Opening and closing with Maggie's testimony in the wrongful termination suit of Jerry Dantana, everything we need to know in this Newsroom episode happens at the deposition table. It's the site of impending doom for the News Night squad and where we learn why Maggie’s hair is red, how Shelly Wexler fits into the equation and why Jim finally got lucky poolside in Concord. As the title, "Unintended Consequences," suggests, much of this episode is about how Maggie, Neal, Jerry and Will’s idealistic moves in the name of being better journalists are slowly leading to their collective downfall.
Maggie wants to be on Mac’s A-team, which results in a devastating trip to Africa. She’s convinced Gary Cooper to join her to cover national security in Uganda. Days after they arrive, the orphanage where they’re staying is attacked in the middle of the night by a band of cattle raiders who are after their camera. Between the incompetent fixer they hire and the decision not to demand to leave with the army, Maggie proves she’s as green as Mac had originally suggested. And finally the red hair reveal: Maggie helps get a little boy on the school bus to evacuate, has him on her back, and his spine catches one of the raiders' bullets that would have otherwise hit her. Overtaken by guilt, she cuts her hair and dyes it red, in part because the little boy had been drawn to her blonde hair.
Neal’s determination to get the Occupy Wall Street story isn’t doing anything for his relationship with Shelly Wexler. When Shelly appears on News Night, she essentially has her "arms and limbs torn off" by Will, as Mac suggested she would in the previous episode. The trail of Jerry’s Genoa tip has run dry, and the story is nearly dead. But then, as if looking up to the sky to appeal to the Gods, Jerry asks the universe for a miracle, and Shelly says that she knows a guy with evidence of chemical warfare used against civilians in Afghanistan. (One underappreciated Sorkinism is that usually when he’s planning to do something ridiculous, he’ll write in a line like this one to tell you that he knows how crazy it sounds.) Neal, always the champion of an absurd story – specifically Big Foot – is now on board with Jerry as they slowly build the case for Genoa.
But Will screws it all up. Almost. He goes for the jugular with Shelly and OWS, telling Mac later, "Her movement is idiotic and she was unprepared, so as a courtesy I was dismissive," a bold statement for a man who regularly evokes Don Quixote as inspiration. (It’s possible Will is always a complete hypocrite.) He takes the boilerplate position of the mainstream media. He argues that capitalism is best regulated by market forces; if the movement wants to do anything it needs actual demands; and to be effective OWS needs to utilize Congressional power, a la the Tea Party. Watching the scene, I was struck by Shelly’s flattering auburn locks relative to Maggie’s severe red. (Should we be drawing parallels between these women?) But mostly I was surprised that Shelly didn’t scream at Will that OWS is about consciousness-raising outside of the contemporary avenues of protest, and the mainstream media doesn’t get it because they are trying to package it into a narrative that’s familiar, which this isn’t.
And while Shelly tanked in the exchange, it made me hopeful that we'll see her on air again in the next episode. Will finally catches up with Shelly outside one of her classes to offer a half apology and opts for a defense popular with insecure a-holes the world over: "I'm not smug, I am having a crisis of confidence." Shelley calls his bluff, and suggests that maybe he’s just romantically frustrated. Match point: Shelley Wexler.
And then, in the most satisfying scene of the episode, Hallie kisses Jim poolside in Concord. (Finally.) The upside of Jim’s Jerry Maguire protest that got him kicked off the Romney press bus is that he gets closer to Hallie. (And learns that her boss is a jerk.) Jim parlays an offensive comment from the Romney press rep to get a 30-minute interview with the candidate that he gives to Hallie, probably because a) he likes her and b) she’s blonde and c) he got her kicked of the bus. As we know, Jim will do anything for the girls he likes. She’s pissed at first, but then not that pissed and finds him by the pool. Mac finds out that he gave away the interview and calls Jim back to New York, to get back to work.
Back at the deposition table, we learn that when Jim returns, he’ll be called to testify under oath to Maggie’s mental state. Because that’s what every girl who's just seen an orphan shot by a band of Ugandan cattle raiders needs – her estranged office crush testifying to her psychological stability. At least by this time next week, we’ll know the severity of Maggie’s nutsness.
Last Week: Mimosas With the Enemy