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'Madam Secretary' recap: Trouble in paradise

Season 1 | Episode 6 | “The Call” | Aired Oct 26, 2014

Fans of CBS’s political drama, Madam Secretary, had to wait an extra hour to watch the program last night (thanks, NFL), but it is always worth the wait. In the show’s sixth episode, “The Call,” Bess finds out about a serious threat of genocide in the Republic of West Africa and defies the U.S. president by getting involved. She also gets angry with her seemingly perfect husband, Henry, for the first time.

But before we get into the show’s events, a quick question: Do you ever have a really busy Sunday, because of work or running around? I, for one, was exhausted last night, which accentuated just how cerebral a show Madam Secretary is. The characters talk a mile a minute using detailed political jargon, occasionally making it difficult to keep up. There was one scene (between Bess and her old colleague) where I barely caught a word. Like most shows, this one is not for everyone. If you want escapism or easy/mindless television watching, this isn’t going to fit the bill. But Madam Secretary is excellent—intriguing, fast-paced, and filled with excellent performances. As long as you’re feeling focused, this show is one of the best new programs on television (this is coming from someone who specializes in television watching). And Téa Leoni is one of the most striking, captivating actresses on TV today.

Now, back to this Sunday’s episode …

At the beginning of “The Call,” Secretary of State Bess McCord is preparing for her upcoming speech at the World Affairs Committee, one of her biggest platforms to date. What she talks about will be very significant, so the speechwriting process is a stressful day at the office for her and her team.

Once home, Henry tells Bess that he rescheduled a get-together with his favorite old professor, Father Laurent Vasseur, played by an almost unrecognizable Louis Gossett Jr. Father Laurent is at their house, but admits he is not there for a friendly catch-up. He pleas with Bess to help him with his home country, the Republic of West Africa, where the junta are slaughtering innocents.  “You have the power to answer the desperate prayers of thousands of my people,” he tells Bess.

Bess is both upset about the news and pissed at her husband. “Ambushing me in our own home, really?” she says to him. At the end of the work day, coming home and finding this situation in her living room feels invasive and disrespectful. Henry could have warned her on what Laurent was there to talk about.


Bess brings the issue to the POTUS, but he does not want to get involved. Despite this fact, Bess goes off script during her World Affairs Committee speech and implores the room of ambassadors to help.

“Now that we have heard these prayers, do we have the courage to answer them?” Bess asks the Committee.

France agrees to help  as long as the U.S. will too. But France changes its mind after it is revealed that Laurent is involved with drug-smuggling and illegal immigration. Henry feels awful that he involved his wife, who involved the leaders of the world, in something tied to illegal activity. He is also livid with Laurent for keeping his involvements a secret.

Despite this hiccup, Bess encourages everyone to stay on target and work to save the 50,000 civilians from genocide. This is accomplished by actually using Laurent to broker a deal with the junta warlords. At the end of the show, African Union forces stabilize the situation and set up stations for the refugees. The sweet African mother and two children who have been followed throughout the episode (who are Laurent’s family members) are seen exclaiming their thanks to God for being saved.

What made this episode unique is that Bess pushed even farther than ever before to do what she thought was right. She has already been portrayed as a boundary-pusher and fearless secretary of state. But in “The Call,” she flat-out defies POTUS and risks being fired from her position. After Russell tells her she is “damn near insubordinate,” Bess replies, “I am happy to live with my actions. I wouldn’t have been happy to live with my inactions.” Bess is referring to whether or not the U.S. was going to help save the people in West Africa. The show’s writers give Leoni fantastic lines like that to say week after week.

Seeing Henry make a mistake was refreshing, as well as seeing this amazing new television couple have a disagreement. However, they are super-strong and easily make up. At the end of the episode, Bess even brings Laurent back to their home so that he can apologize to Henry for being dishonest.

Bess’s assistant, Blake, spends the episode investigating Nadine, Bess’s chief of staff, because of Nadine’s close connection with Vincent Marsh (Bess’s predecessor). Nadine comes up clean. Nadine gets a bit tipsy after the Committee forum and tells Blake about her strong “sense of duty” to her country, her department, and her boss, an “incredibly challenging woman.” Nadine seems sincere and is no longer suspicious. At the end of the episode, Bess and Nadine share a drink and Bess confides that she did look into Nadine. Nadine suspected as much, since Blake had been acting nervous around her. Bess also reveals that they are going to begin investigating Marsh, which Nadine understands.

Nothing else of note happens with Bess’s team or at home. There is a sweet scene between Bess and her oldest daughter, in which Stephanie tells her mom to stay strong and motivated as far as helping the issue in Africa. Stephanie comes off as an entitled know-it-all, so it is nice for viewers to see her be supportive and kind toward her mother.

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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