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Madam Secretary - Good Bones - Review

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I’m always yelling into the void, pleading with the writers to have Elizabeth fail at a mission. Well, I got my wish this week. I have to say, this was a heartbreaking operation for Elizabeth to lose, but at the risk of sounding like a sadist, that’s what made it all the more emotional.

Human trafficking is a global epidemic. No country in the world is immune. Young girls and boys are ripped from their homes and forced into unimaginable horrors under heinous conditions. During “Good Bones,” Elizabeth and the State Department team work to unravel a human trafficking ring in Central Asia. In typical McCord fashion, Miss You-Don’t-Even-Know-There’s-a-Box approaches the situation in an unusual manner: use Hollywood star Ashley Whittaker. Despite their best and creative efforts, the plan is thwarted, the human traffickers get away and a truckload of young women die. Among those who suffocated to death is Lara Cramer, an American who had been missing for a year. It’s a tough and bitter blow for everyone to digest.

Henry is still trying to solve the riddle of the cult bomb. (I sound like a broken record.) Ian calls Henry, which is a bit of a shock, considering Henry became target practice the last time they tried to meet. Ian is going on a supply run in the cult’s truck, but it quickly becomes apparent that he’s carrying the bomb… which isn’t the best scenario, considering he’s parked at a crowded mall. Henry uses his cane to thump Ian in the junk (inspiring old and injured people everywhere) and takes off in the ticking truck. Because of course he does. Despite the pleading of the FBI to pull over, G.I. Henry barrels through neighborhoods and bursts through a locked fence, hobbling out of the truck just in time. He’s barely limped far enough away when the truck explodes. This is another example of what I was saying in my last review. Superman can never not be Superman if given the chance. It’s in his blood. His DNA. His entire being. Henry will never NOT help in a situation, despite the danger, if he thinks he could possibly defuse the problem. The man is already hobbling around with two canes, a walking boot and a knee brace from his last mission, but that couldn’t stop him from plunging head-first into yet another dangerous position. Take him off this case and he’ll still find a way to jump on bombs or rescue people in distress. However, even he is rattled by this close call. You can see it in his face when the truck explodes. He downplays it for Elizabeth, who’s officially done with this Hero Henry persona. “Can you explain to me why the ethics professor, the INJURED ethics professor, is the guy driving the truck with the bomb in it,” she incredulously asks, before sighing and asking how he’s feeling. Clearly he’s fine if he’s talking to her, so her first response is anger. I get it, girl. You almost lost him twice in two weeks because he whipped on a cape and tried to save the day.

Ian seemed genuinely surprised that the bomb was in the truck and that he was being drugged, so it doesn’t appear that he was a willing participant in this week’s escapades. Plus, if he wanted to inflict maximum damage and death, he wouldn’t have tipped off Henry to his presence in a crowded shopping mall. Even though the bomb is no longer a concern, it turns out that may have been the least of their worries. The cult is still planning another mission, something even more deadly. Ian doesn’t know what it is, but the investigation leads to a missing CDC microbiologist. So for all of you playing along at home, that’s several missing cult members set on maximum destruction, a missing military drone, a rogue CDC scientist and missing avian flu. What could possibly go wrong? Sounds like another bombing may be upon us. Season finale, perhaps? I’m still waiting to see how this all ties in with the State Department mole and “Kevin’s” killer.

Stevie is still AWOL (although we will see her again in the next episode), but the younger McCord siblings are causing enough drama for all three kids. This is one of the few times the Alison/Jason bickering is more than just sibling fighting; it’s actually relevant to the real world and sparks serious discussions. Alison and Jason are both going to prom. When Thad Newton picks up Alison, Henry turns into Papa Bear. He makes Thad come inside to meet him, even snapping a picture of Thad’s driver’s license. He also begs Alison to take a coat under the guise that it’s cold outside instead of the fact that the entire middle part of her dress is transparent. It’s a complete 180 when Piper, Jason’s date, shows up. Granted, Piper took Uber/Lyft and isn’t driving like Thad is, but Henry doesn’t even ask her to come inside to talk. Jason simply says “Goodbye” and walks out the door. I realize fathers are sometimes more overly protective of their daughters, but this scenario proves there’s a double standard for girls and boys, even in the most socially conscious and enlightened families.

