The Newsroom Review: “Willie Pete” (Season 2, Episode 3)


Mackenzie, meanwhile, joined Jerry’s quest for Genoa. They meet with Jerry’s source, who gives them the lowdown of the mission, including the use of white phosphorous and Sarin gas. The source seemed to know a lot, but both Mackenzie and Charlie observe that there are some holes in the story, and Mackenzie says that some portions of the story seemed rehearsed. Maybe we’re biased because we knew from the get-go that Genoa was bunk, but it is somewhat surprising that the story got as far as it did. In any case, Mackenzie allows Jerry and a small group of staffers to run down the names of the other people associated with the mission that the source gave up.

But while it was nice to be reminded that Mackenzie was an embedded journalist with what’s probably a great deal of expertise regarding military issues, she does still have a mean streak of her own. Neal continues pushing for Occupy Wall Street coverage, and draws Mackenzie’s attention to a Fox News story where the anchors speculate that protestors pepper sprayed by the police were exaggerating their injuries for effect; it may have been negative coverage for the cause, but it was coverage. Mackenzie continues with her mockery until Neal points out that his boss, with her $1,400 shoes, is representative of the so-called “one per cent.” Checkmate for Neal, who now has to find someone representative of Occupy Wall Street to appear on News Night.

As Will continues to hunt for the person that leaked, threatening to fire staffers at random (in a playful way, I’m sure), Sloan comes to Don and confesses that she might have been the leaker, owing to the fact that she had a date with Nina’s book agent the day she was called up to cover for Will on the desk for the 9/11 anniversary. But Will and Charlie end up realizing something else: when Will told Nina that it was Charlie’s idea to pull him, she said she knew that was the truth, but Will told Sloan that it was his own idea to pull himself…

Will and Charlie decide to confront Reese again with the recording of Reese admitting to hacking the voicemail of News Night staffers, and Reese admits freely that he did give the story to Nina, and that he’ll have to leak to someone else since Nina turned down the scoop. Charlie thinks Reese needs a reminder of the stakes and goes to play the recording only to – you guessed – be surprised to learn that the conversation was never recorded on the digital device in the first place. It’s another sterling example of Sorkin’s technophobia in spite of the fact that he’s writing about people who use this technology everyday. Really, a season journalist doesn’t know how to use his digital recorder?

To wrap up the episode, Mackenzie calls Nina and thanks her for being decent concerning the 9/11 story, and further asks Nina if she remembers the details of Will’s call. Nina tells Mackenzie that Will praised her good work on the bin Laden broadcast, but conveniently leaves out all the heartfelt relationship stuff. Why? Because, yes, at that moment, Nina is in Will’s apartment. As for Genoa, just as Charlie and Mackenzie are about to pull the plug, Jerry gets some translated Tweets from the area the operation took place in on the night in question with the key words being, “Willie Pete.” White phosphorus.

As for other notes about the episode in brief, I’ll begin by saying that if there are more opportunities to get Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston to do scenes together, one-on-one in the future, then they should take it because those guys can fire off that Sorkin-dialogue like pros and they have great chemistry together. In fact, if The Newsroom was just Will and Charlie shooting the breeze over lunch every episode, I think I’d still watch. Best line of the night might be a tie between Charlie’s comment about Nina how “God didn’t give her humanity, she’s a gossip columnist,” and Gary’s plea to Maggie that if the side effects to her Malaria begin to show then she should “have the suicidal thoughts before the homicidal thoughts.”

Also, Don fell out of his chair twice, so it’s nice to see Sorkin go for some gender equality with the pratfalls.

What did you all think of this latest episode of The Newsroom? Give us your thoughts and impressions below.