As you can probably tell even from the episode title alone, tonight’s episode focused on the News Night team breaking the news of Obama’s address to the nation declaring the success of the Navy SEAL attack on Osama Bin Laden. Despite knowing what the big story of the week was going to be, however, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the show handled the other moving pieces of the plot.
The episode begins with Charlie on the phone with an anonymous tipster. They warn Charlie that he’ll be getting an email in about 90 minutes from the White House telling him and his news crew to get to work. As the camera pans around Charlie, we see the crew, all of them partying it up in Will’s apartment together to celebrate the one year and one week anniversary of “News Night 2.0.”
It seems a little strange to me that Will would open up his home (however spacious and beautiful it may be) to his employees, but hey, maybe that therapy is working out for him. In any case, he invites them to have a good time, but of course wouldn’t be offended if anyone left early. That’s more like it.
Everyone seems to be taking him up on his invitation to enjoy themselves: various drinking games happen, Kendra easily beats Gary at chess, and Will and Jim are singing and playing guitars together. I knew they’d eventually work John Gallagher Jr.’s Broadway background in there somewhere. Will then talks to Neal and his girlfriend Kaylee, who brought along some pot cookies for Will. He claims it’s medicinal, but Kaylee doesn’t care as long as he only eats a little bit (they’re apparently really potent). Too late for that, though; Will has already eaten two, plus he’s taken some Vicodin.
Kaylee and Neal shrug it off, advising Will to rest and drink water. Kaylee proceeds to trounce Jim at Guitar Hero while she’s blindfolded. His protestations that he can play real guitar are cut short by Neal reading Kaylee’s Twitter feed aloud to her, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tweeted that he learned shocking news that makes him proud to be an American. Charlie’s ears perk up at this, and he anxiously awaits that mysterious email.
Jim, meanwhile, has moved on to watching the Mets game on his laptop in the other room. Maggie finds him, of course, and bears witness to his video chat with Lisa, who signs off with an “I love you.” Jim’s reply is “I do too,” which Maggie instantly has to confront him about. It turns out Lisa said those three fateful words the night before and despite Jim not being in the same place in their relationship, he said it back. He’s stuck, and the only solution (according to Maggie) is for him to break up with Lisa. That’s really impartial advice, I’m sure, but he agrees to it.
Jim is spared the further awkwardness of this conversation by the arrival of the email Charlie’s been waiting for. One of their contacts, a National Security agent, says he’s available for comment if News Night were to call him. Sure enough, the official White House email announcing that the President will be addressing the nation on a matter of national security comes through on Charlie’s phone a moment later, and suddenly the entire party has to mobilize and get themselves to the newsroom to prep.
Don, Sloan, and Elliott are currently on a plane landing in La Guardia when they receive the email. They can’t discuss it in front of the other passengers, but the flight attendant also won’t let Sloan and the kid sitting next to Don (the unfortunately-named Lester) switch seats even though they’re parked and won’t be moving until a gate opens up.
Things aren’t going smoothly for Will, either, as he and Lonny are stuck in construction traffic on their way to the studio. Stoned Will is a fun Will to watch, and he actually takes off running towards the studio, leaving Lonny behind to get frisked by cops.
Kaylee and Lisa are quiet observers of the chaos rippling through the newsroom as they all attempt to get a hold of sources who can provide real confirmation of any additional information. Everyone’s starting to think it’s the Bin Laden news, but they can’t report it without double confirmation of that fact. That’s the frustrating thing about having hindsight on this; we already know that Obama announced the death of Bin Laden that night, so it’s hard to watch them scramble around with theories about domestic terror attacks or the war in Libya.
Don and Elliott find out that the President will be giving the address from the East Room. This apparently means that it has to be good news, otherwise he’d be giving his speech from the Oval Office. Don gets up to tell Sloan (who’s researching the best ways to get kicked off a plane so they can get out of there) this, but ends up falling flat on his face when the plane starts moving again. The flight attendant is very pleased with this development, as Don has been nothing but rude to her when she’s just trying to do her job.
