Madam Secretary recap: The Middle Way
A Buddhist teaching helps solve a crisis overseas -- and one at home, too
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
They decide to bring Maxwell’s teacher in to talk him down and release the president, which kind of backfires because Maxwell succeeded in getting the president to understand that the long-term effects of the agreement were bad for Myanmar. The snipers take an open shot and wound Maxwell —which ends the hostage situation — but the President still refuses to sign over concerns that China would come in to build the hydro-electric dams and eventually claim control over Myanmar’s water rights.
Elizabeth, being the damn good negotiator she is, uses “The Middle Way” theory to amend the agreement thereby forcing China to agree to never attempt to take away Myanmar’s water rights.
Meanwhile, Henry is home dealing with the neighbors who have lodged several complaints against the McCords. Here are a few of the objections: The Secretary’s cars are taking up all the street parking so they can’t have dinner parties, there’s too much noise coming from the car, which is kept running 24/7, her security touches their trash bins, and there are too many tourists on the street now. It seems wildly annoying that these people would complain while she’s out literally saving them from war, doesn’t it?
Henry and Blake host a brunch to talk about the problems since the neighbors are insisting that the McCords move away. Blake pretty much counter-argues every problem they have, but everyone’s incessant bickering causes him to go into his second hilarious rant of the episode.
Henry attempts to calm everyone down, but also goes on a rant about his neighbors’ petty problems. Again, totally warranted considering he’s still trying to get over the fact that his spy was captured and murdered and the neighbors are just upset over not being able to have prime parking for dinner guests.
However, Bess uses “The Middle Way” again and gets her security to turn off the car. I had no idea that the Secretary of State’s car ran 24/7. I actually tried to look this up and couldn’t find out if it was a real thing or not. You would think that shouldn’t be allowed in 2015, but maybe it is?
Before I wrap this recap up, I want to talk about Nadine. We learned a lot about Nadine’s past this week and one of the things I keep talking about over and over is the fact that I want Madam Secretary to keep building these characters because they are all so fascinating. It was a small sub-plot, but learning about her estranged son and how she punished him for dropping out of Juilliard was really important. Also Nadine was part of a dance troupe before she went to law school? Amazing. (I also wouldn’t mind seeing her attractive son in more episodes in the future.)
There’s a re-run next week, but then everyone get ready for Kate Burton (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal). She’s coming, and it’s going to be amazing.
- Nadine’s son is played by Gregory Peck’s grandson Ethan, which is pretty cool, but more importantly, Ethan Peck once played Mary-Kate Olsen’s French boyfriend in Passport to Paris. (If you’re not a 20-something this probably means nothing to you, but I thought it was worth mentioning.)
- Their neighbor Ted is the worst of them all. That dude has total resting bitch face.
- Daisy: “A demon robot is welcome to take over my world as long as it cleans my bathroom and organizes my stuff.” I agree with this line.
- If you ever plan on visiting Myanmar, remember the three rules: Men and women do not kiss cheeks in greeting, no touching of the heads and feet, and in the presence of the elderly, don’t spit.