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'Madam Secretary' recap: Getting lucky

Season 1 | Episode 2 | “Another Benghazi” | Aired Sept 28, 2014

Viewers and critics alike were eager for the follow-up episode to Madam Secretary‘s highly rated pilot, watched by more than 14 million viewers. The new CBS drama’s second episode, “Another Benghazi,” did not disappoint.

Last week introduced Téa Leoni’s Elizabeth “Bess” McCord as the nation’s new Secretary of State, so this Sunday’s episode jumped right in with the week’s crisis and how this independent, outside-the-box,  brilliant thinker would fix it. While in the process of dealing with a crisis in Yemen, Bess faces a challenge in her home when her oldest daughter makes headlines for leading a college protest and subsequently quits school.

“Another Benghazi” begins watching a family eat breakfast. It could have been any home across America, but this particular family is eating breakfast in the American Embassy in Yemen. Shots are fired, and the family hides under the table while the father looks outside the window. There is a heavy encroachment around the Embassy by armed protestors who have breached the perimeter.

Bess tells the father, Ambassador Paul Wellington, to leave Yemen. He refuses, but says his family is headed back to the U.S. Bess meets with the POTUS and the rest of the staff, who worry about the issue becoming “another Benghazi.” The characters want to make sure the U.S. (i.e., Bess) doesn’t make the same mistakes as they did with Libya in 2012.

Bess wants to beef up security, but is blocked by Russell, the White House Chief of State, who apparently plans to disagree with her at every turn. Bess then tries to convince the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee to send in more military personnel to Yemen, but he also denies her. But that scene is not totally pointless, because we learn that Bess is awesome at golf (in other words, anything she attempts to do, she is good at).

The President then asks Bess, “What makes you think this is a large-scale aggression versus small-scale irritation?” Her perfect response is that she “was trained to recognize a global hot spot” after working under him at the CIA for 12 years. He then puts her in charge of the situation, but if she can’t send troops and can’t pull out the Ambassador, what can she do?

She decides to use a discretionary fund to hire private security contractors, called Vesuvian. She feels hiring this private army is the most official and only way to keep the ambassador safe. However, back when she was working in academia, she referred to Vesuvian as “the latest guys of Satan,” among other negative commentary. Vesuvian are militia for hire, or mercenaries who work merely for money, and they have a bad reputation, to say the least. When Bess meets with Mr. Bishop (Jeff Hephner), the (gorgeous!) head of Vesuvian, she explains that her opinion has changed since she was a professor. He agrees to partner with her and send 50 men to Yemen to protect Ambassador Wellington.

Meanwhile, Bess is coping with some personal drama as well. Her oldest daughter, Stephanie (Wallis Currie-Wood), was leading a protest at her college and was detained by police. This made national headlines, and Bess’s staff question her about this daughter no one has heard of. Bess explains that Stephanie wanted to have a normal college experience and to be kept out of the limelight. Her team struggles to understand and to come up with responses for the public about the sudden appearance of a new mystery daughter.

Stephanie shows up at home the next day (“Hi, Norma Rae!” jokes her mom), and explains to Bess and husband Henry that she decided to quit college. Stephanie confides in her dad, which drives a small wedge between the couple. But they have a super-strong marriage and end up deciding as “a unit” that Stephanie can take a year off from school, but she must get a job. Overall, Stephanie comes off as a bit whiny and entitled, but also extremely bright and political-minded, like her mother.

Vesuvian is now in Yemen, where the crowd is getting more aggressive, so the team goes in with dogs and guns. Bess is Facetiming with the Ambassador, who is saying that he feels much safer, when suddenly the screen goes dead. There is no longer contact on the ground and everyone is worried. The staff all blame Vesuvian, especially after world news states that the protestors were peaceful and that the American security team fired first. An explosion followed as a retaliation, resulting in at least one civilian death. The POTUS, Russell, and Bess discuss how the situation is even worse than Benghazi “because it looks like we didn’t learn anything from the first one,” says Bess. When U.S. forces finally get to the scene, they confirm that it looks like Vesuvian “cut and run” and that no one could have survived the explosion. Everyone is saddened by the confirmation that Ambassador Wellington must be dead, and they blame Vesuvian.

Bess gets a visit from Vesuvian’s Mr. Bishop, who asks her to not believe the rumors. Finally, they have video feed with Vesuvian. The first face seen onscreen is Paul’s. The Ambassador is alive and well! He thanks Vesuvian for his life, stating that they got him out after a first, smaller explosion and brought him to safety before the second, devastating explosion. The reason they were all missing is that they couldn’t make contact until “the package,” aka the Ambassador, was safe. Paul also states that Vesuvian did not fire first, as believed. Even the President thanks Mr. Bishop, stating that “we’re indebted to your security forces.” The only death was a member of Vesuvian. Bess insists on visiting his grieving family. It’s a brief scene, but one that shows her caring and compassionate nature.

Bess’s decision to hire Vesuvian was the right one; now she is validated in front of POTUS and the hardheaded, difficult Russell. There is a moment between Bess and Russell in which he still doesn’t give her the respect she deserves, but at least acknowledges, although begrudgingly, that she made the right call. Maybe Russell will start to support Bess instead of disagree with her at every step. Bess and Russell feel she “got lucky” with this crisis, but it is Bess’s instincts and sound decision-making skills that led to the positive outcome.

Stephanie goes to interview for a job and is told she isn’t applicable since she didn’t graduate from college. Then she mentions who her mother is and the interviewer changes her mind. But Stephanie walks away; she doesn’t want to get special treatment for being Elizabeth’s daughter.

The show ends with Bess and Stephanie discussing George’s death. They received the invitation to his memorial service in the mail. Results of his car crash were inconclusive, so his death is still being called an accident. Future episodes will continue this storyline and figuring out who was behind his assumed murder.

Overall, Another Benghazi was a fascinating and well-paced episode. Téa Leoni continues to shine and impress as the brilliant, fair, and thoughtful Madam Secretary.

Madam Secretary airs Sundays at 8/7C on CBS.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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