Things to Do

TV Recap: Madam Secretary, Season 1, Episode 12, “Standoff”

Second-tier justice for all.

This week, we find out Henry would make a terrible poker player. Image via CBS.

Welcome back from hiatus, Madam Secretary fans! This episode really could have been called “Mexican Standoff,” but I suppose the title could also refer to Bess and Stevie’s ongoing cold war. Plenty of characters were “out of town” this time around, including the aforementioned wayward McCord child and both POTUS and Russell Jackson, but the folks who were around had their hands full. Let’s recap.

At the episode’s beginning, Bess is attempting to comfort the family of a Texas state trooper killed during a gunfight with members of a Mexican drug cartel. In order to get the killer, named Ochoa, extradited to the US, Bess has to get the widow to agree to not ask for the death penalty, which the woman eventually agrees to. Once she’s checked that off the list, Blake shows up to shoo her out the door: Bess and Henry are attempting to celebrate their 25th anniversary with a weekend in New York that revisits spots from their past. Bess is nervous about leaving both her staffers and her two youngest children to their own devices, but finally gets on the plane anyway, leaving Nadine in charge of the kids at the office and Blake in charge of her kids at home.

It’s not long before all hell breaks loose, though: The governor of Texas, who happens to be Jay’s former boss, decides to publicly condone a little Lone Star State vigilante justice, which leads to Ochoa getting smuggled from a Mexican jail to a Texan one and some serious violations of Mexican sovereignty. Things in New York aren’t going much better, as Bess and Henry clash over how to handle Stevie’s rejection of both her mother’s CIA past and her college education. They also run into Klaus, the man Henry was tasked by the NSA with spying on, while at dinner, and an unwitting Bess invites him to join. Though Henry’s handler says Klaus was clean, the coincidental meeting is a red flag for Henry, whose suspicions are confirmed when Klaus’s story about attending a conference turns out to be bogus. At dinner, Klaus reaches for his briefcase and Henry, alarmed he might have a weapon, totally blows his cover and alerts Bess’s security detail that Klaus might be a threat. It turns out Klaus was not armed, but he does know that Henry planted a bug in his house, and confesses he knows where the gas for the chemical attack is being stored. In return, he wants protection for his 14-year-old son—and he wants Henry to make it happen.

Bess’s problem is resolved with much less drama—she flies to Texas and, armed with a tip from Jay about the governor planning a future presidential run, pushes exactly the right buttons to convince him to release his ill-gotten prisoner. It doesn’t take long before he’s spinning the situation in his favor, but justice—even “second-tier justice,” as Jay calls it—is served, after all.

A few thoughts:

This week in What Are the McCord Kids Up To?: Jason and Allie play football in the house, leading to a sprained ankle for Jason and some serious anxiety for Blake. Also Jason thinks Italy is run by a “Masonic shadow government.”

You can tell when Blake is rattled because his messages have typos.

Tea Leoni and Tim Daly have developed a pretty believable married-couple dynamic, on display during their argument about Stevie. Luckily, most of their problems can be fixed by greasy Chinese food—but between Henry’s Klaus issues, Bess’s government conspiracy, and their kids, looks like they won’t be getting an anniversary do-over for quite some time.

“It’s a real live Mexican standoff.” This show has some really great little moments of dry humor sometimes, mostly dependent on its cast members’ excellent delivery.

Next week: Bess’s father-in-law comes to visit, and she takes on a Bahraini diplomat caught holding a maid hostage in his home.

Don’t Miss DC’s Best Events: Get Our Things to Do Newsletter

Arts, culture, and things to do in DC.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.