8.0

Madam Secretary Review: “Game On”

(Episode 1.11)

TV Reviews Madam Secretary
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<i>Madam Secretary</i> Review: &#8220;Game On&#8221;

I have to say, I am really digging the Gang of Three (AKA Bess, Henry and Isabelle). The investigation into Secretary Marsh’s death shows no signs of letting up, and each week they uncover just enough info to keep us strung along. I love it. This week’s cold open was no exception, with Isabelle showing up, ostensibly to babysit (even though as she mentions, the kids are too old to need one), but is actually there to do some more sleuthing.

The info about how Nadine is likely one of the three pseudonymous signatories to Marsh’s secret bank account didn’t exactly come as a shock to me. We all knew there was more to her, didn’t we? Although, the idea that people trying to hide their identities would choose a fake name that can be traced seems kind of ridiculous to me. Why not just pick a regular name out of the phone book that just happens to not be yours, with no traceable elements? “Hi, I’m Buffy Summers. Nice to meet you.” See? Not so hard. Okay, bad example, but you get my point.

It’s quite convenient that a trip to South America is scheduled during exactly the same time that Bess needs to go to Venezuela, but well, this is TV, innit? Unfortunately (in one of Madam Secretary’s real-world political examples) Venezuela doesn’t like the US much. However, with the help of newly retired Venezuelan-American baseball superstar Manny Azucco, they are invited anyway. I’m not sure this would work in practice, but any excuse for several minutes of baseball puns, metaphors and bad jokes works for me!

Apparently it’s been two weeks since the last episode, because Matt and Daisy are officially Maisy! Well, not officially, as far as the form that Matt wants her to sign so they can work openly as a couple. You might think that there would be any number of grand, romantic reasons he might want her to do this. “I want to be able to hold your hand at the office,” he might say. Or, “I want to be able to give my girlfriend a hug and a kiss when she’s having a bad day.” But no. It seems that Matt’s main reason is so they can get bigger hotel rooms on trips. He’s also extremely and very unattractively, jealous. Could Win’s prediction have rattled him more than he thought? Get a grip, Matt. She digs you. I’m not sure why, exactly, but she does.

Meanwhile, Blake’s sexuality continues to be hinted at, but not revealed. Of course I have no problem with his sexuality being his business, but I do have a bit of an issue with the show making it an issue. For god’s sake, it’s 2014 and gay marriage is soon to be the law of the land. Unless he had Jay (Sebastian Arcelus) or President Suarez’ wife in his hotel room when Manny knocked on his door in Venezuela, why should we care about who Blake sleeps with? Unless it’s kids, relatives or animals (all of which would be a cheap stunt), move on.

Bess’ CIA training continues to be an asset, never more so as when they turned the tables on President Suarez. While it was a rookie move not to think that Nadine might be under surveillance at the bank, it was a shrewd move to use currency transactions as a way to get Suarez to come back around to their previously agreed upon press statement, and back off his threats. Then again, did he really think that the Secretary of State of the US was going to accede to those ludicrous and over-reaching demands?

Bess continued to play a very dangerous game with Russell (Zeljko Ivanek), using Matt (Geoffrey Arendt) as her mole, feeding Russell information. But it paid off this week, as she played Russell like a violin, forcing him to show his hand and “out” himself as not being a murderer. Of course Russell could have been playing her right back, but I don’t think so. Besides, we can’t have everyone on this show be a former or current spy, and it will be good to have someone as ruthless as Russell on her side.

At any rate it seems like one of my early predictions is turning out to be true. While it wasn’t the boldest bit of foresight, it turns out that Russell is indeed (for now, anyway) going to be Bess’s ally, especially considering he’s agreeing to keep all this information a secret from President Dalton. As I may have mentioned, I’m a big fan of Zeljko Ivanek, and it’s great to see him getting some more meaty scenes! I’m not so certain I am on board with Russell’s assertions that Dalton didn’t know anything about Marsh’s death, though.

I don’t know if it’s because I have warmed to the characters and storylines, or if it’s because the show has improved dramatically over the first few episodes (or, a combo of those and other factors), but I find myself willing to let the absurdities slide. Two of this week’s choicest:

• The first lady of Venezuela brazenly flirts with Manny, even going so far as to rub his ass in public at an event her very image-conscious husband (and loads of press, presumably) was attending.

• Manny decides to come out during an extremely important diplomatic press conference, thus ruining a major policy initiative? Please.

Other Thoughts:

• I really dug Stevie’s crisis of conscience after she’d smuggled Allie’s tall, dark and handsome into the house, and then later covered for Allie. Perhaps Stevie’s growing up?

• I know I’ve complained about shows using fictitious countries but I will admit, I am pretty damn tired of Iran being the bad guy, over and over again. It can’t help but influence American opinions towards the Iranian people, and that’s a real shame.

• If Bess and Henry thought Stevie was a handful, wait until Allie starts acting out, because it’s coming!

• Where’s Jason? He’s one of the most entertaining parts of the show. He’s a little troublemaker, in the best sense of the word.

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.