Well, we got a New Year's Party, some fun chit chat, some more Tea Party jousting, and a little bit of ramp-up tonight, friends.

But more importantly, I'd like to announce that Aaron Sorkin is back on his game. This episode ranks right up there with the most glorious moments of The West Wing, and the last ten minutes are an example of the best television can be.

I'm so thankful for this episode.

Let's begin.

THE SHORT VERSION: Don gets trashed at New Year's and we learn he's not a total d-bag when drunk; he pushes Maggie to set Jim up with her roommate, which has all sorts of subtext attached to it. Will chats up a hot reporter named Nina from gossip show TMI (really?), and instead of bedding her, he insults her job, and gets a drink chucked in his face, which gets spun into him being a total horndog in the press somehow. Mac does the same thing to him at the beginning of the roundup meeting the next day, on a dare from the staff. Oh, and Neal believes in Bigfoot.

Charlie tells Will that he's dating all wrong, so he takes out this hyper-effective liberal woman named Carrie, who has a gun in her purse (played by the excellent Kathryn Hahn, maybe the best part of the best season of Parks and Recreation) and is a fix-up via Sloan. So, okay...Will dismantles the Tea Party's attack on the Obama administration's gun control policies by pointing out that, as of winter 2011, the administration sort of had no policy and the Tea Party was fearmongering. Anyway, there's a gun in this woman's purse and it becomes a whole conversation, and then he disarms her and she finds it hot. And they smoke some pot. And Will tells Sloan that her matchmaking abilities suck.

Will dates another woman, who likes reality TV a little too much. Will insults her and we find out she's a senator and then she throws a drink at him. So, that keeps happening. Will then, as part of a "stories in 2010 we didn't pay enough attention to" campaign, dismantles the Tea Party's assertion that Obama's trip to India cost $200 Million/day. Oh, and Jim and the roommate continue to date, despite him lying to Maggie and saying it's not going anywhere. Don proves it to her, which just makes him look like an ass. Then we get a montage of Will staring into the distance. And Charlie calls Will in to chat on a Saturday...

Will winds up on the cover of a gossip magazine, because Carrie went public with the whole date. And Will points out that this is part of a Tea Party attack on him, and Charlie informs him that it's Leona Lansing teaching him a lesson, because ACN owns TMI..so this whole thing has been a Machiavellian plot. Will's also got a non-compete clause in his contract, meaning if he gets fired, he's off TV for three years. Turns out, this clause got added when he renegotiated to have the ability to fire Mac. And Maggie and Jim argue about lying in a spectacular and unprofessional fashion in front of everyone.

Everything comes to a head, and then we realize this is the day of the Gabrielle GIffords shooting in Tuscon, and some Coldplay comes on as the gang, in the office to discuss trivial matters, goes into action. And everything trivial--gossip, who's screwing who, manipulation, Bigfoot--all goes out the window as we see our team transform into the hyper-capable newsmen and women they've become. Don almost makes the wrong call--along with almost every other network--and preps to announce her death. Mac and Will fight it, and Reese comes down to yell at him--and Don stands up to Reese. I love it when the bad boys make good.

Maggie gets the anesthesiologist on the line and confirms she's alive--and the team goes with it. And Will and Charlie rally, Mac apologizes to Will for screwing everything up, and the team comes back from commercial to inform the world, before anyone else, that Giffords is alive. And Will roars to life, ready to take on Leona, and anything she can throw at him, armed with the truth and the altruistic talents of the people he works with.

THOUGHTS: This episode is among the best things Sorkin's ever written. It's that good. I can't remember the last time TV put my heart in my throat like this. I know I've taken my shots at The Newsroom, but if this is the story he wants to tell--the power of truth versus lies, with a team of superheroic journalists at the edge of the storm--then sign me up, for the long haul. This is way better than the soap opera the first few episodes threatened to be. And finally--the "real world of 2011" news angle paid off. I remember that Saturday in January, celebrating my twenty-ninth birthday as the grim news came out of Tuscon. It felt like the world had lost its mind. And here, Sorkin spins a story out of that awful experience into a series of heart-stopping moments that both ripped me right back there and made me cheer with the News Night team. God help me, this cast finally clicked. I love these people, and I want them to win.

Game on, Mr. Sorkin. I'm going to catch my breath and then watch it again. I advise all of you to do the same.
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