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Madam Secretary - Swept Away - Review

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Elizabeth is between a rock and a hard place in “Swept Away.” Just another day in diplomacy. She has tirelessly fought for a global climate deal, getting India and China on board. Of course just when the deal is about to be signed, there’s divine intervention… kind of. The Dalai Lama visits the State Department. China is upset with the visit and with the U.S. even recognizing Tibet, so it threatens to pull out of the deal. Awkward.

Dalton is acting like a hot head, ready to strike back at China like a viper. So is Russell. As usual, it’s Elizabeth who calms them, coming up with a rational response. Leave it to the woman. This is not the first, second or even tenth time Elizabeth has suggested a diplomatic response to an international incident, talking those other two off a ledge. For as much as they blame her when things go bad, they should really get in the habit of recognizing the broom she constantly carries to clean up their messes. There is another person in the Administration Woman’s Club: Vice President Teresa Hurst. I forgot all about her, which doesn’t say a lot for my memory considering she played a major role in why Elizabeth isn’t currently VP. Like Elizabeth, VP Hurst is offering out-of-the-box suggestions to help remedy the issue with China and Tibet. I’d like to see more of her, if only so Elizabeth has another female ally.

In the end, the Dalai Lama died, the American toddler who was a possible Lama successor turned out to just be your average, non-divine toddler and the treaty with China moved forward. Of course.

Ian is still alive. The feds managed to cover up the death of the cult member he killed and he’s been welcomed into the fold of cray. That’s really all I have to say about the situation. Henry continues to work with Ian, although I honestly thought his skills were best used with Elizabeth this week. When she was in the throes of the Dalai Lama dilemma, he used his knowledge of religion to suggest the American toddler be tested immediately, rather than years from now, thus alleviating what could have been a long limbo. It felt like a natural use of his talents and knowledge.

Jay’s personal life continues to crumble. Abby is the one who wanted to separate, yet she’s the one asking for sole physical custody of Chloe. She got balls. People are suggesting he play dirty, even bringing up her postpartum depression, but Jay refuses to go low. Sure he mentions it in passing while talking with Abby, but I get the impression he’d never use it against her legally. His custody issues manifest during a meeting with the parents of the American toddler and he storms out. Jay eventually comes to a life-changing decision based on the little boy’s situation. He agrees not to fight Abby for sole physical custody of Chloe. I was kind of annoyed with this decision. Jay is not some deadbeat father who only drops by to see his daughter 3 times a year. Yes, he’s putting his daughter first, which is noble, but Chloe needs to be around Jay just as much as Jay wants to see her. She deserves to be with her dad more than once every other weekend. I understand Abby’s schedule is probably much more stable than Jay’s, but it’s not like he’s constantly traveling out of town. Also, where did Jay meet Abby to tell her? I got the impression it was at Abby’s work. If that’s the case, that negates her argument that when Chloe is with Jay, she’d be spending the day with a babysitter. (Full disclosure, I don’t have kids, so maybe the parents in the fandom can offer some insight.) Even more annoying, as soon as Jay agrees to not fight for custody, Abby’s icy exterior melts and she gushes over him: smiling, hugging him, promising to come to a custody agreement. I don’t think this fight is over, and for the sake of both Jay and Chloe, I hope it isn’t.

Are we just forgetting about what happened in the Philippines? I’d still like her to reveal her “secret” to the kids and use it to jump start a discussion about respect and safety.

My favorite scene this episode was when Henry and Elizabeth talked in the doorway to their master closet/bathroom. Their silhouettes were outlined by backlighting, leaving the details of the faces dark and hidden. It truly added to the scene, displaying Elizabeth’s frustration and confusion about what to do, as well as the intimacy she and Henry share in the sanctity of their bedroom.

This next part doesn’t have much to do with this specific episode. It’s more about my overall feelings of Season 3. Last season, I had so much to say each week that I’d have to limit myself to 5 pages. This season, however, is so much different. I don’t have much insight or deep underlying feelings to share. I’m even finding it difficult to focus on the episode each week. The first part of the season was because as an American, I was overwhelmed and inundated with our real-life politics and didn’t want to see it play out on air. Now, however, I’m just… bored. I still adore the characters, but I desperately want them to do something that makes me count down the days to Sunday. Last season, the ending credits would roll and I’d wonder how I’d make it 7 whole days before finding out what happened next. As much as some people hated the angst between Elizabeth and Henry in Season 2, it kept everyone interested, wondering what would happen week-to-week. I’m not saying I want our favorite couple to constantly be on the rocks, but something needs to keep me invested. I’ve discussed this feeling of apathy with other fans and I know I’m not alone. Some theorize it’s because there hasn’t been a significant storyline woven across episodes. The Henry/Ian plot is probably supposed to be that, but it’s not working for me… or many others I’ve spoken with. It’s also a bit of a turnoff for me when every episode ends in political rainbows and sunshine. While I don’t want to see Elizabeth fail week after week, the “Super Elizabeth Saves the World” is not sustainable for me. Why do I invest 41 minutes into drama if I know everything will be wrapped up in a bow by minute 42? Can we see a deal that doesn’t work out for once? I understand the show is supposed to be aspirational, but the real Congress probably couldn’t even agree on a pizza order. As I said before, at times this show feels a little too “Full House.” Have disagreements that carry over from episode to episode. Allow one of Elizabeth’s ideas to fail miserably. We could use something to switch up the plot a bit. Thankfully, the show is being renewed. I’m just hoping Season 4 heads back in the direction of the first 2 seasons.

Other things:

--I love Team McCord moments, but why are the kids fighting over one TV? Clearly there are more in the house. It also caught my attention that “Project Runway” and “Dancing With the Stars” were mentioned, considering they’re both on other networks.

--The sand mandala. It was so gorgeous. It hurt a bit to watch the monks destroy such an intricate work of art they tirelessly worked to create, but it’s a lesson for all of us: everything is temporary.

--”I have peace and light on the other line. Namaste, Russell.”

--”Tall bird lady with lion’s heart.” So true.

--”Are you really mansplaining Tibetan history to me?”

--”We have a masala chai that the tea snobs around here just rave about.”

What do you think will happen with Ian? Should Jay have given up fighting for custody? What are your thoughts on this season as a whole?

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