus is about to resign over an extramarital affair with his biographer, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. And the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan will be investigated with regard to a relationship with a Florida socialite who is receiving harassing e-mails from General Petraeus’ mistress.”
With a hard-to-decipher look on his face, Charlie then walked to the middle of the newsroom and screamed at the top of his lungs, “I mean, what the f***?”
After a moment of stunned silence, those in the newsroom reverted to work mode. In the studio, Will informed Taylor, “Remember what I said before about personal politics? Forget it. Take me apart.” And in the control room, Mac silently gazed at Will on the monitors as he looked into the camera, ready to go back into action.
He will one more time this year: “Election Night, Part II” closes out Season 2 of “The Newsroom” Sunday, Sept. 15.