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'Madam Secretary' fan recap: To coup or not to coup?

Season 1 | Episode 16 | “Tamerlane” | Aired Mar 17, 2015

This Sunday’s Madam Secretary was one of the season’s best. “Tamerlane” was a high-octane, emotional thriller, in which Secretary of State Bess McCord works to prevent a secret coup against Iran’s government.

The show begins at ex-CIA Director Munsey’s house. Munsey was uncovered to be one of the coup’s leaders, along with ex-Secretary of State Marsh. Munsey is also responsible for Marsh’s death. Munsey is seen getting an ankle bracelet and his house is being ransacked. He will be given the appearance of freedom but will be monitored discreetly, with no access to signals or communication devices of any kind, so that he can’t reach out to anyone.

The Power Trio (POTUS, Bess, and White House Chief of Staff Russell) discuss how the imminent coup in Iran has their fingerprints all over it, how it’s clearly big and yet they’re still in the dark. It could bury the peace talks and put them on the road to war. They need operational detail to bring to Iran that proves they were not behind the coup. Bess states that the “key to any post-coup structure would be a leader,” and she has ideas who that would be.

Bess ends up confiding in her staff about the coup so that they can help figure out which one of the possible Iranian post-coup leaders was working with Munsey and Marsh. In the process of gathering her team, Bess goes to Daisy’s apartment and Matt is there. So that cat is out of the bag! Bess also apologizes to Daisy for being kept so clueless and says she would have skipped the last press conference too (seen at the end of episode 15).

The team narrows down the group of possible leaders, then studies the calendars of the remaining men, Marsh, and Munsey to see when all three men could have met. While working on this, Nadine finally confesses to the team about her six-year affair with Marsh. They had been defending him, saying what a great family man he was, so she had to set them straight.

The man they determine could be the possible Iranian coup leader is Jafar Alinejad. He is Western-educated, a decorated Iran/Iraq war vetaran, and an ambassador to the U.K. in the ’90s who was then exiled to Canada. He also has a brother who is a general in the revolutionary guard, giving him roads to the military. For all these reasons, POTUS wants Bess to vet Alinejad. The Power Trio discuss whether they should actually get on board with the coup. President Conrad says they need to consider “the best way forward, no matter how they got here.”

During the Canadian visit, Alinejad admits he quit his ambassador post because he disagreed with Iran’s nuclear ambitions and foreign policy. He barely made it out alive and states that “this same lunatic still rules my beloved country,” referring to President Shiraz. Bess tells him that they know about the coup. “Good,” he replies, “You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t ready to back my vision for Iran.” He wants a restructuring of the economy, fair elections, free trade with the West, and moderation across the board, but states that this will never happen under Ayatollahs. He believes the army will rally behind him.

Alinejad is so convincing that Russell still considers getting behind the coup. But Bess recognizes signs on Alinejad’s face that he is dying. He has aggressive brain cancer and will be dead within two months. There goes the Power Trio’s possible plan to back the coup, so now they must move forward trying to prevent it.

Bess tries to get information from Munsey, but gets nowhere. “I’m sorry, I have a Real Housewives marathon to get back to,” he tells her.

It is decided that Bess must go to Iran, secretly, discreetly, and with limited detail, so that the riskiness shows sincerity that they were not behind the coup and that they want to help. Henry doesn’t want her to go, as it is so dangerous. “I will be fine,” she tells her worried husband. “But in case I’m not, you should wait a year to remarry.” They half-jokingly agree that Henry can’t marry anyone younger than 40, and go over a list of people he’s not allowed to be with. The next day, she kisses her family goodbye in a more emotional farewell than normal, as Bess knows this is a very high-risk trip. The kids can’t even know where she is going.

Munsey is seen at a coffee house and asks to use the bathroom. The guard bugs the bathrooms and checks the ceiling for anything, but misses a tiny phone that Munsey uses to call Juliet, who’s in Iran. “This is the green light. Tamerlane is a go.” He is telling Juliet to commence with the coup. Bess, etc., know about the call because of the bug, and Bess figures that Munsey gave the go-ahead.

Madam Secretary episode 16

Bess arrives at the home of Iranian Foreign Minister Jovani and tells him about the coup plot, admitting that at least two “very powerful, very senior officials” were/are behind it. She says that “it will be well planned and well executed” and that the goal is a “complete regime change from the Ayatollahs down.”

Because Bess came with very little security, Jovani believes that she and POTUS aren’t behind it. Further evidence? Bess gives the coordinates of the call received from Munsey (a.k.a. Juliet’s locale) and advises Jovani to bring the info to President Shiraz. He does this and is very appreciative, thanking Bess. But then a bomb explodes and bullets come blasting through the house! Minister Jovani is killed.

Bess’ detail is fragmented under the attack, and there are further attacks on Iranian government leaders including President Shiraz. The coup is officially in movement. Ally, who turns 16 during this episode, is clued in by Henry and Stevie, who figured out where Mom is. Everyone back home is worried sick about Bess.

Bess is then seen in an underground shelter, bleeding but okay. She is visited by President Shiraz. The coup has failed, in part because of the information that she provided. Her visit successfully stopped Iran from assuming that POTUS was behind the coup. They say that they both want peace talks to move forward. “But now I fear,” says President Shiraz, “there may be too many bodies to bury.”

POTUS decides to give a national address, with no cover-up. He doesn’t think they can pave over the mess. “We’re better off just getting everything out,” he says.

In one of the show’s most emotional sequences, Henry, Ally, and Stevie finds out Bess is okay. They hug and cry. Nadine then tells the team Bess is alive, and they hug. Bess comes arrives at home and is greeted with kisses and affection.

President Conrad addresses the nation: “We do know that certain high-level officials in the U.S. government were involved. We also know that Secretary Marsh’s plane accident was not an accident …The guilty will be punished … Moving forward, you can be confident that your government is working toward a peaceful resolution to this crisis.”

Munsey takes something from out of ceiling: a gun. He shoots himself in the neck, committing suicide.

Lastly, Bess is seen opening an email from Juliet that reads, “Bess, I want to come in.”

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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