'The Newsroom' Recap: Occupy Wall Street Gets Real

It's September 2011: Protesters are arrested in Manhattan; human rights groups appeal the death penalty for Troy Davis; a drone strike kills Anwar al-Awlaki and YouTube videos are annoying.
"The Newsroom"

[Spoilers ahead from Sunday's episode, "The Genoa Tip."]

In the debut episode of season two, the News Night crew got their hands on a huge story about a U.S. military operation named Genoa. They ran with it but -- for reasons not yet explained -- they eventually had to retract the story. (The Newsroom's creator, Aaron Sorkin, told THR about the real inspiration behind the plot: It was a 1998 CNN news segment named "Tailwind." Read more about that here.)

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Flash back, as the show does, to more than a year earlier. It's September 2011. Occupy Wall Street is about to become a big deal. A terrorist named Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, has just been killed by a drone strike. And protesters are hoping that the Supreme Court halts the planned execution of convicted murderer Troy Davis over doubts about his case. 

In the newsroom, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is sad that he was pulled off the 9/11 anniversary coverage because he called the Tea Party the "American Taliban." He's later seen alone, sitting on his couch with his laptop, Googling "Will McAvoy Hate" to see what sites appear. 

Meanwhile, ACN's Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.), who volunteered to cover Mitt Romney, has finally been let onto the campaign bus in New Hampshire. Seated with fellow reporters, talk turns to another GOP candidate, Rick Perry, who seems like a contender for the nomination.

In New York, producer Don Keefer (Thomas Sadowski) wants McAvoy to investigate the Troy Davis case because he believes there is reasonable doubt about his guilt. "It's not right for me to relitigate the case," the anchor responds. At a pitch meeting, news division president Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) asks the ACN team to start showing tweets scrolling on screen during the broadcast. The idea isn't popular, but they follow orders.

The nascent Occupy Wall Street movement is still treated like a joke in the newsroom, especially when Neal Sampat (Dev Patel) goes to a meeting that had few attendees. Everything changes when Neal is arrested during a chaotic protest. McAvoy himself goes to the police station and lectures the officer on duty about what constitutes a justified arrest -- tying in mentions of al-Awlaki's killing and the Davis case for good measure. The officer asks if McAvoy is feeling OK. But after seeing the video footage of the arrest -- in which Neal's camera is turned off by a policeman -- the ACN producer is released. 

Turning now to romantic news: Associate producer Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill) is dealing with her prior rant at a Sex and the City bus tour about having fallen for colleague Jim. The delirious confession was posted on YouTube by an onlooker. Maggie, along with anchor Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn), uses Foursquare to find out who posted the clip. They try to convince the woman, a Sex and the City fan fiction writer, to take it down. Sabbith offers to tweet the woman's SATC essays to her 450,000+ Twitter followers. The writer accepts, but ends up not taking the video down. 

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Finally, back to the Genoa story arc.  In the season opener, D.C. ACN producer Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater) brought in a new guest panelist, Cyrus West (Benjamin Koldyke), who annoyed everyone by adding "Period!" to his commentary in every sentence. West makes up for it by offering a tip on Genoa. 

Dantana explains the tip to News Night's Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer). What he tells her: During a black op in Pakistan, the U.S. military dropped Sarin nerve gas from a helicopter on civilians while trying to extract Marines from a hostage situation. McHale is skeptical. "I really don't want to get calls from our [Department of Defense] sources telling us we're pursuing a libelous story," she explains.

By the end of the episode, however, Dantana is able to get a former Marine Corps gunnery sergeant on the phone who is willing to be a source for the story. 

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

Email: Erik.Hayden@thr.com
Twitter: @Erik_Hayden