“Unintended Consequences” – the most dramatic episode this season of HBO’s “The Newsroom” – focuses on a tragedy in Africa that devastates associate producer Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill) and might, unintentionally, cripple the ACN cable network.
First Amendment attorney Rebecca Halliday (Marcia Gay Harden) believes a multimillion-dollar lawsuit facing ACN hinges on Maggie’s fragile state of mind. That’s why Rebecca’s nervous. “I’m fine,” insists Maggie. But her psyche is obviously shattered, as symbolized by spiky red hair replacing her lovely blond locks.
When Maggie arrived in Uganda with colleague Gary Cooper (Chris Chalk), she was excited about becoming the go-to person for Africa coverage. Their assignment was a human interest story about U.S. troops rebuilding an orphanage four to nine hours away from Kampala. Why the time difference?
“Sometimes there’s mud, sometimes there’s a genocide,” Maggie explains to Rebecca.
Maggie befriends Daniel (Demoze Talbot), a shy little boy at the orphanage. With darkness approaching, Maggie and Gary are forced to sleep over because their trek back to the capital is too dangerous at night.
Awakened by gunfire from cattle raiders, the children – except for Daniel – are shepherded onto a bus. Maggie goes back to find Daniel and they run for safety, but sadly he’s shot and killed. What did the raiders want at a destitute orphanage?
“Give us the camera,” they shouted in a language Maggie couldn’t understand. So Daniel died because of a video camera. And part of Maggie died too. At ACN headquarters in New York, Neal Sampat (Dev Patel) tries to calm Occupy Wall Street organizer Shelly Wexler (Aya Cash) before she’s interviewed by anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels).
Her national TV appearance soon becomes an epic fail.
“Which system would you replace capitalism with?” Will asks Shelly with her fearful deer-in-headlights eyes. Humiliated and furious, Shelly slugs Neal as she stomps out of the studio. Shelly also refuses to connect ACN with a protester who knows about “Operation Genoa,” a secret mission in which U.S. Special Forces allegedly sprayed deadly sarin gas on Pakistani civilians. The price for Shelly’s cooperation? An on-air apology from Will – like that’s going to happen.
To Will’s credit, he eventually makes peace with Shelly outside her college classroom. “I slapped you around to burnish my reputation as a moderate,” says Will, candidly admitting he struggles with a crisis of confidence due to controversies surrounding him.
In New Hampshire, it’s a bumpy road for senior producer Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.) after being thrown off presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s press bus for insisting on journalistic independence.
Jim no longer receives information from the campaign and he’s traveling in a cramped rental car with two other rebel reporters: Hallie Shea (Grace Gummer) and Stillman (Cameron Gharaee). Speaking with Jim at a hotel bar, campaign spokeswoman Taylor Warren (Constance Zimmer) goes too far in expressing her distrust of the news media. To atone for her gaffe, Taylor offers Jim a favor.
Surprisingly, he requests an exclusive interview with Gov. Romney – not for ACN but for competitor Hallie. Jim’s gallantry backfires, however, when an insulted Hallie discovers what happened.
“If it was insulting, I still don’t care,” says Jim, who’s smitten with Hallie yet drawn to Maggie. It gets worse. To punish Jim for his confrontational style, Taylor tips off ACN about the Romney interview going to a rival. Jim is promptly ordered back to New York, but at least his night isn’t totally ruined. “I think you got in trouble,” Hallie says tenderly. Then they kiss, finally letting their feelings show. Too bad they’re sharing a hotel room with that other reporter.
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