Sunday, October 5, 2014

REVIEW: 'Madam Secretary' - Henry Gets Thrown in the Middle of Elizabeth's World Following a Document Leak in 'The Operative'

CBS' Madam Secretary - Episode 1.03 "The Operative"

Elizabeth is confronted by a hostile reporter who threatens to publish confidential documents that were leaked from inside the State Department. Meanwhile, Henry is dragged into an international negotiation when his wife uses his job as leverage to broker a deal with Pakistan.

It's completely ridiculous how Elizabeth's professional and private worlds intersect in "The Operative." The key part of an important three-way deal between America, Pakistan and Russia is whether or not Henry will give one of his students - the daughter of a high-ranking Russian official - an A. That is almost too incredulous. And yet, I'm willing to go along with it because it opens up the dialogue of ethics. Elizabeth is not a politician and has no such aspirations. She has a different perspective with this job. And yet, in her first few weeks on the job, she has had to made some incredibly difficult decisions. She never would have asked her husband to compromise his ethics if she were still in the world of academia. But now, an operative's life is on the line after his cover is blown. He will die unless she can negotiate his release. This is the only possible way for her to do that. There are still lines she won't cross - like mentioning the operative's family in order to get Henry to agree to the deal. And yet, she is becoming more compromised because of this job. She doesn't want to be. She wants to be the pillar for government transparency. But there's some lines that need to be crossed and she's slowly coming to that realization.

The hour is much more interested in the consequences of classified government documents being released in terms of the safety of their operatives instead of whether said action of releasing to the public is good or not. Marin Ireland is a great actress and I don't think she has a lot to work with here. The character is very important for the episode's first half and then non-existent for the second. She tells Elizabeth that her source is sick in Guinea. And yet, Elizabeth and her team are more focused on rescuing the operative in Pakistan - to the point, that it becomes just a throwaway line at the end that the Russians also negotiated the release of the leak. The hour brings up interesting discussions about whether or not he should stand trial for treason and whether Ireland's journalist character has thought about the consequences of releasing such documents. But it offers no resolution to them. In the end, we are suppose to feel good and that the hour's plot was resolved when Elizabeth successfully rescued the operative. But that was only one piece of this puzzle. The team then shares drinks and celebrates and I'm left thinking that the plot isn't really over.

And then, in a very minor C-plot, Madam Secretary tries to parallel America spying on its allies with Elizabeth and Henry spying on their middle child's texts to know that she and her boyfriend have broken up. It says that it would be easy to stop spying. They just to have to press a button and then they will no longer know what's happening. They'll have to talk to their daughter in order to know what's going on in her life. Because of the parallels, the show says that spying on other countries could just as easily cease. It's much more complicated than that. But the resolution with this plot is largely just to end the episode with Elizabeth and Henry keeping their values intact. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Operative" was written by David Grae and directed by Jeremy Webb.
  • Offscreen, Stevie gets a job hostessing. Because we never see her working, what are the odds that she is actually doing that?
  • Jay is the one State Department staffer to get some shading this week. He almost loses his job because of what he says in a document that's leaked. But Elizabeth keeps him on because he does a great job with her. He's the one who suggests offering the weapon to Pakistan. But he also has political ambitions which means he may not be long for this environment even though he is now Elizabeth's guy.
  • Russell wasn't as aggressively opposed to everything that Elizabeth did or said this week. That's improvement - but he also just doesn't do a whole lot in this episode.
  • Bebe Neuwirth saying "Oh thank God" to Elizabeth agreeing to open the wine from the French was amazing.