Anchor Will McAvoy embarrasses himself with a rant during a college question and answer session and Don elects to move to the 10:00 program with Will's co-anchor Elliot Hirsch. Don tries to convince his girlfriend Maggie Jordan to leave with him but she is one of the minority who insist on remaining loyal to Will. ("We Just Decided To")
Deepwater Horizon oil spillEdit
Don's last act for News Night is to clash with incoming senior producer Jim Harper over the significance of an explosion at the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Jim convinces Will that the story is important and Will dismisses Don and the rest of the outgoing staff two weeks early (with pay) so that the program can focus on the spill. Don is proven wrong when the explosion leads to an ongoing oil spill and environmental disaster and News Night's coverage of the disaster leads the field. ("We Just Decided To")
Elliot Hirsch programEdit
News Night 2.0Edit
In the wake of Don's departure Mac announces a new approach for News Night, a complete overhaul of the way the news was covered based on three "I"s: 1) Is this information we need in the voting booth? 2) Is this the best possible form of the argument? 3) Is the story in historical context?" Don attends this meeting to help with the transition, and warns Mac that she is making his (Don's) job harder, as he has a clear mandate to bring viewers to 10:00 and can't do that if the News Night audience leaves entirely.
The first broadcast for the new approach is disastrous, partly due to Maggie botching a pre-interview due to a past personal relationship. The staff licks their wounds at a karaoke bar after the broadcast. Don comes in and offers again to take Maggie with him to 10:00. Since he is doing it mostly because she is his girlfriend—and not because he thinks she's talented—the two get into a fight and break up. ("News Night 2.0")
Will McAvoy's apologyEdit
Don is insulted when Will McAvoy issues an on air apology for the failings of the News Night program to accurately report the news and inform the electorate because of concern over ratings. Don is upset that the apology makes it look as though he was partly responsible and because it makes his ratings driven 10:00 program seem silly. He sees the apology while drinking at a bar and goes to the News Night studio to confront Jim Harper. He tells Jim that he is capable of delivering the program that they are working towards and confides his frustrations. When Jim tries to discuss it with him he ends the conversation abruptly. He later realizes that Maggie worked on the apology without discussing it with him and she explains that it was for staff eyes only. The apology aired at the opening of the show on Monday, April 26, 2010. ("The 112th Congress")
The 112th Congress electionsEdit
News Night focuses a portion of its coverage on the Tea Party and their views, funding and co-opting of the Republican Party. The incisive coverage culminates with a live broadcast in November 2010 on the day of the 112th Congressional elections where the Tea Party win many seats. Don co-produces the program with Mac because of Elliot's involvement as a co-anchor.
Don continues to have a fractious relationship with Maggie, and they have temporarily broken up in this episode. Further, as a former Executive Producer of News Night, Don is upset by the program's new direction as it paints his ratings driven follow-up in a bad light. Don's personal and professional frustration causes friction with Elliot. Elliot tells him to either make up with Maggie or get over her, telling him that his attitude is putting his job at risk. Don opts to reconcile with Maggie. ("The 112th Congress")
End of 2010Edit
Don attends the News Night New Year's Eve party on December 31, 2010 and announces that he intends to set Jim up with Maggie's roommate Lisa.
Jim and Lisa's date goes well and he agrees to see her again. He lies to Maggie and says that they will not be going out again. Don tells Maggie that Jim and Lisa are going on a second date despite Jim's claims to the contrary. Don tricks Maggie into calling Jim and then calls Lisa's phone. Maggie hears Lisa's Rod Stewart ringtone in the background, and realizes that she is sleeping with Jim. When Maggie gets upset with Don for this move, he defends himself, saying he's the "fourth-least" guilty person in this situation.("I'll Try to Fix You")
Gabrielle Giffords shootingEdit
On Saturday January 8, 2011, Charlie has called Don in to help formulate a damage-control strategy for Will's increasing prominence in the tabloids. When they hear about the shooting, he helps to produce the show's live coverage of the incident. When a false report spreads on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC that the Congresswoman is dead, Reese Lansing charges into the studio to convince Will to report her death. Will refuses and Don backs him up. Moments later reports that she is alive and in surgery are confirmed. Will tells Don that he is a true news man. ("I'll Try to Fix You")
News Night covers civil unrest in Cairo after the Egyption president refuses to leave his post despite losing the election. Elliot Hirsch travels to Cairo to report from the scene but is forced to remain inside when riots break out. Don is disappointed that Elliot is not out in the middle of things. After the show Neal Sampat raises the idea of using a stringer in Cairo to get better coverage, having already established contact with someone using the alias "Amen".
