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TV Recap: Madam Secretary, Season 1, Episode 11, “Game On”

Near-catastrophe in Caracas.

Bess and her team travel to Venezuela this week. Photograph by Barbara Nitke for CBS.

Just a couple of episodes left until the winter finale, and it looks like the long-simmering arc about Secretary Marsh’s death is about to take center stage. Amid South American high jinks and a “charm offensive” from Henry, Bess finds time to test her theory that Russell Jackson and POTUS orchestrated the plane crash. Let’s recap.

This week, Bess and company travel to Caracas, ostensibly to talk the country’s anti-USA President Suarez into not canceling the planned elections but really so Bess can investigate the secret bank account Secretary Marsh had there. Bess’s friend Isabelle finds out three people—all under pseudonyms—have access to the account, one of them being Nadine, and it requires biometrics (i.e., a fingerprint) to get into it. After scolding Nadine for not telling her the full extent of her involvement in Marsh’s secret doings, Bess asks her to access the account while they’re in Venezuela. Nadine complies, visiting the bank in a ridiculous gigantic fedora, and finds out that the account had $40 million in it that was cleaned out by someone named Marie Porter the day after Marsh died.

The team’s diplomatic mission presents its own challenges. To soften up El Presidente, Daisy comes up with the idea to have a famed pro baseball player named Manny Azuko, Venezuelan by birth, accompany them on the trip, as the America-hating Suarez is a huge fan of America’s pastime. Azuko is more than happy to comply, and things go swimmingly—until Azuko starts flirting with Suarez’s former Miss Universe wife. Even that’s a momentary hiccup, as Daisy manages to distract him, and Bess notes to Nadine that they’re managing to make real progress on their fake trip.

But then—twist!—Manny shows up at Blake’s door late at night, looking to make a little diplomatic progress of his own, if you know what I mean (hey, at least I spared you any baseball metaphors). Blake’s sexual orientation may still be a mystery, but his dedication to his work is not: He tells Manny in no uncertain terms to leave, and then when Manny apologizes the next day, he calls him a hypocrite for choosing to remain in the closet when coming out could be so beneficial to gay rights in Venezuela. This is apparently all the motivation Manny needs to come out publicly, hijacking Bess’s press conference and sending Suarez into a huff. Even worse, Suarez has footage of Nadine visiting the bank—the account she accessed is under surveillance by the government—and tries to blackmail Bess into making an official statement that he should be President forever. This is Bess McCord he’s dealing with, though, and she one-ups him by saying Nadine was actually at the bank to investigate lax security procedures at national banks under his rule. Bess throws in the prospect of Manny playing baseball for Venezuela’s national team in the World Baseball Classic to hit the persuasive sweet spot of fear + incentive. Mission: success.

Matt is still serving as a double agent for Bess, meeting secretly with Russell Jackson though not telling him anything of note. That is, until Bess asks him to pass on that she met with the Israeli ambassador, and they talked about Dubai. Jackson does some detective work of his own and figures out Bess is investigating Marsh’s death as a murder. He barges straight into her office and yells at her for thinking he wouldn’t find out, and for thinking he and the President were involved. His yelling notwithstanding, turns out this is exactly what she was hoping for—Jackson showed his hand, and now she believes they weren’t behind Marsh’s death after all. He pours them both a drink and asks her to explain everything.

As for Marie Porter? Isabelle finds out she works for the Iranian foreign intelligence ministry, which Bess conveys to Jackson. He tells her it’s time to let the real CIA take over—and that if Iran is behind the murder of the Secretary of State, America could be headed to war.

A few thoughts:

This week in What Are the McCord Kids Up To? Stevie was unbelievably awful this week in a way I’ll sum up as briefly as possible: Bess and Henry enlist her to babysit Allie (with the help of some security guards) while they’re away, and when Allie asks if her boyfriend can spend the night (don’t worry, he has protection), Stevie agrees, to get revenge on her mom. Yes, she wisely changes her mind, but to recap: She was going to let her 15-year-old sister “lose it” to some dude to get back at her mother for not stopping a mass murderer from getting waterboarded way back when. I’m thinking of changing this category to “This week in Ways Stevie Is the Worst.”

Matt and Daisy are officially…unofficial? They’re still knocking boots, though Daisy balks at signing official paperwork saying they’re in a relationship.

“Maybe you can finish what Marsh started—and actually land.” Fittingly, Russell Jackson’s sense of humor tends toward the macabre. Still, I’m sure Bess is glad to finally have him as an ally.

I’m surprised none of Bess’s staffers asked any questions about their sudden shift in purpose for the Venezuela trip. Jay was in the room when Bess laid out her case against Suarez but seemed to take it all in stride; maybe everyone’s learned by now to expect a few curveballs.

Have thoughts/gripes/predictions for Madam Secretary‘s future? Sound off in the comments.

Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.