Well, it’s official. Madam Secretary had its first “meh” episode of the season. It starts with a simple phone call, and ends with some wild gesticulation. In this episode, we see Bess and the White House staff deal with the aftermath of Ostrov’s (former Russian President) death. The president makes a call to Ostrov’s widow, sending his condolences and informing her that he’ll be sending Beth in his place to the funeral. Shortly after he ends the phone call, the President Conrad, Russell Jackson, Bess, and Craig start debating what to do with the Russia/Ukraine conflict. Much like in real life, Russia has occupied the eastern half of Ukraine, and Craig (the new head of the NSA) wants the U.S. to interfere. Bess however, cautions the president against taking such an action. Instead Bess proposes the best way to work with Russia is to help insure the Foreign Minister Gorev becomes Russia’s new president. Of course Craig is a huge jerk about it. After Bess makes her plea for this new plan, Craig makes some snooty remark about Bess and her cool glasses and “glorious hair.” Sigh. President Conrad agrees to go along with Bess’s plan, so she goes to her staff to come up with a strategy to put Gorev in charge.
Meanwhile, a tech expert has been brought in to investigate how/why Air Force One’s communication system went down in the first episode, and to also insure Bess’s plane is safe for her journey to Russia. He assures Bess’s staff that her plane is totally safe, but he is still unable to say how Air Force One was hacked.
Later that night Bess and Henry are relaxing at home when Jason comes in and presents them with his latest report card. Hoping to score some brownie points from his improved grades, Jason asks his parents to sign a permission slip so that he can try out for the football team. Bess and Henry are completely caught off guard, and tell Jason they’ll have to think about it before they can agree to that.
Next day at her office, Bess and her team come up with a solid plan to put Gorev in power. They decide the best option is to convince Ukraine to let Russia have its victory of eastern Ukraine in order to restore peace. Since a victory in Ukraine would make the Russians happy, Bess feels she can convince the U.S. to lift its sanctions on Russia and get Gorev to go along with her plan. After this successful meeting, Bess returns to her personal office and is shortly greeted by her advisor Mike B. He urges Bess to get Bess back on the President’s good side. He warns Bess that Jackson and Conrad are trying to push her out, so she can’t afford to fail her mission in Russia. Mike B. offers to give Bess a binder full of information on Craig, but Bess refuses to use such a tactic to get ahead.
At the same time, Henry enters his classroom at the War College to find Dimitri overcompensating with a speech about Ostrov’s death in order to appear extremely patriotic. At the end of his class, Henry tells Dimitri his first mission as a spy is to go to the Russian Embassy for Ostrov’s memorial and cozy up to the Russian Ambassador. Dimitri challenges Henry and asks what would happen if he refused, to which Henry responds with a vague threat to Dimitri’s sick sister. While waiting for news from Dimitri’s mission, Henry decides to play catch with Jason. As they toss the football back and forth, Henry asks Jason why he really wants to try out for the team. For the first time I felt a little sad for Jason when he says it’s because he wants to make friends. After Henry video calls Bess to tell her this news, she agrees to allow Jason to try out for the football team.
Back at the White House, Bess pitches her official plan to the President, Jackson, and Craig. The President gives Bess the go-ahead on her plan much to Craig’s dismay. After the meeting, Bess approaches Craig and tries to convince him to get lunch. Instead of being a normal human and turning her down politely, Craig insists on uttering some more misogynistic garbage. He completely dismisses Bess’s work from the previous year and says she may have “improvised” her way to some major successes, but what the country really needs is some “strategy.” Barf. After that lovely scene, we finally see Bess acting out the first stage of her plan. After some intense convincing, the Ukrainian President agrees to let Russia have its victory. However, this little bit couldn’t quite go off without a hitch. While waiting outside for Bess, Blake is beckoned over by a little girl who wants to take a picture with him. She also insists that Blake pose with her “father.”
Bess and her staff then travel to Russia for Ostorov’s wake. And all goes seemingly well. Bess and Osrtrov’s widow have a nice talk and Bess’s staff pays their respect to Ostrov. Afterwards, Bess even convinces Gorev to go along with her plan to put him into power. Everything’s going perfectly until the photo of Blake and the little girl’s “father” hits the internet. What Blake didn’t realize at the time was the whole little girl thing was a setup. The man he’s photographed with is wearing a T-shirt bearing the swastika, which signifies that he is an anti Russian protester/Nazi. Obviously, this does not bode well with the Russian people and makes Bess look awful to pretty much the entire world. Daisy ultimately confronts Blake about this huge error and demands that he stops being such a people-pleaser. Blake in turn tells Daisy she needs to convince the tech guy investigating Air Force One to help them track down who staged this disaster photo session.
When Daisy does get into contact with the tech guy, he reveals that the man in the Swastika shirt was indeed a Russian operative sent there by a Russian photographer. Furthermore, the man who set up the photo debacle works at a charity funded by none other than Ostrov’s widow.
Back in the U.S., Henry speaks to his DIA bosses about his concerns for Dimitri. Henry is afraid that although Dimirti is intelligent, he doesn’t have the strength to be a spy. And since Henry is Dimitri’s handler, Henry’s boss agrees to look into this matter. Which as it turns out is not so great for Dimitri. He is unable to get any useful information out of the Russian Ambassador, and as he leaves the Russian Embassy Dimitri is ambushed by two massive fellows and thrown into a van. He wakes up in an interrogation room, where the two thugs from the van proceed to hit him for information on his activities at the Embassy. As it turns out, this whole interrogation was planned by Henry’s bosses, and they all watch as Dimitri is repeatedly assaulted. Once she’s satisfied that Dimitri wouldn’t betray his mission even under torture, Henry’s boss ends the interrogation. Henry speaks with Dimitri and pretends to have no remorse over this cruelty, but is obviously very troubled by it when Dimitri leaves the room.
Despite Bess’s efforts, she and her team are unable to tell the Russian people the truth about the photograph. As soon as Ostrov’s widow starts her eulogy, she rallies the people in the crows against Bess and her staff. She compares Bess to some scary Russian folk monster, and tells Bess to warn her President that Russia is not afraid of the United States. Most unfortunately for Bess, this turn of events means her plan to put Gorev in charge is dead. When she returns to the White House, Craig reveals his new and terrible plan to get Russia out of Ukraine. He urges the President to arm the Ukrainians, and to have the U.S. directly involved with this conflict. Bess returns to her office where she summons Mike B. again. This time she agrees to take the binder about Craig from him.
After a long and harrowing day, Bess and Henry attempt to comfort each other at home when once again Jason appears with more news about football. He made the team! Bess feigns enthusiasm, and as soon as Jason leaves the room makes Henry swear Jason will leave the team after his first concussion.
And in what is certainly the strangest scene of the season so far, we cut back to Russia where Ostrov’s widow walks out onto a balcony and without saying a world just pumps her fists to the sky sending the massive crowd below her into a frenzy. Even watching this scene a second time did not make me feel any better about this moment. I can only hope that next week’s episode does not end on such a melodramatic note.