Sorkin…finally…delivers! With the sixth installment of The Newsroom, we see an episode that captivates from start to finish, that informs and entertains us the entire time. There is no doubt in my mind, that it has much to do with the very minor attention paid to the love triangle. Thankfully, Maggie and Jim were practically obsolete, except for minor bits. Instead we got introduced to two new and more interesting characters Lonny Church (Terry Crews), the bodyguard and Jacob Habib (David Krumholtz), the psychiatrist. When I saw the preview for the episode I was baffled and intrigued to whom Terry will be playing and how he’d fit in a Sorkin script. His screen presence was far more flowing than that of other minor cast members and I guess you can credit his experience for that. The banter between both Lonny and Will and their stark contrast was rather amusing to watch. The crafty jabs they gave each other was much like that of Tyrion Lannister and Bronn from Game of Thrones. I do hope his guest starring continues deep into the series.
This episode also prominently features Sloan Sabbath and the focus on her character played dividends. Her character brought to light the ethical dilemmas journalists face with off the record information. We also see her passion for truth and accuracy and the strength of her pride as she faces off with not only TEPCO but Charlie, with the one of the most memorable quotes, ‘Don’t call me girl, Sir!’ I am fairly confident that Sloan will emerge as a force to be reckoned with on News Night, as her character develops.
Sorkin demonstrates why he is a prolific writer by utilizing the therapist as a means to construct the plot in media res. This non-linear narrative allows for a multi layered character development, especially of the patient. It gives Sorkin the canvas to paint the psyche of Will for the audience. This complex narrative methodology is executed with finesse, as he comes around full circle.
‘Bullies’ was by far the best episode yet of The Newsroom. It is compelling enough evidence to continue watching the season, with confidence that Sorkin is heading in the right direction.
The episode begins with Will experiencing what looks like a mild case of dyslexia, as he struggles to end off the evening’s News Night broadcast. When Mack confronts him about the mishap, Will attributes it to his recent lack of sleep, and says he will be seeing his therapist - a decision Mack supports.
We are then introduced to Lonny (Terry Crews), Will’s bodyguard, who accompanies Will to his appointment. Will expects to see Abe Habib, but ends up being introduced to his son Jacob Habib (David Krumholtz) who has taken over his father’s practice, and now sees all of his patients. Despite Will’s reluctance to talk, and insistence that he just needs a prescription to help his insomnia, Jacob convinces him to sit down and have a real session. Sorkin utilizes their therapist-patient interaction as a way of looking back at the events that have led to Will needing a bodyguard.
We learn it is an indirect result of Will’s decision to remove the ability to remain anonymous as a commenter on the ACN website. As a compromise with Reese, News Night would use a bit of their airtime to address comments as an offset if ratings were to drop. As News Night covers the controversial Islamic community centre being built near Ground Zero in New York City, comments are left on ACN’s discussion board under a hacked account, which raise concerns of Will’s safety. The company’s insurance mandates a bodyguard for Will.
Charlie also informs Will of a new tabloid piece coming out on him and that as a precaution he would like Mack to get a team to investigate Will in preparation for future tabloid appearances.
Meanwhile, Sloan, through her contacts, is looking into the potentially catastrophic levels of radiation coming out of TEPCO’s nuclear plant in Japan. Don informs Sloan that she will be filling in for Eliot, host of a news program following News Night. After an off-the-record conversation with a colleague and representative of TEPCO, she learns that the Japanese are downplaying the level of radiation level. She approaches Will for advice on how to get her guest to state this on the record. Will gives Sloan a passive-aggressive peptalk that pushes her to an interview which is destructive on epic proportions, several times during which she speaks in Japanese, and makes statements on behalf of the Tepco representative, unintentionally revealing information obtained off-the-record. When Sloan returns from the newsdesk, Charlie explains, in a fervent fury, the consequences of her actions and suspends her.
Will feels personally responsible for her overzealous hunt for the truth on air. When Will reveals his feelings of guilt to his therapist, the therapist proceeds with line of questioning that gives us insight into Will’s trials growing up.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team is busy doing opposition research Will and they inform her of their findings, which wasn’t very much dirt for the tabloid but some dirt for Mack to use on Will. She, as we’ve come to expect from her, confronts Will right away. Will tactfully had a counter in the top drawer of his desk in anticipation.
Will’s therapist Jacob peels back the layers, and gets him to talk to him about what really has been bothering him. Will tells him of his interview of Sutton Hall, a black and openly gay Santorum campaign advisor interview, in which he blatantly bullies Hall.
Rick Santorum has anti-gay social views he has expressed very publicly in his campaign to run for president. Thus Will finds this particular, an easy target. Mr. Hall after evading most of the questions on why a homosexual would support a man running for president who has anti-gay views. Pushed too far, Sutton Hall finally takes a stand on the malicious shots on his character Will is firing. Mr. Hall gives Will a tongue lashing for this narrow minded attacks on himself and pigeon holing homosexuality as his defining character.
Will continues to discuss Sloan and the TEPCO issue, while Charlie finds a way to resolve the it without the TEPCO spokesperson having to lose his job. He suggests that Sloan lie, and that say that she misunderstood his statement because she is not fluent in Japanese. Sloan looks to Will, and asks him if he wants her lie from a news desk, undermining what News Night 2.0 has stood for. He agrees that they messed up but that is what is necessary now in order to save Sloan’s credibility and the honor of the TEPCO representative. Will also reiterates that he will stand by her in the face of any fallouts.
This catharsis of a guilty conscious is exactly what Will needed. However, Jacob points out it was his dietary choices before going to bed that caused his sleepless nights. He urges him to keep attending sessions to help him cope with stress.