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'Madam Secretary' fan recap: How to prevent a Greek tragedy

Season 1 | Episode 19 | “Spartan Figures” | Aired Apr 5, 2015

In last night’s Madam Secretary, Bess must help keep President Conrad inspired during a European conference regarding Greece’s debt crisis, and Henry is faced with a life-changing decision. Oh, and Bess wears a black-and-white blouse that made me want to reach through the television screen and rip it off her body.

“Spartan Figures,” the season’s 19th episode, begins with a McCord family trip to the house farm they own in Virginia. This is where the family lived prior to Bess getting appointed Secretary of State. They all seem overjoyed to be there and are frolicking in the snowy, wide-open spaces, and riding horses. The main topic of discussion between Henry and Bess is whether to sell the farm, or keep it and move back when her position comes to an (expected) end.

The pristine getaway is over once Nadine and Blake show up unexpectedly. An agreement has been reached in Brussels that will solve Greece’s debt crisis. A financial agreement was brokered that will help prevent the Greek economy from collapsing (which it is on the verge of doing).

Bess, Russell, and POTUS (the Power Trifecta, as I like to refer to them) meet with the ex-Secretary of the Treasury, Max Quinn. Quinn is a big-time hedge fund president now, and thinks the agreement is a terrible idea and that Greece should have to pay off its debts. He and his shareholders are ownd tons of dough and he wants it, if only because of principle (he claims). They try to remind him that if the Greeks default, there would be no bond market left, ensuring worldwide panic, but Quinn is unmoved.

“This anti-business stance won’t serve you in the next election, Conrad—mark my words,” Quinn threatens.

But Bess and Russell assure Conrad that brokering this deal is a big win for the U.S., and that he needs to go and be at the forefront of the agreement-signing conference in Brussels. After the bad press related to the coup, America and POTUS could use the positive optics.

Stevie is seen at work, fraternizing with her (creepy) 39-year-old boss and boyfriend. I’m not sure why the writers came up with this storyline, other than for the funny scene in last week’s episode where the boyfriend met Bess and Henry (Tim Daly is hilarious!). Stevie has never been entirely likable, and now viewers question her already-questionable judgment even more. I feel like an old lady saying this, but: You can’t find someone closer to your own age or who isn’t your boss to date? Gross.

Anyway, Stevie is telling him about a friend of hers who “swoops” in and out of her life. He wants to meet up. It turns out to be Conrad’s son, Harrison, the First Kid. While bowling in the White House, Harrison confides in Stevie that he has just been in rehab for oxy/heroin, and that he’s nailing it: 90 meetings in 90 days. She is happy for him, and they promise to keep in better touch this time. Unfortunately, Harrison relapses. The news doesn’t get out to the press, but Stevie finds out about it and feels terribly.

The next scene brings us to the Smithsonian, where Quinn comes to collect priceless Greek statues, the Spartan figures of democracy. He has a court order allowing him to repossess them due to the amount of money he is owed by the Greeks. He sees this as his way of getting paid in full and standing up “to the corrupt, incompetent countries who spend and spend.” The press calls this move “the most audacious and expensive repo of all time.”

All hell breaks lose. Greece is furious, and the Prime Minister announces on television that they are rejecting the negotiated debt deal. There are riots in the street protesting this “act of piracy.” Despite this news, Bess, Conrad, and Bess’ staff gear up for the conference in Brussels. Nadine warns everyone against partying too hard, as this is known as a “party conference” because of its basis in goodwill. The team begrudgingly acknowledges that they have to be good and not embarrass Bess and the U.S. by getting rowdy.

Right before Bess leaves for Europe, Henry gets a visitor while teaching a class. A general from the National War College is on a scouting mission and wants Henry to teach strategic studies. If he accepts, Henry will be shaping the minds of the country’s future military and national security leaders. The general promises that Henry won’t have to kowtow to the Defense Department, as the school falls under the National Security dome. Henry is right to be concerned about the conflict of interest, especially later, when Russell tells him that it was his idea to offer Henry the job. Russell can’t promise Henry that he won’t ever be asked for a favor or two, but says that Henry will get to be the voice of reason and help the Defense Department make the right decisions.

Madam Secretary episode 19

In Europe, Bess and Conrad are greeted coldly. The German Chancellor (played by Becky Ann Baker, Hannah’s mother on Girls) says that the European leaders want nothing to do with the U.S. They are being pushed out of the conference meetings on what to do with Greece’s crisis. Then Bess and Conrad meet with the Greek Prime Minister, and he gives Conrad a really hard time, saying that his own party is pressuring him not to run in the next election and that he should resign! Conrad is infuriated and walks out.

Bess gets a phone call from Stevie, who fills her mom in on what’s going on with Harrison. Bess goes to visit Conrad and sees him packing his bags. She tells him she’s known him for a long, long time, and he’s only ever this upset when it has to do with family. She then gives him a pep talk about not leaving the conference, bringing up his amazing leadership at the CIA during September 11.

Blake is missing. He was seen leaving a bar, wasted, with staff from other countries. He then gets arrested for peeing on the street. Nadine is furious. But it turns out he was on a secret mission to party and get private info on where the secret meeting will be held—the one deciding Greece’s fate. It’s just the peeing arrest that was unplanned, but it shows viewers a funny new side of Blake.

Bess and Conrad (who listened to Bess and stayed) crash the secret meeting. Conrad reminds each country’s leader about the mistakes they’ve made, e.g., Spain’s high unemployment rate, and Portugal’s own debt struggle. Conrad says they should stand together, like they did at the end of WWII, rather then “wither alone.” The U.S. is back in European leaders’ favor.

Also, Bess was able to make a deal with Quinn that would make the leaders and Greece happy, appease Quinn, and make the U.S. look good again. The Spartan figures will go back to the Smithsonian and will tour the country. Any money made will go to Quinn for as long as it takes to pay him back.

In the final scene, the McCords are back on the farm in Virginia. Henry is going to take the teaching job and they will sell the farm. They worry about breaking the news to the kids, but just then, Ali says that they are all bored and want to go back to D.C. Problem solved.

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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