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'Madam Secretary' fan recap: Preventing another Waco

Season 1 | Episode 18 | “The Time Is at Hand” | Aired Mar 29, 2015

In this week’s Madam Secretary, Bess, her trusty team, and her religious scholar husband Henry work to prevent a religious cult’s mass suicide. Henry is called upon due to his status as a high-profile religion expert to talk down a cult leader based in Bolivia. Also, speech writer Matt gets a taste of the spotlight after writing a killer comedic speech for Bess, and he likes the sweet taste of being the center of attention.

The episode begins with Bess giving a speech at a charity fundraiser event. Her speech, written by Matt, is hilarious and is a huge hit. Matt bumps into an old acquaintance from college who is now a famous blogger, played by Looking star Frankie J. Alvarez. Zach wants to interview the comedic brains behind the speech, which is sure to be an Internet sensation. Matt agrees.

Madam Secretary episode 18 guest star Frankie J. Alvarez

While walking around the event, Bess gets accosted by a man, Mr. Coomer, who begs her to help him. His daughter Christine is a member of a religious cult based in Bolivia, the Covenant of John, and he received an email that states that they are “waiting for the final judgment.” At the end of the email, his daughter says goodbye. The cult will commit a mass suicide, and Mr. Coomer needs Bess’ help to prevent it. She promises to look into it.

At a quick family breakfast scene, it is clear that Mama McCord is recovering from her PTSD. She seems back to her old self with her family. Before leaving for the day, Henry reminds her to take her anti-anxiety meds, which she purposely left because she doesn’t want to be “off her game.” Henry makes her take them and reminds her, “If you have another panic attack, then you’ll definitely be way off your game.” She asks Henry to look into the Covenant of John.

Her team is researching the cult, led by Reverand Wesley Finch. Finch believes he is the seventh messenger sent to reveal the Book of Revelation, and he thinks the end of the world is next week. Bess wants to ask Bolivia for military or police intervention; if this is denied, they can send their own team. But the U.S. is on thin ice with Bolivia after sending in a DEA drug raid (without a full sign-off) onto a farm that turned out not to be growing drugs. Innocent children and farmers were murdered in the process. Bess gets very tense and runs out of the meeting. She is feeling very anxious and fingers her pills, but doesn’t take one.

Bess then meets with the Bolivian ambassador (another guest star—Orange is the New Black‘s Selenis Levya). As expected, the Ambassador is still resentful about the failed drug raid (Bolivia barely got a phone call from Marsh after the incident). “Brown lives are cheaper than white ones; we get that again and again in your country,” she states. Bess states they want to send in a team to bring the U.S. citizens back, and will give the Bolivian government full credit for preventing the mass suicide. But the Ambassador is underwhelmed by Mr. Coomer’s email. Bolivia won’t get involved unless Bess can convince Bolivia that this is a threat to them as well.

When Bess spoke with Mr. Coomer at the charity event, he stated that a congressman, Larry Aims, persuaded him to find Bess. Bess talks with Aims, who wants her to send him to Bolivia. “You sent a traumatized parent to ambush me … You wanted this on my radar; it’s on my radar. Now stand down.”

On the home front, oldest daughter Stevie is dating her micro-loans boss, Arthur Gilroy, who is 39, divorced with an eight-year old, and twice Stevie’s age. He shows up at her house before a date, to her dismay, and Henry and Bess see him. Henry asks, “Why don’t you come in, Arthur, and have a drink? Stevie’s not of age, but you look like you certainly are.” There is definitely tension during the mixer.

Matt goes out with Zach for the interview, and the next day is called a “hot new voice.” Zach also put in Matt’s head that the interview could open new windows, and that Matt could become a comedic political personality. When Matt talks to Daisy about this, she looks a bit bummed, and tells him she didn’t realize he wasn’t so enthralled with his life as it is. Then consultant Mike B. is a total jerk to Matt, telling him to stay behind the scenes unless he wants to find a new job.

The team finds out that Congressman Aims didn’t listen, and showed up in Bolivia demanding the release of the cult members. He has been taken hostage by firearm, and Finch releases a video threatening to kill Aims. Bess must figure out how to avoid another Waco.

Bess talks to Henry, who states that Finch is a scholar who likes debate. He might be scared and looking for a way out after promising so much to his followers. Bess wants Henry to call and speak with Finch. But POTUS wants more—he wants to send Henry to Bolivia, with backup, of course. Henry is so legitimate, after working for the Pentagon, the NSA, and being the husband of the Secretary of State, that they expect Finch to welcome him. Which is true.

Henry arrives in Bolivia in good spirits, making plenty of jokes. Mr. Coomer’s daughter welcomes Henry in, but not his security guard, which equals no wire and no visual. But the team establishes a long-range microphone, so everything is heard. Finch is happy Henry is there and asks him about why he chose to study faith. Henry tells him how his best friend died when they were kids, and how a priest admitted that sometimes God fails everyone, which impressed him. That was the beginning of his lifelong passion and studies.

Finch is enthralled, but not so much his deputy, who puts a knife to Henry’s throat. He thinks Henry is only there to turn Finch and find/save Congressman Aims.

Madam Secretary episode 18

Henry is able to flip the guy around, and a sniper kills him as soon as he gets a clean shot. No one in the camp notices. Henry gets Finch to pray with him, but then Christine enters the tent. “The time is nigh,” Finch tells her, which she then yells repeatedly to the camp, sending everyone scattering.

Madam Secretary episode 18

The security detail enters the compound and saves lots of members, who have been locked in and welcome escape. However, many other members swallow poison and commit suicide (off camera). Congressman Aims is saved; Henry is also safe and secured.

Henry and the cult members arrive home, where they’re greeted by family with signs and hugs. Henry feels guilty about the 37 members who died, but Bess reminds him that the operation saved so many more people than it would have without his help.

Bess sees Mr. Coomer there with flowers. She tells him she is sorry because his daughter did not survive.

The episode ends with Stevie and Henry fighting over Arthur. He tells Bess he doesn’t want Stevie to get brainwashed. Clearly, he’s comparing her situation to the cult’s.

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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