Don gets word that Elliot went out into the riots and was attacked. Elliot is battered but alive and on his way back to the USA. Don feels responsible for provoking Elliot's actions.
Elliot is welcomed back to the newsroom. Don is annoyed when Charlie insists that Elliot take time off to recover.
Amen goes missing in Cairo. Charlie hosts a crisis meeting and the senior staff go to demand help from Reese Lansing, who proves to be out of the building after Don tries to knock down his door.
The staff struggle to locate Amen while also prepping their next show. Will speaks to Don about his anger over the events. Neal discovers that Amen is in Egyptian military custody and that they are demanding an extortionate ransom.
Will pays for Amen's release. Mac arranges for the staff to each give Will a cheque to contribute, mimicking a scene from one of Will's favorite films, Rudy. ("Amen")
At the end of his rope (he forgot Elliot scheduled time off), Don asks Sloan to fill in for Elliot Hirsch on the 10:00 show and cover the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. He is frank that she is not his first choice, but admits that he's at the end of the list of fill-ins. In Sloan's pre-interview with the TEPCO spokesman, Daisuke Tanaka, Tanaka is open about the likelihood of the disaster rating increasing, warranting evacuation. However, he spoke to her off the record because they are old friends. Sloan asks Will for advice before going on air and he harshly criticizes her for letting interviewees get away with lying on air. He tells her to ask follow-up questions and not let them off the hook. She was disappointed with Daisuke for sticking to the company line, and more so with his translator, whom Sloan felt was misrepresenting her words. Worried, Don keeps telling her to wrap up the interview and move on, but Sloan moves to speaking with Daisuke directly in Japanese. Despite warnings from Don, Sloan announces the information she had obtained off the record live on air. Charlie Skinner is furious with Sloan for crossing reporting boundaries and suspends her with pay. Don sticks up for Sloan, despite the trying situation.
Mac assigns Jim and Maggie a project together. Don notices them working together again and asks Sloan if she thinks he is losing Maggie. Sloan says he's not, but also admits that she doesn't often read romantic situations properly.
Charlie comes up for a way to Sloan to save the reputation of Tanaka; she has to lie on air and say that she made an error in translating what he said. She is dubious but Will tells her it is the best thing to do and she acquiesces. ("Bullies")
On the night of bin Laden's death, Don is coming back from the Correspondents' Dinner in Washington, D.C. with Elliot and Sloan. According to Elliot, Sloan, and the rest of the passengers, he's spent the entire weekend complaining about the state of his relationship with Maggie Jordan, so much so that Sloan got questions about it from the Secretary of the Treasury. Since he accidentally left his phone turned on the entire time, it is completely dead by the time they land; however, Elliot and Sloan both receive emails from ACN regarding the breaking news. Since their plane landed without a gate and they are stuck on the tarmac for the foreseeable future, Don repeatedly tries to get up to talk to Sloan, who is seated across the aisle, or to get the student next to him, Lester, to switch seats with Sloan. However, the flight attendant will not allow them to move around the cabin. Don becomes increasingly agitated as the magnitude of the story becomes apparent, and he is stuck on the plane. His relationship with the flight attendant turns hostile; as he gets up to reassure the rest of the passengers that there is not another terrorist attack, she calls in the pilot to report him. Don, looking at the pilot's United lapels, realizes why the flight attendant has been so strict with the rules, and that perhaps her vigilance is well-placed. He then tells the pilot, co-pilot, and "Flight Attendant Crazy Lady" that the U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden "for you" tonight. He finally sits down, happy that he got to tell the news to someone.
