Madam Secretary - Accountability - Review By Lisa Macklem (November 24, 2019, 7:00 am)
Madam Secretary “Accountability” was written by Leland Jay Anderson and was directed by Darnell Martin, whose long list of credits includes New Amsterdam, The Walking Dead, and Law & Order. The show continues to fearlessly address the current real-life threats to democracy, even as Elizabeth (Tea Leoni) is pursued by a self-serving politician – Hanson (Wentworth Miller) – who wants to Impeach her. In the fictionalized version of Impeachment, however, we see the exact opposite of what’s happening in Washington. Rather than spend her days tweeting and lying, Elizabeth doubles down on the work she wants to accomplish. Rather than refusing to testify to anything under oath, Elizabeth and her team have been completely available and transparent. But let’s take a closer look at the episode – and the White House that acknowledges accountability rather than denying any responsibility.
The episode begins with a sweet scene between Blake (Erich Bergen) and Trevor (Roe Hartrampf). They are interrupted by the arrival of the FBI – who Blake is expecting to be an irate neighbor. They have a warrant to search the apartment and discover a thumb drive with the damning evidence given to Blake by a reporter several seasons ago – love how they brought this forward! It turns out that Blake had decided right from the beginning that Elizabeth was something special and had kept all his texts and correspondence from the last 6 years in preparation of writing a book when she left office.
Blake is devastated to have unintentionally harmed Elizabeth. Meanwhile Mike (Kevin Rahm) is freaking out and on the warpath – with Russell (Zeljko Ivanek) right behind him. They are clear that this is an overreach from the Department of Justice but they also have to avoid any semblance of obstruction with the Attorney General. Olivia (Amanda Warren) asks Blake if he ever broke the law, and of course he says no. The lawyer insists that the warrant was so broad because someone knew that Blake was the unofficial biographer and would have any dirt there was to find. Russell decides it’s time to read Elizabeth in.
Mike’s next meeting is having breakfast with Elizabeth – and trying to dissuade her from even going to the correspondent’s dinner. He keeps insisting that she’s not funny – and she’s shocked, insisting that she is! The entire scene is pretty funny – and then we segue into a walk and talk, during which Russell joins them. I loved how the scene was shot. Russell informs her that they’ve indicted five Iranian nationals for election tampering.
Elizabeth calls President Shiraz (Houshang Touzie) and demands that he extradite the hackers within the next 48 hours. He is just as adamant that he won’t. He also points out that it seems perverse that she is punishing Iran for helping her win the election. Elizabeth points out that they tampered with the electoral process and that is just unacceptable regardless of who benefitted. And yes. You can substitute Russia for Iran here.
The fallout from the confiscated material from Blake’s shows up quickly. Elizabeth is having a sweet photo op with Oscar Rubis (Tyler Bourke), the National Spelling Bee Champ, and after pictures, the Press is invited to ask questions. Instead of asking anything of Tyler, they immediately go for Elizabeth asking about her torture of a prisoner while with the CIA and attacking a foreign President – I so, so want that story to come out in full! Blake tells Russell that he knows where the questions came from.
Mike, Russell, Olivia and Elizabeth discuss next steps. Mike is convince that Hanson is “chumming the waters” for the correspondent’s dinner by releasing the dirt right before it. Kevin Rahm is still getting all the best lines and never misses in delivering them – he’s not wrong when he says – as Mike B – that he’d kill at the dinner! Olivia wonders who leaked it from the DoJ, and it’s a dangerous partisan move from a body that is supposed to be neutral. Mike suggests that they reach out to Hanson to see what it will take to get him to back off. Russell points out that Iran won’t cave if it looks like Elizabeth is under fire at home. The meeting is interrupted as Elizabeth is called to the Situation Room.
There’s been an attack on Israel, which Iran is clearly behind, but they won’t take responsibility – no accountability. Elizabeth decides to turn up the economic screws after Susan (Tonya Pinkens) points out Iran is on shaky economic ground already. Elizabeth tasks Russell with keeping Israel from responding.
