Finally, Operation Genoa is brought to light when Will McAvoy tells 5.8 million viewers that the United States military used sarin gas on civilians in Pakistan. Last week, Jerry Dantana altered raw footage in order to solidify the story. This week it’s revealed that the meetings with lawyers that have laced the entire season together so far are depositions for Jerry’s wrongful termination lawsuit—not a libel suit. So instead of taking the expected turn and discussing the ethical dilemma ACN found itself in, Aaron Sorkin takes us down the road of institutional failure.
Don starts the episode off by Sorkining back and forth with head lawyer Rebecca Halliday—surrounded by a team of lawyers who occasionally deliver a smirk but don’t do much else. Don stands his ground, claiming the report did not air because of institutional failure, but only because Jerry altered the tape. It’s an easy argument to buy into because Don seems to be right most of the time, and we watched Jerry do the deed. Unfortunately for Don, it wasn’t just General Stomtonovich’s altered tape that undid the story.
Turns out Charlie’s “deep throat” source is an angry father whose son killed himself after he was fired from ACN. Did not see that coming. It’s a strange storyline that seems like a bit of a stretch, but it illustrates the wide reach that a large news corporation like ACN has.
Mac second-guesses her pre-interview with Valenzuela. After reading it over and over, she discovers that she led him the entire interview. As she tells Will, there wasn’t a single new fact in his interview. She used all the information she already had and the story that she already believed to form her questions.
ACN’s chain of command failed. There were doubters in the newsroom, and they had expressed their opinions. Don even sided with Jim. That should have been a sign to everyone in the room that something was wrong. Causing riots in the Middle East and even affecting the outcome of the presidential election were causes for concern, but Charlie, Will and Mac all believed the story, and that’s all that mattered.
Ultimately the basketball game that was visible in Stomtonovich’s interview and the shot clock of that game are what did Jerry in. The shot clock skips back and forth where Jerry manipulated the video. Mac takes the entire episode to figure it out, even though she and Will had a lengthy conversation about game clocks in the first 10 minutes. So Will goes on air that night and retracts the entire story of Operation Genoa. Meanwhile, it’s Sept. 11, 2012 and News Night runs the exact same story as everyone else about the terrorist attack in Benghazi. Because of their failures on one story, they failed to tell another very true story.
Enter Leona Lansing. Apparently inebriated and feeling compassionate, she rejects the resignations of Charlie, Will and Mac. She dramatically admits that she kinda-sorta likes News Night. The rally cap is flipped, and Leona tells the trio to go back out, report the news and gain back the public’s trust. It’s a task that a large news corporation can complete very easily; they just need the right story. If only there were a royal baby on the way.