In June 2011, Don is seen helping the News Night team prep for the debate audition, though he still has a bit of a distance from them (i.e., when Will asks, "Who thinks Mac is going crazy?" during the blackout, Don is the only one to raise his hand.). During the disastrous debate audition in The Blackout Part II: Mock Debate, Don plays Rick Santorum. After the debate, when Tate asks Don whether he and Elliot would like to host the debate, Don replies with, "Eat me." Charlie notes that, "When Don says 'Eat me,' that's usually the end of the conversation."
During this episode, Jim intercepts a flower delivery to Don, and leaves the flowers with Will. Both men have read the card, which is from Jenna (or Gina). Don tells Will that, on the many breaks with Maggie, he will go out and date other women. He says he only goes on one or two dates with them, but doesn't tell them about Maggie. One of those women sent him the flowers. Will tells him that Jim knows, but that Don also needs to tell Maggie.
Don does not appear to want to tell Maggie, but at her apartment that night, Jim arrives to 'gather his rosebuds' and tell Maggie how he feels. However, Maggie and Lisa assume that Jim is there to see Lisa. Upon seeing Don, Jim loses his nerve and leaves with Lisa. Don, however, deducts correctly that Jim was there to see Maggie, though he assumes that Jim is coming to tell Maggie about the flowers and Don's breakup dates. He then tells Maggie about the women he's seen during their breakups.
In August, he finds out that Sloan Sabbith has been taken to lunch and is considering a job opportunity in the private sector. She says she's frustrated since she has not been able to move the needle on Americans' feelings on the debt ceiling, and hints that Will's decision to not return to News Night also factored into her decision. Don says that he's going to change her mind in the next three days, and then asks her advice for how to ask Maggie to move in with him. He asks how she would like to be asked, and she says with a marriage proposal, which Don appears to think is not even on the table. Sloan points out that if they move in together, it will be harder to break up, which Don replies is kind of the point. Since she's leaving in three days and "will never see him again," Sloan tells Don that he's a good guy, despite someone along the line convincing him that he is not, and that his decision to ask Maggie to move in with him is more motivated by a desire to be a good guy than an actual love for Maggie. She admits to being bad at reading personal situations, but Don appears stunned at her analysis. He asks her why she is still single; after deflecting his answer initially, she admits, "Because you never asked me out."
Jim interrupts the two of them, since Don wanted to see him, and Sloan tells Jim that Don is asking Maggie to move in with him. Jim is stunned. After he leaves, Don tells Sloan that he still wants to commit to Maggie, which she says, "is what a good guy would do."
That evening he bails on Lisa and Maggie in order to set up a surprise for Maggie, and texts Maggie to stop by his place at midnight. This text spurs a fight between the two roommates, with Lisa telling Maggie that she (Maggie) hasn't grown in over a year, and Maggie telling Lisa that Don thinks that Jim actually wanted to come see her the night they got back together. Angry, both girls leave, and Maggie inadvertently confesses her feelings about Jim to Jim when yelling at a Sex and the City tour bus. He chases her, and they kiss, and she says she wants to be with him but admits that, if Don had committed to her somewhere along the way, she would commit to Don. Jim knows that Don is about to ask her to move in and so does not break up with Lisa.
When Maggie goes to break up with Don, Don is waiting with a candlelit apartment and a key in a box. Maggie is stunned and, instead of breaking up with Don, agrees to move in with him.
A few days later, Sloan has decided to stay at ACN. When she tells Don that they're never going to speak to each other again, he questions whether that decision is possible. She points out that she just turned down a $4 million a year salary to do good, so she doesn't quite live in the realm of practicality. She reiterates that they're not going to speak to each other—"starting now." The season ends with Don and Maggie planning on moving in together.
Don has key relationships with several members of the Newsroom team.
Maggie and Don have a contentious, on-off relationship spanning approximately 18 months and the entire first season of the series. They have been dating for approximately four months when the show starts, but Don is reluctant to commit to Maggie, and does not want to meet her parents. From the start, Mac does not necessarily approve of the two of them together, and tells Maggie to stand up for herself.
