OK, maybe you never hated Olivia Munn. Maybe hate isn’t even the word anyway. It’s much too personal a word to describe our feelings about an actress we hardly know. But here’s what I’ll admit to you: I’m a former Olivia Munn antagonist and, if it’s OK with you, I’d like to take it all back. Munn has, for a while now, been worming her way into my affections. She was solid as a rock last season on “The Newsroom” and equally charming in a couple of episodes of “New Girl.” But this season on “The Newsroom”? Wow. Last night on “The Newsroom”? F*CKING Wow. If you don’t watch the show, bear with me, because something happened on last night’s episode that was not only great but also resonates outside the realm of the plot of the show itself. I’ll get to that.
If you’ve not watched “The Newsroom” or gave up on it a while back, I don’t blame you. But I think it’s generally accepted by those of us who do still watch that Olivia Munn’s Sloan Sabbith and Thomas Sadoski’s Don Keefer have emerged from the bloviating wreckage relatively unscathed. They rise, they float above the Sorkin traps and positively shine. Sorkin and company, in their sporadic wisdom, have seen fit to thrust Don and Sloan together this season. And, trust me, we all benefit.
Last night, the plot involving Sloan and Don centered around a naked picture scandal featuring Munn’s character. You may remember that Munn herself was embroiled in a similar scandal that involved her cell phone being hacked and private photos leaked all over the Internet. No, I’m not linking to it. This is not that. In the context of the show, the photos were leaked by Sloan’s recent ex-boyfriend who released them as part of some petty revenge. And so during the first three-fourths of the show, we kept revisiting Don and Sloan on the floor of Don’s darkened office while Munn turned in a knock-out performance as a woman who feels violated, shamed and gutted. Sadoski wasn’t so shabby himself.
I’m wondering if we’ve ever seen an actor play out their own personal drama with such convincing emotion. It was a brave and intelligent performance that never smacked of personal agenda (though that was of course a factor). Sloan’s story was highlighted by a side plot involving Sandra Fluke and certain websites (ahem, Huffington Post, ahem, probably Pajiba) being called to task for sometimes muddling feminist outrage with titillating voyeurism. So, yes, in this particular plot, it’s an evil ex-boyfriend who’s responsible for the leaked photos, but in a larger sense (and certainly in the case of Munn’s own “scandal”), we’re all complicit.
The episode ended with a good old fashioned revenge fantasy for Munn. Now if the episode had only been this (admittedly fun) scene, it wouldn’t have impressed me much. But as a follow-up to those Don and Sloan moments? It was perfection. As was the level of Don’s involvement. So, yes, to a certain degree my affection for Munn is tied up in my affection for a character she plays, but she handled this depiction of a personal embarrassment with such grace and emotional depth that I can’t help but love her too. In the words of Don Keefer, she’s impressive.