S1E6, Bullies – Two Words: Terry Crews

Episode six was a real game changer for The Newsroom–things are getting seriously cereal now (that’s a South Park reference for those of you who don’t know). “Bullies” stepped away from focusing on relationships (although that’s still the prevalent secondary theme of the show) and began to discuss live television reporting and the many stresses that come with it in a very real and serious sense. PLUS, Terry Crews is in it. Terry freaking Crews.

I told you! That's the always attractive Olivia Munn poking Terry Crew's rock-solid pectorals. I wouldn't lie.

I told you. That’s the always attractive Olivia Munn poking Terry Crew’s rock-solid pectorals. I wouldn’t lie.

 

Getting back to business, the story in this episode really centers on McAvoy as a leader and coach, something we established he’s seen as to the rest of the newsroom during the previous episode. However, now the audience learns more about the negative side of his “coaching,” and why he acts the way he does plus why he feels the way he feels (about himself and his own actions as well as the actions of others). The episode cleverly reveals things about McAvoy in a reverse fashion, having the action start off with McAvoy being shouted at and questioned by MacKenzie.

We learn that McAvoy is having some on-air problems and stumbles because After being placed in the protection of Terry Crews (I’m not using his character’s name because he’s just that awesome) due to a death threat that he received online, McAvoy visits his psychiatrist to discuss why it is that he can’t get sleep anymore. McAvoy says that all he really wanted was a sleeping pill prescription, but he ends up getting much more than he though he would.

The big new chunks of information that we get include: One, McAvoy and his mother and siblings were abused by a drunken father earlier in life, leading to a lot of the social trust issues he has today, Two, Sloan Sabbith really looks up to McAvoy as a judge, mentor and coach because of the way she interpreted what he said about not allowing people to lie on her airtime (she stated Off The Record information from a friend in Japan about a nuclear reactor pressure level), Three, McAvoy was going to ask MacKenzie to marry him right before she cheated, and Four, Don is FINALLY catching on to Maggie and Jim’s relationship.

When Will sits down in his shrink's office, he doesn't realize just how much he's going to learn about himself--even if there is no immediate change in character or personality.

When Will sits down in his shrink’s office, he doesn’t realize just how much he’s going to learn about himself–even if there is no immediate change in character or personality.

 

McAvoy’s character is developing alongside the rest of the people in the newsroom, and this is a pretty important step in his life. What McAvoy refers to as “something stupid” in this episode (scaring a college girl at a debate a few months earlier) was a pretty huge deal for him at the time, so it’s clear that his opinions and beliefs do change as time goes on. Despite this fact, he never forgets, much like how MacKenzie hasn’t forgotten about how she betrayed McAvoy (and her own future with him in the process) and how Sabbith hasn’t forgotten McAvoy’s words about not lying on this network.

When Skinner and McAvoy come up with a way for Sabbith to save her job  and the honor of the Japanese man she betrayed at the end of the episode, she questions whether or not she should lie on air. After clearly remembering what McAvoy said to the entire team just a little while back, how could she? McAvoy tells her that he wants her to lie so she can stay on the team, and this goes back to what I was saying earlier. These characters aren’t forgetting past and present events, but they’re changing emotionally and socially as they move into the future. These kinds of changes (a rekindling of the romantic relationship between McAvoy and MacKenzie, Sabbith gaining some social skills and helping Don with his relationships problems, etc) are the things that are really making the show what it is right now.

In a Backstage episode recap, the staff remarks that one of the keynote scenes of “Bullies” is “a truly powerful scene, and another example of how ‘The Newsroom’ works best when the cameras in front of the cameras are rolling.” (Backstage Episode Six Recap) The scene they’re referring to involves McAvoy acting on out his instincts to stop people from being bullies for no reason whatsoever (clearly acquired during his time with his abusive father). He argues with a homosexual African American spokesperson for Rick Santorum’s campaign platform about how Mr. Santorum doesn’t believe “his kind” could be successful in a teaching position, for example. The spokesperson eventually cannot put up with McAvoy’s bullying (who doesn’t really know he’s being more of a bully then anyone else at the time) and shuts him down verbally.

This is the kind of camera angle you want to see on The Newsroom. The tension and stress of live television reporting and interviewing.

This is the kind of camera angle you want to see on The Newsroom. The tension and stress of live television reporting and interviewing.

 

Backstage is right in saying that this kind of action is what works best in The Newsroom. Focusing on things that other shows don’t or can’t, things like news reporting, live television journalism and the political side of television networks and stations makes is stand out in a much more prominent way than if it were focusing on the lovey-dovey relationship side of everything. Granted, the audience needs something to be able to connect to, and relationship issues between characters is a very easy way to achieve this. It just helps so greatly to be able to balance the two out in harmony, and this is what I’ve been a heavy supporter of in my past episode reviews.

The final thing that the show is doing a much better job at conveying is how the outside world views McAvoy and the rest of the newsroom. Prior to this episode, we’ve only seen a few characters interact with people outside of the office (the main example being the first time we say McAvoy’s face when he was at a college debate/presentation). The audience has very limited amounts of time to connect with how the fictional audience in the world of The Newsroom reacts to things, so bringing in the internet commentators in this episode was a great way to bridge the gap. Jeff Bercovici says it best in his review of episode six when he writes, “anonymous Internet commenters [are] crawling all over the News Night Web site, agreeing with the angry mosque lady, saying bigoted things about the gay black guy, and threatening to shoot Will… Get off my lawn, Internet commenters!” Regardless of how you feel for the people we’re introduced to (people like Lollypop Lollypop), you have to love that we see their opinions and realities in The Newsroom. 5/5.

 

References:

Newsroom Episode Six Recap, Backstage

Newsroom Recap – Slam Dunk, Jeff Bercovici

About Daniel

Daniel is a graduate of CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, summa cum laude with a B.A. in Film Production and TV/Radio. He can be reached via his website, www.passingplanes.com. The Utopia of Daniel was his college blog and he has since transitioned to posting on other sites.