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Madam Secretary - The Common Defense & Ready - Review

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Madam Secretary continues to follow one of the biggest fallouts from global warming – climate migration. I’m very much enjoying how they are really going in-depth on this issue and how the show has spun it out to touch on so many other real world issues affecting people all over the world. This review will look at the last two episodes: “The Common Defense” was written by Kristi Korzec and directed by Martha Mitchell and “Ready” was written by Matt Chester and directed by Sunu Gonera. These two episodes dovetail nicely with “The Common Defense” centering on the reality of desperate people seeking asylum and “Ready” centering on the political climate that is only helping to worsen this crisis.

The crisis that sets off the course of events in “The Common Defense” is the arrival in Australia of a group of refugees seeking asylum. The episode opens with them essentially being taken prisoner by border guards. Hopefully, everyone sees the obvious parallels to the previous episodes dealing with the US/Mexican border…

In an interesting twist, Elizabeth (Tea Leoni) is barely in this episode as she heads off to Camp David to work on her declaration speech. And of course, that too is tied into the next episode, which sees her finally submit her letter of resignation to Dalton (Keith Carradine) so that she can begin her run for President.

“The Common Defense” once again is a great title for both the main plots in this episode that both end up dovetailing together. Jay (Sebastian Arcelus) is leading a conference on climate and migration – and of course, the globe needs to stand together if there is any hope to mount a common defense against global warming. In the other thread Daisy (Patina Miller) is on her way home from a cruise when she is quarantined because of a measles outbreak. In this case, the common defense is the herd immunity created by vaccinating against diseases like this.

Jay and the UN High Commissioner Esme Rubiano (Jacqueline Torres) co-chair the conference but meet with the greatest resistance from Australian Prime Minister Chris Lawson (Murray Bartlett) and Elizabeth’s old nemesis President Andrada (Joel de la Fuente). Jay stresses that they are facing a humanitarian crisis and the world needs to change, but Andrada and Lawson both insist that their countries are being required to carry too much of the burden. When the measles outbreak is falsely linked to the migrants, Lawson really digs his heels in.

The episode does a great job of educating both the audience and the characters on the real and present danger of measles. Dr Nimmi Bahri (Reshma Shetty) comes in to consult with Dalton – who is appalled that measles are still around. She tells him that the measles are an “awesome” virus because it actively seeks the unvaccinated. In fact, the outbreak was caused by an unvaccinated Philippine housekeeper. It turns out that the Philippines doesn’t report outbreaks!

Jay goes to Andrada and this was a terrific scene as we see Jay really step up his game – Arcelus is fantastic in this scene. When Andrada won’t answer his calls, Jay invades the lunch he’s having with a bunch of other people. He sits down at the table with them and starts eating! Apparently the Philippines isn’t cooperating with the World Health Organization! Jay tells Andrada – and his guests! – that they are looking at a global outbreak that can’t be ignored. Jay tells Andrada that the aid package and arms deal that they have could go away…. He basically disrespects Andrada in every possible way – and threatens him!

In order to get Lawson on their side, they have to prove where the outbreak occurred. Kat (Sara Ramirez) has a friend in the Department of Health in the Philippines that she and Jay call. Francine (Maria-Christina Oliveras) won’t contradict Andrada. Kat brings up her own son (did we know about this??) and Fran’s. Fran pretends to be angry and storms off camera, leaving Jay and Kat with a clear view of the map that outlines the outbreak in the Philippines. The map proves that the outbreak was started by an Australian child.

In the end, it isn’t enough for Lawson, who wants to stay in office. A theme that is picked up in the next episode and explored more fully. Lawson tells Jay that sometimes you have to make a decision for your people as leader that doesn’t align with your personal ethics. Jay confronts Lawson about not wanting to endanger Australia’s tourism industry. However, Lawson tells Jay to look to his own house and the growing unvaccinated population in the US – and yes. This is a real problem. Bahri explains to Dalton that if the vaccinated population falls below 90%, they will lose their herd immunity. Henry (Tim Daly) points out that they can’t force people to vaccinate without endangering their civil liberties, but the fact remains, without herd immunity, children will die.

The magnitude of the danger is clearly demonstrated in Daisy’s storyline. Even though Joanna had the first shot for measles, only 93% of children are protected after the first shot, and that’s why there is a booster at 4. Joanna becomes sick enough that she has to be intubated, but she still has some immunity because of the vaccination. Tara’s (Paton Ashbrook) daughter, Lyric, is not so lucky. She ends up with encephalitis and could be blind or worse – if she doesn’t die. The show doesn’t make Tara a villain or a terrible mother – she’s just misinformed. She tells Daisy that she heard all the bad effects stories about vaccination and was scared. On top of this, her own mother had measles when she was a child and was only sick for a few days – she got lucky. In the end, Tara goes on television to give an interview about her experience – and her mistake.

