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'Madam Secretary' recap: The Great Juggler

Season 1 | Episode 5 | “Blame Canada” | Aired Oct 20, 2014

Was it just me, or did anyone else start singing the South Park movie’s “Blame Canada” melody when you read the name of this week’s Madam Secretary episode?

Last week’s episode of the new CBS series had new Secretary of State Elizabeth “Bess” McCord helping China and Japan broker a treaty over the ownership of islands. This week’s task is a bit more daunting: Bess must develop a peace treaty with Iran while simultaneously appeasing Canada’s need to settle a report over an oil pipeline. This woman makes juggling pertinent world issues look like a cakewalk! Okay, not true; she makes it look like a beyond-difficult task that takes all the skill, resolve, and intelligence in the world. Luckily, Bess has those traits in spades.

In “Blame Canada,” the U.S. is in the middle of peace talks with Iran in Vienna over the nuclear agenda, but they are not going well. President Clark learns that Iran is building a reactor of some kind that the government assumes will be used for arms production, even though Iran had agreed to halt said production. Chief U.S. Negotiator for Middle East Peace Alan Ballins recommends threatening military aggression against Iran. Bess instead suggests giving Iran something in return; if Iran shuts down the reactor, the U.S. will lift the ban on providing Iran with airplane parts. When Ballins objects, Bess insists it’s “not a reward,” as Iran must allow weapons inspectors too. President Dalton agrees; viewers know he listens to Bess and respects her judgment.

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Bess is also dealing with an unhappy Canadian Ambassador, Lester Clark, played by a wonderful Robert Klein. Clark is mad “in a Canadian kind of way” regarding the Land-Bridge North American Pipeline connecting the two countries. The U.S. State Department has been sitting on a report, the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Pipeline, which was prepared under Marsh. Clark feels the longer the report is withheld, the more eco-activists can pressure the countries to kill the pipeline (the show’s opening scene showed one such activist bombing the pipeline). Clark wants word that Bess will make it a priority to release the report. Also, Canada is throwing Bess a welcome party later in the week.

As Bess reads the report, she is appalled. It is very one-sided, and she learns that Marsh hired oil lobbyists to write it, complete with fake analyses and information. Bess feels she cannot make any decisions until a new report is written, even though it could take months.

The U.S. gets word that the Iranians have walked out of the peace talks, leaving everyone very concerned. This is despite that fact that a former Iranian U.N. Ambassador, Ambassador Javani, had joined the talks, which Bess hoped would help broker the deal. Ballins says he made it clear to Javani that if the supreme leader agreed to turn off the reactor and let in inspectors, the U.S. would resume selling plane equipment to Iran. But Iran didn’t respond, which Ballins states “proves they were never serious” about a deal. POTUS is pissed and wants to take military action to take out Iran’s weapons program for good. Bess gets him to give her 24 hours.

POTUS confides in Bess that he wanted to be the President that gives America peace in the Middle East, not one that orders airstrikes again Iran. He also asks about the pipeline report, as it’s part of his legacy plan to provide the U.S. with energy independence. In this episode, viewers see President Clark lose his temper and get upset with Bess for not fixing the Iran crisis faster. This scene was important for seeing him let down his guard for a moment and discussing his feelings of disappointment and frustration.

At the Canadian party for Bess, fans see everyone all dolled up. Ambassador Clark must have approved Bess’s decision to redo the report because he helps her secretly sneak out of the party to meet with Ambassador Javani. Bess tells Javani, “I thought you were someone who could help lead us to peace.” He tells her he doesn’t want his children to “inherit war anymore than you want that for your children.”

Bess learns that Ballins never offered the deal. She offers it, and Javani agrees to convince Iran’s supreme leader. By the next morning, the reactor is shut down, weapons inspectors are in the air to Iran, and the treasury announces that they will begin selling commercial airplanes parts to Iran once more. Bess has once again saved the day, this time on a huge scale. She has helped her country avoid war—not too shabby for a few days at the office.

Bess calls Ballins into her office and fires him. He admits that he didn’t want the U.S. to seem weak and that he wanted military action to be taken all along, just as Marsh did when he was alive.

“But it’s my job now. And you’re fired,” Bess replies in her awesomely fierce, but calm, fashion.

The episode ends with Bess asking her assistant, Blake, to help her run a confidential investigation on Nadine, as she was Marsh’s lover and right-hand woman. Perhaps there is something shady going on with Nadine, since Bess is uncovering more and more sketchy things about Marsh.

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As far as relationships, viewers learn that Daisy, Bess’s press coordinator, and speechwriter Matt are secretly hooking up. Matt breaks up with his girlfriend during the episode and insists it’s not because of Daisy (yeah, right). The scenes between them are funny, but lack any real chemistry or heat.

Jason, Bess and Henry’s son, learns more about his father due to a get-to-know-your-parent school assignment. Henry explains how religion teaches the world about the greatest protestors of all time, something Jason (an “anarchist”) can relate to. Also, in addition to being chosen as the “Third-Hottest U.S. Government Arm Candy,” Henry was also an airplane captain in the U.S. Marine Corp. who put himself through school by joining the R.O.T.C.

All in all, “Blame Canada” was a fast-paced, intense episode that had Bess up against very serious issues and truly saving the day once again.

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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