At the opening of this Newsroom episode, “Red Team III,” it’s Don’s turn in front of the lawyers. He’s dumbfounded that Jerry Dantana thinks he has a case of wrongful termination against ACN. The way that Don sees it, Jerry cooked an interview: End of story. But Jerry insists on arguing that he was a scapegoat, and the episode revolves around the question of who was responsible for the failure of the Genoa story. Was it one man’s missteps, or a collective failure?
The answer: a little bit of both.
The Red Team – a group of News Night staffers who poke holes in their colleagues’ reporting – meets at the beginning of the episode. When Jerry and his colleagues tell Will they think the U.S. used Sarin against foreign targets, Will is emotionless. He had a feeling the staff was working on a big secret story, and he actually heard a similar tip about the use of Sarin. Everyone in the room weighs in as they decide whether or not to go with the story. Jim tells Jerry that he doesn’t trust him; Don and Sloan are skeptical; Jerry continues to respond to any pushback like a petulant child. But despite the team’s reservations, Will says he trusts Mac and Charlie, so they go ahead with the report.
Jerry narrates the news piece and all appears to go according to plan. In last week’s episode, Charlie said he knew by 10:05 that something was wrong. It’s unclear how he knew that, and if he even did. When General Stump calls screaming that his quotes were edited out of context, Charlie, Will and Mac just assume he’s a crackpot old General who is now embarrassed and eating his words. But slowly, more aspects of the piece start to unravel. By the next morning, the Department of Defense still hasn’t commented. The statement that finally comes out is worded so strongly that it suggests that the Pentagon is willing to spare no cost in fighting these allegations. (A bad sign.)
Then Elliot brings Eric Sweeney, one of the key sources, onto his show for another interview in which the staff sergeant admits that he suffered a traumatic brain injury, a primary symptom of which is memory loss. Mac and Charlie didn’t know that and it turns out that Sweeney lied to cover it up. With this revelation, Charlie calls an emergency staff meeting, to review everything again. Charlie then goes to DC to meet in a parking lot with his Deep Throat source who gave him the chemical order for the Genoa mission and suggested that Sarin was used. But as it turns out, Deep Throat was actually just getting back at Charlie, whom he blamed for the death of his son, a junkie and former News Night intern who had overdosed after being fired from the show. When Charlie later holds the chemical order sheet over a light it says “Fuck you Charlie” in invisible ink. Mac also soon realizes that in a pre-interview with another source, Herman Valenzuela, she led the witness and may have impacted his testimony, another bad sign for the story.
Meanwhile Obama’s Benghazi-gate is slowly building steam. Mac becomes more interested in clocks, and Will explains to her how a basketball shot clock works. Like a young Angela Lansbury on Murder She Wrote, suddenly hit by a flash of insight, Mac jumps back into the editing bay, and discovers Jerry’s crime. Like any anti-hero worth his Achilles heel, Jerry wanted to play up the General’s gravitas by framing the shot so we could see his medals – even if that meant showing the game, and the shot clock, in the background. The shot clock numbers jump erratically, proving that he fudged the footage. Mac fires Jerry, who still doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong.
Discovering their mistake, Don Quixote and Co. (Will, Mac and Charlie) are prepared to fall on their collective lance.
But Leona Lansing – who might be the true Don Quixote here – by this point has become a champion of the News Night vision and she refuses to let her producers resign. She storms into the room in a gorgeous ball gown, having just returned from an event at the Museum of Modern Art, and is incensed. (“A guy comes into my hizzy . . . cooks an interview and gets a five million dollar settlement because he’s unemployable? I don’t think so. . . . ” she says. (The episode may be worth watching just to hear Jane Fonda say “hizzy.”) Despite her episode-stealing motivational speech, the News Night brass remain unconvinced. “Leona, we don’t have the trust of the public anymore!” a teary Charlie says. “Get it back!” she shouts.
But can they do it? Until next week . . . .
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