The Jane Fonda scene was one of the first West Wing-like scenes this show has had.
I think that if Sorkin fans (I'm among them) step back, your assessment is closer to spot on than they'd like to say. I think us Sorkin fans tend to give him the benefit of the doubt. The things he does well are fast-paced commentary - there's always a TON of rapid, back-and-forth dialogue - and lots of sarcasm and sarcastic humor.
The things he doesn't do well: relationships (though he keeps bloody trying, and he needs to stop), and sometimes he decides on story arcs that span an entire season but shouldn't. Even West Wing had Josh dealing with PTSD or whatever for so long, and it robbed us of what we'd come to like about Josh (of course, we won't talk about the shittiness of West Wing after he left, because duh, he'd left).
I think it's fine that we have a scapegoat for this thing, so I'll disagree with you there. But what I'm missing is the real sense of betrayal, I'm missing how much it has shaken these people. The guy's fired in an elevator (that was a decent scene), but nobody else gets to react to the guy himself.
And really, how did NOBODY notice the shot clock? After watching it a hundred times you're not going to be staring at the general the entire time.
The Africa bit seems like a throw-away - as if the only point of that (and we spent an entire episode on it, and parts of others) was to show how stressed both Maggie and Jim were over their "relationship." Give me a break? Are these two people the two biggest pussies in the world? People break up all the time and still have to find a way to work together. And they weren't even dating. Are they 12, emotionally?
Sorkin loves to create "sticky situations" with romances - even Mackenzie and Will, Donna and Josh, etc. - but they never actually resolve. When forced to reach some sort of resolution, it's usually crap.
The stuff with Elliott was good but there's no way he should have pulled out of that interview. Don should be fired for that alone. It was awkward, smelled entirely of "cover your ass," and yes, Don's been much, much better this year (cue up another awkward relationship: Don and Sloane), I agree, but in no real world situation does he keep his job for pulling Elliott out. At the very least he should have realized his mistake in commercial break and gone back to the interview.
The Newsroom is disappointing in that sense. It may be a heavy dose of the increased fondness with which we treat memories, but Studio 60 was probably a better show. I continue to watch because I like sarcasm and fast talking. It's still television that requires a certain level of intelligence. But it's falling well short of what it should or could be.
P.S. I couldn't care less about the politics. They're just a means to an end. A backdrop.
P.P.S. That means to an end should be "character development" and we're not seeing any of it this year. We have the fake "Maggie is messed up" thing, but that's it, and it's contrived as hell.