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'The Newsroom' recap, 'Contempt'

The Sun's David Zurawik talks about the third and final season of HBO's 'The Newsroom,' on WYPR FM's 'Take on Television.'

We pick up right where we left off last week, with the ACN crew at the correspondents' dinner, still reeling from Will being subpoenaed.

Rebecca instructs Will not to give up his source, essentially daring the government to jail him. Will wants to employ that strategy, as he still believes that he's too big to jail, while Mac worries that he's wrong about that. Given that he's been wrong about this at every turn so far, I tend to side with Mac.

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News of Will's hypocrisy over attending the dinner hits the web, including at Hallie's website, which draws Jim's ire. Mac pulls Don aside and tells him to get Neal's story ready to air by the deadline. Mac doesn't tell Don that she's been in contact with the source.

Jack, Maggie's date, lets it slip that Jim has mentioned his disapproval of Hallie's new job to Maggie. "Why don't you believe in me?" Hallie asks Jim. While they argue, Hallie reveals that she gave her new site a tip that turned into the story skewering Will. Their relationship is untenable.

Mac approaches Will and Charlie and considers revealing that she just made contact with Neal's source, but she decides against it, suggesting that they all go and talk to Lucas Pruitt, ACN's potential buyer.

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"What if I told you you could be the number-one news network and change the world at the same time?" Pruitt asks the trio. He lays out a plan with a lot of buzzwords and mentions that he intends to make ACN more modern, which serves mostly as this week's opportunity for Aaron Sorkin to lecture his audience about the evils of the Internet.

Again. Charlie doesn't like Pruitt's new media plan, and storms off.

Monday comes, and Will faces the grand jury in D.C. He refuses to name the source, sticking to Rebecca's plan. Back in New York, Wyatt, the new HR VP, asks Don to accept his follow request on Instagram. Don does, but not before passing a note to Sloan to have her delete their photos together from the account. This cloak-and-dagger comedy is fantastic. I reiterate my call for a Sloan and Don spinoff.

Charlie meets with Sloan and gives her a list of people he hopes might be interested in purchasing Atlantis. One of the names checks out, and Charlie asks her to set up an informal meeting between Leona and the buyer, Toni Dodd.

Sloan suggests that Charlie try to make it work with Pruitt first. You'll fight with him, sure, but you'll win, she tells him. "I can't fight these fights with this guy. I won't win," Charlie says.

Sloan agrees to set the meeting, but instead of sending Leona, she suggests that she and Charlie meet with Dodd. "Very quietly, and now," Charlie says.

The news team is working on getting Mac's story done, but they've hit a potential roadblock. The person who wrote the PR firm's story that led to the riot in Kundu might still be on the ground there, and if the ACN story airs before he gets out of the country, he and his family are sure to face violent consequences.

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Don asks for the deadline to be pushed back. Mac declines, insisting that the team work with the state department to get the contractor out of the country before Wednesday.

Back in Washington, Rebecca's plan is still on track, as Will is ordered to face the grand jury again on Wednesday.

Don is able to get in touch with the contractor in Kundu, but he isn't able to get his family out of the country, because his youngest child doesn't have a passport. Don tells Mac that they're working with the state department, but that the mid-level staffers there won't be able to help them out in time to meet Mac's deadline. He presses her as to why the story has to run so quickly, but Mac still doesn't come clean with him.

Charlie and Sloan, meanwhile, meet with Toni Dodd (Talia Balsam, the former Mrs. Sterling on "Mad Men," and the former Mrs. Clooney and current Mrs. Slattery in real life), who seems keen on the idea of buying Atlantis.

Mac meets with the source, Lilly, and explains the situation her team is facing. She asks her to extend the deadline, telling her that if ACN runs the story by the deadline, or if she gives the same documents to another news source, that Lilly is essentially signing a death warrant for the writer in Kundu.

