Last week, Will was pulled from coverage of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks for having called the Tea Party the “American Taliban,” Jim took to the road with the Romney campaign, the better to avoid having to be around a lovey-dovey Don and Maggie, and his replacement, Jerry Dantana, got a hot tip on an illegal Black Op called Genoa. Oh, and Neal
found Bigfoot became intrigued by this somewhat obscure grassroots protest called Occupy Wall Street.
We open with Jim getting Mean Girled by Cameron from the Romney campaign who, after Will’s smartass American Taliban crack, has made it his mission to screw with any reporter from ACN as much as is humanly possible, or at the very least, keep them off the damn buss. Jim is looking a bit tired and bedraggled and he really just wants to be allowed on the bus with the
other kids press. Cameron is enjoying himself too much to let that happen, but then a longhaired lady reporter sticks her head out of the bus and tells him to let Jim on the bus. Cameron complies.
Maggie is sleeping, hobo-like, on a pile of bags in Sloan’s office. She explains to Sloan that she and Don broke up and she is moving back in with her BFF Lisa. Despite Sloan’s stated (well, blurted, really) interest in Don at the end of last season, it is to her credit as a friend that she asks, outraged, if Don kicked Maggie out. Maggie says it was her fault and asks if they can just not talk about it. Sloan is the coolest. She’s heading to the gym. Maggie can come with and use the shower.
Jerry Dantana is in Mac’s office. He wants to talk to her about the tip Cyrus West gave him regarding Black Op Genoa. Mac is deeply skeptical, especially because West turned out to be a turd of a guest last week. Jerry: “I booked a bad guest. How long to you guys give people shit in New York?” Mac: “Ask A-Rod.” Jerry plunges ahead. According to West, a year ago there was an extraction op, just over the border in Pakistan. Two Americans were being held in the village along with some civilians, including women and children. West says U.S. Marines used sarin gas during the extraction. Mac is now even more skeptical. An operation of that size would involve at least 50 people. They all kept the secret? Are they seriously even talking about nerve gas? Jerry wants to know if she’d be taking him seriously if he were Jim. Mac says he doesn’t need to compete with Jim. She just doesn’t want to get sued by the DOD for libel. Jerry wants to be sure Mac knows this shit is real. If it turns out to be true, people will have to resign. Um, duh. Mac: “Jerry, you’re talking about a massive war crime. On the off chance it turns out to be true, people would have to go to prison.”
Will, Now And Then:
Will has summoned Mac to his office, where he is enduring excessive talk of home renovations and walk-in closets from Elliot and Sloan. Will: “I’m really glad you’re here. Elliot and Sloan have been talking about closets for … we’re well into our sixth minute here.” Elliot: “You ever built an extension on your house?” Mac: “Never had a house.” Elliot: “It’s like Vietnam. You can’t get out.” This is how Will feels about the whole conversation. The actual purpose of this meeting is to tell Elliot and Sloan that they will be anchoring the 9/11 anniversary coverage. Elliot thinks it’s bullshit that Will is being benched, but Will says it’s his choice. Mac wants to know why he didn’t tell Sloan and Elliot that it was Charlie’s call. Will bursts out angrily, “IT’S EMBARRASSING.” Mac gets it.
Don comes to Will about a story involving a man named Troy Davis who’s been on death row for 20 years. Davis was convicted of shooting a police officer, and now he is about to be executed. Will thinks he will get clemency. Don thinks not, because of the, you know, whole being a black guy who a shot a cop thing. It seems the case against Davis was largely based on testimony and now 7 of the 9 witnesses have recanted. Of the remaining two witnesses, one is an alternate suspect for the murder. Don’s been covering this guy’s case for years; he’s convinced of his innocence. Don wants Will, with his prosecutorial experience, to shine a light on the story, to show how there was tremendous pressure for a conviction and that may have led to a miscarriage of justice. Will says no. The guy received due process and he was convicted. Don thinks the process was screwed up. Troy Davis had a crappy lawyer the first time and on appeal the burden of proof was much higher. Will says it’s not their job to relitigate the case. Don knows this is messed up, and he knows Will knows this is messed up, and he can’t figure out why Will isn’t willing to go to bat for Troy Davis. Will’s arguments make sense, but you can’t help but wonder if it’s because he doubts himself.