Will finally shows up at the newsroom, a falafel in his hand and stoned out of his mind. There’s no sign of Lonny. In his office, Will can’t even remember how to tie his tie, and he admits to Mackenzie that he’s completely wasted. He wants to do the story anyways, and Mac understands because it’s a once in a lifetime chance for all of their careers.
Despite getting a first confirmation from Sloan and a second confirmation from The New York Times, Charlie insists on holding off on breaking the story. We finally learn something about Charlie’s past, though it’s painful: in ’91, he had his guy reporting on the missiles being fired in Tel Aviv and it turns out the Iraqis were watching and using that information to their advantage. So, understandably, he insists on getting this one right.
Charlie does, however, take the liberty of announcing Bin Laden’s death to the newsroom at large even though he can’t say it on the air. They all applaud and cheer, except for Kaylee, who it turns out lost her father in the 9/11 attacks. She wishes this made her feel better, but it doesn’t. This, to me, is far more interesting than people celebrating the good news. I want to know more about Kaylee, and I want to know it now.
Maggie, ignoring any semblance of job responsibilities, marches over to talk to Jim about him breaking up with Lisa tonight, even going so far as to offer herself as sounding board for him rehearsing it. Jim is saved the trouble and the embarrassment by the arrival of Lisa herself, who was intelligent enough to realize when she was being talked about by people in the same room as her. She breaks up with Jim instead, to “let him off the hook” when he was too nice to do it himself. She also talks to Maggie, and tells her what everybody knows: Maggie’s crushing on Jim, and Lisa didn’t want to stand in the way of that. Maggie makes Jim (who she still calls James Tiberius Harper when she’s mad at him, which I love) admit to only having platonic feelings for her, and she insists the same, but Lisa (and everyone in the audience) isn’t buying it.
People on Don and Sloan’s plane are starting to get texts and emails about the President’s speech and are getting very concerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack. Don stands up against the flight attendant’s orders and tries to deliver a calming speech, but she quickly shuts him down, citing a rule against taking control of the cabin. She calls the captain in, and when Don notices his Air Force insignia, he announces the news of Bin Laden’s death to him and the passengers.
Despite the whole breaking news thing going on, Jim goes over to talk to Lisa. He asks for another chance, a do-over first date because he really likes her. I actually genuinely enjoy their interactions together. I think the script is obviously gunning for him and Maggie to confront their feelings for one another, but for now I’m perfectly happy watching Jim and Lisa.
Lonny finally arrives to the newsroom, flanked by the two cops who were going to arrest him. After Will confirms his identity, he tells Lonny about Bin Laden, and he lets Lonny tell the NYPD cops. Charlie, alone in the conference room, gets another call from his mystery source. Mister Anonymous works for the NSA in a unit that’s been monitoring illegal electronic surveillance by AWM, which owns the tabloid TMI that’s been running those pieces on Will. This is a bombshell for Charlie, but I have to be honest, the impact gets lost in the shuffle of tonight’s Big Story.
Mac insists on going ahead with the announcement, but Charlie wants to wait. At least, until Will finally checks his phone to see an email from Joe Biden giving him the go ahead to report Bin Laden’s death before the President’s announcement. Apparently Will and Joe Biden used to play softball together, which is a rather shoddy excuse to get the plot headed forward again, but this weak plot point gives way to a well-delivered speech on Jeff Daniels’ part that echoes the themes of Obama’s address to follow. Will announces the news and reflects on the 9/11 attacks, and then the audio of Obama’s speech rolls over the closing credits.
This episode had its weak points, of course, but I think all told they handled the various subplots well this week. It was a little frustrating to watch with all this hindsight as the news crew tried to piece together what the story was, but I suppose that’s also the beauty of setting The Newsroom in the not-so-distant past: we all know what the stories were, but now we get to see how they would have gotten put together.