The pieces of the Operation Genoa puzzle finally come together, only to fall apart as soon as News Night runs the story. Still, robbed of the suspense that Will will go on air with (false) allegations that the U.S. used sarin gas on civilians, this season has teased its viewers otherwise, by hinting how the ACN team got a story so big so wrong. This episode – titled "One Step Too Many" – showed us the one step too many Jerry Dantana took in the name of bringing the Genoa story to light.
With its initial "Red Team Meeting," "The Newsroom" recaps all the important Genoa revelations its characters have uncovered over the course of the season: the tip, the tweets, the NGO report, the manifest.
To get final confirmation, Charlie and Mac travel to the D.C. suburbs (where Mac crashes into some garbage cans — Ha! Girls can't drive!) to interview a retired general the team believes has the knowledge to validate the story and the motive to do so.
General Stomtonovich does confirm Genoa, but with some red flags: he appears to be losing it, mistaking the bespoken New York journalists for Jehovah's Witnesses.
This episode raises another red flag, with Mac repeatedly doubting Jerry's trustworthiness – though it's never really explained why. Nevertheless, his involvement – crucial to the development of the Genoa story – recalls the serendipitous circumstances that put him in the newsroom in the first place, as emphasized in this season's first episode.
Her suspicions, sadly, prove true. When Jerry gets to the general's house to film the interview, Stomtonovich gives Genoa the O.J. Simpson treatment with the old, "If we did it, here's how we would do it." The general never flat out confirms Genoa, so Jerry doctors the tape to make it sound like he does.
"We have a moral imperative to question the flagrant disregard with which the president and the national security establishment treat the Constitution and international laws," Jerry tells the team, in one of many speeches that groups Genoa with other controversial policies – torture, drone strikes, wiretapping – the government has enacted. His good intentions aside, Jerry's judgement is clouded.
"What your problem is is that you like him. You like this president. You trust him, 'Go ahead we trust you,'" Jerry says when the rest of the team is still skeptical of the story. He has a point, but, like Maggie's slut speech last week, it's undercut by his less than upstanding character.
Speaking of Maggie, this episode revealed her role in the matter and why she became a subject of lawyer Rebecca Halliday's interrogation. On her way out of Stomtonovich's room – he insists on conducting the interview alone with Jerry – she hears him say, "It happened," when Jerry asks him if he is going to confirm Genoa.
But unfortunately – for ACN's lawyers and for anyone hoping "The Newsroom" was getting over its misogyny – Rebecca was asking Maggie the wrong questions by grilling her on Africa.
Viewers – myself included – have been confused by the timeline of events in Maggie's life, specifically that God awful haircut, which by now we know didn't happen in the immediate aftermath of the Africa trip. Some even jokingly predicted that Maggie would cut her hair out of anguish over Hallie and Jim, not poor little Daniel.
When Maggie hears, "It happened," she looks tired and hungover, presumably from getting drunk and going home with a random dude the night before. Though "The Newsroom" suggest Maggie's "slutty" behavior is a byproduct from Africa – itself a troublesome argument – this time specifically, it's the revelation that Hallie and Jim are dating (Maggie was somehow oblivious to their multi-month relationship despite Jim and Hallie's Skype chats in the office).
Will's involvement in the Genoa story is still not clear. At this point, still out of the loop, he looks like the "sacrificial lamb" Nina describes him to be. Though the death of his father hasn't appeared to have affected his news judgement – as I predicted last week – it has taken his obsession with his audience to a new level. Will wisens up thanks to the counsel of Sloan, this season's MVP, and dumps Nina in the process. He may be smarting over his embarrassing appearance on a morning show, but with the Genoa story, Will is about to have much bigger problems.