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Madam Secretary - The Linchpin - Review

Yet another world crisis is no match for Elizabeth McCord. The woman fixes these political issues like I fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That probably says more about my cooking skills, honestly. As with most Madam Secretary episodes, this one again parallels real life, taking us inside dictatorships and the process to bring Democracy to the world. I’d argue it also has shades of Season 1's Tamerlane, although much less traumatic for everyone involved, including viewers.

This week’s international crisis du jour takes place in Algeria, a country on the brink of either political disaster or peace. A deal has been brokered for the country’s reigning dictator, President Haddad, to resign and be replaced by Professor Arkoun, a moderate who’s promising free elections. It’s a key deal towards world peace that was brokered by Ambassador Curtis, someone who is less than thrilled at President Dalton’s foray into the land of the Independent Party. Curtis sees the move to leave their traditional party as traitorous, a sentiment that will come up again later in this episode among various characters.

So upset by Dalton’s move, Curtis threatens to resign. No Curtis means no deal, so Elizabeth and Russell are forced to suck up to him and his ego. It was actually quite enjoyable to see the typically squirrelly and boorish Russell on the defensive. He was overly smiley, uncomfortably so, like a kid who just opened a present of socks from his grandma for Christmas. Elizabeth refers to Ambassador Curtis as the deal’s “linchpin,” a nod to the show’s title. I have to admit I was relieved that was what the linchpin title referenced, along with the volatile situation in Algeria. I was bracing myself for yet another bombing, something this show sorely does not need. I’d actually like to go as long as possible this season without something exploding on or near a McCord.

Ambassador Curtis eventually works himself into such a frenzy over Conrad leaving the party that he collapses and dies, and with it dies the Algeria peace deal. Theoretically. Elizabeth and Co. fly over to save the day and instead become witnesses to the execution of Professor Arkoun. So now the Algeria peace deal is dead. Literally.

I had to take a step back here and remember which season I was watching. This all felt very Season 1 and Tamerlane-esque when Elizabeth flew to Iran to save a peace deal as that country was on the brink of a coup. Even the goodbye between Elizabeth and Henry had shades of 1.16: Henry expressing concern that she’s going to a country preparing for war, the quick painful kiss in their townhome entryway, her turning around and running out the door to avoid facing him. Can these two ever have a proper goodbye? Yes, I realize it’s to show concern and stress, but I want a smushy moment or four.

While Algeria is teetering back and forth on the political stability line, Hizb al-Shahid is making headway terrorizing the country in another way. Fighters are demolishing monasteries, statues and antiquities, much like we’ve seen ISIS do in real life. Losing these priceless artifacts spurs Henry to take action. The dude lovingly talks about these temples like I talk about dog videos, and can’t stand to see them ruined out of hatred. He works with Jay and members of the DOD to create a plan in hopes of saving the Monastery of St. Gabriel before the terrorists reach it. Much like he did last season, Henry is again interweaving the Departments of Defense and State, another overlap between the professions of the McCords. This non-position may be where Henry’s true strength is. He’s able to use his knowledge as a religious expert and experience as a former Marine and operative to work towards bringing down Hizb al-Shahid. No secrets from Elizabeth. No covert operations. No Jedi mind tricking young students. Just Henry, his brain and some help from Uncle Sam. I’m willing to see where this goes. I don’t have a strong desire for where Henry lands professionally, as long as it’s far away from Season 2 DIA Henry.

Because Elizabeth and Henry can talk about their jobs (still praising everything holy about this), Henry absentmindedly says that he was working with General Cherat to save the antiquities. That spawns an idea in Miss You-Don’t-Even-Know-There’s-a-Box and she’s on the next private government flight to Algeria, proposing General Cherat as the interim leader. Cherat eventually relents and has President Haddad arrested, yet another reference to treason in this episode. This is typical Elizabeth McCord. She picks a foreign diplomat who slightly aligns with her and works with them to bring about peace. I’m not sure what this spells for Cherat, however. Elizabeth’s “work boyfriends” don’t have the best long-term luck in life. Just ask Joey. And Zahed. And Anton.

I’m happy it worked out well for Algeria, but I hope this show doesn’t get back into the pattern of Elizabeth hitting a homerun every episode. It can get a bit formulaic watching a national crisis be neatly wrapped up in a bow every 40 minutes. Take my fan card away, but I’ve been saying it since Season 1: I’d like to see Elizabeth fail a little bit more. She’s struck out a few times. I understand that, but the U.S. always winning can start to feel a bit too “Full House” after a while. Kids of the '90s will know what I mean.

Because when it rains, it pours, life in the McCord household is just as stressful as potential war. Elizabeth and Henry are on edge because someone is stalking the kids, but they’re not yet admitting that to the children. On one hand, I understand. Why worry them when no one knows if there’s something to worry about? On the other hand, they’re old enough to understand and should maybe be warned about the cyber Boogeyman. With this new threat, each kid is assigned two security guards. (And Jason thought it was bad when he had Agent Gigantor in Season 1.) The kids also have to turn over their phones. Stevie and Alison do. Jason, however, does not. He goes on a massive rant about privacy and refuses to give his security code. The kid is lucky because if that was me yelling at my mom, my mouth would’ve been smacked off 10 seconds into the fight. As it turns out, Jason was trying to hide his Finsta, which depicts his partying ways, from his parents. However, I get the sense that wasn’t the only reason for his rant. He’s always been the anarchist, something Elizabeth and Henry have lovingly played along with, and has a tendency to be the sassy one. He’s also very good at being a teen. I just wonder if some of his anger from Season 2 is spreading into Season 3. Truly, I hope it is. We never had any resolution as to why he was so on edge last season and I hope that is explored a bit more.

As if the stalking wasn’t creepy enough, a note was posted on Jason’s locker: “We can get to your family any time.” Side note: can the alleged stalkers at least use a better font? I’m not saying Comic Sans or Wingdings, but maybe a nice Cambria? Or letters cut out of a magazine like a Lifetime movie? The note is a reminder that this isn’t just some one-time joke. It’s now bordering on threatening. Part of me is trying to figure out who could be responsible. A foreign country? A member of Dalton’s previous party who blames Elizabeth for Dalton’s run as an Independent? Someone connected to why Jason is so angry? The other part of me just wants to enjoy the ride and see where we end up come May.

Other things:

“You’re the one that wanted to go for three.” I love the “blame” for Jason constantly being passed between parents.

“Haddad has 11 wives. Why would he need a mistress,” Matt questions. “Have you met men,” Daisy snaps back for women everywhere.

“Look at us, functioning moderately well.” “Just keep lowering that bar.” That’s real parenthood, right there.

“Blonde Yoko Ono” is officially my new favorite moniker for Elizabeth.

What were your favorite parts of the episode? Do you have any guesses as to who’s behind the pictures and stalking?

About the Author - Kristie BIhn
Kristie is new to the SpoilerTV team and is a huge fan of television. Her favorite show is Madam Secretary, but she'll give any pilot a chance. Other favorites include Outlander, blackish and (gasp) a few reality shows. She can also be found lamenting the loss of The Good Wife, The Newsroom and Parenthood.
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