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Madam Secretary - The Fourth Estate - Review

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Madam Secretary tackles the opioid crisis in “The Fourth Estate.” Like many other storylines in the show, this one is relevant and timely, oddly parallelling the real world… to a point.

The opioid epidemic is claiming lives daily, something President Dalton is well aware of. Harrison is back in rehab, so Conrad is ready to do battle -- literally -- in hopes of making a dent in the problem. I applaud him for taking such an active role, but clearly he’s a little too personally invested. Elizabeth has to talk him off a ledge several times throughout the episode so he doesn’t make a rash and foolish decision that could have lasting international repercussions. Why is she always the only one who can see the bigger picture? Leave it to a woman. Also to her credit, Elizabeth always knows the best way to approach and relate to Conrad at any given time: Secretary of State to POTUS, Bess to Conrad or mother to father.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m coming down with something, I’m not sleeping, I’m working too much or I’m just slow, but I found the Mexican drug cartel storyline difficult to follow. As usual, I think way too much was jammed into 42 minutes. You have an El Chapo-esque drug lord, a journalist who gives his life trying to uncover government corruption, cyber security agreements and a Mexican official on the take. For me, it was hard to keep all the players straight and how each move was forwarding the plot. This was definitely one example of an arc that could have been told over a few weeks. In the end, the government official and Sergio Macias went down. I’m still waiting for another instance when Elizabeth doesn’t crack the code by the end of a single episode.

Henry, Dmitri and Skippy (Dylan) continue trying to crack their own code: which member of the Gang of Eight is betraying their country. They have it narrowed down to three senators, and come up with a plan to see which spills his guts. It turns out Beau Carpenter, the Senate Majority Leader, is the one who’s the mole… or so Dmitri says. Yes, I’m skeptical of everything. We saw drone video so I’m assuming the CIA has evidence of Carpenter’s betrayal, because I can see Henry just taking Dmitri’s word. Maybe Dmitri is not lying, but again, I question it all. Henry and Senator Asshat agree that they don’t like each other, but that Carpenter should be kept in the dark about classified information for the time being. So what happens if the leaks don’t stop? Either way, I’m sure Senator Asshat isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Stevie and Dmitri are moving forward. As much as I’m ready for the family drama that will surely ensue, I don’t really like watching them together. It feels dirty or creepy or… something. Stevie is making all the first moves, not taking Dmitri's endless amount of “no”s for an answer. Oh, Stephanie. In her defense, she doesn’t have the benefit that viewers do of knowing how complicated the relationship truly is: his previous work for her father, imprisonment in Russia, hatred of her father, the fact that he’s living an entirely new life that’s a lie, he’s a recent recovering addict, etc. She doesn’t even know his name isn’t really his name. “I’m an open book,” he says to her. Sure. I’m assuming the fact that Stevie is rebounding is the reason why she’s so persistent with Dmitri. She’s only been out of her engagement with Jareth for a few weeks and Dmitri seems like the opposite of her former fiance… which is precisely what she’s looking for. I think Dmitri knows he’s playing with fire, but he’s smitten and allowing himself to be drawn into a situation he shouldn’t be. He’s not thinking about long-term, but I am. What’s the best case scenario? 1: he constantly lies about his past life. 2: he fesses up. Either way, I’m ready to see Henry’s and Elizabeth’s heads explode when they find out about Stevitri/Dmivie. I’m sure we’ll all see the fireworks from our homes. Side note: I never realized until this episode that I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dmitri really smile. I mean, it’s not like his character has had a lot to smile about. He’s faked a grin or smirked or smirkled (I miss Nadine), but to actually smile out of momentary joy? It was something so odd that I noticed it. It’s also something that could dig him deeper into a relationship with Stevie.

Blake provided the entertainment this week by hosting his parents. He’s facing something many 20-somethings face: what to do with your life. Heck, I’m older than Blake and I’m still dealing with that. He’s content at his job and his current phase of life, but his parents aren’t. They picture Blake in a corner office, raking in the big money, living a nice life. To them he should have an assistant, not be the assistant. I can’t fault them for wanting the best for their son. They see his potential and are concerned he’s not reaching it. When Elizabeth picks up on their unease, she quickly jumps into boss mode, raving about Blake and making sure his parents realize what a valuable asset he is. It’s definitely the mom in her. Her mom skills later come into play again when she gives him an ultimatum: she’s going to fire him in a year, but will do anything in her power to help him take the next step. Yes, it was his parents who initially pushed him to think about what’s next in his life, but it’s Elizabeth’s way that makes him continue with that idea. Perhaps it’s because she’s not his parent so he’s a bit more willing to entertain the idea, but I think another factor is the way Elizabeth goes about it. She’s empowering him to take hold of his life. Related: no matter how old you are, you never want to disappoint your parents.

Other things:

--I’m really liking Kat. Is it still the honeymoon phase? Possibly. She has a strong personality and I’m just waiting for it to clash with someone else, but it’s nice to see another confident, capable woman help save the world. I also love her style and the fact that she’s not wearing pant suits or dresses.

--“Sometimes they make me so mad I want to rip the skin off my own face.”

--“Blake is bisexual, so twice the playing field.”

--Elizabeth: “There isn’t a phrase that scares me more than ‘something needs to be done.’” Henry: “Why?” Elizabeth: “It means no one really knows what to do.” Dang, this truth hurt.

How are you feeling about the Stevie/Dmitri relationship? Are you convinced Sen. Carpenter is really the leak? Madam Secretary is off this Sunday, but when it comes back, it’s Christmas! Of course the holiday party is for business so this probably won’t be the Christmas episode we’ve always wanted.. but Blake and Daisy are at the piano. Dear Lord, please let there be caroling with Elizabeth.

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