Prom goes downhill from there for Alison. Thad is less than a Prince Charming, as Jason overhears in the restroom. He basically accuses Alison of leading him on solely because of her dress. “Who wears something like that? Dude, let me work for it,” Thad boasts. Classic “she was asking for it” defense. He also “bros” it up with his friend, commenting on the “crazy” texts Alison has sent him. Jason has a moment when he contemplates confronting Thad, but instead backs down, hiding in the bathroom stall. It’s a weird position for the youngest McCord, one he’s been in before regarding his sisters. Does he stand up for them or does he simply let the questionable comments pass? Later, he’s shocked to hear Thad made a move on Alison, trying to take her into a back room. “Sorry you didn’t get date raped,” he quips. It comes off as a bit flippant, but had something actually happened to Alison, he would have been horrified and, I assume, felt responsible for not stepping up earlier in the night. When Alison learns about the bathroom brouhaha, she’s irate. Part of her is hurt that Thad would make comments like that about her, but she’s mostly upset with Jason for not standing up for her: “Guys like Thad are everywhere, but guys like you are the reason they get away with it every day.” Oh, girl. The wisdom in that single sentence. In almost every situation, not saying something makes a person just as complicit as the offender. In an episode full of powerful moments, this one was one of the most impressive for me.

Jason later tries to redeem himself. He uses shaving cream to write “slut shamer” on Thad’s Range Rover. It’s a bit misdirected and late, but it’s a nice sentiment… I guess. I truly appreciate him trying to stick up for Alison, but I think he could have done so without the property damage. Things that make me even more confused: the McCords and Dean Ward don’t seem to care about that. Henry and Elizabeth smile and look on proudly at their son as he regales them with his account of the parking lot confrontation. The kid literally damaged a car that probably costs more than my annual salary and their response is satisfaction and pride? I’ll give Elizabeth a pass because she spent the entire day witnessing and dealing with the worst of men, so seeing her son stick up for her daughter has to be a breath of fresh air. But Henry the ethics professor is OK with this? They showed more anger and emotion when Jason punched Preston in Season 1. So did Dean Ward, actually.

From Elizabeth to Nadine to Blake, everyone on the State Department team is devastated by the loss of the girls in this mission. It also hits home for Elizabeth, the mother of two young women. Her anguish is apparent on her face when she admits the fate of the operation to Henry. Everyone on the staff feels responsible and helpless. They’ve moved mountains before and are often successful, but this failure is personal. It’s deep. They’re all taking it hard. Nadine, who’s been working with Lara Cramer’s family since she was kidnapped, is especially affected. Elizabeth, being the Mother Hen that she is, rounds everyone up to talk about it. It’s like a therapy session that only the other people in the room can understand. In this moment, they’re not Press Secretary or Speechwriter or Chief of Staff. They’re all on the same level, coworkers comforting one another and trying to figure out where to go next. It’s nice to see them being so affected. I realize they care about everything they do, but it’s hard not to become deeply involved in a mission with such devastating consequences. Jay is the one who actually brings the meeting to a meaningful point. He reads a poem called “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith. It’s the perfect prose for this moment in the reel world, but I think those of us living in the real world could also use it. It’s a bit cheesy and very idealistic, but it’s very appropriate given our reality right now. If we all work to make our corner of the world a bit better, “this place could be beautiful.”

Other things:

--Sometimes Jason talks like the kids on Dawson’s Creek. You know what I mean: SAT words not typically uttered in real life, strung together to form complex sentences. I had to rewind his description of Ashley Whittaker to understand what he was saying… and I’m college educated and write professionally for a living.

--Daisy’s dress was very loose-fitting… something Daisy rarely wears. All signs point to Patina’s pregnancy not being written into the show.

--Matt said they were “rope-a-doped.” I promise you, I had never heard of this phrase until Elizabeth used it last year to talk about Jason when he was asking permission to play football. It’s the new “nascent.”

--Thad, to Henry: “Looks like you hit a tough slope.” Wink wink, writers.

What was your favorite part of the episode? What do you think about Ian and the cult? Did you agree with Jason’s revenge on Thad? We have 5 more episodes to wrap up several loose ends, tie them in a bow and (I’m sure) have a least one more bombing.

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