The Newsroom S2E6: One Step Too Many

The edge of the envelope is a scary place to be. On the one side, you’re safe and secure and you have everything you need, but just over the edge lies everything you want, and we all know there’s a big difference between the two. The questions is: When stepping into the Land Of Want, how far can you safely push the envelope?

There’s one key scene in this episode that tackles this question for everyone but if you’re not paying attention you’ll miss the message. Here’s a tip: It’s a conversation between Sloan and Will, but that’s all I’m going to say for now. First, let’s talk about Genoa.

Mac calls the first meeting with the Red Team to let them in on the details of the Genoa investigation.  Even if you have no desire to ever watch “The Newsroom” whatsoever you NEED to watch this episode just so you can see these supposedly highly-educated, intelligent news-people trying to remember the names of Santa’s reindeer.


Jerry and his Blue Team have been working on the Genoa story for seven months now. One source is a series of Tweets from a supposed eyewitness to the aftermath, another source says the words “Sarin Gas,” they have an official cryptic shipping manifest, they even have pictures of the victims – after the attack. What they don’t have is a high-ranking official who will state on the record that yes, he was there, they used Sarin, and they slaughtered innocent civilians. They have no definitive source to tie all the pieces together.

But Jerry is firmly convinced there’s enough evidence. He’s ready to run with the story and he can’t understand why Charlie won’t give him the green light.

“We’ve got evidence of a war crime. Just sit with that for a second. We dropped Sarin gas on a village. We have a moral imperative to questions the flagrant disregard with which the President and the national security establishment treat the Constitution and international laws.”


“We killed 4 American citizens without due process and those are the ones we know about. Five times as many strikes as the entire Bush presidency. Dramatically increased wire-tapping, detentions, prosecuting whistle blowers, several of whom are willing to go on camera for us.”


What your problem is, is that you like him, you like this president, you trust him. Go ahead, we trust you. Chase Nielson flew the Doolittle Raid after Pearl Harbor and got water-boarded by the Japanese and we executed the Japanese soldiers who did it. What the fuck is going on?! We have it. How long before you’re comfortable?”


Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater) is standing on the razor-sharp edge of his envelope right now. He has a good job and a good reputation but he wants more. He has himself convinced that he has a need, moral obligation, to tell the Genoa story, but he’s human and what he really wants is to see his name up in lights. He’s frustrated because Charlie is the only thing standing in his way now, which causes him to take a huge risk with the video tape of the interview with a key witness. He commits the ultimate sin in the news world and edits the tape to support his side of the argument.

After viewing the doctored video tape, Charlie’s still not completely convinced, though. There are questions about the credibility of their key witness, who “appears” to remember the exact details of the event but doesn’t remember getting a phone call from Charlie and Mac just the day before.

Don nails the dilemma in a conversation over drinks with MacKenzie. The way you know if you’ve broken one of God’s rules is if you can’t put it back together again. Don tells Maggie if Charlie greenlights the Genoa report, and Will and the lawyers agree, Mac still needs to consider the consequences before she runs the story.

“Protests in some countries look a lot like riots. I hope you’re considering cause and effect because if we broke one of God’s rules it might be best just to shut up about it.”

As for Maggie… I can barely bring myself to look at her, right now. She needs to read, “He’s Just Not Into You,” grow up and stop embarrassing all the rest of the women on the planet.  She and Don would never have had any kind of lasting relationship because Don just wasn’t that into her – probably because she’s an immature bitch (and not in a good-bitch kinda way.)

Maggie’s standing on the edge right now, too, and it’s no secret that I personally I hope she takes a flying leap. But here’s the way I see it: On the safe side of the envelope’s edge she has Jim, but she’s too focused on what lies over the edge – her failed relationship with Don – which makes no sense because she’s self-sabotaging any hope of repairing that relationship and making herself look like a drunken bitch-slut to Jim in the process. Maggie’s pushing the edge all right, but she’s hoping Don will come charging in on a white steed and save her and here’s hoping Aaron Sorkin’s view of women isn’t that infantile.

And speaking of women – WTF is Will doing messing around with Nina Howard? I get that he wants to move on, but with Nina? And he’s taking advice from her, a gossip columnist?


Actually, I love this relationship. Even though it’s brief it’s real – this is what happens between intelligent, mature men and intelligent, mature women in the real world. They circle, they hook up, and they move on with no regrets, no animosity and no whining. Maggie and MacKenzie could both take a lesson from Nina. (Of course, we haven’t seen next week’s episode yet so I could be completely wrong here. Nina could turn out to be a screeching shrew-bitch, too.)


Which leads us to the conversation between Will and Sloan that brings it all together. Will’s upset because his focus group results show his audience isn’t quite as enamored of him as he thought, and we all know how Will thrives on adulation. First, here’s Sloan’s “expert” psychological analysis of Will:

“I’ve done a comprehensive study on your psychological profile. ‘Introduction to First Year Adult Psychology.’ I haven’t read the whole thing, but I read from page 8 to… well, I’ve read most of page 8, and here’s what happened to you…,” Sloan says.


“A long, long time ago you were doing a show that you liked with MacKenzie then she broke your heart. Then you started doing a different show, a softer show, a show built around your likable personality and the love you got from the audience filled – almost – the hole in your heart. You’re happy 8 to 9 and miserable the other 23 hours. You feel more comfortable with strangers than with friends.”


“But suddenly, Mackie’s back in town and she’s making you do the show you’re supposed to be doing and she insists that you and everyone else do the news and you like that, but that does mean that you might lose some of your invisible friends. Does that sound about right?”

Sloan then moves on to a discussion of Goldilocks planets, planets ideally suited for human habitation. Out of 1,300 planets that are strong candidates, each meeting at least one of our needs, only two come close to everything we humans would need to make us happy. One of those two planets is radioactive leaving us with only one perfect choice out of the millions of planets out there.

So here’s the moral of this entire episode: What we need and what we want are definitely two different things. While it’s OK to want something you don’t currently have and it’s good and maybe even noble that you’re willing to risk something you do have to get it, it’s best to make sure that what you want is exactly what you need, because you can only push the edge of the envelope so far before you fall off into the abyss.

Only three episodes left.  Here’s a preview for #7:

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