It's starting to get serious.
In the third episode of the second season, the show thankfully revisited some of the themes and tone of the first season. Right off the bat, we see Will McAvoy in his broadcast chair, lambasting Michelle Bachmann, Hermain Cain, Rick Santorem, and Mitt Romney for refusing to stand up for a gay front-line soldier who asked a YouTube question during a presidential debate, and was subsequently booed by the GOP audience. (This was a real-life news event; the soldier was Stephen Hill). Here's where the best line of the show came: "How many different kinds of disgusting do you have to be to boo a man who volunteered to fight and die for you?"
After the broadcast, Mackenzie again tries to weasel information from Will: What was in that personal phone message that he sent her several months ago… the one that began "I'm not just saying this because I'm high…."? But Will persists he can't remember what he said (why not? Because he was high).
And also reappearing from last season is Nina Howard (Hope Davis), the columnist who intercepted that phone message last season. Now, she is doing a story about how Will was taken off the 9/11 10th Anniversary coverage because he had pissed off the Tea Party. Will, invoking Don Quixote again (he's back!), decides to remount his "quest to civilize" and convince Nina not to write the story. So he invites her to a posh and otherwise deserted restaurant, where a man at a piano plays "What The World Needs Now Is Love" and lays down his pitch to Nina.
To both their surprise, she agrees not to write the story — and in an unguarded moment, he asks her on a date. She says she would love to, but she has heard the phone message from Will to Mackenzie. And she repeats to Will: "I'm not just saying this because I'm high…. but I've never stopped being in love with you". She tells Will that he is "an idiot" for thinking that Mackenzie wouldn't feel the same way back.
At the end of the show, we see Mackenzie, still obsessing about the phone message, summoning the courage to call Nina and ask what Will's phone message said. Finally she makes the call, but Nina tells Mackenzie she can't remember. The camera pulls back on Nina, and we see her in Will's bathrobe, with Will, in his apartment. Hmmmmmm.
In another thread, Will is determined to find out who leaked that he was taken off the 9/11 anniversary coverage. Sloan admits that she was the leaker, although it was by accident. It turns out, however, that the actual leaker was Reese Lansing, president of ACN. He's no longer intimidated by the "blackmail" that he worked with the NSA to intercept phone conversations of his staff. In fact, since Nina isn't working on the story, he's ready to give it to someone else.
So again, like in Season One, we have Reese back in play as nemesis.
However, unlike Season One, the Jim-Maggie-Don-(Lucy) story is gone. Mostly, that's because Jim is in New Hampshire on the Romney press bus. Jim is getting frustrated that all they get from the Romney campaign are talking points, and they refuse to answer hard questions. What frustrates him even more is that the young members of the press are content to report those talking points, rather than ask hard questions. At one point, he leads a revolt on the press bus. But the only result of that is that he, Hallie (another reporter and potential love interest), and a third reporter are kicked off the campaign bus.
Jim's producing fill-in at ACN, Jerry Dantana, also continued to press … about the so-called "Genoa tip" that suggested U.S. forces used sarin gas on civilians. Mackenzie joined Jerry in meeting with a soldier, who recalled "tripping over people screaming," inspiring Mackenzie to give the soldier a steno pad to write down "as many names as you can remember, please."
Brought into the situation, Charlie was skeptical it would lead anywhere, though he gave Jerry the go-ahead to pursue the story ("Just do it quietly"). Mackenzie still had her own doubts, but outweighing that was her fear another news organization would follow the story and get somewhere with it first.
Jerry assembles his team to look for confirmation of the event described by the soldier. The first place they look is for tweets in Arabic around the time and place of the event. Using a translator who communicates with them by fax, it all looks like a ridiculous effort, until one translated tweet comes across the fax machine. And it discusses villagers being subject to "willie pete" — military code for white phospherous, or sarin gas. Like I said, this is starting to look serious.
And meanwhile, Neal is still in the trenches with the Occupy Wall Street People, and Maggie got her clearance — and pills — to go to Africa. One of the first things she will do while there, we learn, is to visit an orphanage. I suspect Maggie will not be able to handle it emotionally — we'll soon find out.