They make up and break up several times throughout the first half of the first season, though both are extremely conflicted about it. Don asks her multiple times to come with him to 10 o'clock, but she refuses, out of loyalty. They have trouble getting through a fight, but Maggie defends Don's attitude and work load to Jim, explaining that he's got a ratings mandate since Elliot doesn't have the clout Will has. Don also care sfor Maggie, and is a "bonus prick" when they are broken up, according to Elliot.
For the second half of the season, their relationship is more stable, particularly after Jim starts dating Lisa, Maggie's roommate, after Don sets them up. However, Maggie's adverse reaction to this new relationship raises Don's suspicions, and he begins to worry that he is losing Maggie, thus binding them together a little more. Jim and Sloan both appear skeptical of the relationship's foundations, and Mac actively encourages Jim to pursue Maggie.
In 1x09, Jim intercepts a flower delivery for Don, which has been sent by a woman he dated during one of his "many" breaks with Maggie. Will stashes the flowers and gets rid of them for Don, but encourages him to straighten out his relationship with Maggie. When Jim comes to the apartment that night to "gather his rosebuds" and talk to Maggie, he loses his nerve upon seeing Don, and instead leaves with Lisa. Don infers incorrectly that he was there to tell Maggie about the flowers, and so confesses instead. The end of the episode leaves their relationship status ambiguous.
However, in the next episode, he asks her to move in with him; as Sloan deduces, it is likely in part to convince himself that he's still a good guy who does the right thing. Although Maggie kissed Jim, she agrees to move in with him.
At the start of the first season, Don is working hard to be a good boyfriend to his live-in girlfriend of two weeks. However, when Maggie's cousin sends him a video of Maggie confessing her feelings to Jim, he breaks up with her. The breakup is mostly amicable, though they rarely run into each other post-breakup.
Don rarely interacts with Sloan in the first half of the first season, however, in episode 1x06 they appear to have at least a friendly relationship, given their comfort in each other's personal space. He asks her to guest-anchor in Elliot's show, and tries to keep the rails from coming off the broadcast. Afterwards, he reminds her that they've all been there, and tries to defuse Charlie during his rant at Sloan. Afterwards, they argue about whether or not she should have revealed off-the-record information when he unexpectedly asks her about whether or not he is losing Maggie.
During 5/01, they and Elliot are stuck on a plane coming back from D.C. during the bin Laden broadcast. Sloan loans him her phone when his is dead, and he tells off a passenger who is trying to flirt with Sloan by saying he's her boyfriend. Sloan, as well as Elliot and other passengers, point out to Don how much he talks about his relationship problems with Maggie. The ACN team works together to find out as much information as possible from the plane to feed back to Will and MacKenzie.
At the end of the season, Don finds out that Sloan is thinking of leaving ACN and tries to convince her to stay. During the course of their conversation, he reveals that he's considering asking Maggie to move in, which Sloan immediately points out is likely a bad decision. Over the course of the conversation, Don asks her, "Why are you still single?" She replies, "Because you never asked me out," which appears to floor him. Later, when she's decided to stay, he's relieved, but she says they won't be speaking anytime soon.
At the beginning of the second season, Sloan is still avoiding Don, despite the fact that she is again filling in for Elliot. She attempts to explain herself, and Don awkwardly plays it off as a joke. It seems to have resolved the tension, however.
A few weeks later, after his breakup with Maggie, Sloan tells him she's sorry about the breakup, saying that "he didn't deserve it." He then thanks her for taking care of Maggie through the breakup.
In the next episode, Sloan seeks him out for advice on how to deal with her EP and how to deal with her belief that she is an information leak. Don displays irrational jealousy when he finds out the potential leak was through a date of hers, who was Nina Howard's book agent.
