Greater Fools recap: Season 2 Episode 3

Sloan.

Respect: Sloan will not be dragged across the newsroom by the wrist thankyouverymuch.

This just in...

You may notice a new face at the recap anchor's desk this week. The venerable Giles Hardie is *cough* off with the 'flu', and I – the Sloan/Elliot to his Will – have been asked to step in.

Let's hope things between Neal and Shelley the OWS activist don't start to sizzle or the universe may collapse on itself. 

And it's been a week of little drive, but lots of slow-brewing across The Newsroom – the Shakespearean in Sorkin would term it 'rising action' - so let's jump straight in.

Will McAvoy indulges in lunch and flirtation with gossip columnist Nina Howard.

What just happened? Will indulges in lunch and flirtation with gossip columnist Nina Howard.

The 'Will' Arc

Will takes a break this week from reintroducing Rebecca Black's Friday into mainstream consciousness (many thanks for that) to crash right back into the Republican bashing, and only a week after Sorkin had begrudgingly served up a retrospective rant or two against the Democrats. He lambasts the GOP presidential candidates for implicitly condoning homophobia, but just to make it clear he's not hypocritically blurring news and opinion, a huge 'COMMENT' banner is slapped behind him on the television monitor (it may as well say 'PEDESTAL FOR MR. SORKIN').

It's fine though – McAvoy is Sorkin-incarnate and we've long accepted that. We willingly gulp down a little proselytising in exchange for blissful dialogue. We've also accepted that Will's heroic mission to civilise is still well and truly alive, and he dons his cape to educate another damsel-in-distress on the merits of ethical media practice, this time self-censorship. Very chivalrous.

Jim puts in a valiant, if unsuccessful, effort.

Off the bus: Jim puts in a valiant, if unsuccessful, effort.

That distressed damsel is, of course, gossip columnist Nina Howard, who has clued in to the fact Will was taken off the air for the 9/11 anniversary special. A moralising lunch contorts itself into the most awkward first non-date ever, and we now have another twist to add to the burgeoning URST stockpile (see below).

Meanwhile, Will searches for the source of the 9/11 leak, who we initially think is Sloan but turns out to be 'son de la bitch' Reece Lansing. Will and Charlie - who showcased both his exceptionally poor knowledge of the gangster film genre and a bucket-full of foreshadowing simultaneously – storm Reece's office with blackmail seemingly intact, but as it turns out they never recorded the conversation which saw Reece admit to phone hacking, and now all leverage is bid adieu.

The Press Bus Arc

Will McAvoy. Click for more photos

The Newsroom series 2

Will McAvoy.

Jim is still valiantly trying to extract any kind of coherent response from a campaign trail that is content to deal in empty slogans, catchphrases and unsubstantial rhetoric (hmm, I wonder why all of a sudden this feels so alarmingly relevant to me?). He has a new foe to tangle with too, campaign manager Taylor Warren, played by Constance Zimmer, fresh off her role as an investigative political journalist in House of Cards (The irony! The irony!). Persistent questioning abounds, but still no dice.

However, Jim does manage to crack the jaded facade of competitor/future-lover Hallie by tapping into her passion project. But what might that be? Jim guesses abortion. "Yes, choice is the only women's issue", she brilliantly quips back, "and it's a woman's issue because we all got pregnant reading 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'." Perhaps we've finally found a powerful female lead....oh wait, it does turn out to be abortion (one step forward, two steps back, Mr. Sorkin).

Romney's shifting stance on choice forces her to take a stand with Jim on the press bus and try and commandeer it in the name of journalism – hurrah! And then they end up on the side of the road, along with the annoying guy who read aloud every news headline. But all is not lost – their third musketeer swiped some turkey sandwiches before they were booted off.

In unrelated news, Grace Gummer (who plays Hallie) is Meryl Streep's daughter! Clearly that icy stare is a genetic gift.

The Unresolved-Sexual-Tension Arc(s)

Good lord, there's URST all over the place.

