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Madam Secretary - Ships and Countries - Review



Madam Secretary “Ships and Countries” was written by Joy Gregory and was directed by Sam Hoffman. In another terrific mirror of real life events, Elizabeth’s (Tea Leoni) Impeachment hearings begin. The episode features terrific performances by Leoni – who is everything that a President should be – and currently isn’t – as well as Wallis Currie-Woods (Stevie) and Tim Daly (Henry).

As the episode opens, we learn that the hearings will start with Stevie and Henry and that Elizabeth continues to refuse to invoke executive privilege. Henry tries to get Elizabeth to do some cardio with him to take her mind off the hearings, but she’s preparing a speech for the World Trade Organization – and is busy worrying about Stevie. She brings up a memory of Stevie wanting to come home from horse camp as a kid and making her stick it out. Henry insists that it helped build character – and that it’s not at all the same thing.

Mike (Kevin Rahm), Russell (Zeljko Ivanek), Blake (Erich Bergen), and Olivia (Amanda Warren) go over the day. Mike is particularly proud of his role in helping write the great speech for the WTO! The discussion turns quickly to the hearings and the fact that Canning (Spencer Garrett) is a tough prosecutor. They’re hoping for support from Heeney (Norbert Leo Butz). Russell points out that the economy is good and so’s Elizabeth’s approval rating – despite the hearings. He does point out that the markets are a little wobbly due to the disappearance of aerospace engineer and billionaire Eli Volk (Brad Heberlee) on a trip to Moscow. Elizabeth immediately wants to know how a billionaire disappears… and of course, this is going to be important!

Elizabeth calls Stevie as she is on her way to testify and babble about some cooking show. Eventually, she gets around to the hearings not being horse camp – Stevie doesn’t have to do it. Stevie assures her that she wants too – and she’s got it. And for the most part she does – until they bring up Dmitri (Chris Petrovski).

Stevie nails her opening statement as she tells the members of the committee that the hearings are merely the latest partisan attempt to get rid of a sitting President and to willfully twist the facts and mislead the public. She points out that she’s already been cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with the flights. She proudly tells them that her mother is a supreme patriot and a tireless public servant – and that’s certainly what we’ve seen over the course of the show!

I adored Canning’s interrogation over Stevie’s internship with Russell. He tries to show that it was her mother’s influence that got her the job. Stevie remains calm and points out that it’s likely got more to do with her being there when Russell had his heart attack – I loved that she didn’t mention that she saved his life. And then she zings them by saying that it’s up to Mr Jackson to decide if that’s better than a Rhode’s scholar. Elizabeth is gleeful as she watches, but Ivanek gets the best line: “glad my heart attack worked to her advantage….”

Canning starts to get the upper hand when he brings up a seven year old text in which Stevie says her mother lies. Stevie insists it was taken out of context, and then points out that if her mother didn’t keep secrets, he’d accuse her of leaking state secrets. Canning then moves on to characterize Dmitri as a violent opiate addict and totally catches Stevie flat-footed. It looks like Heeney is coming to the rescue when he calls time on Canning.

Heeney asks a softball question, just confirming that she doesn’t use her personal contacts to get jobs and then yields his remaining time back to Canning!!! Mike and Russell already watched Heeney’s opening statement with their mouths open and declared it not good. Now it’s very unclear what Heeney is up to. Canning goes right back to hammering on Dmitri, and Stevie insists that her parents didn’t even know that she was dating him – at which Canning declares that she’s just as much a liar as her parents! Wallis-Woods is terrific in these scenes as Stevie goes from confident to under siege. When Stevie tries to apologize to Henry and Elizabeth, they insist that she did great – and both character and actor did!

Meanwhile, Ephraim (Clifton Davies) briefs Elizabeth on Volk’s disappearance. Apparently, he went to a private evening at a friend’s restaurant in Moscow and hasn’t been seen since. He suggests it could be a mob hit, a rival corporation or state ordered. Russell discovers that Volk has been taken by the Iranians as retaliation for Mustavi.

Elizabeth calls Russian President Salnikov (Nicholas Guest) to tell him that Volk is being held in the Iranian embassy. Salnikov then insultingly “explains” how embassies work – they are considered sovereign soil, there’s nothing he can do. Elizabeth tries to reason with him – all the while clearly grinding her teeth. She points out that Volk’s disappearance destabilizes the world’s economy. Volk tells her to call the Iranian embassy! Once off the phone, reality and the show collide violently once again as Elizabeth tells Russell to look for any kind of QUID PRO QUO between Iran and Russia!

Over breakfast, Mike, Olivia, Elizabeth, Russell and Henry discuss Henry’s testifying. Henry insists that he has to testify and that he’ll fix any damage done over Dmitri. He also wants to respond publicly to them smearing Stevie’s reputation. Russell wants to limit the questioning to Dmitri. Elizabeth wants to have the hearing closed to the public and insists that the committee be allowed to ask anything. Mike suggests that they can redact any sensitive information and release the rest to the public.

When Henry is questioned about Dmitri, Canning tries to imply that Dmitri was turned again while undergoing torture. Henry continues to defend Dmitri, and Olivia steps in to question how any of it has anything to do with the President. Canning then goes on to attack Henry’s appointment as Ethics Advisor to Dalton. Henry finally demands that Canning simply say what he means if he’s going to continue to slander his family. Olivia wants to know if they have any evidence. I adored Henry telling Canning that if he were in his ethics class he’d get an F! He then goes on to talk about virtue ethics that consider why people take action and what their motives are. He then tells them that Elizabeth has wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice – again, all things we’ve seen over the course of the series. The Impeachment hearings are really a nice way to re-cap the entire series – and under a critical lens too!