After Sloan's ex-boyfriend releases photos of her on the internet, she hides in Don's office for almost an entire hour. He finds her, and they sit on the floor as she works through her feelings of humiliation and rage. Don does not understand why she dates 'guys like that,' to which she insists she couldn't tell he was a bad guy. Don worries that she doesn't have a high opinion of herself, and tells her, "You're impressive." Later, he accompanies her to punch the ex-boyfriend.
Later on, when Sloan goes on a date with a member of the New York Giants, he confides to Mackenzie of his feelings for Sloan and his jealousy over her romantic exploits. Mackenzie asks him why he hasn't asked out Sloan, to which he replies that he is afraid that their potential relationship could be ruined by their occasional collaboration when Sloan fills in for Elliot's show. He also admits that he wants to get it done "in a spectacular fashion."
The two serve on the Red Team together, and allow the story to run, though both seem conflicted about it. After they air it (and Sloan interviews Sgt. Sweeney), she is watching him produce 'Right Now' and worrying about the strong wording in the Pentagon's refutation. He tells her she's reading it too closely, comparing it to her and her friends overanalyzing a note Sloan received from a crush in eighth grade. Sloan replies, "Sometimes boys are vague with their messages," which appears to affect Don, who abruptly turns back to working. Later, once the interview goes off the rails, the two argue publicly about what the best course of action is. Neither backs down from their point.
During election night coverage, Sloan is upset because someone purchased her book, Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic, with a forged signature (Gary had forged it to be helpful). She tasks Neal with tracking down the buyer, but he runs into trouble when it turns out that the buyer used an alias, Sidney Falco, who is a character in 'Sweet Smell of Success.' Stumped, Sloan requests that Neal start looking for angrams. Later, though, while working with Don in his office, she spies the poster for the movie. Putting two and two together and realizing that Don purchased her book, she quickly grabs a copy of the book and signs it in front of Don and the entire control room. Instead of just handing it to him, she kisses him first, stunning Don and most of the control room. Once she leaves, Don recovers by claiming, "What I have can't be taught," in front of Tess, Kendra, and the control room staff.
MacKenzie McHale and Will McAvoyEdit
In the pilot, Don says that he got his start as MacKenzie's intern. Throughout most of the first season, there is tension because Mac wants to do the news fundamentally differently than Don did. However, Don agrees to help her out with the transition and often shoulders logistical and planning weight.
Will initially has a contentious relationship with Don, and abused Don when Don was his EP. However, after Don defends Will's choices during the Gabrielle Giffords broadcast to Reese, Don's relationships with both Mac and Will warm. Will covers for him when a former fling sends him flowers, and in the second season, gives him advice and looks out for him during the Troy Davis trial. Mac continues to ask him for help in the second season, and when Troy Davis dies, shows her support for Don.
In March 2012, Mac seeks out Don to try and figure out if she's wrong for not trusting Jerry Dantana. Don tells Mac she doesn't trust anyone who isn't Jim, including him. Mac swears she trusts him "with my life," which appears to surprise and humble him. He thanks her, and the two spend the rest of the evening discussing their relationships with Sloan and Will, respectively, as well as the Genoa reporting.
Behind the scenesEdit
Don is a major character in the first season. He is played by starring cast member Thomas Sadoski and debuts in the series pilot "We Just Decided To". According to Aaron Sorkin at the 2013 Paleyfest, Don was initially supposed to be two characters—one the on-off boyfriend of Maggie's, the other Will's former EP—but Sadoski impressed him so much he "ate" the character of "Steve."
|"We Just Decided To"||"News Night 2.0"||"The 112th Congress"||"I'll Try to Fix You"||"Amen"|
|"Bullies"||"5/1"||"The Blackout Part I: Tragedy Porn"||"The Blackout Part II: Mock Debate"||"The Greater Fool"|
|"First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers"||"The Genoa Tip"||"Willie Pete"||"Unintended Consequences"||"News Night with Will McAvoy"|
|"One Step Too Many"||"Red Team III"||"Election Night, Part I"||"Election Night, Part II"|
|"Boston"||"Run"||"Main Justice"||"Contempt"||"Oh Shenandoah"|
|"What Kind of Day Has It Been"|