“The Newsroom” Episode 4 recap: Love, Gun

Kathryn Hahn popped up on Episode 4 of The Newsroom, playing a rambunctious, randy, pistol-packing date of curmudgeonly hero Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). McAvoy, you’ll recall, is a conservative TV anchorman who, in midlife pique, has decided to tell the truth, working in tandem with MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) his former girlfriend-who-blew-up-the-relationship-by-schtupping-her-ex, and their unabashed truthtelling putting both on a hot-seat. As important, Kathryn Hahn was on-screen for two minutes.

I point this out because Kathryn Hahn rules your face, whether you know it or not.

But there was too much going on in this week’s episode to give Kathryn Hahn anything more than two minutes. Aaron Sorkin made me sit through the oral surgery that is the relationship gymnastics of The Newsroom for half a show before teasing me with Kathryn Hahn for two minutes, then saying “Yoink!” Aforementioned gymnastics peg to Will and MacKenzie and Sorkin Archetype No. 4, Flustered But Gives-110% Female Wonk (Alison Pill), and Sorkin Archetype No. 3, Proficient But Socially Awkward Earnest Guy (John Gallagher Jr.), fixated on SA4 in spite of her ongoing relationship and because — and this is key — there are no other smart, semi-engaging, less-teenager-y, pretty women anywhere in New York City.

The Will/MacKenzie thing is boilerplate insofar as they “still have feelings” for each other and are snarky bitches about each other’s personal lives with a fervor I can’t begin to care about. For the moment, though, we’re skating around that to appraise McAvoy’s social incompetence — a self-sabotaged almost-moment with a columnist for the network’s sister gossip magazine TMI and some dates so bad they land him in the gossip columns, one of them with Kathryn Hahn. She has a gun in her purse — conspicuous because News Night has just done a story about right-wing noise-holes braying about the Obama anti-gun imperative that does not now and has never existed, in The Newsroom reality or real life.

The Archetypes 3/4 nexus is a bit more involved, so let me give it the measured analysis it deserves:

SA4 is in a tempestuous relationship with Sorkin Archetype No. 5, Smug D-Baggish Pro Who Nevertheless Has Your Back When the Chips Are Down, aka McAvoy’s former producer, Don. SA5 suggests they hook up SA3 and SA4’s hot roommate. SA4 balks at this because she secretly-but-not likes-likes SA3, but the date happens and SA3 reports to SA4 there was no connection. SA5 later tells SA4 that the roommate and SA3 clicked better than was let on, then cooks up a reason for SA4 to call SA3. While they are on the phone, SA5 calls SA4’s roommate’s cell, which emits a distinctive ring in SA4’s earpiece, indicating SA3 and SA4’s roommate are together (having sex, turns out). Manic-verging-on-insane SA4 later denies she is mad about SA3 sleeping with her roommate, only that he “lied about it.”

“Is that not, a little bit . . . a good feeling that it feels weird that I lied to you?” SA3 asks. “And isn’t it, a little bit, a good feeling that my instinct was to lie?”

Okay, first, SA3’s backstory is that he produced MacKenzie’s Afghanistan reporting and at one point suffered a life-threatening injury; yet, after nearly dying attempting to help the world comprehend a martial boondoggle with global ramifications, he can only muster the emotional development of a 14-year-old whose media exposure has been exclusively limited to romcoms. Second, if he said this to anyone other than SA4, I would like to think their immediate response would basically be the sentence I just typed above this one.

We can see Sorkin whittling both romantic arcs toward a Hollywood trope suggesting there is One Person for everyone out there and, when you find them, all idiotic, antisocial, completely unattractive and unconscionable behavior is adorable in the name of that particular Love™. Expecting us to accept this as axiom is insulting enough, but the presumption that anyone might perceive empathetically the crap just issued from SA3’s mouth and not loathe him for it and anyone who wrote his dialogue is basically a knee to the junk.

As for Big Boss Jane Fonda’s looming threat to fire McAvoy, we find out at least some of this pointless angst has a point, i.e. clever pipe-laying for a smear campaign about McAvoy’s personal life emanating from her office. This comes to a head with a story in TMI about his and Kathryn Hahn’s small-arms-highlighted date, a plot wrinkle for which Kathryn Hahn does not reappear. As stony realization of the boss’s chicanery sets in, with Will and MacKenzie at each other’s throats and Archetypes 3 and 4 possibly calling quits on the already-stupid relationship they don’t have . . . it happens.

Sorkin’s retroactive prescience gimmick clunks to life — Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is shot by a gun-nut in Arizona, the news team clicks into gear, all acrimony subsumed by The Work as evocative power-pop underlays the montage. I didn’t make that up.

All the other networks have “called it” for Giffords. Jane Fonda’s son/hatchet man/company president storms in to insist the News Night kids do the same. McAvoy balks. “Every second you’re not current, a thousand people are changing the channel to the guy who is,” the president says, “That’s the business you’re in. Don, tell him.”

“It’s a person,” SA5 says. “A doctor pronounces her dead, not the news.”

He totally Had Their Backs When the Chips Were Down. In the meantime, in the breaking-news afterglow, SA3 and SA4 share a glance across the newsroom.

Gabby Giffords does not die. Close on Emily Mortimer’s now dewy eyes.

I didn’t make any of this up.

New episodes of The Newsroom air Sunday nights at 10/9CT on HBO.
Photos and video: ©2012 Home Box Office, Inc. All Rights Reserved.



  1. omg RIGHT PHILIP? Except I refuse to feel shitty.

    First of all, being someone who’s been professionally slick and personally an idiot MANY times in my life, I totally buy the inability to handle actual human interaction the way these kids handle the news.

    Secondly, I watch Sorkin shows the way my grandparents watched Yiddish theater. Yeah, the scenery gets chewed up (or the carpets get worn down from all that gabbin’ and runnin’) and I know I’m being manipulated, but THAT’S WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR. Me likey. You shutty.

    But we’re in complete agreement that Katherine Hahn rules EVERYONE’s face. All faces are ruled. By her. In aeterna.

    I freakin loved the emotional wallop of the end of this episode! You sir have a heart of stone. Yeah I said it.

  2. Yes, yes, yes, and…yes. And yet I’d still listen to AS’s dialogue over just about anything else on TV, save the Zombie Hour over on AMC. Thanks for making me feel shitty about loving “The Newsroom,” Grimm, you clever devil, you.

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