'The Newsroom' Season 2 finale: 'Election Night' isn't the biggest story at ACN

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"ACN is able to project Mitt Romney will win the great state of Kansas ... "

Anchorman Will McAvoy ( Jeff Daniels) and his cable news network were right in the thick of the action as "Election Night, Part II," the Aaron Sorkin-written finale of Season 2 of HBO's "The Newsroom," began Sunday (Sept. 15). And as with the previous week's "Part I," there was just as much activity off-camera.

Don ( Thomas Sadoski) was working to nail down the tip he'd gotten that Gen. David Petraeus was about to resign. Charlie ( Sam Waterston) was debating whether to go with that or with the story about a congressman that had yielded the Petraeus tip, as an intended trade-off.

Don lobbied strongly for the Petraeus story, which ACN would run before anyone else and which he believed would "earn us back some credibility and goodwill" in the wake of the Operation Genoa debacle. In the end, Charlie decided, "We'll report Petraeus is resigning when Petraeus resigns."

In the studio, Will handed off the coverage to the Washington, D.C., bureau -- meaning a relatively sizable break for the New York team. When analyst-for-the-night Taylor ( Constance Zimmer) asked Will how he was doing, he replied that several groups had submitted heavily signed petitions demanding Will and Charlie's firings post-Genoa.

"I'm concerned this is finally what's going to kill Charlie Skinner," Will noted.

Taylor came back with the information that she was setting up a media-consulting firm -- and with the even more surprising information that she wanted to hire Jim ( John Gallagher Jr.), her nemesis on the Romney campaign trail. Taylor indicated she knew that ACN's senior staff was resigning, setting Will on a warpath.

As their video chats continued, Hallie ( Grace Gummer) advised Jim to retract the too-early call he'd inadvertently caused to be made in one political race -- then she went back to the matter of Maggie's ( Alison Pill) new hairstyle. "I think she cut her own hair," she deduced. "That's alarming."

The senior staff was brought together in the studio by Will, with Sloan ( Olivia Munn) recounting the story of the book she didn't actually sign for an auction, but which went for $1,000 anyway. Once all the related parties were present, Will informed them why he, Charlie and Mac ( Emily Mortimer) were trying to resign -- and why the others shouldn't.

But they didn't accept that. "If Leona ( Jane Fonda) accepts your resignations, we're resigning, too ... everyone who was involved with Genoa," Jim said. "We gave you a bad story," Don agreed, underscoring to Will why the blame and the penalty should be shared, as Mac listened in from the control room.

Sloan then told Will she felt insulted, as her colleagues likely did, that he apparently felt they wouldn't stand behind him and Charlie and Mac.

At the Election Night viewing party upstairs, Charlie approached an admittedly "high" Leona about accepting the resignations without filing a lawsuit. He even called in the fact that her son Reese ( Chris Messina) agreed with him, to which Leona informed a surprised Charlie, "I'm letting him make the decision."

As Leona rambled on, she did make one point clear to Charlie: "I want to see how Reese handles this." And Charlie accepted that, telling her, "I'm relieved. Enjoy the party."

But he didn't leave without incident, crashing into a waitress ... who turned out to be Lisa ( Kelen Coleman), former friend and roommate of Maggie, and ex-girlfriend of Jim. As Charlie left, she asked him not to tell Jim she was working the party.

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With the coverage picked back up by the New York bureau, Charlie passed Will a note informing him that Reese was making the decision on whether to OK their resignations. And in the newsroom, an increasingly anxious Jim saw the margin of votes in the called-too-soon race getting ever closer.

He had good reason for jitters: A pollster phoned, wondering why ACN had called the winner of that contest when no one else had. "Do I send my guy out to make a victory speech?," the pollster asked, eventually deciding she would wait for someone else to declare her candidate the winner.

Things got more complicated when Neal ( Dev Patel) showed Jim a cell-phone photo of Charlie's party accident -- with Jim immediately recognizing Lisa, and Maggie recommending that he go and "patch things up" with her.

During another break, Will ordered fellow anchor Elliot Hirsch ( David Harbour) into his seat and then left the studio. Mac made a similar move in the control room, telling Don to take over. And Will and Mac then met in the makeup room.

Though he had fired her, he asked, "You want your job back?" She chuckled and said, "I don't think it'll make that much difference now." Mac then started a recap of their checkered romance, explaining, "I'd never been in a relationship as serious as us."

When she noted he had bought her a ring, he told her, "It was a practical joke." It was an expensive one, since the ring had been purchased at Tiffany's, and he said he'd returned it. Mac commanded Will to move to the other side of the makeup room, telling him that "there is a reasonable chance that I'm going to hit you, and I don't want you to have a bloody lip when we come back from commercial."

He moved, she affirmed that she never would have hurt him intentionally, and he apologized. And she left the room and went back to business.

Neal confirmed for Sloan the person who had purchased her book: Sidney Falco. Who was not a real person, but Tony Curtis' publicist character in the classic movie "Sweet Smell of Success," one of several aliases used by the auction bidders.

Don told lawyer Rebecca ( Marcia Gay Harden) he was going to fight back against fired producer Jerry Dantana's lawsuit, claiming "infliction of emotional distress" over Dantana's editing of a key interview in the Genoa investigation. "He doctored the tape, and he gets to sue us?" Don asked.

