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'Madam Secretary' recap: Another day, another democracy in peril

Season 1 | Episode 8 | “Need to Know” | Aired Nov 9, 2014

Episode 8 of CBS’s taut political drama Madam Secretary was, without question, one of the best to date. It was a fast-paced and thrilling action story mixed with moments of humor and familial love. The show has really gotten its tone down pat and is proving to be a great addition to CBS’s drama family.

In “Need to Know,” new Secretary of State Bess McCord must find a plane that has been hijacked by a rebel group in Moldova while adjusting to her husband Henry’s reactivation into the NSA. Also, the fact that speechwriter Matt and press secretary Daisy hooked up until Daisy’s recent engagement is starting to interfere with their behavior at the office.

Henry was asked to rejoin the NSA at the end of the last episode. In “Need to Know,” viewers get to see him have some excitement himself. His job? To place a bug in the home of Klaus, a scholar Henry has known for years. Klaus has been laundering money for a butchering terrorist, Abu Khinjar, through Klaus’ conservancy for years, and Khinjar is planning an attack.

Through Henry’s pleasant, likable nature, he is able to garner an invitation to a dinner party at Klaus’ home. Henry’s investigative work included finding out that Klaus still owns the chess set he bought while with Henry in Jerusalem. The NSA makes a bug that looks identical to a chess piece. At the party, there is a tense scene in which Henry stealthily switches the original chess piece for the bug right before Klaus walks into the room.

The major problem with Henry’s NSA involvement? Now he and his loving wife have even less they can confide in each other about (her new job has been restricting their conversations for a while now). Bess says that she will be glad when his participation is over, but Henry asks his handler to stay involved even after his job to bug Klaus’ home is finished.


So what was Bess’ week like at the office? It begins with a visit with the Prime Minister Diacov of Moldova due to a strong separatist group launching a new offensive against the Moldovan government. The group is led by rebel General Kolba, a sexist whose favorite pastime is taking to Twitter to discuss Bess and her gorgeous legs. Bess provides Diacov with Jim, an old colleague and friend who is also an ethnic Moldovan and specializes in counterinsurgency tactics. Jim will travel back to Moldova with Diacov to help build strategies to contain Kolba.

But on their way, the plane is hijacked. Bess has the unfortunate task of telling Jim’s wife that her husband is missing after he lied to her about where he was going. Bess thrives in this situations, as she is as warm and supportive as much as she is a badass ex-CIA spy and one of the smartest and most powerful women in the world.

After the plane is located at Kolba’s compound, Bess comes up with an amazing plan. She will distract Kolba with on-camera negotiations while the U.S. military impersonates Kolba by using the same car he has. They will drive themselves right into the compound! It works like a charm. Once inside the barricades, the U.S. military attacks and finds Jim tied up and beaten, but thankfully alive. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Diacov is found dead.

Bess’ plan was brilliant, and actually led to a compliment from Russell! He actually almost makes a joke too!

“Russell, was that a joke?” Bess asks. “It was in the neighborhood,” he responds, in his trademark sardonic way.

In one of the show’s now-trademark reunion scenes, Jim and his wife run toward each other after he hobbles off a plane in D.C. Nadine is even so kind as to bring Daisy and Matt to watch this lovely moment. Why does she bring them? They have been arguing all over the office for days because of their past sexual relationship. Daisy got engaged at the end of the last episode and ever since, the two of them cannot stop squabbling; it is interfering at the office.

Nadine scolds the duo for their inappropriate behavior: “Your personal lives are your own affair, but they become my business when they interfere with the operations of this office.” But then Nadine brings them to watch Jim’s reunion because she believes in taking the high road. Maybe seeing a couple reunite after such a scare will inspire them to grow up a bit.

In one of the episode’s funniest moments, Blake is about to get General Kolba on the line for Bess, but Daisy and Matt won’t shut up. “Excuse me,” Blake says. “I’m about to place a very important phone call to a misogynist warlord, so if you two could take this conversation somewhere else, that would be great.” Blake has a great dry wit that provides the show with some of its most humorous lines.


Not much happens back at the McCord family home other than Bess and Henry adjusting to his new, more secretive lifestyle. At the end of the episode, he tells Bess his NSA job is through. But viewers know this isn’t necessarily true, as he pitched his handler to keep him involved. “Thank God—I was afraid maybe you liked it,” Bess tells him. He lies and responds, “No, I was glad I could help. But it wasn’t for me.” Hey, Mister, don’t lie to your awesome wife!

Henry also talks to their son about being respectful to women after he begins rating girls at school based on looks.

The last noteworthy element of this episode is that Bess finally confides in her CIA friends Isabelle and Juliet about George and Marsh being murdered. They are both shaken to the core. Juliet has children, so she opts out. But in the show’s final scene, Isabelle offers to help after showing up late at night at Bess’ home.

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