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'Madam Secretary' recap: 'You Say You Want a Revolution'

Elizabeth McCord attempts to make history tonight.

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Madam Secretary

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

With the Jihadi John news this week, it’s probably smart that Madam Secretary stayed away from any mention of Syria this episode. I do have to mention, though, that the probable death of Jihadi John by drone airstrikes just days after the last episode aired is a pretty creepy coincidence, but it’s a new week and a new problem for Elizabeth McCord. Like most weeks, she completely takes care of business. 

As we are well aware by now, the show is not afraid to cover real-life controversies that are happening in the U.S., and this week is no exception. This week, the topic of conversation is the Cuban trade embargo, which is a topic that people are actively fighting back and forth about. 

The show opens in Chicago 1977, with three African-Americans being pulled over. The woman in the car, who we eventually learn is Afeni Rahim (Elizabeth Spars), tells the man driving to stay calm and relax as an officer approaches the vehicle. The officer raises a gun, scaring one of the men in the car who goes to grab a gun. The cop shoots both the men dead, and one of the men shoots the cop before he dies. We learn later in the episode that the cop who was murdered was Officer Burke, and Rahim was found guilty of the murder she obviously didn’t commit, causing her to flee to Cuba. (Hmm…definitely feels like Madam Secretary was drawing on Assata Shakur here.)

Fast forward to the present, and it’s the re-opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., after 54 years, and while everyone else recognizes it’s a controversial moment, Matt is not having it. Openly opposing the move, Bess decides that Matt’s beliefs will harm the speech she has to make when she goes to Cuba to re-open the American Embassy. So, he gets taken off the assignment. 

That same night we learn that Senator Markes is resigning. Who is that? Well he’s a man who was pulled over going the wrong way down a one way street, failed a sobriety test, and was with a woman (not his wife) who had a half-ounce of cocaine on her. Oh, and he happens to be the head of the Foreign Relations Committee who stopped a bill on Cuba from passing. Now, Bess is going to do everything in her power to get that bill going again so that she can announce the lifting of the trade embargo on the same day the American Embassy re-opens. Let the 48-hour countdown begin. 

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Craig Sterling is back, but I’m going to hold off on talking about him and save the best for last. Bess and Russell successfully convince Dalton to support their bill, which surprisingly does not take a lot of convincing. His “Hell, let’s make some history” line really reminds me of last season when he was listening to Bess on pretty much every topic. 

Now they must get 60 votes. Blake and Daisy are manning the phones and calling senators to get support for the bill. When Matt learns the news, he immediately wants to be a part of it, even though he was super against it before, because now it’s going to be a historic moment when it goes through. Meanwhile, Bess is off promising Minnesota money for agriculture and offering Wyoming’s Wind River Mountain Range national park status, and Bess and Russell corner the Idaho senator and threaten to crack down on marijuana farms in Idaho if he doesn’t back them. 

Finally, they have their majority — or so they thought. Right as their celebratory champagne is being delivered to them, Senator Parisi (one of their yes votes) holds a press conference to say that he won’t be voting yes on the bill unless Cuba hands over Rahim to the United States to serve out her sentence for the 1977 murder of Officer Burke. 

NEXT: Bye, Craig