In the control room, a couple of the guys are watching old footage from 9/11. It was Will’s first time at the anchor desk, and he was only there because the attacks made it impossible for the regular anchors to come in. In the clip they are watching, Will’s been reporting for 16 hours. This is the first time he meets Charlie Skinner, who brings him a cup of coffee. Will looks haggard and exhausted. On another monitor, footage of bleeding victims coated in the dust and ash from the fallen towers plays. Charlie tells Will he’s been doing a bit of research on him. He knows that growing up, Will had to protect his mom and brother and sisters from his dad, who was a violent drunk. Will nods. Charlie: “Do it again. I’ve got faith in you.” Will: “Why?” Charlie: “I’m out of options.” The two guys in the control room are mesmerized. It’s a transformative moment. They watch as Will returns to air, but instead of speaking, he just stares into the camera. Then finally, he speaks. He tells the viewers nobody knows anything. They don’t know who attacked or why, or how many are dead, but it’s going to be a lot. He himself doesn’t even know what he’s doing. But he promises that he will be with them all night. He isn’t going anywhere. As the camera pulls back, we see Will in the background, watching his younger self through the glass with an indecipherable expression on his face.
Maggie returns to Sloan’s office to pick up her bags. Sloan wants to know what the hell happened. Maggie explains about the YouTube video (Sloan: “Jim was on a Sex And The City tour bus?”). Don’s already seen the video but Lisa hasn’t. Maggie’s been trying to get the video taken down, but it’s going to take at least five days. As she’s talking with Sloan, Maggie realizes that the poster of the video can be found on Foursquare. As it turns out, she is local and has just checked in to a Laundromat. Quickly calculating the time it will take for the YouTube poster’s unmentionables to be washed and dried, and the distance to the Laundromat, Maggie realizes she can probably make it there. Sloan says she is coming with.
Meanwhile on the campaign trail, Jim gets a call from Maggie. She tells him about the vid. Maggie: “You remember what I said, right?” And the look on Jim’s face is all, um, YEAH. It’s burned into my brain. Instead, he asks her if Lisa has seen it. No. Has Don seen it? Yes. Jim wants to know if they are okay (what is WITH all these selfless friend types?) and Maggie says she’s moving back in with Lisa. Jim feels horrible. He wants to call Don. Jim: “He is a really good guy and I screwed him.” Not like that, obviously. Maggie says don’t worry about it – she’s taking care of it.
The Adventures Of Sloan And Maggie
I would totally watch these two as a crime-fighting duo, by the way. But I digress. They’ve tracked down the poster of the YouTube video (Erica). She is understandably freaked out. Maggie: “No, it’s okay. You don’t have to be scared!” Erica: “Why would you even SAY that?” Valid point. Maggie is just making it weird. Er. The poster wants to know how they found her. She feels ambushed. Maggie: “We haven’t been following you or anything.” Erica: “Why would you say THAT?” You know what? Maybe they wouldn’t be a great crime-fighting duo. Maggie begs the woman to take down the video. Erica, however, wants to know details. Did Maggie and her BFF make up? “Was the guy who jumped off the bus, was that the guy you were talking about?” Did Maggie know he was on the bus? What happened when he ran after her? Maggie really doesn’t want to get into specifics. Sloan has had enough of this nonsense. Sloan: “Why does it even matter, Erica? How far up her ass to you have to crawl before you get it?” Okay, if they were a crime fighting duo, Sloan would totes be bad cop. Erica does not care for Sloan’s tone. Maggie tries to bond with Erica over her Sex And The City fan fiction blog. Erica does not want to take down the video because it links to said blog, and she is getting a ton of hits. Sloan says she has a lot of Twitter followers. A lot. And she will give Erica something to tweet and then she will retweet it and voila, social media magic. Erica wants to know how many followers Sloan has. Nosy little thing, this Erica. Sloan as over 450 thousand followers. Erica: “Are you famous?” Maggie: “She’s very well-known and respected in certain circles.” Erica: “What are you famous for?” Sloan: “Making other people rich.” She tells Erica to tweet about Nigeria as the next supply boom. Erica doesn’t think that’s going to help her blog. Sloan: “Okay. Use my account and tweet this: Check out this blog! Best SATC fanfic ever.” Erica resents the fanfic reference. FINE. “Real life Carrie Bradshaw.” Erica: “Can I say Charlotte?” Whatever! Yes!
Maggie calls Jim. Erica says she needs to be more specific. She wants the deets on the two of them. She just really wants things to get back to normal. Jim says he is normal. Maggie doesn’t think so. He seems lost. Jim: “Look who’s talking?” Hallie, who is working nearby and blatantly eavesdropping, asks why Jim doesn’t want things to be normal. Jim: “I didn’t like normal.”
Maggie, meanwhile, really wants to pitch a story on Africa to Mac. There are mass graves being dug in The Sudan. Christians are attacking Muslims. So far none of these things are enough for Mac to bite. Maggie asks Jerry Dantana how Africa is relevant to Americans. Jerry: “It’s the next place American soldiers are going to go to die.”
