Will apologizes to his viewers for doing terrible, ratings-driven news and promises that from here on out, his show will report facts and be better. He likens this to Richard Clarke's testimony before the 9/11 Commission, because being a ratings-hungry anchorman and being the counter-terrorism advisor when 9/11 happened are totally the same thing. Will's new, fact-based, non-partisan news quickly turns into six months of Tea Party-bashing in the run-up to the midterm election. Will watches good Republican incumbents lose their seats to stupid Tea Partiers in the primaries, exposes the Koch brothers as being the main funders of Tea Party causes, and then watches as Tea Party candidates do very well come election night. So I guess all that public-informing didn't save the world after all.
In the meantime, Jim watches Maggie and Don break up and make up over and over again, stepping in only when Maggie leaves a meeting in mid-panic attack and uses his embedded military knowledge to make it go away in like three seconds. Why bother with Xanax when you have Jim around? MacKenzie has her own issues, as she has to watch Will go out on dates a few times and reacts to this with her now-standard manic weirdness. Then she goes into hiding for most of the episode, resurfacing at the end with a new boyfriend. As for Neal and Sloan, they have very little to do, as usual.
And finally, the day after the election, Charlie is called into a meeting with ACN's parent company, AWN, and the people in charge to discuss News Night's declining ratings and liberal slant. Reese only cares about numbers and demographics. Charlie only cares about quality news and alcohol. Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda!), AWN CEO and Reese's mother, allows Charlie to bicker with Reese and defend News Night for the hour, then informs Charlie that with the Tea Party people now in powerful positions, she can no longer afford to allow one of her employees to antagonize them. She tells Charlie that if he doesn't tone down News Night, she'll fire Will. And then there won't be a News Night for everyone not to watch.
This episode was co-written by Gideon Yago! MTV News' Gideon Yago! Please tell me there's an episode co-written by Sway on deck.
Tonight's episode begins with News Night, which is a change from the other two episodes, where we had to wait an hour to see the only relatively good part of the show. Way to play to your strengths, Sorkin/Yago. Oh, no, wait. It's turns out this isn't a news broadcast at all, but cleverly disguised lecture-speech pretending to be a heartfelt editorial from Will. The show opens with "Richard Clark" testifying before the 9/11 Commission and apologizing for failing the victims of 9/11 and their families. I'm sorry, but how did Dick Clark fail anyone on 9/11? He just counts down the ball drop on New Year's Eve. Oh, hold on a second. I believe that's Richard Clarke we're watching right now, who was the counter-terrorism advisor to the Bush government when 9/11 happened. That makes much more sense. You know what doesn't make sense? That this show got the spelling of his name wrong. That's just inexcusable. You can use your 60 minutes of airtime to lecture your audience on what a quality newscast should be or you can misspell the names of fairly prominent people, but you can't do both.
Anyway, the Clark(e) clip is from a 2004 hearing about events that happened in 2001, so what's it doing on a news show that takes place in 2010 but is airing in 2012? Well, Will is using it to demonstrate his point: "adults should hold themselves accountable for failure." Yes, that's right: he's saying that trying to get ratings for a basic cable news show is a failure akin to failing to prevent the worst terrorist act on American soil that killed almost 3,000 people. Just so you know what level of douchiness we're in for this week.
As Will talks and talks, we see him sitting down with a pad of paper, a pen, a beer, and a cigarette and writing the first draft of this speech out. Will says he is only apologizing for himself and not anyone else on ACN or any other news channel. Just for his own "trainwreck of failures." I hope he means last night's show, because that certainly was a trainwreck of failures. I'm not sure how any of his other shows qualify, though. Will says he is the "leader" of an industry that has "miscalled election results" (as opposed to those awesome newsmen in the late '40s, who totally rocked the Truman-Dewey election results), "hyped up terrorist scares" (again, that is definitely not isolated to our modern times), "ginned up controversy" (whatever), and "failed to report on tectonic shifts in our country" (I fell asleep).