Sarah Shatz/CBS
September 30, 2016 at 03:33 PM EDT

Madam Secretary

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
run date
Tea Leoni, Geoffrey Arend, Tim Daly

Will Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) agree to be President Dalton’s (Keith Carradine) running mate? We’ll find out in Madam Secretary‘s premiere, which skips ahead a few months, throwing us into the middle of election season.

“The decision of being vice president is one of those things that she’ll be grappling with in the beginning,” says creator Barbara Hall, who adds that the twist-filled election will take up the first half of the season.

The premiere will find President Dalton facing off against Governor Sam Evans (J.C. Mackenzie), who has a “sort of extreme point of view” that’s on the opposite side of the spectrum. “It’s a real head-to-head match between them,” says Hall.

While the series’ election is unfolding at the same time as our real one, you shouldn’t necessarily the show to mirror real life. “We’re trying to give a parallel process that’s a little more aspirational in a way,” says Hall. “We’re just trying to give people an election that they will understand the intricacies of, but maybe not feel so shut out of it. It’s not a mirrored election so much as a parallel universe election.”

If that sounds vague, it’s because Hall is trying not to give anything about the season premiere, which was directed by executive producer Morgan Freeman, who also reprises his Chief Justice Wilbourne role in the episode. “Elizabeth has a moment with him that moves her closer to resolving a dilemma,” she teases.

Regardless of how her role changes, McCord will contend with “classic Madam Secretary” international events each week, including environmental-activism protests, an incident in the South China Sea, and a regime change in Algeria. “We have that dovetailed with the election,” says Hall.

This season you can also expect several familiar faces to return. Hall says Dmitri, who was freed from Russia in a prisoner exchange in the season 2 finale, will pop up again and we’ll spend an episode seeing what his life is like now that he’s “basically in witness protection program.” Elizabeth’s brother Will (Eric Stoltz) will also be back.  

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