'The Newsroom' recap, 'Oh Shenandoah'

Kevin Rankin, Jeff Daniels
Kevin Rankin, Jeff Daniels (Melissa Moseley/HBO)

Note: I try to stay in my lane here. I write my recaps, throw in some jokes about yogurt and try to work in as many subtle pro-wrestling references as I can. 

I humbly suggest Aaron Sorkin should stay in his lane as well. 


I did not get into it in the heart of my recap, namely because I was not confident that I was informed and educated enough on the subject to talk about something as serious as rape and rape culture. 

Last night's "Newsroom" shows that Sorkin also is clearly not well enough educated to do so either. For a well-reasoned take on how he tackled this issue, I recommend this article. 



We have two more hours in "The Newsroom." Are you ready?

We open with Will beginning his contempt of court jail sentence for failing to name his source in the leaked documents story. He makes small talk with the prison guard as he enters.

There follows a time jump of 52 days, with Will, still in prison, bantering with his cellmate. The man threatens Will, who stands up to him and uses some colorful language to tell him off. This is not a country club prison that Will finds himself in.

At ACN, Mac, Charlie and Don are reviewing a new intro that Pruitt has commissioned. His vision of citizen journalists, audience involvement and targeting young viewers led to a new "URACN" tagline, which looks like "urine" to Don. "Young people know when they're being patronized. Everyone knows when they're being patronized," Mac says. That may be true, but Charlie points out that the network's average viewer age has dropped three years in the last seven weeks.

Don asks Charlie for guidance on how to cover a story about sexual assault on Princeton's campus -- Pruitt had asked him to put a woman who runs a whistle-blower site together in the studio with a man accused of sexual assault. Really, Don is asking for Charlie to kill the idea, but Charlie has decided to play the role of Pruitt's lapdog and gives Don no help.

In the newsroom, Mac and Gary are reviewing the news of the day. Gary alerts Mac that Lilly, the source, shot and killed herself on the steps of the DOJ building. The FBI's cover story is that she was protesting weak gun control laws, but Mac knows differently. She meets with Rebecca and tells her that she has known the identity of the source for weeks. Rebecca thinks that this is the key to getting Will out of jail.

Sloan and Don's target this week is a fellow named Bree, who runs a new ACN app that tracks the location of celebrities. Erin Andrews called Sloan, unhappy that a gang of paparazzi was waiting for her at a restaurant in Los Angeles, thanks to the app.


Sloan and Don want the app shut down, but Bree takes his marching orders directly from Pruitt. Sloan draws up a plan to interview Brie on air and make a fool of him, something that Don reminds her will anger Pruitt.

"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," Sloan says. "You usually blow up that bridge when you come to it," Don replies. This was kind of a weak device to facilitate Don and Sloan's banter this week, but I'm not going to complain too much. These two are still my favorite part of this show.

Jim and Maggie are not my favorite part of this show, and they are in Russia, chasing the Edward Snowden story. They are at an airport, and they think that Snowden is about to hop on a plane to Havana. Jim and Maggie try to get on the flight, but they can't get tickets. "We have to get on this flight," Jim says. "I hope they get trapped in Cuba," I say.

The FBI's prosecutor and Rebecca pay Will a visit in jail. The prosecutor reveals that Lilly killed herself, and asks if Will would confirm that she was the source. "No, sir," Will says. "Both her parents died in a car crash years ago. She's single with no children. There's no one to protect any more," the prosecutor says. "Confirm the name, and I'll inform the judge that the government no longer needs your testimony and has withdrawn their subpoena, and you'll be having dinner, with your wife, in your home, tonight."

"No, sir," Will says.

Back at ACN, Charlie and Mac do battle over that evening's News Night broadcast. Charlie wants Sloan to interview Lady Gaga's manager, because of a comment Gaga made on Twitter about marriage equality. It was awesome to hear Charlie say "Lady Gaga." Sloan's segment with Bree will stay in that night's show, of course, because Pruitt wants it.

In Russia, Maggie tells Jim to call Hallie in an effort to win her back. Jim can't, though, because he realizes that he still has feelings for Maggie. He lies and tells Maggie that he tried calling but couldn't reach Hallie.

Meanwhile, they're still trying to get on a plane to Cuba. Jim trades his clothes, watch and money with a couple for their tickets to Havana. Maggie deduces that Jim didn't try to call Hallie. I don't want to write about these two any more.

Don goes to Princeton to meet with the young woman who runs the site that outs men on campus that have sexually assaulted students there. The woman details her rape, and Don tells her of Pruitt's plan to have her confront her attacker in ACN's studio.

Don tells her that he would really score a lot of points with his boss if she were to go along with the segment idea, but that he's there to beg her not to do it.

Don lectures the young woman on the dangers of her site. "The law can acquit people. The Internet never will," he says. He tells her that he believes she was attacked, but that her site will be used to ruin an innocent person, and asks her not to appear on ACN. The woman still wants to appear on the show, but Don has given her pause.

In jail, Will and his cellmate have a verbal debate about the merit of Will's "mission to civilize." It isn't going terribly well for Will, as he's in jail, but he's still going to stick to his guns, because he's noble and he's in jail for the right reasons. This was all very preachy and not the best use of one of the final times we'll get to see Will McAvoy.

Rebecca goes to the prosecutor and tells him that she's filing a motion to have Will released. The prosecutor says he'll join the motion, since it's clear that Will won't ever give up the source.

"I like you," Jim tells Maggie. They're sitting on the plane, realizing that Snowden is not and that they're flying to Cuba for no reason. Maggie tells Jim that she isn't over the fact that he didn't call her when he was covering the Romney campaign and she had broken up with Don. She soon decides that she is over it, though, and kisses Jim. Make it stop.

"What's the value of an un-sourced, un-vetted story about a grown man drinking at a bar?" Sloan asks Bree, as she verbally eviscerates him on "News Night."

"Pruitt's going to kill you for this," Bree says as the segment ends. "I know," Sloan replies.

Charlie bursts into the newsroom and starts in on Mac and Sloan for the interview. "I'm tired of this!" he says, then turns his attention to Don. "Did you get the Princeton kid?" he asks. "No," Don says. "Couldn't find her."

"Is this a mutiny?" Charlie screams. Pruitt barges in and tries to fire Sloan and Mac, only he can't, according to Charlie. Charlie says that as a parting gift, Leona left him as the only person with hiring and firing power at ACN.

Pruitt demands an immediate meeting with Charlie, who then collapses.

Mac goes to take Will home from jail, and as "Oh Shenandoah" plays, she tells him that Charlie had a heart attack and passed away.

The stage is set for the final hour, one that would do well to answer whether or not Will's mission to civilize has been worth it. While he was in jail because of his mission, his best friend died. Was it worth it? Was this show worth our time? I think so, but I'll be able to answer that question with more certainty after the finale.

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