Iran responds with further hacking attacks, taking out stock exchanges, banks, and even computerized systems on ships – going after oil tankers that will help them economically too. Susan points out that Shiraz is on shaky political grounds and has to appease his own hardliners to stay in power. She also tells her that their own allies are reluctant to help when Elizabeth is also on shaky political ground. Elizabeth decides to extract the hacker themselves. Ellen (Johanna Day) and Russell warn it could be seen as an act of war.
Elizabeth’s response is fantastic – but only one of the great moments in the episode. She asks them if any of them doubt that hacking their election was an act of war in itself. They can’t disagree. She tells them, “what we do or don’t do will have consequences. If we look away, democracy everywhere is at risk.” And this is the response that should have come out of the US when it was clear that Russia had hacked the election. The US is accountable to the world and democracy.
We get one of those fantastic scenes between Elizabeth and Henry (Tim Daly) as they’re getting ready for bed. Elizabeth is doubting herself, and tells Henry that she’s been thinking about pioneers – like Susan B Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. Those who are first, don’t seem to actually get to enjoy the success of what they’ve fought for. She wonders if maybe the US just wasn’t ready for a female President! And truer words were never spoken. Which is shocking considering how many female world leaders there have been. Henry doesn’t disagree, suggesting that maybe someone has to go first just to shake things up so that they can be accepted – like tectonic plates shifting.
Ephraim (Clifton Davis) briefs Elizabeth on the hackers. There is nothing random about the five hackers – who are spread throughout Iran. Elizabeth reconsiders her plan. If they can’t get in, maybe they can get the leader out. She tells Ephraim and Ellen that she wants Mousavi (Ebrahim Jaffer) on American soil to face consequences and to make it happen.
Meanwhile, Russell has a list of Hanson’s demands – which run completely counter to all the policies that Elizabeth has been championing. In addition to undoing everything she’s trying to do, he insists that she be embarrassed and humiliated by having to co-sign them all. Elizabeth has Russell arrange for a meeting with him at the correspondent’s dinner.
In other storylines, Jason (Evan Roe) returns and is a complete idiot. Roe has certainly grown up on the show, however, and delivers a terrific performance – even if Jason is an idiot! Jason, always the sensitive one, is having a hard time dealing with the public attacks on his mother. He “runs into” a student blogger – Mia (Sinclair Daniel) – at a coffee shop and takes the opportunity to offer her some “friendly criticism.” He insults her and calls her piece on the President misogynistic and then actually threatens her physically with his security detail – who carry guns!
Henry briefs Elizabeth on the fallout in the student paper, the Rubric. Jason confronting a reporter and trying to squash free speech is exactly what Elizabeth didn’t need right before the Correspondent’s dinner! The send for Jason. He denies any wrong-doing, insisting that he was just trying to help Elizabeth. He declares the blog a farce and himself the victim! He points out that everyone attacks Elizabeth and asks if she isn’t tired of turning the other cheek? Elizabeth reads him the riot act. It’s her job to sit and take it – and now, as part of her family, it’s his too. Henry and Elizabeth are clear that Jason must post an apology by noon the next day. He tries to say clarification, but they are very clear in demanding an apology.
Meanwhile, Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood) is worried about her relationship with Dmitri (Chris Petrovski). They’ve been spending all their free time together, but Dmitri wants to go out for dinner. Stevie seems oddly reluctant at first but then agrees. However, she drops in to see Elizabeth. I loved how clearly she is in love with Dmitri when she talks about him with her mother. But she’s also afraid.
Stevie tells Elizabeth that Dmitri wants to do traditional “couple stuff” in public and she’s reluctant because she’s worried about public perception when she was just with Griffin – and very publicly. Elizabeth isn’t buying it and presses Stevie on what’s really bothering her. Stevie confesses that she’s scared. If the relationship doesn’t work out this time, it’s all on her – Dmitri isn’t going to get pulled away because he’s a spy. Elizabeth tells her that love IS terrifying. She tells her that you have to risk everything in order to gain everything. For now, she tells her just to take it one step at a time and go out for dinner!
We get a terrific scene between Dmitri and Stevie as they walk through a park, eating ice cream – accompanied by four secret service and a crowd of curious onlookers – shamelessly snapping their picture. The two sit down on a bench. Dmitri sees that Stevie is nervous and asks if it’s about being seen with him. Stevie says no – but they’re official now. But she is nervous that he’ll suddenly get whisked away because of some secret life she knows nothing about. He tells her that he’ll never hurt her again. She points out that he can’t promise that, and he qualifies “intentionally.” He tells her that he has no secret life and he’s not going anywhere. No more secrets! I loved this scene as the two have great chemistry.