Canning goes on to spew nonsense and Heeney again yields his time! There has to be something going on here. One can only hope that he’s keeping himself back to be able to support Elizabeth directly.

We get a really great walk and talk scene between Elizabeth and Russell along the colonnade. They are joined by Blake who delightedly shares a bit of trivia with them that FDR used to have his desk brought out there so that he could work in the fresh air. Noticing that Elizabeth and Russell aren’t quite as interested, he quickly tells them “I’ll let you run the country now…” I love Blake!

Ephraim informs them that Salnikov is personally getting a kickback from an Iranian oil deal. Elizabeth calls him again and he continues to condescendingly school her in state craft. Elizabeth finally loses patience and uses his suggestion about the “direct approach.” She tells him that his kickback isn’t in the press – even if the oil deal is. She tells him to take immediate steps to get Volk out of the Iranian embassy or the Russian public will know about the kickback. She gives him an ultimatum: He’s got 12 hours to have a flight plan getting Volk home – and then she hangs up on him!! I loved it!

In the situation room, we find out that Volk’s jet was intercepted once it left Moscow. Ellen (Johanna Day) walks them through the attempted rescue as it plays out on the screens. It turns into a fire fight and the unrest on the Iran/Israel border is intensifying. Elizabeth determines that she will have to give something to Shiraz (Housang Touzie). Russel isn’t thrilled because of the optics of dealing with Iran because of the Impeachment hearing about Iran’s interference in the election. Elizabeth assures Russell that she’ll lead with a big stick – but she needs a tiny carrot on the end.

Elizabeth gets Shiraz on the phone and quickly gets the stick out! She tells him not to try to bully her. She then tells him that in the next 30 minutes Volk will walk out of the plane with no bullets fired. His plane and those on it can leave – and they’ll continue their discussion of the hacking another day. Shiraz agrees and Russell congratulates her, but Elizabeth looks troubled.

Elizabeth meets Volk when he’s returned and he actually bows to her like she’s royalty – that doesn’t play well in the media. Hanson (Wentworth Miller) then shows up on television claiming that the entire affair was simply media manipulation! Well, here’s our proponent of fake news…

Elizabeth has had enough, and even though she knows it’s not a good idea, she goes to see Hanson at his home. She tells him she saw him on the news and that now it’s personal. He’s dragged her family into it, and she wants to know why. She accuses him of being obsessed with beating her. Hanson then really reveals his true colors. He calls her a travesty and an aberration. He declares that once Elizabeth is out of office the country can go back to being the beacon of hope SHE’s always been. He’s clearly got a problem with having a woman in power. Don’t you want to meet his wife now? And maybe his mother? I thought this was one of Miller’s best scenes so far.

Meanwhile, Stevie has been dealing with the fallout of her own testimony. We discover that she didn’t talk to Dmitri until she called him the next morning – from the stairwell at her work. I liked how this was staged as it’s a nice reflection of how their relationship has almost always been this secretive thing between them – and let’s face it, that’s just not healthy. Stevie apologizes for not having called the night before. Dmitri is quick to try and explain the assault charge – he just smashed a tv, he didn’t hurt anyone – but he doesn’t tell her about the frustrations that lead up to that moment, which I found frustrating – WE know the full story!

Stevie tells him it was the opioid addiction that really threw her – because of Harrison – which she also doesn’t really explain. Naturally, there are lots of trust issues tied up with that and how addicts lie to cover themselves. Dmitri barely scratches the surface again when he tells her that it was due to the injuries he suffered in Russia – when he was being tortured!!! Which again… frustrating because he doesn’t explain! He does tell her that once he got help he hasn’t wanted to use – it’s not a thing with him – even if it’s a thing for Stevie. Stevie tells him that she needs time and will call him…. UGH!!! Meanwhile, she starts going through his social media accounts and finds Bitty907.

Stevie and Dmitri finally meet in a park again. At least it’s in public, right? She apologizes for letting the addiction thing throw her. She goes on to explain with both parents in Intelligence, she has an issue with lies and omissions. She wants to know who Bitty907 is. Dmitri tries to explain that she was just a bartender, but eventually admits that they did hook up a few times. He insists that it didn’t mean anything to him – and finally, he points out that Stevie had a boyfriend – and really, more than one!! Dmitri finally gets a bit annoyed with her – does she think that he has no feelings because he was a spy? We all certainly know better!! I was so happy to see Petrovski back this season because I think he nails every scene he’s in. He finally tells Stevie that since he came to the US, he’s lost his country, his name – and more. But when he’s with her, he feels like he’s at home – and he’s not planning on leaving again! Damn it, Stevie, for once in your life realize it when you have a great guy!!!!

The final scene is with Elizabeth and Henry, sitting on the floor in the Presidents’ Portrait gallery, sharing a snack (when aren’t they eating!? Always love these scenes – and the chemistry between Daly and Leoni!). She tells Henry that Hanson called her a falsely elected woman and muses on why he can calls the country a woman but not its President. Henry points out that some people can’t handle having a woman in power – and didn’t THAT play out in the last election! I loved the way this storyline that is captured in the title of the episode is also reflected in the Stevie/Dmitri storyline. Stevie IS now Dmitri’s country in a sense, his home. Elizabeth tells Henry that she wants to testify – she wants her day in court even if Russell won’t like it.

This was a bit of a set up episode, leading up to the two final episodes of the season – and – SOB! – series. I can’t wait to see Elizabeth have her day in court. I’m betting that we will see the Impeachment storyline wrap up – or come close to wrapping up and then get a bit of a time jump in the final episode – and hopefully our happy ending. I will really miss this show. I think we need it now more than ever to showcase women in power and to showcase real states craft and to showcase true democracy. Really. Have we ever needed this show more? What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


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