Elizabeth and Russell team up to take down Craig Sterling.
Credit: Sarah Shatz/CBS

Things are heating up with Russia on Madam Secretary and I have a strong feeling that the rest of this half of season 2 will be primarily focused on how to take down madam dictator, Maria Ostrov. We haven’t seen Russia’s new leader since she declared Elizabeth a “Rusalka” over a month ago, but tonight she’s back and she is still as terrifying as ever. This episode served as the calm before the storm. Yes, there was drama, but the real drama is bubbling up and going to explode next week. At the very end of this episode we got a glimpse of what’s coming… and it’s intense.

The drama with Russia is probably the most important part of the episode, but because we’ve been waiting all season for Craig Sterling to be taken down, I’m going to kick this recap of with the ousting of Craig — because it was wonderful. Although, I am human and when Craig said, “This is my career,” I had a very brief moment of sympathy for him, but that quickly dissolved and I went back to cheering for his shameful exit.

First of all, Russell Jackson, Elizabeth McCord, and Mike B. are a freaking dream team and should be constantly working together to bring people down. I think it would be a wonderful thing to bring that back in various episodes. I also really liked their fancy secret meeting place.

The plan begins when Admiral Ellen Hill (Joanna Day) announces that she’s retiring. Russell Jackson then calls in Craig Sterling for a meeting and tells him to recommend General Reeves as her replacement. Russell also confronts him about his attempt in last week’s episode to stop the Cuban trade embargo from being lifted, which of course he tries to deny. However Russell manages to convince Sterling that he’s on his side and says he doesn’t want another scandal. He even tells Sterling that he doesn’t like Secretary McCord. Obviously this was part of the plan to throw Sterling off track, although, I have to admit for a split second I believed him.

Sterling says that he will vet Reeves and then decide whether he’s worth backing or not.

Russell meets up with Mike B. and Bess in a secret meeting spot to talk about their plan. Basically their plan revolves around Sterling taking their bait and recommending Reeves. At this point all we know is that they need Craig to retire on his own because there cannot be another scandal involving government employees this close to re-election (referring to the coup set up by Andrew Munsey, the CIA Director).

Mike B. gets the ball rolling by showing up at Senator Parisi’s office and asking for his official schedule over the past week. Spooked, Parisi shows up at Sterling’s gym and warns him that Mike B. was poking around. After Sterling officially backs Reeves, the plan is set in motion. Mike taps a Chronicle employee, Vanessa, and leaks that Reeves bribed Sterling. When Vanessa calls him up to comment, she says that her sources said the bribe happened at the same time Sterling met with Parisi, so of course he has no proof that there was no bribe.

In order to hide the evidence that he conspired with Parisi, Sterling sheds his planner. As it turns out, his planner held official White House documents and shredding those will put you in jail. Elizabeth and Russell confront him about it, and Russell says he has two options, he can quietly resign and leave out the back door or be taken out the front in handcuffs. Boom. Bye, Craig!

Now, Back to Russia.

They have officially found the man who hacked into Air Force One. As we learned in episode 5, his name is George Lasco and he’s been discovered hiding out in Cambodia. They say he’s never stayed in the same place for more than 48 hours, so now as the episode opens, there’s a time limit on catching this guy.

NEXT: Lights out Russia

Sterling’s plan is to send in a seal team who can be there in three hours, but they’d go in guns blazing causing a major scene in Cambodia, possibly ruining diplomatic relations. Bess suggests sending in a CIA black ops team who will quietly and discreetly capture Lasco, but it will take longer to get there. In the end, after the back and forth, Dalton sides with Bess, which of course pisses Craig off.

The CIA team gets in there only to discover that Lasco has been poisoned with Polonium, which apparently is a thing that the Russians are known for using to kill people. Although there isn’t proof yet, Dalton says he wants strike options on his desk.

Meanwhile, Dmitri is officially headed to Moscow, and he’s terrified. Henry assures him that he will do everything in his power to keep him safe. He confirms the location of a safe phone, and everything is going according to plan until Dmitri is stopped in the bathroom by two scary Russian men and is unable to grab the phone.

At this point, Dmitri is missing and the DIA is about to give up on him, but Henry convinces them to give him 24 hours before they pull assets out and leave Dmitri behind. After a brief moment of panic, we see that Dmitri is okay and has been tapped to be a part of GRU (which is Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate). What does this mean exactly? It means that Dmitri has become one of America’s biggest assets in Russia and they were stupid to even think about giving up on him. It’s been annoying me all season that Henry seems to be smarter than the people who are actually in the DIA and this episode further proves that. Anyone agree?

Dmitri pays a prostitute to use her phone and tells Henry he’s alive and has intel. He drops photos of Maria Ostrov’s plans for Russia and Henry says she’s pretty much not going to stop until she takes over Ukraine. Dmitri also left a note saying “I’m out” and Henry assumes he will seek asylum in Sweden, where his sister is.

Russell gets a call from the Pentagon and confirms that Russia hired Lasco to hack Air Force One. There are three strike plans presented in the situation room and Dalton says that they will strike using the most aggressive option, basically a blackout over Russia. He says that it will be “an act they will never forget.”

The episode ends with Secretary McCord speaking with the Russian Ambassador. “The United States maintains its right to retaliate when we deem it necessary. Tonight, we deem it necessary.” At that moment Russia goes dark and Dmitri is stuck on a train trying to flee the country. Uh oh.

The description for next week says that Henry shares intel with Bess that makes her doubt that Russia was behind the plane crash. Ugh, really? That is terrible news considering they just sent a message that will most likely lead to a counter-attack from Russia.

Minor Debriefings:

  • What’s up with Daisy blowing off Oliver? I’m kind of bummed out about it — they were cute! Maybe her and Matt are getting back together? I’m not sure, but I want answers.
  • We finally meet Russell Jackson’s wife (Linda Emond) and not only is she way out of his league, but she’s also a surgeon. Way to go, Russell!
  • “The most important part of my day is coming home.” Oh, what a smooth line Henry. Their relationship has remained unwavering through the past two seasons, and I absolutely love that they come home and have this solid relationship that works so well together.
  • I also love that Bess is not immune to infomercial purchases. Sometimes those products just suck you in and you want all of them. No judgment from me, I once bought a ShamWow.

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Madam Secretary
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