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'The Newsroom' Recap: Election Night Anxiety

In season two's penultimate episode, the ACN team tries not to make a mistake on the last day of the presidential campaign.

Newsroom Election - H - 2013
HBO

[Spoilers ahead from Sunday's episode, "Election Night Part I"]

Everyone is sad, worried or stressed on Election Day. The specter of fired producer Jerry Dantana hangs over the News Night team. And the nightmare story that he spearheaded -- the incorrect Genoa Sarin gas segment -- is turning into a litigious mess and public relations disaster. 

Meanwhile in the penultimate episode of season two, the Gen. David Petraeus biographer scandal makes an improbable cameo, the ACN news desk calls a congressional race too early and Mackenzie McHale has trouble editing her own Wikipedia page. And surprise: she also gets fired by Will McAvoy over Genoa.

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The firing of Mackenzie is all the more unexpected considering that Leona Lansing, the owner of Atlantis Media Group, refused to accept the resignations of news president Charlie Skinner and anchor Will McAvoy. Charlie, in particular, spent the better part of the episode trying to convince the network higher-ups to let him go. 

Elsewhere in Genoa loose ends, it appears that Jerry -- who didn't appear in the episode -- was apparently smart in how he handled his departure. The D.C. producer sued ACN for wrongful termination, saying he was the scapegoat for an institutional failure. As last week's "Red Team III" episode detailed, Jerry may have had a point despite his willful errors.

Jerry also singled out News Night staffer Don Keefer in a separate complaint for being deemed a "sociopath" to another prospective employer. His complaint is slated to arrive and be publicly picked over by reporters the day after the election, where more dirty laundry about Genoa will be aired. 

But back to Decision 2012. Taylor Warren, the Mitt Romney spokesperson fired from the campaign, is now a Republican strategist for ACN. She can't help express giddy optimism any time a state gets called for Romney. She also annoys Will McAvoy to no end. Fascinatingly, part of the network's Election Night coverage includes a tour through the newsroom and the decision desk, where producers are fed the statistics and data in order to call states. 

Despite being cautious, senior producer Jim Harper makes a mistake -- his handwriting accidentally led to the calling of a Michigan congressional race instead of a Mississippi race. In a decision that seems somewhat out of character, after deliberating with Maggie Jordan, the duo decide to just bury the mistake rather than have Will McAvoy retract the call on the air. 

Sloan Sabbith, meanwhile, is concerned because she didn't really sign a book that was auctioned off in her name for $1,000 for charity. Naturally, she enlists web guru Neal Sampat to track down the person who bought the book (the person isn't found in this episode).

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The News Night team also gets a tip on a hot story. When Maggie Jordan is given opposition research about a candidate who made similar incendiary remarks, Don and Maggie call the campaign for comment. A spokesperson offers info on a much bigger scandal: Gen. Petraeus had an affair with his biographer and will resign. (In reality, the Petraeus affair became public on Nov. 9, 2012, so it remains to be seen if the News Night team will run with the story on Election Night a week earlier.)

As for Mackenzie's firing, she was let go by Will effective at the end of the Election Night broadcast. She seemed to predict the move by the fiery news anchor, noting that McAvoy was like a bomb that hadn't detonated yet. Long before Romney's concession speech or any of the major states get called in the presidential race, however, the episode ends with several unresolved plot points heading into the season finale. 

The Newsroom airs at 10 p.m on Sunday on HBO.