EW Community TV Show Episode Guides and Recaps from EW's Community

'Madam Secretary' finale fan recap: Bess on trial

Season 1 | Episode 22 | “There But for the Grace of God” | Aired May 3, 2015

Madam Secretary‘s pilot season introduced us the day-to-day initiatives, challenges, wins, and losses of the Secretary of State’s office. Fans fell for Bess McCord, a brilliant, witty, ex-CIA analyst who uses her background skills and abilities to think outside the box and connect with people to thrive as the nation’s Secretary of State.

We’ve gotten to know and love Bess’ staff and the McCord family. And we’ve rooted for them during times of hard work and strife, and moments of peace and happiness. The show’s writers and actors do a phenomenal job balancing moments of tension, fear, and struggle with moments of humor and love. It’s an expert show all around and deserves acknowledgement this next awards season—especially for the dazzling lead actress, Téa Leoni.

In the season one finale, Bess finally confronts her old CIA buddy turned traitor, Juliet. Bess also becomes the target of a Senator searching for a way to bring down Bess and the administration. The episode does a great job flipping back and forth between the present day and years before, when Bess is finishing up her time at the CIA.

“There But for the Grace of God” begins with Bess visiting Juliet. “I’m here to save your life,” she tells the prisoner. Juliet blames Bess, saying that everything is her fault: SHE made the world a more dangerous place, SHE is to blame for George’s death, SHE turned on everyone and everything she cared about, SHE is the traitor. This is all because of one decision—Bess quitting the CIA and going to academia. How dare Juliet say these things!

Suddenly we’re in the CIA headquarters in 2005. Bess talks with Juliet. Bess thinks she’s in trouble because of her Baghdad station report in which she asks to scale back torture interrogation tactics. The efficacy of the practice isn’t there—it’s a waste of time that squanders countless resources. Instead of being in trouble with Conrad, he loves Bess’ report, and gave it to everyone: the Secretaries of State and Defense, even the White House. Dalton offers her the position as Station Chief of Baghdad. Bess reminds him she’s not an agent, and he argues that it’s an admin job. “Together, we can win the war and hold our heads high,” says Conrad. Bess would have to go to Baghdad for a year, leaving her family.

When Bess talks to Henry about the position, he is (for once) less than supportive. He doesn’t want her to leave, and even tells her that if she goes, he doesn’t know “what it will look like” when she comes back.

Back to the present, where a Senator Caruthers is telling the press he’s the defender of truth, talking about the events in Iran. He’s using the coup for grandstanding purposes because he wants to be president. Caruthers storms Bess’ office and hands her a subpoena to appear before a Senate hearing, to investigate the administration’s involvement in the coup. Bess has no idea what he thinks he has on her.

Bess’ consultant, Mike B., comes racing in. Bess thinks it’s all theater. She made a list of all her moves and tells him that she did unconventional things, but nothing illegal. She doesn’t want a lawyer because it makes her look guilty.

Blake is working to find a new home for the portrait of Vincent Marsh, but no one wants it. He finally has to ask Nadine for help. She ends up calling Marsh’s lawyer, an old friend of his. Marsh told his friend everything, and he tells Nadine she shouldn’t blame herself for falling for Marsh—he was a charismatic man. But the lawyer thinks Nadine could have done better. He’s happy for her that she’s moved on with her NASA boyfriend.


Stevie is still broken up from her boss at the micro-loans office. She flirts with him and he tells her not to, as it it cruel. Stevie goes with Conrad’s son, Harrison, to an event. She’s not worried about the press backlash; she’d rather they talk about them than his sobriety. Harrison comes on to her but she turns him down.

Russell tells Bess that the White House Council invoked executive priviledge for her, meaning the subpoena is null and void. She hates the way this looks, like she’s hiding and afraid of the truth. “Facing the music is the right call, and the administration will be stronger for it,” she says. But she has to go for it because her boss, POTUS, says so.

But the victory is short-lived, as Henry gets served with the same subpoena! The Senate claims that Bess shared classified info with Henry regarding Marsh’s plane crash, and she may be in violation of the espionage act. She thought that the information became declassified once the White House ruled it an accident. Bess knows this will make it hard to get the trust of the nation and the international community. Henry tells her he’s going to perjure (without saying those exact words), as it’s not a real court: “I feel no obligation to obey their rules.” But Bess doesn’t want him to. “It’ll change you. It’ll change us,” she says.

They talk to the kids about it, and Jason and Alison want her to quit. But Stevie supports her mom, saying they made a commitment as a family. It’s refreshing for Henry and Bess to see Stevie act this way.

Russell and Bess meet, and he tells her that if she did violate the espionage act, he and Conrad won’t protect her. She worries she might have to resign. But on the day of Henry’s hearing, Bess storms in with her head held high and says she is there to testify herself. She tells Henry that in a situation with no intergrity, you look within yourself and find some.


She slam-dunks her testimony, defending herself and her actions. She says she vetted Henry for 20 years and that he was more qualified than most to give her feedback. She tells the truth, but makes an excellent case for all her actions and reminds them of the positive effects.

“I put myself in harm’s way to ensure the safety of our country. I would do it again. I’d say the only reason we’re here today luxuriating in the smug banality of this Senate hearing instead of ducking for cover in all-out war is because I had the decency to violate section 793 of title 18.” She gets up and says “Thank you,” then changes it to “You’re welcome.”

What an ass-kicker!


Henry and Bess embrace passionately outside. But Bess may have criminal charges filed against her. Henry talks to the children about it and reminds them how brave their mother is.

Stevie gets a text from Arthur that he’s there for her. She reacts by texting Harrison and hooking up with him in the back of his motorcade car. She says that Harrison relates to her worries about their parents’ types of job, but she is definitely doing this to try to get over Arthur.


Bess vistis with POTUS. The Department of Justice isn’t pressing charges! They are “citing extraordinary circumstances and contribution to national security.” Also, Bess’ testimony strongly swayed public opinion: 82 percent believed she was justified in her actions! Also, Juliet agreed to the FBI deal. She will give them anything they want to know in exchange for her life. POTUS and Bess agree that Juliet’s time in Baghdad changed her.

Bess tells FBI Director Hendricks to ask Juliet about George. Juliet says he connected the dots of Marsh’s accident and confided in Bess, so it was Juliet who tampered with the microchip in the car and killed him. Bess tells Hendricks to remind Juliet that George was her friend. “I guess there was a time when we were all friends,” Juliet responds.

The scene then flashes back to a celebratory dinner. Bess, Conrad, Juliet, and Munsey are out to eat in honor of Bess leaving the CIA and Juliet taking the position as the Baghdad station chief. The scene is warm and lively as the group lovingly tease each other and laugh together. George shows up. Conrad makes a toast “to the inner sanctum: colleagues, friends, noble warriors.” They clink glasses, and the screen goes dark.


Thanks for joining me in my recaps of this wonderful, fascinating show!

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

You May Like