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Madam Secretary - Daisy & Deepfake - Review



My apologies for playing a bit of catch up with my reviews of Madam Secretary. Let’s dive in to the last two episodes. “Daisy” was written by Alexander Maggio and directed by Rob Greenlea and “Deepfake” was written by Matt Chester and was directed by Leslie Libman, whose other credits include Chicago Fire, NCIS, and – hilariously to me – Designated Survivor. As I review Designated Survivor too, I can tell you that I’ve always thought Madam Secretary the superior show even as much as I'll always love Kiefer Sutherland….

With all due respect, I know many fans were sorry to see Patina Miller take her swan song as the title character in “Daisy.” However, Daisy has never been my favorite character, so I wasn’t that upset to see her story arc come to an end. I did think she got a good send off, and I really liked her last address to the White House Press corp. At its heart, the episode addresses the very important issue of freedom of the press – a cornerstone of any democracy.

The episode is bookended by flashbacks to election night. Daisy and Elizabeth (Tea Leoni) are knocking on doors, trying to get last minute voters to the polls. They are joined by President Dalton (Keith Carradine) – who also plays a big role in the present storyline. When Elizabeth knocks on one last door, it’s Dalton who convinces Barry (Liam Craig) to let them drive him to the polls. Barry really has had a bad day. I loved this scene, especially when Dalton asks what Barry’s learned after listening to all of Elizabeth’s platforms, and Barry says vote by mail! Dalton returns to the White House in the present for the unveiling of his Presidential Portrait.

Henry (Tim Daly) and Elizabeth are worried about Dalton when he first arrives because he’s let his hair grow and has brought his guitar rather than his wife. They worry that “retirement” hasn’t been good for him – he seems aimless and they even worry about his marriage. As it turns out, he’s about to become a grandfather and his wife stayed to help with the mother-to-be. Far from being unmotivated or at loose ends, Dalton is going to be the next Executive Director of UNICEF. He’s brought his guitar because he’s also written a children’s album – the proceeds of which will go to charity. He’s going to be performing on the Bob Schieffer show.

Meanwhile, we finally learn why Daisy went to Russell (Zeljko Ivanek). Mike (Kevin Rahm), Olivia (Amanda Warren), and Russell finally read Elizabeth in on the National Security Issue that Daisy has caused. Bernard (Sabina Vajraca) apparently gave Daisy a thumb drive with all the evidence on Miller on it. Daisy admits that she looked at it but then put it into a drawer without leaking the information. Valerie Guillen (Jenn Colella) is the reporter who broke the story and is the only one who can say who her source was once Bernard proves to be beyond their reach. However, she goes to jail rather than give up her source. As always, Mike B gets the best lines – and Rahm nails them. Really, how many actors/characters can get away with “conspiratron 5000” (Hanson – Wentworth Miller) and “twerking with the Ayatolla!”!!

As always, we get some of our best reflective issue scenes with Elizabeth and Henry in a quiet moment in the evening over veggie chips. Elizabeth wonders if it’s wrong that the Attorney General is going after Gillen. Henry worries about the effect on the Press. How do they use anonymous sources? Elizabeth wonders if they should if the source is an illegal hack. But of course, a free press is necessary for a democracy to function with an informed citizenry.

When Elizabeth shows up to brief the Press, the Press keep interrupting her by asking where Gillen is. When Elizabeth doesn’t answer a reporter, they take off their White House badge and leave. It’s great to see the Press stand up to the White House and demand honest answers. This was happening for a time with some brave reporters – but now there are fewer and fewer press briefings as the respect between government and press in real life has never been lower. I love that the show shines a light on this important issue!

In a dinner with Russell, Henry, and Conrad, Elizabeth gently tries to get Conrad’s opinion. She points out that Gillen isn’t in jail for anything she wrote – her freedom of the press was never threatened, she’s not being censored. She in jail for contempt. Conrad, however, refuses to give her advice and changes the subject. I loved that when he’s on Schieffer’s show, he has no problem stating his utter faith in Elizabeth’s judgment, and later tells her the same to her face. He also tells her that he thinks she’s doing a great job. I also loved that Carradine can really play the guitar and sing!

In the end, Elizabeth decides that she has to accept Daisy’s resignation. There’s another great scene when Elizabeth goes to Henry – and urges him not to let her push him away or ignore his advice. He tells her that she can’t trust Daisy the way Daisy can trust her. He tells her that you can’t cherry pick ethics. Daisy made a bad decision not to tell the FBI right away just because Miller is a “monster.” Henry knows that Elizabeth never would have taken the USB in the first place.

Daisy’s final address to the Press corp tells them that Gillen is being given a Presidential pardon and that she’s resigned. She also tells them that her daughter has told her that she wants to be a reporter when she grows up.