The storylines come together at the Correspondence dinner. On the way there, Blake shows Henry and Elizabeth Jason’s “apology” video. Henry points out that it’s technically an apology, but in the end, it’s just Jason railing about the Press picking on Elizabeth. Henry points out that both Jason and Elizabeth are going to get hammered by the press over it. Elizabeth tells him that she’s used to it, and maybe it’s time that Jason is taught a lesson. No kidding!
Mike is not happy – and tells Russell that it’s like being at a casting call for The Walking Dead! Meanwhile, Elizabeth is greeting everyone. Jason arrives with a date – Shasta (Sophia Palombi) who appears to be all sugar and no substance. Russell finally pulls Elizabeth away to meet with Hanson, naturally in the back hallway of whatever hotel or convention center they are in – they really all do look like that!
Elizabeth tells him that she’s considered his offer. He smugly thinks that she’s there to eat crow. She quickly puts him in his place, telling him that he doesn’t want a compromise, he wants a complete surrender, and he’s not getting it! Better still, she calls him a cheap shakedown artist who is putting his own self-interest ahead of the public good. For his own part, Hanson, though clearly surprised, continues with the threats. He tells her that when the end comes – and it’s coming soon – remember that he gave her a chance. When he calls her Elizabeth, she puts him firmly in his place by telling him “It’s Madam President. Your remember that.” Russell can be seen in the background as Elizabeth leaves, and he’s utterly dismayed. He had no idea what she was going to say until she said it..
Stevie and Dmitri arrive just as things get going. The Emcee (Judy Gold) doesn’t spare anyone, going after both Jason and Elizabeth. Shasta soon shows her colors and asks to change seats with Stevie so she doesn’t have to be seen with Jason. Stevie does, but you have to believe she did it because why would Jason want to sit next to that girl anymore?!?!
Elizabeth gets up to give her speech – completely unruffled by the comments that came her way. She tells one joke and then admits that she’s not funny. The truth isn’t funny either and that’s what people want to hear. She then goes on to praise the press in the room for being the biggest defenders of truth. What they do is serious and important. They must be free to document, editorialize and critique without fear of reprisal. Without a free press, the truth is not reported, power is not held accountable, and democracy cannot survive. Hear, hear!!! I loved that as the current administration continues to cry fake news and release little other than lies, this show shines a light on the importance of free speech – and most importantly a free press – not a press that is simply a sock puppet for propaganda like Fox News – is a cornerstone to democracy. And it’s the very first amendment to the Constitution……. Elizabeth wins over the room who give her a resounding standing ovation – after she finishes with a final attempt at a joke.
Intercut with Elizabeth’s speech is the sting operation to take Mousavi – the destroyer of free speech through hacking. It made the perfect counterpoint to Elizabeth’s speech.
The next day Hanson addresses the Senate. He accuses Daisy of wrong doing – and points out that she was fired. He then accuses Blake and Mike of the very things that they were exonerated of. Finally, he goes after Henry and Stevie and Dmitri – all leading up to the cry for Impeachment. Miller is really good in this scene – even if you do hate the character!
As soon as Hanson stops speaking, Mike and Russell, who were watching with Elizabeth, both spring into action, strategizing and planning what to do. Elizabeth asks them for a minute – and they leave the room. She takes a beat – and we just see her staring out the window, then she turns and just goes back to work. What? Where’s the angry tweeting? Name calling, temper tantrum?? Not Elizabeth, she calmly continues her public service. She calls for Blake with a list of things to do. She then tells him that it’s not his fault. She also tells him that he was there with her in the beginning and he’ll be there with her until the end. Me too Madam President, me too!
Hurray for this show that shines a light on how politics should run and what a real President looks like. This was another terrific episode with great performances. We are getting close to the end now, and I keep hoping against hope that we will somehow get a reprieve. Surely Netflix would like to pick this show up??? Still, I am loving this season, even with Hanson looming. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!