The Newsroom: Oh Shenandoah
December 8, 2014 6:26 PM - Season 3, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Jim and Maggie fly to Russia to attempt to get seats on Edward Snowden's flight to Havana. Will spends 52 days in jail. Sloan butts heads with Neal's replacement. Don does a pre-interview with a college student who started a website allowing people to anonymously accuse others of rape.

Will's time in jail finds him talking to his cellmate, which is revealed to be the spectre of his dead father. Charlie attempts to hold the newsroom staff together but it all falls apart when Sloan, incensed by the ACNgage app which allows the public to publish the locations of celebrity sightings, lambastes Brit, the app's author, during an on-air interview. The source that Will is protecting fatally shoots herself on the steps of the DOJ, resulting in his release from jail, at which time he learns that Charlie had a heart attack during the argument over Sloan's interview and has died.
posted by axiom (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Say what you will about this show, but I had to burn a Force point to keep from dissolving into a blubbering heap when Charlie collapsed.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:02 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

I thought this episode was incredibly hackneyed and poorly conceived on all fronts, but notably the rape storyline. Knowing that Sorkin removed a writer on his staff from the writing room over her objections to the story explains a lot about how the show ended up as tone-deaf as it was.

Charlie's untimely death at the hands of social media provoked nothing but an eyeroll from me. And I've really liked Maggie's development this season, so it was particularly painful to see her end up with Jim, who's become as insufferable as Will used to be.
posted by gladly at 7:37 PM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

I didn't understand why this episode was called Oh Shenandoah. I knew the song but couldn't see what it had to do with anything that happened (not a mighty river in site). So, I had to google and came upon the AV Club (already here under recaps). It had gone completely over my head. There is also an article in The Atlantic - The Newsroom Tackles Campus Rape, and the Results Are Horrifying.
What a mess.
posted by unliteral at 7:46 PM on December 8, 2014

Well, this is how I hope they wrap everything up next week.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:15 PM on December 8, 2014

While the episode was definitely ham-handed, I'm not sure calling it one of the worst episodes of TV in recent history is at all defensible. I'd rather watch a thousand bad Sorkin scripts than a single episode of CSI or NCIS or CSNI or whatever. They're not even good enough to be worth getting worked up over.
posted by Justinian at 8:20 PM on December 8, 2014 [9 favorites]

Thanks unlitereal. I didn't get the Oh Shenandoah reference either. I read the AV Recap and I still don't get it. What am I missing? Is there more to it than nostalgia for a simpler time? On the bright side, I did better than the NY Times recapper, who missed the fact that Will never actually had a cellmate.

The rape discussion is certainly all too timely and all too problematic. After reading The Atlantic piece, the New Yorker piece, and a bunch of others, I'm conflicted. There were a few moments of quality in there and an awful lot of awfulness. It is absolutely denying the victim's agency for Don to be so clear that she should shut up. At the same time, our recent experiences with Rolling Stone have taught us that trying to work these things out in the media makes everything vastly worse for everyone concerned. Don was sent there to turn her into a freak on a Jerry Springer-like bit of rape-themed television entertainment. On the one hand, setting up that contrived situation is forcing the outcome. On the other hand, wouldn't it be just as much as a circus if the interview was professional? The problem is that this leaves the victim with nothing, because the whole thing is just too inconvenient. Her website-based vigilantism is what she started with; it was dismissed as a horrible idea, but it's all she's left with at the end of the episode too.
posted by zachlipton at 1:29 AM on December 9, 2014

Broadly speaking, Oh Shenandoah is a mournful song about someone having to leave, so there's some relevance to the story.

The Atlantic story sums it up best, that the story tries to portray Old media as intrinsically better than New Media because Reasons, but the end results aren't really that distinguishable, except for what fills the role of gatekeeper to determine what stories get told.

An interesting angle they could have pursued but didn't (in the midst of about 4 separate plot threads crammed into the hour) is how the ACNgage stalker app was used to track celebrities vs. how the rape victim voluntarily put her information on the internet for anyone (in this case Don) to track her down on their own.
posted by cardboard at 7:51 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

A neat little sidenote is that Sloan's interview with her ACN Digital colleague is taken almost word for word from a real interview between Jimmy Kimmel and an editor from Gawker.
posted by jontyjago at 11:50 AM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

Wow, I had somehow missed that real interview with Emily Gould. I find it interesting that Sorkin essentially left her side of it the same, but substantially rewrote the Kimmel side for Sloan Sabbith. I'm sure some of that is just a side effect of having to put the words in a different character's mouth (or rather, a character with a different relationship to the interviewee), but I also think Sloan comes off as more ideologically sound. It's probably because Kimmel and his male guests sort of seem to "pile on" in an argument against Gawker Stalker (which, let's be honest, even the name suggests is sort of gross) in a way that Sloan doesn't seem to do because it's tete-a-tete, and because Kimmel and his male guests all may have ulterior motives for disliking the app whereas Sloan doesn't seem personally threatened by it.
posted by axiom at 12:55 PM on December 9, 2014

Also, yeah, of course everything is going to go to shit at the end. The quixotic ending has been telegraphed for a long time, pretty obviously so. Literal explosions probably not, but we can hope.

The rape plotline didn't seem as cringe-inducing to me as some of the critics made it out to be. I didn't read Don's comments as saying that he actually believed the guy, but rather that we all have an obligation not to assume guilt, no matter the story being proferred by the "innocent." And, internet vigilantism is a bad idea; it's pretty transparently a bad idea as depicted here, even if we can empathize with Mary. It's directly parallel to the bit about the stalker app, because one of the themes of this show is that there ought to be institutions duty-bound to find the truth (in the rape case, the police and the school, in the 'citizen journalism' argument it's ACN and such). I wonder what Sorkin would say about the recent protests if the show were still going 18 months from now.
posted by axiom at 9:44 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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