Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


Madam Secretary recap: The Middle Way

A Buddhist teaching helps solve a crisis overseas — and one at home, too

Posted on


Madam Secretary

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

Shall we start this recap with the Buddhist terrorist or stop now and give Blake a standing ovation for being the real star of the episode? … Let’s start with Blake because I’m sure everyone feels the same way I do after watching him nail all his one-liners over the past hour. 

If you recall, last week I made a comment at the end of my recap for episode 11 that Blake (Erich Bergen) needs more screen time and more plotlines centered around him. Many of you seemed to agree with me, and it looks like we got our wish. He was the star of this episode. 

Not only did he get multiple monologues, we also got to hear his vocals at the end (Bergen spent three years performing in the musical Jersey Boys). The man can sing. Actually if we’ve learned anything from this season, it’s that the entire cast can sing besides Téa Leoni, which is fine since she’s better at saving the world. 

After the US Ambassador to Myanmar has some complaints over the Pacific Rim Trade Agreement, Blake decides to read the entire document, “The World in 2030” from cover to cover, and does not take it too well. The best Blake line besides his realization that all the spider monkeys will be extinct: “It’s going to be like the wild west out there!” 

As for the main plotline (we’ll get back to Blake in a minute), the episode was a nice break from the Russia drama. Don’t get me wrong — those episodes are exciting — but tonight was a welcome little hiatus from all that. 

I don’t know much about Buddhism, but I did look up what “The Middle Way” means because it’s the theme of the entire episode. For the unenlightened like me: The Middle Way is the path between indulgence and self-mortification; it’s the middle of the two extremes and Buddha thought it to be the path of wisdom.

The episode opens with Ambassador Arlen Maxwell voicing his concerns about the Pacific Rim Trade Agreement to Bess. This agreement goes back to the season premiere. You may recall the event where the entire team sang alternate lyrics to a Billy Joel tune. 

It brings an agreement between many different countries (I believe it’s 14 countries, but they never officially say). Anyway, Maxwell’s concern is with the elimination of tariff’s on hydro-power turbines. This means that the turbines would be replaced with hydro-electric dams, which would lead to the modernization of Myanmar. He says that it would displace villagers who spent their entire lives as farmers. 

When they get to Myanmar, they find that their US Ambassador is leading a demonstration against them. He was quickly detained and fired because his job was to advocate on behalf of America and obviously failed. We learn that he converted to Buddhism six months ago and is being trained by a Buddhist monk. 

After Maxwell is released from prison he goes to the Myanmar president, Aung Shwe, to apologize for his actions and say good-bye. Again, he urges him not to sign the trade agreement. When the President doesn’t listen, Maxwell pulls a gun on him — and now there’s a hostage situation. 

I’m not sure which line was better here: Nadine’s “Any idea how to get through to a gun-wielding Buddhist?” or Henry’s “Don’t get too close to the Buddhist terrorist.”

NEXT: Neighboring Issues