Leaving aside Jim/Hallie (with Jim already starting to call her 'Maggie') and Will/MacKenzie (with Mac still trying to get at the contents of that fateful voicemail, and Nina desperate to quash any memory of it), our URST quota is still positively brimming. Maggie is busy fluttering about at present preparing for her trip to Africa, seemingly avoiding Don at all costs to prevent the show really descending into Sex And The City territory.

But this also means the Don/Sloan relationship is beginning to blossom. Don sides with Sloan ethically but not professionally on a business story, but look! They're talking over each other and finishing each other's sentences! And then he defends her in front of her EP Zane - who apparently likes to escort her through the newsroom by the wrist - and all from about two-feet below eye-level thanks to a running sight gag with Don's chair (ahh, a visual representation of the power imbalance – I get it).

Let's hope things between Neal and Shelley the OWS activist don't start to sizzle or the universe may collapse on itself.

The Occupy Arc

Criticise all you want, but one of the greatest things The Newsroom will lay claim to in television history is the 'recent-past' device. Yes, critique in hindsight may be easy, but it means we are privy to some ripping analysis and research, and a deconstruction of the past news cycle that reminds us of what, a few years down the track, we tend to gloss over - not least that the Occupy Movement was not always as cohesive as it later became. Mac's faux-bimbo derision of their lack of a clear message is priceless.

But Neal's passion project is placed on the backburner this episode, after his hardline seventy-five minute stint in prison last week, although Mac does grant the cause a five minute interview on-air with Will.

"But he'll be fair?" Neal queries.

"He's a lot of things, but has he ever been unfair?" comes the retort.

On glorious cue, Dev Patel tries not to laugh as Will rages past in the background: "If I don't get a name soon, I'm just going to start randomly firing people." It's slightly lazy comedy, but damn it if it doesn't work so well!

The Genoa Arc

The most important, but also the most slow-developing of the story arcs. Jerry 'I-Have-Not-Smiled-Since-My-First-Birthday' Dantana continues to pursue the Genoa tip, with Mac accompanying him to visit his contact in a local cafe. Discharged soldier Eric Sweeney gives us the gritty details – the sarin gas, the white phosphorous, the Hazmat suits – but Mac and Charlie are still unimpressed by the story's validity.

Right, so how do we go about verifying the reliability and accuracy of a wildly inflammatory claim? Of course! Social media! Note that down, journalism students. Jerry co-opts the entire newsroom team and scours the Twittersphere for information from the time of the attack, and discovers a stream of tweets recounting chemical warfare and mentioning 'Willie Pete' (acronym-slang for white phosphorous). And so the tip is alive and kicking, and so is the presumed downfall of the newsroom.

Quick side note – Sorkin worked really hard to weave Jenna 'Sorority Girl' Johnson back into the storyline, and so far this season she's simply been the office caddy. This week she is literally getting people coffee. What gives?

And now for the News In Brief....

The Aaron Sorkin Musical Variety Hour:

It seems a new motif has hit The Newsroom this season, with a thematic musical sentiment tying each episode together. After The Who and Willie Nelson teed us off, we now have Burt Bacharach with What The World Needs Now Is Love. Actually, the one thing The Newsroom universe probably doesn't need now is more love, but we appreciate the piano strains.

The Zuckerberg Zinger Award:

"If at all possible, have the suicidal thoughts before the homicidal thoughts." Gary's self-preservation instincts kick in as Maggie lists the potential side-effects her vaccine medication may induce.

Umm, a bit of a stretch?

Nina's reappearance marked the return of her as Sorkin's whipping girl. Not only did she cop the brunt of McAvoy's moralising in the first season, but before she even emerges in the flesh, Charlie is quick to remind us that "God didn't give her humanity - that's why she's a gossip columnist". And then she willingly goes to bed with a guy who literally tore down and derided her entire profession to her face? It's like she's now unequivocally accepted the apparent error of her lowly ways, and is content to simply be surrounded by the good guys: "Welcome to the high ground in McAvoy's team of champions", Will remarks. And that's a bit of a stretch.

Terry Smith is up next with The Capitol Report.