Bess has to deal with a different kind of crisis this week --- the McCord family
Credit: Sarah Shatz/CBS

What did we learn this week on Madam Secretary besides the fact that Kate Burton should be in every single episode? When Henry McCord speaks, you will cry.

There have been some emotional episodes throughout the series, but this one might take the cake. We finally meet the dysfunctional, yet all-too-real McCord family and if you’ve ever been to a family member’s funeral, then you know that the writers hit the nail on the head with this one. It was written so well, it kind of felt like we were watching our own dysfunctional extended family.

Before we go into the recap, let’s talk about Henry McCord’s father. We met him in season 1, episode 13 when he comes to visit the family. We know that the relationship with Henry and his father has always been strained — it was made very clear when we met him. He worked as a union rep for a very long time, so Stevie (who was still aimlessly wandering at that point) tried to get a job in union labor and found out that he hasn’t been working there for five years and was too proud to admit he lost his job. Starting to come back to you yet?

Back to the episode.

For the most part all matters in the State Department are put on hold this week as Bess tends to Henry’s needs after his father passes away. The family heads to Pittsburgh and we meet Henry’s entire family. He is one of four kids, but the only one who really matters is Maureen — played by Kate Burton (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal).

The minute they drive up, Maureen makes a snide comment about Bess’ security detail, and we quickly figure out that Maureen is not a fan of Elizabeth. We find out later that it’s not really about Elizabeth, it’s the fact that Maureen believes Henry turned his back on his family when he met her.

Henry heads to the police station to sign paperwork where he learns that his father didn’t die in his sleep, but overdosed on hydrocodone. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to find out that my father took his own life, especially when you had no clues or warning that it was coming.

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After Henry informs the family, Maureen decides she wants to bury the information about their father’s suicide and forces the family to go along with it.

Meanwhile, Jason and Alison decide to do a little digging; they figure out that their grandfather was being catfished on an online dating site. Using a photo of their grandfather’s “girlfriend,” they figure out that the picture was actually an actress named Janet Nelson in Los Angeles. The “woman” said she was having money problems, so Henry’s father handed over everything he had — money, his house, etc. Instead of asking for help, he thought taking his own life was the only way out.

So now, on top of a suicide, there’s no money left for the family. Snide remarks are made again about how Henry and Elizabeth are well off, but the rest of the family was counting on the money. They ask Elizabeth to use her power to find out who did this and retrieve the money — which of course is pretty unethical in her position. The best part is when Maureen says she should call the President and ask for help. Clearly the President of the United States has nothing better to do than track down a scammer.

NEXT: Family drama

But Bess obviously wants to help, so she asks Blake to trace the email address. As it turns out, one of his father’s friends was scamming him the whole time.

In a very emotional scene, Maureen blames Henry for their father’s death. She says that he turned his back on him and therefore their father felt he couldn’t reach out for help. People say a lot of things when they’re grieving, but Maureen took things way too far.

Henry and Bess decide to go on a walk — as they often do when they need to talk — and he tells her a story about his freshman year at UVA when he was trying to fit in and was too embarrassed of his father to bring him to a father-son event on campus. He said that they walked past the hall where the dinner was, and he will never forget the look on his father’s face when he realized what was happening. He says that’s the moment Maureen was talking about. I don’t know about you, but at this point I was sobbing. Things got too real this week… every single person has had a version of this moment with a parent.

And then Henry spoke at his father’s funeral making us all cry even harder than we already were.

This episode is important — even though it has nothing to do with matters of the state. We’ve been watching Elizabeth as this strong character who can do anything and take on the most powerful people in the world. This episode shows a different side of Elizabeth. For once Stevie makes herself useful, when she asks her mother why she lets Maureen talk to her like that. Bess explains that her parents died, and everything was silent. She loved how loud Henry’s family was and wanted to be part of it. So basically, she allows Maureen to be rude… because family. I get it.

Meanwhile, over at the State Department, there was a little bit going on in Bess’ absence:

Nadine realizes that Russell Jackson had a paragraph redacted from their East Africa Corruption Report, but can’t figure out why he did it. She confronts him and when he tells her to drop it, she says, “I don’t take orders from you.” Boom. Go Nadine!

At the end he reveals that the paragraph reveals information he doesn’t want to get out about a super-pac that’s backing Dalton’s re-election. The only important thing I took away from this is that Dalton’s re-election is probably going to be a major plotline in the future.

Now, go hug your mom and dad and apologize for that time in high school you were an a–hole before it’s too late.

Minor Debriefings:

  • Is it bad that I hope Alison does go to a school on the West Coast because I don’t care about her character or what happens?
  • Sarah McCord is Tim Daly’s real-life daughter, Emelyn Daly!
  • That was a cute little Eric Stoltz cameo at the end. He plays Elizabeth’s brother and we met him earlier in the season, in case you forgot.

Episode Recaps

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