At the rundown meeting, we learn that Romney has secured Barry Manilow’s endorsement. Neal’s Occupy Wall Street story is going nowhere – 300 people showed up. Charlie Skinner thinks a live Twitter feed will help to retain an engaged audience during broadcasts. Don is ready to chew off a limb to escape this bullshittery. He is relieved when he’s called from the room, and then returns with the news that he’s received confirmation that Troy Davis’ parole board was lobbied against clemency. It was 3-2 against. Don wants to pressure the swing vote into admitted what happened. He’s ready to expose his identity if he won’t. Except even as he’s ranting, you can see Don realizing that he’s not going to do that. He knows it’s unethical. But he REALLY wants to. Time is running out for Troy Davis.
The Sh*t Hits The Fan
Jim has an awkward Man Conversation with Don in which he tries to apologize for the whole YouTube thing, after which he smooched Maggie. Don is so preoccupied with Troy Davis that it barely registers.
Maggie arrives home to Lisa’s apartment. Lisa offers her a hug and then whispers, chillingly, “You’re so full of shit, Maggie.” Maggie is confused. Lisa has seen the video. As it turns out, Erica decided to blog about her brush with celebrity. Lisa wants to know what happened after Jim got off the bus. Maggie confesses that they kissed. But then she went back to Don and Jim went back to Lisa. Lisa doesn’t want to hear it. Jim took the assignment with the Romney campaign to get away from Maggie and Don. Lisa knows it. She also knows (now) that the reason Maggie pushed Jim and Lisa together is that she thought that’d be a good parking space for Jim. He’d never get serious about someone like Lisa and he’d be safely stashed until Maggie and Don inevitably broke up for good. Lisa is over the friendship, but since neither of them can afford to live alone, she’ll be Maggie’s landlord. That will be the extent of their relationship. Maggie looks gutted after being dished a whole lot of truth about herself and her motives. Lisa leaves to email Jim the video as a break up message. Maggie glances down at the briefing book on Africa she’s brought home with her.
Will is informed that an American who became a radicalized Imam was on the kill list of enemy combatants in a military operation. Will thinks that’s what he gets for acting like an enemy of the state. Mac and Charlie think you can’t be considered an enemy of the state without a trial, which this guy never got. Will doesn’t think it’d be a great idea for him to appear to be defending a terrorist leader, what with all the shit he’s gotten over his American Taliban remark. Charlie wants him to suit up. He pulled him from the 9/11 anniversary coverage because of that particular day. This is different. Will doesn’t see how. While they are debating it, they receive word that Neal’s been arrested.
He was at the Occupy Wall Street protest when cops showed up and started arresting people. They confiscated and destroyed his phone, but he managed to send the footage first. It shows police violently restraining unarmed protesters. Will leaves to bail Neal out.
At the station, Will demands that the arrest of Neal Sampat be voided. He’s pissed off and frustrated over all the things he’s been unable (or unwilling) to confront. Troy Davis. The American Imam. And now this. He shows the officer footage of Neal’s phone being taken and smashed, and then tells him, once again, to void Neal’s arrest.
Maggie has finally found her angle on Africa. National security! The war on terror is shifting there. Mac wants to know what it is with Maggie and Africa. Maggie wants to have an area of expertise. Everyone else has one. She thinks this could be it for her. She’s already done her homework. She really wants to go to Kampala. Mac warns her it is dangerous, but she gives in. Maggie goes to tell Gary the news that they will be heading to Kampala and he tells her he’s just gotten a wire report about a 150 people killed at a protest. In Kampala. Maggie sees her trip flashing before her eyes. She tells Gary that if he’s still up for it and wants to go, he should not show that report to Mac. Gary agrees.
Will is having an after work drink. Mac walks into the bar and pours his drink into his lap. Will: “Use your WORDS.” Mac is mad at him because he’s doing that thing again, where he’s trying to get people not to hate him. It makes him terrible as a journalist. She thinks someone has to investigate the administration’s counter-terrorism policies. Will shushes her as Willie Nelson’s “You Are Always On My Mind” plays in the background. Will: “A hundred covers of this song, nobody sings it like him.” Then he shows her what he’s been working on. Tomorrow night’s copy, which is a demand to see the memorandum authorizing the strike. Mac stares at him as Willie sings.
In the newsroom, Don gets word that Troy Davis has been executed and they break into Elliot’s show with the story. In the bullpen, Sloan congratulates Maggie on getting the gig in Africa. She asks her if she’s called Jim. Maggie says not yet, but pulls out her phone. Her call to Jim goes straight to voicemail, and we see Jim in a bar staring his phone, clearly having rejected the call.
Dantana calls Mac into his office. He has a retired Marine gunnery sergeant named Eric McSweeny on the line. McSweeny affirms that sarin gas was used in Operation Genoa and that civilians were killed. How does he know? He was there.
The closing shot is Will, drinking at Hang Chew’s, watching Elliot report on Troy Davis’ execution. Willie’s still singing “You Are Always On My Mind.”
Nanea Hoffman is the founder of Sweatpants & Coffee.