Hilariously, Mike B has a dart board with Hanson’s face on it! Elizabeth has him set up an off the books meeting with Gillen. Gillen expects an apology from Elizabeth and is sadly disappointed. Elizabeth demands one from her for putting their democracy at risk. Gillen admits that her source wasn’t Daisy.

We get another perspective on democracy as Dmitri (Chris Petrovski) takes his Pledge of Allegiance. Henry is there – of course – and Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood) is late, but makes it in time to give Dmitri a small, kitschy gift. The two are still dancing around each other with neither wanting to make the first move!

The final flashback to election night has them late to Elizabeth’s party. As they ride in the car, it’s Daisy, checking her phone, who first learns that Elizabeth has won, and it’s Daisy who is the first one to congratulate Madam President!

“Deepfake” hits on some issues that are very near and dear to my heart – 5G technology, social media – and the entertainment industry! The opening scene is all Kevin Rahm as Mike B is woken up by the smashing glass of a home invasion as a crazy guy spurred on by propaganda from YouVid (a very thinly veiled YouTube) accosts him and then tazes him to press a 5G-brainwash-correction-towel to his head!

It turns out that the 5G brainwash conspiracy is being spread by an outrageous YouVidder – Shawn Olson (Matt Walton) – who is selling the towels online. I loved Russell and Mike both saying he got the head wrap idea from Total Recall!

The main storyline concerns a state visit from South Korea to sign a major trade deal. Elizabeth will be entertaining the South Korean President Sung-Hoon Choi (Hoon Lee) with a classical music concert and illuminated manuscripts, and Henry will be entertaining his wife – First Lady Min-Hee Kwon (Susane Lee), who happens to be a huge K-Pop star. She wants to go to iHop, do some shopping, and drive go-karts! Henry is particularly excited about her request for country music karaoke and going to an MLB game.

The visit goes off the rails when a video appears online on Shaun Olson’s program that seems to show Elizabeth and Henry talking in their bedroom about how stupid Choi is and how they’ve gotten the better of him in the trade deal. Choi is ready to call the entire deal off – even after it’s explained how this deepfake was made. Russell assures Choi that they’ve already made a statement clarifying that the video is a fake to the public. Choi, however, says they are putting the deal on hold, but they will stay for the state dinner.

Russell points out that they really need the 5G technology that the trade deal will secure. Elizabeth suggests that they turn the incident into a teachable moment and release a video explaining how it was faked to the general public. It’s nice to see a government that exposes fake news while standing behind the truth!

Kwon still wants her day with Henry, and she surprises him with her in-depth knowledge of economics and policy while they are chatting as they shop. Henry later tells Elizabeth that he thinks that Kwon is a legitimate back channel to getting the trade deal done.

Meanwhile, Mike, Russell, and Elizabeth sit down with the CEO of YouVid, Chelsey Weldon (Sharon Washington). She tells them that YouVid shares their views on fake news but that they have enough guidance from the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). However, fake news isn’t a copyright matter! The notice and takedown regime doesn’t apply to lies, liable, and slander. She insists that they need to protect free speech and allow social commentary and satire. Furthermore, they are just a platform – they aren’t a publisher. They aren’t responsible for what goes up. And she’s not wrong.

Mike points out that he was attacked in his own home. Weldon admits that that was terrible, but it’s important to let people think for themselves. She insists that good speech should be allowed to fight the bad speech without their interference. The problem, of course is that they don’t just let that happen. Later, in the residence, Elizabeth points out to Henry that their algorithm only lets you hear one kind of speech – the kind that simply reinforces what you already believe. Anger and fear produce an endorphin rush that keep people looking for the next video to feed it. Elizabeth points out that hits fuel their business model.

Next day, Russell is distressed because they can’t get them to take down the video. There’s no way to regulate them. Elizabeth points out that it’s really just like broadcasting – and it is!!!! – and that the FTC should be involved. It’s an assault on truth! And this bleeds into Elizabeth’s search for a new head of the FTC. Her pick is Rachel Ballard (Joanna Glushak).

Henry and First Lady Kwon bond further while go-karting. She tells him that she fell in love with her husband because he’s a creative thinker. She also tells him that Choi is concerned with maintaining a strong image because he wants to get re-elected. Kwon suggests that if they drop the regulations on software, the deal will likely go ahead. She knows that Henry is trying to leverage her, but she admits that she’s in full support of the deal and wants it to go through.

Russell, meanwhile, goes to Senator Breckenridge (Daniel Jenkins) to lobby for Ballard’s appointment. Much to Russell’s surprise, Breckenridge admits that he supports Ballard’s appointment. The tech companies are the future of media and that means that the future of American politics is owned by California democrats! And that can’t happen. Breckenridge urges Russell to nail down Hanson, assuring Russell that he’ll side with him on big tech.

