Note: Don't read on if you haven't seen Episode 8 of Season 2 of "The Newsroom."
OK, what did Sam Waterston just say?
Here's the thing about Mr. Waterston: as he has aged, he has turned from suave-but-rumpled to kooky-and-rumpled, and his voice has become a little off-the-wall in certain places. Don't get me wrong -- I am a certified fan of Sam Waterston, and he is definitely one of the best things about "The Newsroom." And his particular way with words--such as his ability, in "Election Night, Part 1," to make the one-syllable word "zoo" come out as "ZOO-OOO-OOO"--is charming and winning.
Sometimes, though, it's a little hard to understand what he's saying. And so it was at the climactic moment of the first half of this two-part closing to our second season. I've played the tape back three or four times, and I'm PRETTY sure that he says, "I mean, what the fuck?!" But he could also be speaking in a gibberish that he himself invented, or saying, "Gimme Martha Frog," or "I need water claws." OK, it's probably not those two. I don't know what a water claw is. (A fish, maybe, with a claw? Can a fish have a claw? Sorry, I'm rambling.)
But let's assume, for the sake of this recap, that he said, "I mean, what the fuck?!" It's a sentiment I entirely agree with. "I mean, what the fuck?!" was something I found myself thinking when, yet again, the ACN crew stumbles on a huge story because of all of their fortuitous personal connections.
It's almost as if, at the eleventh hour, Aaron Sorkin is just thumbing his nose at everyone. He keeps getting dinged for repeatedly, and annoyingly, making this one cable news team the leading journalistic force behind every major story under the sun, mostly because this one team seems to have slept with or be related to or played sports with every Deep Throat in the known universe. So what does he do? He does it again.
Now I want to be cautious about this. Since this is the first of a two-parter, it is entirely possible that the David Petraeus story will not be The Thing that shakes the "Newsnight" crew out of their funk, which is so pronounced that the top staffers are all going around begging to be fired and Sloan is openly discussing the Genoa scandal on the air. It's possible that they'll pass on the story, or that something will happen that makes them not pursue it. And I hope that Waterston's profane words are rooted in annoyance rather than joy. That, and not "another one landed in our lap, we've got our groove back!" would be a better way to end things. I am going to put my trust in Mr. Sorkin, for some reason that eludes me.
You'll notice I haven't focused much on the rest of the episode. That's because not much is advanced in Part 1. Maggie has now morphed from damaged to sociopathic, Will and MacKenzie are fighting, Charlie is going around squawking things, Jim is still lame and annoying, Sloan is off on another kooky adventure, Neal is still doing things on the Internet, Rebecca is talking about how she's "liquid sex" (who says that? Who looks at themselves and says, "I'm liquid sex?") there are a couple of nasty little lines about women, and Jane Fonda is sadly absent.
So, a pretty standard episode of "The Newsroom." The Will-and-Mac stuff bothered me, mostly because I'm never a fan of shows that walk their characters up a hill but are obviously going to walk them back down it in the next episode. Mac is not going to be fired, and if she is fired and leaves the show, then she will be back in some way or another soon enough. The rest of it was just a big setup for Part 2.
So, next week, the big finish! Who knows what riches it may contain. My only request: ALL-JANE-FONDA EPISODE.
"The Newsroom" airs Sunday nights, 10 PM ET on HBO.