So finally after being teased since the very first episode of the season, we discover the whole story behind the Genoa disaster. What was the step the News Night team shouldn’t have taken? And who took it?
March 2012. The Red Team is having its first meeting about the Genoa operation. Jerry, Mackenzie, Neal and Maggie (who is still blond at that time) explain the whole story to Don, Jim and Sloan who were still unaware of all this. Charlie is there too but he remains silent.
None of the new members of the Red Team believes the story. It appears a little like a duel between Jerry and Jim both defending their side. Jerry is eager to defend this news explaining they have all the facts to prove it happens. While Jim can’t imagine US doing such a thing, he even points out that US army never used Sarin Gas during some of the worst previous US wars. “It was before 9/11. We torture people now.” Jerry simply answers. Because Mackenzie said that when she heard of it the first time it was as absurd as Santa Claus, Sloan decides to name all Santa Claus’ reindeer. And the scene becomes sort of cute when Don follows her in the list just to think of something else while he digests the whole news.
Still shocked, Jim asks Charlie to be the voice of reason but unfortunately Charlie stands on the “Genoa-believer”. He even decides to be the one who will interview one of the former Marine: the General Stanislaus Stomtonovich. Maybe that was the step they should have avoided as this the general is the one Maggie claimed never said “It happened,” while at the same time Jerry says he did say “it happened.”
Charlie and Mackenzie drive out to Stomtonovich’s house in Maryland (where Mac hit garbage cans with the car) to get the final confirmation. The General confirms that the U.S. still has chemical weapons. Finally Charlie comes right out and says, “We know about Genoa.” Stomtonovich confirms Genoa and accepts to testify with some conditions including black out his face and alter his voice.
Later Mackenzie meets Don at the bar and pops out THE question of the episode and maybe of the whole Genoa story “Do you fully trust Jerry Dantana?” “He’s not Jim.” Don continues to prevent Mackenzie from running the story and tells her she has to consider not running it. Meanwhile in another bar, Maggie is still facing her alcohol problem. She is quite acquainted to the bartender who knows her drink. Unfortunately, she runs into Jim and Hallie (the girl from the Romney’s bus) and oh surprise: they’re dating! As you can imagine it doesn’t help Maggie to drink less tonight. So was this meeting the reason why Genoa covering went wrong? Once Hallie leaves for a work emergency, Jim tells Maggie to be careful when she is drinking as tomorrow she has will accompany Jerry for the General interview. And we already had a hint of the consequence her alcohol consumption can have on her job in a previous episode.
Mac’s suspicions about Jerry are true! The first problem during the General’s interview is Maggie. Tired and obviously hangover, this is the moment when Maggie was supposed to hear the General saying “it happened” but considering her state she appears confused. Stomtonovich doesn’t want her to be in room during his interview. So Jerry is all by himself facing a General giving the interview a sort of O.J Simpson treatment. He never confirms Genoa; he never says “we used sarin gas.” Instead, he says, “if we used sarin, here’s how we used sarin.” Jerry decides to doctor the tape so Stomtonovich says what Jerry needs him to say.
During the second Red Team meeting, they’re listening to the tape in which the General is now saying “We used sarin gas and here’s how we used sarin.”
Charlie is quite skeptical about this tape. When meeting with Stomtonovich, the General didn’t even remember he had spoken to him and Mackenzie on the phone. Jerry defends his case by saying he wasn’t shaky. Charlie wants to interview another witness but Jerry is pushing hard. Actually, we discover his judgment is quite clouded. “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 has quite an issue with the Obama administration: the use of drones, wire-tapping, detentions and prosecuting whistle-blowers.
The episode ends with an important development. Lance Corporal Herman Valenzuela, one of the members of the possible extracted marines, is in fact alive and he calls the newsroom. He couldn’t be interviewed earlier as they believed he was dead.
Back to the present Rebecca Halliday is questioning Charlie “How’d you get that wrong?” Charlie explains they were two man of the same name with the same military rank and the other one was killed in action. It’s after a conversation with Valenzuela that Charlie gave the green light for covering the Genoa story. “We had a story that the U.S. used sarin gas on a village in Pakistan and we went. Anybody would have. Most people would have gone months earlier. To not go would have been to participate in the biggest cover-up since…these were war crimes.” But we all know it was a wrong idea.
They learned that they ran a special report at 9 p.m. on a Sunday but “by 10:05 I knew we had a problem….None of it was true.”
The whole episode is just the beginning of the Genoa disaster. Will is not aware of the story but we already know his judgment is compromised. During a little scene Nina points out he looks like the “sacrificial lamb” and that he is obsessed with his audience. So we know his current state of mind may lead him to take a bad decision. So is Will the one who took the final “deadly” step for the team? Or was there something else?
The answer: next week with the Newsroom’s episode 7