The White House team discusses options. Dalton tells them to dig into the proposals they have and get something in front of Congress. He wants them to address the public’s eroding faith in science and their public institutions – and isn’t that ripped from the headlines? Russell (Zeljko Ivanek) points out that people still deny climate change, and Dalton reiterates that if they can’t address the fears with reason – science, fact, and truth – then maybe they need a bureaucratic nudge.

We get a great walk and talk with the team. Kat points out that they are being blocked by two movements who feed off of fear and suspicion to the detriment of society – that would be the anti-vacc’ers and the anti-refugee factions in case you missed it. Jay suggests insisting that you have to show proof of vaccination in passports. Henry supports the idea as it provides for common safety, while Russell is still concerned about civil liberties.

Once again, Jay plays hardball and tells Lawson that they will issue a travel advisory. This finally gets them back to the table. Jay tells the assembled dignitaries that the deal is not about open borders, but that the idea of home is shifting beneath everyone’s feet.

This idea of home and family is also picked up in the “family” storyline this week. Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood) discovers that Will (Eric Stoltz) is on the same dating App that she’s on. She tells Henry who tries to discuss it with Will before he heads out on a date – with a much younger woman. Will shoves aside Henry’s concerns, but when the date is interrupted by Sophie (Tara Summers) calling to say that Annie is sick, Will immediately goes to them. In the end, he moves closer (migrates!) to Sophie and Annie to show that he can be there for the “boring” stuff.

The episode concludes by taking us back to the family we saw at the very beginning. Instead of being confronted by police, they are now being welcomed by medical professionals who also vaccinate the daughter. As the credits roll, Tea Leoni delivers a voiceover message about the importance of vaccinating.

“Ready” picks up with Elizabeth preparing to give a speech at the Climate Migration Symposium. The team listens to her practice and Jay and Daisy feel the speech might be too dark – but Matt (Geoffrey Arend) insists that the tone has to be grave because climate migration is.

Meanwhile, they suddenly find that Poland is going to pull out of the deal when President Demko (Piotr Adamczyk) tells them that his government has insisted no more refugees. Kat and Elizabeth work to put together an aid package to try to help him sell the deal to his base, but it quickly becomes apparent that he has another agenda. In order not to lose his position, he’s dealing with the extreme right-wing party in Poland – the Strength and Freedom Party.

Jay suggests sanctions, but Elizabeth calls on an old friend and university colleague, Lena Kaminska (Susan Pourfar). They taught together in the US, but Lena has returned to Poland to try to effect change. Elizabeth asks her to speak at the symposium. She tells Elizabeth yes, and that she won’t merely nudge her government in the right direction, she’ll shove Demko. And then, as she waits for her taxi, she is shot!

It turns out that she will live, but Ephraim (Clifton Davis) has determined that it’s an inside job. When Demko is clearly covering for the guys who shot her, Elizabeth determines that they have to rescue Lena. Russell insists that they can’t kidnap a Polish national, but Elizabeth insists that Lena has lived in the US for 14 years, owns a home there, and pays taxes! I loved the mission to rescue Lena from the hospital and the bait and switch they played with us when the police pulled over the wrong ambulance!

Russell is still worried about the fall out – which Elizabeth is happy to take responsibility for. Dalton makes the declaration: “God help the Liberal world order.” And that is definitely a theme that is running throughout the episode and that we are likely setting up to explore more this season. The Secretary General of the UN (John Pirkis) comes to Elizabeth and warns her that Demko is threatening to invoke Article 5. Elizabeth points out that Article 5 isn’t supposed to be invoked against another member. The Secretary General tells her that without solidarity, NATO has no reason for being – and of course, this too is ripped from the headlines, with the US threatening to dismantle it. The Secretary General tells Elizabeth to do whatever she has to to smooth things over with Demko.

Kat and Elizabeth instead have a very confrontational meeting with Demko, accusing him of covering up the attack if not collusion. Elizabeth tells him that she wants those involved extradited, him to resign, and to call and election by June! Demko hands up on them.