"I promise the story will be reported," Mac says. "Well, I can't promise anything," Lilly counters. Mac threatens to quit her job and turn Lilly in to the FBI if she gives the documents to another news outlet, and ends the meeting. In D.C., Will faces the grand jury again, and again refuses to reveal the source.

While Jack and Maggie play pool, Maggie reads a story that Hallie wrote, detailing her fight with Jim. To protect his anonymity, she's changed Jim's name to "Tim" for the story. Jack sticks up for Jim, while Maggie takes Hallie's side. Jack sees this as Maggie putting up a false front in an effort to conceal feelings she still has for Jim, and oh my goodness, I can't believe we have less than three hours left in this series and I'm still writing about Maggie and Jim, possibly the worst characters on this show with one of the worst romances in the history of cable television.

Hallie goes to ACN to talk to Jim, they fight, they break up. "I'm going to miss you," Jim says. "You're going to miss a lot of things, Jim," Hallie says. "I'm not going to miss this awful television relationship either," I said.

On Thursday, Will gets a call in the wee hours, informing him that his final court appearance, the one that will decide his fate, has been pushed to Friday, giving the government and Rebecca an extra day to work on a deal, in theory. In reality, there will be no deal, as he insists on sticking to the plan to not give up the source.

Later Thursday morning, Don gets a call from the state department, informing him that they were able to get the writer and his family out of Kundu, freeing ACN to run their story later that day. Mac tells the team to have it ready to air that afternoon, then heads off to meet with Reese.

In the meeting, however, Reese kills the story. He says that Pruitt is set to sign the deal to buy Atlantis later that day, but that he'll pull out if ACN runs the story. Mac details all of the trouble that Will, Neal and Lilly have gone through for this story. "It was for nothing?" she asks.

"Yeah. Selling the company is the only way you get to fight another day," Reese says. "Do we ever get to win one?" Mac asks. "I'm sorry," Reese says.

In more lighthearted news, the Don/Sloan/HR VP saga gets blown off when it is revealed that Sloan sent HR a letter outing them as a couple weeks earlier. Don realizes that Wyatt the HR VP only has jurisdiction here until the company is sold later that day. That was fun.

Sloan gets word that Toni Dodd's company is making a major media company purchase later that day, just as Pruitt arrives at Atlantis to buy the company. Sure that Dodd's deal is for Atlantis, Sloan dispatches Charlie to tell Pruitt off. As soon as Charlie leaves, Sloan sees an uptick in the stock of another media company.

Dodd isn't buying Atlantis after all, it tuns out. She was just using them for leverage to make another deal. Charlie insults Pruitt, just before Sloan alerts him what happened. "We are sworn enemies now, he and I," Charlie says of Pruitt.

Sam Waterston is a gifted actor, and I legitimately feel privileged that I've had the chance to see him perform on this show. His dramatic work is incredible, and his comedic chops on this show are a delight. Pruitt signs the deal, taking the reigns of Atlantis World Media.

Mac and Will are having a chat in their home. They're talking out Will's situation, and in the process, Mac reveals to Will that she has met with Lilly twice. "Oh, god, you can't ever repeat what you just said," Will implores her.

The next day, Friday, Will sits before a judge, as Rebecca and the government's attorney argue their respective sides. ACN is no longer in a position to run the story, but the government still wants the identity of the source.

"I'm telling the government and the court that there are no number of prison days after which I will reveal my source's identity," Will tells the judge. The judge reluctantly finds Will in contempt of court, and orders him to turn himself in later that afternoon.

Before he goes off to jail, Mac decides to marry Will. She eschews her plans for a grand wedding later that summer, instead deciding to arrange a ceremony at City Hall that afternoon.

So, while the documents from the controversial story get shipped off to a former colleague of Don's at the Associated Press, assuring that Neal's story will see the light of day, the "News Night" crew goes about securing a choir, flowers, rings, a cake and a priest. Mac and Will are married, and Will walks from Mac's arms into the FBI's custody.
 
All the Jim Harper-romance stuff aside, this was as good an hour of television as I've seen this year.

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