'The Newsroom' recap: 'Election Night Part 1'

Hamish Linklater (left) and Emily Mortimer on "The Newsroom."
Hamish Linklater (left) and Emily Mortimer on "The Newsroom." (HBO)
"Our elections are the envy of the world. It's critically important that we not make any mistakes tonight. We all know why." --Charlie Skinner

"The Newsroom" returned from its Labor Day hiatus with the penultimate episode of Season Two, "Election Night Part I," which laid the groundwork to resolve the season-long Genoa storyline.

The episode opens on election night 2012 with Jim, who has never found a stylist, brush or hair product to his liking, having a video chat with Hallie. He restates the plot for us, reminding us of how Charlie, Will and Mac had been set to resign, but Leona had instead told them to win back the trust of their audience by doing some stellar reporting on election night.

Rebecca, Charlie and Will meet in Will's office, where it is revealed that Rebecca has some bad news to deliver to Don later on. I've never had a lawyer tell me that they had bad news for me, but if and when that day comes, I hope to have Aaron Sorkin there to write my response for me. Charlie bums Will's cigarette and tells him that Mac is really taking their troubles to heart. He reminds Will that he has the power to fire Mac, should he so choose.

Jim takes Maggie to hair and makeup, where she prepares Taylor for her first ACN television appearance. Taylor promises to help Maggie one-up Jim, while Sloan and Elliot bicker about what they will say on the air.

Neal tells Sloan that an autographed copy of her book sold for big bucks at a Hurricane Sandy relief auction. Sloan is upset because she hadn't actually autographed the book. Sloan asks Neal to track down the buyer, presumably to apologize for not actually signing the book.

Maggie tells Don that Taylor has given her a tip that Representative Brody, one of the congressmen who had criticized Representative Todd Akin for making what could easily have been interpreted as pro-rape comments, had made a similar comment himself in 1990. Don calls Brody's chief of staff and asks for a comment. The chief of staff asks him to hold off on going to air with the story, and says her will trade him a bigger story for the favor.

In Will's office, Mac presses him to either convince Leona to allow them to resign, or to settle Jerry's lawsuit, so they can all be spared having their names and a list of their professional failures made public the next day. Will tells her that they will do their six hours of TV that night, and deal with the consequences after. Mac tells him that she wants to deal with the consequences now.

The conversation devolves into a rehashing of the series of events that had ended their romantic relationship years earlier. Mac is upset that Will never forgave her for cheating on him and lying to him. Will maintains that he can be as angry at her for that as he wants to, for as long as he wants to. Nothing is resolved. They go to the newsroom, where Charlie gives the entire staff a rousing motivational speech, in one of those fine Sam Waterston moments.

While Will and his staff go to air, Charlie goes up to the 44th floor, where Reese is hosting a viewing party. Charlie begs Reese to accept his resignation, to try to save a shred of ACN's credibility. Reese tells him that he would like to accept the resignation, but that his mom said he can't. Charlie tells him to keep pressing Leona.
While Elliot does a live segment, walking viewers through the newsroom and detailing how ACN gopes about calling races, Mac goes to the studio to talk about the show with Will. While there, Taylor informs her of an error on her Wikipedia page. Will tells Mac to let it go, but Mac asks Neal to fix it. Minutiae. Neal finds out that Gary is the one who signed Sloan's book. Sloan berates him for a German inscription he had poorly translated. Sloan presses them to find the book buyer so that she can apologize for the fraudulent autograph.

Don bumps into Rebecca, who delivers the bad news that she had promised earlier. As it turns out, Jerry is suing Don separately, for $20 million, for maliciously interfering with his ability to land a job elsewhere. It seems Don had referred to him as "an extremely hard-working sociopath." As Don points out, at least he said he was a hard worker.

Will and Taylor mix it up at the anchor desk, while Sloan and Elliot banter in an attempt to top each other. While that is going on, Jim is called to the decision room, where pollsters and ACN staffers work to make calls. They alert Jim that Will had mistakenly called a race in Michigan, and that the incorrect information made the on-screen scroll.

Jim deduces that Maggie made the decision to run the information based on a mistake that he had made. A pollster presses Jim to retract the call, although she is confident that it will end up being correct. Jim and Maggie decide to bury the mistake and hope for the best.

Charlie tells Mac that he was working on Reese, but that it didn't  look like they would be able to resign, so that they should buckle up and prepare for their public shaming the next day. He also tells her that Will would never fire her. That, my friends, is called foreshadowing.

Neal tells Mac that he fixed her Wikipedia page, but that it was changed back. Mac flips out. She is desperate to get something right, something that she can control. Neal tells her that he understands and that he will keep working on it.

Jim goesv to the control room to get the errant call removed form the scroll after all. His conscience got to him after he saw Will being all Will McAvoy-ish on the air. Don and the graphics guy bristle at the suggestion, realizing what is going on. Don is distracted when Maggie rushes in with the news that Brody's staffer is on the line, ready to deliver him his story. Jim gets the call removed from the scroll.

During a commercial break, Will goes to Mac's office. She was distracted, unable to enjoy what Will assures her was an excellent broadcast. She begs him to fire her. She is convinced that Will is not firing her in order to protect his public image. Will is offended that she would think that he would put protecting his image above doing the right thing. Will tells her that he was a good boyfriend to her and that he was a good guy. He then fires her, effective at the end of the election night broadcast.

Don and Maggie tell Charlie, Will and Mac that their story will be about CIA Director Petraeus resigning, and the allegations of the extra-marital affair and the circus surrounding it. Because of General Petraeus' connection to the military (he is the former commander of United States forces in Afghanistan), and ACN's compromised credibility, Charlie throws his hands up and screams. He has a huge story handed to him, but won't be able to run with it. Or will he? I presume we'll find out next week in the season finale.

Will goes back to the anchor desk and tells Taylor to ignore his previous admonishments about attacking his personal politics on the air, and to tear him apart.
Final Thoughts

I liked a lot of this episode, even if every interaction between Jim and Maggie made me want to eat glass. It was a tight 48 minutes that moved quickly, but managed to fit more plot in than perhaps any episode this season.

Mac's firing seemed to be a case of Sorkin writing himself into a corner. Perhaps he felt that the resolution of the Genoa story wasn't a strong enough conflict for the finale, so he decided to throw in an additional wrinkle? Mac is one of the few characters on the show that I always like and I'd be sad to see her go.