Meanwhile, Russell and Hnery are getting nowhere in getting the Senate to sign off on sanctions. Morejon (Jose Zuniga) and Callister (Will Chase) are the two biggest opposers. Russell tries to talk to Callister, telling him that they are weakened as a country when they don’t stand together on foreign policy – more ripping from the headlines! Russell tries to get Callister to budge by showing him the dossier he has on him. Unfortunately, Callister doesn’t back down and instead goes on national television to out himself – over ties to the Polish Strength and Freedom Party – the extremist right.

The “family” plot this week ties in directly to the main plot. It turns out that Alison (Katherine Herzer) is dating Morejon’s son – Lucas (David Zaldivar)! And kudos to the casting team for finding someone who actually looks like he’s related to Zuniga! The family has a meeting to discuss it, after Blake (Erich Bergman) inadvertently outs Alison to Elizabeth, that turns into a complete disaster.

However, this gives Henry an opportunity to go and speak to Morejon about the kids. Morejon immediately puts Henry’s mind to rest – kids are off limits. Henry then brings up the Polish sanctions, and Morejon tells him that he’s firmly with his caucus – Demko is just tapping into the populist vein. But Henry points out that that is a dystopian future at best – again, this dialogue has been pulled from the headlines. Morejon insists he isn’t an enemy of democracy – something he and Henry have in common. Henry then asks him “to go all in on our shared democratic ideals. Without them NATO is just an acronym, like the UN or the USA.” I loved this speech. It is a bit preachy, yes, but it also more subtly underscores the democratic underpinnings of these global institutions.

Morejon surprises Elizabeth by calling to tell her that he’s gotten her a solid majority for the sanctions! He tells her that it was Henry’s convincing moral arguments. He also tells her that if years from now they are sitting across each other at a dinner with their shared grandkids, he wants her to have to pick up the check!

However, when Elizabeth gets home, she discovers that Alison has broken up with Lucas because of the family meeting and cautions about who they date while Elizabeth is running for President. Elizabeth tells Alison that she doesn’t know how to do everything at once – be a mom, wife, AND run for President. She tries to clarify that she meant for Alison to be cautious but not to stop living her life. I loved that Alison asks Elizabeth if she ever met someone who changed the way she thought and who inspired her to be a better person – and of course, Elizabeth answers that she married him!

In another side story, Peter Harriman (Skipp Sudduth) is back. As ambassador to the UN, he is to make an important speech at the Symposium. I loved Matt doing everything in his power to avoid having to give his notes on the speech to Harriman. In the end, he gets Nina (Tracee Chimo Pallero) to do it – because she doesn’t know any better. When Harriman inevitably goes off on her, giving her advice that Washington is a dog eat dog world, and she won’t make it if she lets people (like Matt) walk all over her, she runs out of his office crying.

I loved it when Elizabeth asks Nina about Harriman, and Nina says he was gracious – and it’s immediately a red flag for her. Elizabeth confronts Harriman about it. He thinks that Nina has gone running to Elizabeth, but she explains that calling Harriman gracious is like “calling the Pope saucy!”

When Harriman tries to smooth things over with Nina, he brings her chocolate, but we finally get a bit more context for Nina. She tells him that she wasn’t crying because of him but because of all the pressure she’s under. She works 16 hour days and has 3 roommates among other things. She’s also the first person in her family to complete college and she doesn’t want to screw this up! As it turns out, Harriman is also from a working class background. Really, Nina’s story is a nice way to highlight another breaking story from Washington – the hardships faced by some of the new congress – like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who has exposed the hardships of living in Washington.

In the end, Harriman doesn’t get to do his speech, and he is gracious in stepping aside for Lena to make the speech. They needed a voice that couldn’t be ignored on the International stage. Lena’s speech centers around the very real issue of governments caring more about silencing people than freedom. She emphasizes that tragedy doesn’t respect borders – and Nationalism doesn’t work! Just look at history, people! She’s right! Lena’s speech has the desired effect. Demko resigns and calls an election for June and they get 164 signatories on the Climate Migration Agreement.

I loved the meeting with Russell, especially him skipping to shut the door. He tells Elizabeth that it’s his job to play Devil’s advocate, to push back – and he does a fantastic job at it! He also tells her that she’s “ready.” It’s time for her to declare. I also loved that at her dinner party for Lena, Elizabeth urges her to run for President of Poland. Henry also tells Elizabeth it’s time to declare, and she reminds him that she has to resign first.

The final scene has her giving her letter of resignation to Dalton. Will next week’s episode feature a new title? I am SO hoping this show gets renewed. Will there be time for us to actually get through the entire election process before the end of the season? I hope they don’t drag it out too long, but it would be nice if the show came back next season as Madam President! What did you think of the two episodes? Are you enjoying the spotlight that the show shines so well on real world issues? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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