The Newsroom (HBO) tonight began the episode One Step Too Many with the reporters of the newsroom gathered together in a conference room talking about 2 kidnapped U.S. marines who might be “sold” to al Qaeda.
It’s the first Red Room meeting of the episode. Sarin gas is also talked about, and the possibility that the U.S. used it on the town of Genoa. We know from the beginning that the story’s wrong — assuming you know about what actually happened — and that this episode is about where the News Night team went wrong with Genoa.
Mackenzie provides background information to the rest of the news team. She mentions retired Air Force Captain Cyrus West, and that on August 24 of last year he was a guest on the panel about drones. He now teaches at the Maxwell School.
Captain West gave Jerry a tip about Genoa and the U.S. use of sarin gas on it. Jerry then explains that in March 2009, two marines were separated from their unit in Hindu Kush. They were captured and taken across the border into Pakistan and in a matter of a few hours they were going to be sold to al Qaeda and publicly beheaded.
The Red Room meeting has Don, Jim, Sloan on one side of the table and Jerry, Mackenzie, Neal and Maggie are on the other side. Charlie is also there, but doesn’t throw in his two cents’ worth — yet. This episode is set in March 2012.
They discuss several related topics, and maybe “putting boots on the ground” as in other reporters, to try to get enough corroborating witnesses to be able to report the story about the U.S. dropping sarin gas on a small village.
Jerry points out that there are three sources so far. The fourth comes from a humanitarian report from Leon Deet, who was in the region working for a non-governmental organization and traveled to the extraction site due to verbal reports of a mass grave.
Charlie then adds that there’s a fifth source, and that source five is a confidential source who confirmed the story and provided a copy of the munitions manifest and includes MX76, which Charlie points out doesn’t exist. He believes it’s an euphemism for sarin gas.
Mackenzie said they’ve purposefully kept a number of people out of the loop, including Will, so they could have a fresh perspective on the situation. “Any questions?” she asks.
Then, after a long pause, Jim is the first to ask the obvious one: “Sarin gas?” Mackenzie said she didn’t believe it at first either. Then, she launches into a sort of convoluted comparison between the idea that the U.S. used sarin gas and that they have witnesses to Santa and his reindeer.
She says she saw eight reindeer take flight. Jim says that nobody saw reindeer take flight, they just talked to people who say they saw reindeer.
We are left pondering who was it that took the “One step too many” of the title. It could refer to the United Sates, if we had actually used sarin gas on Genoa; or, if characters in the episode are being referred to, the title could refer to Jim, warning Maggie to be careful she promptly ignores this warning).
It’s possible that the title might refer, instead, to Maggie, who knew she had to go home early, but didn’t, or possibly to both Jerry and Mackenzie. If so, maybe it’s because Mackenzie knew she shouldn’t trust Jerry, but went along with him, anyway.
Will MacAvoy talks in a newscast about the “Do Nothing Congress.” He mentions the many things that the 112th congress ought to be doing, but says instead they’re concerned with things like making “In God We Trust” an official motto — which it already is, like that makes much of a difference to members of congress.
Charlie runs his car into a general’s garbage cans. Charlie and the lady he’s with want to ask the general how chemical weapons are stored, among other things, The general invites them into his house, and they discuss the whole timeline, and “Chemical weapons are like any other weapons, they’re used to kill the enemy,” the general says. Also, he adds “Missed free throws is what kills you,” as he’s watching the NCAA March Madness tournament.
Charlie tells him: “We know about Genoa,” referring to the sarin gas incident. He wants the general to confirm that it happened.
The general says “Here are my conditions. You black out my face, you alter my voice.”
He doesn’t want to miss any of the basketball games, though.
Then, we see Will talking about political candidates, and in particular, Rick Santorum, and about their religious believes. He mentions Santorum’s remarks in 2008 about evolution, and that “there’s a lot of problems” with it.
He raises the point about if we should be able to ask candidates about their religious beliefs, or not. A lady tells the main character that talking about subjects like religion makes him seem “combative.”
We see some of the cast members on a double-date, and they talk about things like Mitt Romney’s horse, and compare it to Ronald Reagan’s horse.
The year is 2012–Romney is running against Obama.
After a subplot where some of the newsroom reporters go on a double date, we see Will being interviewed on a morning news show on TV and he’s asked to throw free throws for cancer research. It doesn’t go very well for him.
He tells his girlfriend (jokingly) he has to break up with her for suggesting that he does things like appearing on morning talk shows to increase his personality likability ratings.
Then, we see the general being interviewed, and discussing Operation Genoa. He says: “Exceptional measures were called for.”
“Did we use sarin gas?” a reporter asked him.
“If we used sarin, here’ how we used it.” He mentions a stockpile of it that we have in Tokyo.
At the Second Red Room Meeting, they hear an edited version of the general. where the words “If” are omitted. The version they hear leaves out the some of the words the general mentions.
Charlie wants at least one more witness, not trusting the general’s words, alone, One of the reporters, who is very anti-Obama, gets fired up, and tries to convince Charlie to run with the story.
We see a reporter tell Charlie that “Valenzuela’s on the phone.” Another reporter says he died, didn’t he? But, there were two Valenzuelas. Charlie says that they sat on the story much longer than anyone else would have done. They have supposedly reliable witnesses, but, he relates an instance when a similar thing happened, and the episode concludes with him saying: “By 10:06, I knew we had a problem,” Charlie says. “None of it was true.”
This was a pretty interesting episode. The whole mess about Operation Genoa will also be at least part of next episode’s storyline. The episode brings up lots of controversial points, and the question of exactly how many sources a reporter should have before writing an article or reporting on it.
Usually, three sources are considered to be enough — but, this episode points out that there can be times when you can have four, five, or more sources, and what you’re reporting on could still be not true.
The Newsroom One Step Too Many episode was one I really liked, though the reindeer analogy was perhaps a bit too “cute” to be used. It works, though; I’ll say that about it; perhaps the writers wanted to make sure that the comparison was one which would be readily understood by viewers of the episode.
Written by: Douglas Cobb