Madam Secretary: “Collateral Damage”

(Episode 1.10)

TV Reviews Madam Secretary
Madam Secretary: “Collateral Damage”

This show is chugging along quite nicely, now. There’s a decent balance of work and home (although no Henry, this week), and it looks like Bess is bringing Nadine in, albeit slowly, to her suspicions about Marsh. I’m not certain this is a good idea, but as Nadine said during the cold open, “There was very little about him that I didn’t know, so maybe I can help you.” Of course she said that seconds before Bess dropped the “Marsh was going to run for president” bomb, and in a few short moments, Nadine’s memories of her lover were shattered and her self-confidence plummeted. She recovered nicely during the rest of the episode, though.

The “lockdown episode” has become a pretty commonly used TV trope. It allows for a single episode to contain far more plot lines that usual, and to conclude (or begin) individual story-arcs. The West Wing used it to excellent effect on more than one occasion, and it worked here, as well.

Since President Dalton is weighing sending in more troops to Iraq to combat ISIS, this was a bit of a “ripped from the headlines” episode, but not as a whole. In fact, there really wasn’t an A-plot at all. The Iraqi delegation meeting, Bess being confronted with her past and sharing it with Stevie, the lockdown, Matt and Win and Daisy (Oh, my!), Nadine’s experiences during said lockdown—they all got almost equal billing, at least in terms of importance to the overall arc of the show.

On the home front, I’m starting to get the feeling that Stevie’s on her way to getting into some trouble. More than getting drunk in a bar. I understand that sometimes it’s hard to see one’s parents as anything other than superheroes, but she’s not a kid, anymore. She’s a 20 year-old who doesn’t seem to have even an inkling as to what the CIA does, or what kind of career Bess must have had to make her a candidate for Secretary of State. You can bet youngest child Jason isn’t as self-delusional.

I knew that Tim Daly’s son Sam was booked on the show, and I was wondering when Win was going to make an appearance, so it was a pleasant surprise when it turned out that they were one in the same. The lockdown scenes between Matt and Win were a great mix of awkward, funny and eventually sad and Daly fils has a great sense of the comic and of the absurd. Of course, joy turned to sadness when I realized that this was likely going to be a one-and-done guest spot and that Win, while a nice guy, was just a little too much douche. Click on the link. You’ll disappear down a tunnel of Daly family madness, and thank me later.

Honestly, I thought making Win that much of a milquetoast was a bit of a copout. Even for a (stoned) generally non-violent person, you’d expect him to express more anger than he did. He basically shrugged his shoulders and said, “ah, well.” But not before a warning for Matt:

Matt: “If she was my girl, if she cheated on me… I swear to god, I’d kill the guy.”
Win: Well… the good news is, you’ll probably get your chance.”

I take issue with this bit of faux logic, though. It assumes that everyone who cheats on a significant other will do so repeatedly and while some people are serial cheaters, often the infidelity is situation-specific, and I think that Daisy knew that Win was wrong for her. He was (obviously) spineless, so she went outside of the relationship looking for some passion. Was that the right way to address the faults she saw in her partner? No, of course not, but neither does it mean she’s going to cheat on every guy she dates. *Jumps off soapbox.

Nadine getting stuck in an office with Alice Millevoi (J. Smith-Cameron), who is complaining about her posting to Angola, was another high point. In effect, Alice is being punished for being a single woman “of a certain age.” She claims that it’s sexist (it is), and widespread in the department (turns out this is also true). This was a great character development tool for Nadine and as a fellow single woman with no children, Nadine can empathize with her and it gives her a cause to champion. I mean, I am sure she’s busy as hell anyway, but I imagine it’s nice to have something she can “own.” Of course, she’s also getting into the Secretary Marsh investigation, which based on the secret banking info Nadine hands Bess at the end of the episode, seems to be heating up quite nicely.

On the other hand, Bess being threatened by the Iraqi interpreter was absurd on a number of levels. Every member of the delegation would have been thoroughly vetted, and the interpreter being the cousin of one of Elizabeth’s detainees when she was in Iraq during the war would have raised all kinds of flags. I just didn’t buy it. Not enough to derail an otherwise solid episode, but it’s little things like this that stick in my craw.

Other thoughts

• So this is the end of Win and Daisy, but is it the start of Maisy? Based on the rather deep and lingering kiss Daisy planted on Matt at the end of the episode, my magic 8 ball said signs point to yes.

• It’s kind of a bummer for Sam Daly to have a one-off, but I am happy to see Win out of the way.

• Stevie’s moving out “to clear her head.” Am I the only one who sees this as a bad idea?

• The trailer for next week looks like the episode might be of the “shit hits the fan” variety. I kinda hope so!

Mark Rabinowitz is a Louisville-based freelance writer, film producer, and regular contributor to Paste. He is the co-founder of Indiewire.com and a former film critic for CNN.com. He thinks David Bowie is god and has taken a real shine to pimento cheese. You can follow him on Twitter.

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