Commentary Review: Madam Secretary (S1/E3)

I’m becoming comfortable with MADAM SECRETARY. While a good episode, I’m starting to feel that the show isn’t as hard as it should be (Source: CBS).

COLD OPEN: Madam Secretary isn’t a very strong or innovative show. I think it’s a soft political “situation of the week”, but a “mom at work” type show, focusing on her as a person as opposed her position. Tea Leoni continues to impressive me with her dry wit and strength as the Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord. She owns that role.

ACT ONE: Plot of the episode: a reporter reveals confidential contents from a contact (“Viper”) (including emails, in which they call the French Prime Minister an “empty crepe”… you know, middle school names with diplomatic vocabulary). So the first act is mainly just McCord being blindsided by this, demanding to know who this “Viper” is, and starting her 23 personalized apologies to foreign diplomats for her staff’s unprofessionalism. Okay, an interesting premise…ish. Having an operative commit treason is interesting. But this feels almost too close to home with the whole Eric Snowden thing. But sure, let’s give this a try. Story B: We find out Mr. McCord is going to have a conversation with the 2nd most powerful person in Russia about his philosophy work. Interesting… Story C: I include this because this is a “Snowden” episode. You have Snowden, whose documents showed us how the government was monitoring our every move, much like this Viper in this episode. And then, you have the McCord parents finding out their early-teen daughter Allison was dumbed by her boyfriend…by spying on her via reading her texts. So when is it time to stop spying on your kids?

ACT TWO: We find that “Viper” was a Central Intelligence operative, and his next waves of documents have the identification of an operative in Pakistan. Oops. the Americans try to get him back to safety, but the Pakistan government gets to him first. Upon his capture, The American army could have fired, but McCord didn’t want to make the good relationship they have with Pakistan get ruined. So she lets the Pakistanis take him. Which confuses me: the US obviously don’t have a good relationship with Pakistan. They just took your operative into custody, and aren’t known for having a fair justice system. So McCord needs a plan. But it’d better come fast: the operative will be killed in 2 days. Story B: The Russian official’s daughter getting a C in Mr. McCord’s class and the official wants him to change that to an A, otherwise he’d make Professor McCord’s wife’s life “hell”.  Prof. McCord takes his integrity seriously, and says his wife can handle herself. And that’s when I said to myself, “really…a grade is going to resolve a diplomatic issue? Please no….” Story C: No news on that yet.

ACT THREE: So why is Viper doing all of this? Oh, because he’s very sick and trapped in Guinea with no way out, and so he needed the US’s attention to bring him home. And because he’s an American citizen, there’d be a PR nightmare if the government let an American die overseas. On top of that, Pakistan won’t give the operative back to US, while the US won’t take force to get him back. So here’s an idea: have an ally give Pakistan what they’ve always wanted: a weapons defensive system. And guess which ally has it?…Story B: Oh boy, I said to myself when I saw Madam Secretary walk into the kitchen with the Mister to reveal that she could get the operative homes safe if Pakistan gets a weapon system from Russia, who in return wants…a grade. Disregarding the silliness of a request like that, I’m sorry. To me, this is an easy answer: give her the grade. I mean, a human life is worth more than your integrity? I mean, really, are you that vain? I’m sorry, Mr. McCord won no points from me on that one. Granted, because her husband refused, Mrs. McCord went back and returned with another solution: give the girl an incomplete so she can retake the course. Of course, it’s past the deadline for incompletes; but yeah, he’ll bend the rules to do that. I know if you’re willing to do one thing to break your morals, you’re more willing to break it again. But when does that become more harmful than good? Is this show just going to be about holding morals, or could it possibly be about when being highly moral can actually be a bad thing? Like, when a human being will DIE because you refuse to give an A to a student? I don’t know, that whole thing rubbed me the wrong way. Story C: They parents decide to end their surveillance on their daughter, all done without their daughter knowing they had this conundrum. Spying at its finest. Get in. Get out. Without a trace.


So the operative was returned upon agreed terms. Oh, and the Viper guy transferred to a US hospital, where he’s treated and then charged with treason (reporter protected by 1st amendment). Not entirely sure how that worked out, but of course, McCord had to win outright. Which will get old quickly. So they need her to lose in upcoming episodes, or at least get her butt kicked at some point. That way they can keep this whole “making her as human/mom-like as possible” facade secure.

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