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Madam Secretary - The Courage to Continue - Review

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Madam Secretary “The Courage to Continue” was written by Matt Chester and directed by Sam Hoffman. The episode once again tackles news ripped from the headlines with a storyline about a disputed election in Haiti. The subplot focuses on Blake’s (Erich Bergen) imminent firing. However, there’s also another subplot that runs through that is more a PSA – Elizabeth’s (Tea Leoni) removal of basal cell carcinoma. This subplot is done quite subtly for the most part – and in case you were wondering, all reports are that Leoni herself doesn’t have it – but her father did.

The episode opens with a terrific “walk, dance, and work” with Blake set to Bowie’s “Modern Love.” Blake has an alarm set on his computer that his time is counting down. Jay (Sebastian Arcelus), Matt (Geoffrey Arend), and Daisy (Patina Miller) all try to reassure him that Elizabeth isn’t actually going to fire him because he’s proven that he’s a valuable member of the team over the past year – he’s much, much more than just her assistant – but Elizabeth reminds him that she is firing him – and hasn’t forgotten.

Blake goes to Jay for help. Jay has put some feelers out with Under Secretaries, but Blake really wants to stay in the inner circle – he likes where he works and who he works with after all. Blake says that he’d really like to be on the Policy Advisory Committee, but Jay sees it as a bit of a stretch. Even so, he offers to help Blake prep for the interview – and we find a huge chink in Blake’s armor – he’s never really had to interview before, and he sucks at it!

In the end, Blake proves he’s able for the job while on the job. Even Bob (Ray Iannicelli) recognizes that the only thing Blake needs is more confidence. I loved the scene in the sit room when Dalton (Keith Carradine) catches Jay and Blake whispering and asks Blake what he’s whispering about. It turns out that Blake has valuable inside information about banking from his Harvard friends and it provides a solution to the current problem in Haiti. Dalton tells him to just speak up the next time!

In the end, when Blake turns up for his interview with Elizabeth, he dodges the interview bullet yet again. Elizabeth points out that she can’t let him interview – because he’s been doing it for the four years he’s been working for her! She tells him that she’s appointing him Assistant Policy Advisor – and tells him to go pick a new desk – he’s now a senior aide. As usual, I very much enjoyed Bergen’s performance throughout the episode.

The main storyline centers on the recent election of a new, democratic President for Haiti – Claude Galbert (Sean Patrick Thomas). While the new President is in Washington for a cultural exchange, his rival Dupont (Isiah Whitlock Jr) stages a coup and takes over the country, declaring the election invalid – after the Supreme Court of Haiti dismissed Dupont’s legal challenge to the election.

Elizabeth is impressed in her initial talks with Galbert when he refuses aid from NGOs, instead wanting investors so that Haiti can become self-sufficient – which becomes ironic when he needs US aid just to get his rightful place in the government back. Dalton is ready to give Galbert all the help he needs to get Dupont out of power, but Elizabeth points out that in order for Haiti – and Galbert as President – to have legitimacy, they have to solve the problem themselves.

Dalton insists on freezing the US accounts of Haitian oligarchs, but it doesn’t help. Jay tells Elizabeth that the oligarchs don’t care about the sanctions because they keep most of their money elsewhere anyway. Galbert is prepared to go back to Haiti to attempt to stop the murder of his ministers, but Elizabeth convinces him that his sacrifice won’t help – his survival will.

Jay gets word that the DOD is about to carry out an assault on Haiti, and Elizabeth was not told about it – she’s naturally furious. Dalton tells her that he’s trying to save her from the political fallout over it. Elizabeth insists that he can’t protect her if she is going to be able to do her job – which is clearly the most important thing to her. He warns her that she’ll have to deal with the fallout herself then, but Elizabeth isn’t finished with diplomatic solutions yet. She points out that if they set up their own coup, they’ll only have to deal with the repercussions in ten years anyway. Elizabeth asks for 48 hours to get Dupont to step down.

Elizabeth discusses the possibility of getting Dupont a “golden parachute” to leave with Henry. The have to find a country that is willing to take him, however. Monaco doesn’t want him unless they get a medal, a Rose Garden ceremony and a dinner for their humanitarian efforts. In the end, Dupont doesn’t want to go where he’ll essentially be a prisoner.

Gordon (Mike Pniewski) is briefing Dalton and Elizabeth on the assault, when Blake’s whispering catches Dalton’s attention – and he has a non-military solution to the problem. Galbert isn’t happy about the deal, but when Dupont barricades himself in the Presidential Palace and it looks like there could still be a bloodbath, Elizabeth is able to get him to be the voice of reform and he and Dupont both agree to the deal.

In a sub-plot of the Haiti storyline, Matt is assigned Galbert’s speech writer, Dany Victor (Hubert Point-Du Jour) as a cultural exchange. Matt is initially won over when Dany seems to be a fawning fanboy of Matt’s work – but becomes quickly annoyed when it becomes clear that Dany is a grammatical pedant – who has a lot of criticism for Matt’s writing! When Dany’s father is killed in the fighting, however, Matt becomes more sympathetic and learns a little bit about why Dany is so fastidious. He is the first of his family to go to university – and work in an office. He tells Matt that he won’t let anything make him disappoint his father. In the end, Matt has a scholarship put in Dany’s father’s name.

Finally, on the home front, we have the two almost related storylines – at least, I really liked the way the one underscored the other. Elizabeth’s face has visible marks from having the basal cell carcinoma removed, and we get a few comments sprinkled throughout the episode. None of it is hit you over the head preachy, but the message is there. Skin cancer is preventable and treatable – but it is also cancer and can be deadly. This is underscored by the plot about… plots!

Elizabeth has been dodging calls from David Clark (William Youmans), their estate lawyer, but Henry finally arranges a meeting. As it turns out they can both be buried in Arlington cemetery – a pretty big deal. Elizabeth says that she doesn’t really feel right about taking up a spot – while Henry, as military, deserves to be there. Henry is taken aback when she asks if it’s really important where they’re buried – and then wants to make the kids decide – as they’ll be the ones visiting the grave.

Of course, the kids don’t want to decide – or think about losing their parents! Alison (Katherine Herzer) immediately jumps to the conclusion that Elizabeth’s cancer is more serious than she’d said – again, subtly underscoring the seriousness of skin cancer.

Henry finally presses Elizabeth on what’s really going on, and she confesses that she’s never visited her parents’ graves. Every year, she goes to Blacktop Mountain, which is where they got engaged – it’s a happy memory, one about life and not death. She’s not afraid of dying, but she is afraid of losing the people she loves – because of how she lost her parents – not to mention that that is a pretty common fear.

        Henry admits that even after a lifetime of studying religion, he doesn’t have any answers about what happens after you die. He does insist that there has to be somewhere that part of us goes, so he tells Elizabeth that he will find her and the kids there. The episode ends with the entire family going with Elizabeth to finally visit her parents’ graves.

I liked the way the various story threads once again wove through each other in this episode. I also really liked the PSA at the end of the episode: “According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. Early detection is essential and saves lives” – and then they provided a website for more information. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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