Rather than having to sell her soul again for political expediency, Elizabeth asks Morejon (Jose Zuniga) to meet with Hanson. The two meet for dinner. Morejon floats opening up the algorithms to prevent bias, but while Hanson is all for tech regulation, he won’t do it this way. He’s clearly got a real hate on for Elizabeth. He accuses her of running on Conrad’s principles of moderation, practicality, and unity and of trashing all of them since being in office! He tells Morejon that Elizabeth is bloating the government. He clearly suggests that he wants to Impeach Elizabeth and put Morejon in her place!

Morejon reports back to Russell, Mike and Elizabeth and tells them everything. Mike then suggests going after the Centralist Democrats to support the Ballard appointment. They need to protect the public without squashing innovation. He goes to the Senators from Minnesota and Pennsylvania and promises them the tech companies that the South Korean trade deal would bring in. He can’t make firm promises and Senator Stulbarg (Enid Graham) and Senator Furey (Sheila Tapia) want more than vague promises – and want pens and coffee the next time Mike invites them to the West Wing!

Once again we get a great scene between Elizabeth and Henry “after hours” in the Oval office, discussing the issues. Henry points out that if they could get the NSA off the South Korean software restrictions, they could get movement on the trade deal. Elizabeth has a brainwave and states that the best way to regulate capitalism is to let it regulate itself…. She’s got an idea.

At the State dinner, First Lady Kwan entertains everyone by singing her hit single. I loved Mike bopping along to the music – Rahm is hilarious in this scene and once again with Erich Bergen (Blake), the two are comedy gold. Blake sneers that the music is over-produced, and with a ten-year-old’s comeback, Mike fires off “Your hair is over produced!” But Mike is never just about having fun and takes the opportunity to introduce Furey and Stulbarg to Kwon. Turns out they are fans and this is better than pens. The three women move off to discuss manufacturing with Choi.

Meanwhile, Russell and Elizabeth take Weldon aside. They tell her that South Korea will be bringing their very popular streaming platform – WeSo – to the US with the coming trade deal. Russell tells her that South Koreans really appreciate the trustworthiness of the platform. Weldon fires back that Elizabeth won’t get re-elected is she’s seen as squashing free speech. Elizabeth says the voters will finally be getting the truth – and she’s happy to let them decide based on that. Wouldn’t it be great if governments that clearly squashed free speech didn’t get re-elected?? Or that they at least got impeached?

There’s a final cute moment at the dinner when Mike asks Kwon for an autograph for his son… Mike… and then does a heel click of glee as he’s walking away after getting it! Now. I know Mike has a son… but is he really Mike Jr???

In the other main storyline, Dmitri calls Stevie to ask her to his going away party. He’s leaving Washington to go and build houses for the poor in Ghana. It’s clear that Stevie thinks that Talia (Masha King) has made Dmitri call. The two are a bit awkward when Stevie finally shows up at the bar. Dmitri is clearly pleased that she’s come and can’t take his eyes off of her. Stevie confesses that she doesn’t love her job, but it’s fulfilling – and Dmitri tells her that’s how he feels about going to Ghana….

It’s clear the old attraction is still there. In desperation, Stevie goes to Blake for advice. Griffin (Seth Numrich) is great – and I like that they don’t make this an easy choice. We see Griffin show up at Stevie’s work with dinner for her when she has to work late for instance. Stevie tells Blake that she really likes Griffin, but now this “other guy” is back. Blake tells her that if it didn’t work out before, it won’t work now. Griffin adores her and lives in the same city – if it works, stick with it. It would seem that Blake has forgotten that he and his fiancé were on again off again!

Griffin and Stevie go out to dinner, and Griffin asks her to be exclusive – it seems that permanence was too much and the deciding factor – Stevie goes directly to Dimitri. He comes out of his house and they have the conversation on either side of his gate. She asks him if they’re done – she’s been trying to move on. It’s what Dmitri has been waiting for – any sign that she’s still interested – he comes through the gate and the two kiss before both going in! YEAH!!!!

In the final moments of the episode, we learn that Morejon has broken the tie to get Ballard elected. Hanson shows up for the signing of the South Korean trade deal and remarks how much he likes the East room – it’s where Nixon resigned. Morejon points out that 68% are against impeachment. Hanson counters that his superpower is that he never quits – and was this a shout out to Miller’s role on Legends of Tomorrow?

We also see Shaun Olson get his own comeuppance as his bad behavior is caught on YouVid, ensuring his inevitable fall from grace. And we also see that Dmitri isn’t going to Ghana after all…He and Stevie don't seem to be in any hurry to get out of bed and go anywhere!

I thought these were two more excellent episodes that really spoke to each other about the importance of free speech and a free speech as well as access to the truth. The cast continues to bring their best work to the show. What did you think of the episodes? Are you sad to see Patina Miller bow out? I think she gave a terrific performance and had a good send off. Hanson is clearly going to continue to be a problem – and I love that the show continues to fearlessly “go there.” Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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