‘The Newsroom’ Season 3, Episode 3 Recap: “Main Justice”

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We open on last week’s cliffhanger, with Gary “HR Nightmare” Cooper singing Cole Porter and walking in on the FBI. He swears—gotta relish your time on HBO while it’s still there!—and Mac yells about her wedding, but Charlie’s the one who actually gets his act together and does something. While he “calls” ACN’s West Coast office to “set up” a live broadcast of the raid, Don and Jim scramble to set up a functional newsroom, the thing it is their job as producers to do. Maggie shouts empowered stuff at her ex-boyfriends, like “Shut up!” and “Your fly is unzipped!” and “FUCK!,” and the FBI calls off the raid instead of calling Charlie’s bluff.

Still, the News Night team and their lawyers are still hauled down to DC on Friday night to talk Espionage Act. Charlie points out that this is actually an opportunity to ask the government how to report the story responsibly. A few minutes later, though, he gets a far more motivating reason to show up: he has to go to DC anyway to court the Bezos/Omidyar type who wants to buy ACN from Leona and Reese. See, Leona doesn’t have the $4 billion in cash she needs to keep her company away from Kat Dennings lying around, and what better way to raise money than selling a fourth-place news network to a billionaire who made his living on WiFi accelerators?

For some reason, though, ACN’s impending sale doesn’t stop their parent company’s HR guy from coming down hard on Don, Sloan, and their unprofessional working relationship. The Don-Sloan banter is enjoyable as always and the relationship probably needs a decent subplot to keep itself afloat, but: does this guy not know these two aren’t going to be his employees soon? And if he doesn’t, isn’t telling him a much better way to deal with the problem than sprinting to your girlfriend’s office and telling her you’re not dating?

This week’s other piece of relationship drama is between Jim and Hallie, though it’s technically the latest installment in the Jim and Maggie saga (which is a pairing we’re still supposed to be emotionally invested in despite Maggie’s awesome new boyfriend and Jim sucking). Anyway, I never thought a scene from The Newsroom would be the spitting image of a scene from Girls, but here we have it: the Fight About Gawker a Blog That Is Really a Fight About the Relationship. Shockingly, Jim takes a firm holier-or-at-least-less-clickbaity-than-thou stance on pageview incentives, and Hallie is rightfully outraged that Jim doesn’t think she deserves her new job. Or that she can be trusted not to blab about Neal.

As Maggie helps Jim realize, though, it’s awfully hypocritical for someone whose specialty is making stories more exciting to rag on his girlfriend for participating in the hype cycle. He swallows his pride and helps her sell the EPA report, which it turns out she didn’t really need to do because Deputy Assistant Administrator Westbrook is about a tinfoil hat away from being a subway doomsday preacher. It’s not clear if there’s going to be any fallout from this beyond possibly boosting News Night‘s ratings, but Maggie seems to take her source’s looniness in stride—and she got to tell Jim he’s being a dick in the process!

Down in DC, the News Night team glams up to attend the Correspondents’ Dinner, or in Will’s case, to face off with a college football nemesis and attend the Correspondents’ Dinner. The meeting with the Justice Department doesn’t go great; the Assistant Attorney General for National Security couldn’t care less about helping ACN report the story responsibly when he can (almost) prove Neal induced his source to commit a felony. Too bad Neal’s in Venezuela!

Will gives a noble speech about how he was willing to cooperate until the AAG didn’t play nice, then reveals he did everything he could to make sure he was held accountable for the source, not Neal. That’s why he had Neal by the air-gapped computer on his credit card! Unfortunately, the federal government is far more willing to play ball than the FBI, and Will’s assumption that they won’t go after a TV star is proved wrong with a subpoena. Oh, and the source, who happens to be a very attractive BCD employee named Lilly, demands that Mac air the story by Wednesday or she’ll dump all 27,000 files in the GOOP comments section.

Last and most importantly: B.J. NOVAK! This season is really killing it with the guest stars. Novak’s Lucas Pruit is every upstanding journalist’s worst nightmare, spouting the dreaded c-word (rhymes with “shmontent”) and singing the praises of “disruption.” This is an Internet skewering I can actually get behind, which makes me simultaneously glad that Sorkin’s been reading some Jill Lepore and deeply distrustful. Maggie getting the last word over Jim? The Newsroom getting technology right, or at least understanding it enough to do a convincing parody? Either The Newsroom is finally taking shape or something extra-obnoxious is waiting for us in the back half of the season.