As Jim entered the viewing party, Lisa was none too pleased to see him. Her catering boss overheard their somewhat tense chat and asked if there was a problem, "because you're speaking rudely to a guest." Jim got her off the hook, then trailed her through the crowd and continued the conversation as she tried to serve actual guests.

When she claimed she wasn't smart enough for Jim, he told her, "There is no one that you're not good enough for, and there is hardly anyone who's good enough for you. Including, it turned out, me." And then, asking if she knew whether Maggie cut her own hair, he urged Lisa to befriend her again.

Mac had a showdown via satellite with Washington anchor Jane Barrow ( Salli Richardson-Whitfield), who took shots at her over Genoa -- to which Mac reminded her, "It was a D.C. producer [Dantana] who committed journalistic malpractice. And if I were you, I'd be going through every story he ever produced for you frame-by-frame to find what else he's cooked along the way."

Projections of winners continued in the studio, with such names as Nevada Sen. Harry Reid and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie invoked. As Taylor and Will started to get testy with each other over "News Night's" treatment of individual political parties, Neal continued his effort to get Mac's erroneous Wikipedia entry changed, with a hoped-for assist from Jim.

Don asked Mac if there was anything that would convince her the Genoa controversy wasn't her fault, but she stayed all-business. A few minutes later, though, she suddenly told him, "No. There's nothing that will convince me."

Jim enlisted Hallie as an outside source in posting to Wikipedia an article indicating Mac went to Cambridge and not Oxford, so that Mac's entry finally would be corrected. And, ruminating on where he might have made a mistake with Lisa, Jim asked Hallie if he ever made her feel dumb. Her reply? "You're not smart enough to make me feel like I'm dumb."

In Don's office, Sloan noticed a poster for "Sweet Smell of Success" and realized who had bought the book she supposedly signed. She followed Don into the control room, where she made sure he got the real deal by picking up a book, autographing it and handing it to him ... simultaneously giving him a deep kiss.

At 11:14 p.m. ET, Will reported Barack Obama "will be living in government housing for the next four years," calling the presidential race as the network switched to the victory celebration in Chicago.

And at that moment in the newsroom, Jim asked Maggie, "Why did you cut your hair?" She explained it was because of the African youngster who had been fascinated with her blonde hair and was killed later. Jim tried to help her past her devastation over the child's death, but she told him, 'There's a difference between being tough and wanting to be." And he responded, "You are."

She then recalled the first time she ever noticed Jim, when he in turn noticed something no one else in the newsroom saw. He turned the subject back to the African youth, and Maggie said, "He's dead and I'm alive." And Jim remarked, "That's what I'd keep in mind."

On the air after midnight, Taylor pointedly asked Will who he'd voted for. "You know I'm not answering that," he said, while allowing that he had identified himself previously as a Republican in his commentary that ended with his famously labeling the Tea Party "the American Taliban."

Will then checked off -- with no small measure of sarcasm -- what he felt were the requirements for being a Republican now, ending with, "I have to hate Democrats." And as Sloan tried to jump in, Will cut her off by throwing it back to Washington. "Are you doing it on purpose now?" she asked him. "No," he maintained. "It's just working out unbelievably well."

Charlie recounted to Will the reason ACN didn't break the Petraeus story that night ... and when he pointed out how quickly Don had backed down on it, Charlie stated, "I'm not resigning. And neither are you. We'll get the audience's trust back."

As Charlie kept talking, Will seemed to have checked out. He opened his locked desk drawer, pulled out what appeared to be a ring box, and went running through the ACN hallways. He frantically asked others where Mac was, then heard, "I'm right here." And there she was, seated on the Election Night set.

As he told her an anecdote about the simple way a doctor prescribed someone else's happiness, Will showed Mac the ring he still had after all. And told her, "I'm in love with you." And he stammered through a marriage proposal, adding, 'There is no chance I'm ever going hurt you again. And no matter what you say, I'm going to be in love with you for the rest of my life:"

"Yes. I'm saying yes," she told him. "Thank God," he said, pulling her into a warm and passionate kiss -- with just enough space for her to add, "It took you long enough." (From "Mac McHale" to "Mac McAvoy?" Hmm.)

And Reese's decision on the resignations? "I've reached the conclusion that the news division handled Genoa as well as I'd want it handled," he informed Charlie. "Furthermore, this company will give Dantana money when a federal judge orders us to do so. And furthermore after that, I don't take my instructions from a petition."

Reese wasn't happy that Charlie already had decided not to resign, thus denying him the chance to take "the high road." And as the bickering that also involved Rebecca continued, Leona declared, "You're all idiots."

Will then re-entered the newsroom with Mac, also stating that no one was resigning ... and announcing his and Mac's engagement, to a round of hearty applause and champagne corks popping. And Eddie Vedder's cover of Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door" on the soundtrack.

Will that door stay open for Will and Mac's new status? The Emmy-nominated Daniels has tweeted "The Newsroom" Season 3 is a "go," and Sadoski has reinforced it -- but as of the moment the Season 2 finale ended, the official word from HBO still awaits.
Photo/Video credit: HBO