TV Recap: Madam Secretary, Season 1, Episode 13, “Chains of Command”

In-laws and Stockholm Syndrome.
TV Recap: Madam Secretary, Season 1, Episode 13, “Chains of Command”
Bess and her old friend the Crown Prince of Bahrain. Image via CBS.

Good news if you’ve enjoyed watching Tea Leoni dole out diplomacy over the past few months: Madam Secretary has officially been renewed for a second season. Unfortunately that does mean another year of Stevie, who’s officially back in the McCord household after this week’s episode. Let’s recap.

The ripped-from-the-headlines plot of the week involves a Bahraini diplomat named Hassani who’s been keeping a maid basically enslaved in his home. As in, she lives in the basement in a tiny room he locks her into at night, and has such a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome that when she’s finally discovered by police her main concern is how the diplomat is feeling about it all. Bess, on the other hand, wants him to pay, and ends up going head to head with her old boarding-school friend the Crown Prince of Bahrain—whom she calls Joey—over letting Hassani and his wife have diplomatic immunity.

Bess is also getting pressure from the Department of Defense to not prosecute Hassani, as screwing up relations with Bahrain means a key US military base doesn’t get the supplies it needs. She eventually has to concede, but Joey decides they will be tried in Bahrain after all. As he’s making the announcement, he gets shot on live television, leaving the country without an heir and Bess with the complicated decision of whether to attend his funeral. Ultimately she decides to skip the funeral and pay her respects to the king individually, so she can honor her friend’s memory without appearing to acquiesce to the country’s gender politics. (This episode was pretty light on conflict, in case it hasn’t become apparent yet.) In the end, the military base gets its supplies, and Hassani’s former slave chooses to go to Bahrain to work for his brother, which is actually very sad. Hopefully she won’t be forced to live in the basement again.

Meanwhile, Henry’s irascible dad, played by Tom Skerritt, is in town to tell charming stories about eating shoe leather and ask Bess to use her connections to get him a business meeting. He also tells Stevie he can get her a job at the union board of which he’s a member, but when she goes to inquire, she finds out he hasn’t held that position for five years. Disappointed to find out her grandpa is not only a liar but a terrible one at that, Stevie begins to think maybe her mom isn’t such a bad character after all. Eventually she apologizes and asks to move back in, so I guess we’ll be seeing more of her going forward.

A few thoughts:
Nadine is still dating Glen the NASA guy, and it looks like they’re ready to go public. Also, don’t ever mess with her pen selection.
The Crown Prince is very ticklish, and calls Bess “Lizzie,” which just seems wrong somehow.
There was some nice, believable bickering among the kids during the dinner table scene. Allie and Jason don’t usually get much to do, but somehow they’ve solidified their family dynamic pretty well.
This episode felt simultaneously overstuffed and like it was spinning its wheels. It’s disappointing to set up so many stories with long-running potential—the Henry/Klaus plot, Marsh’s death—and then not mention them for weeks at a time. It really kills the forward momentum.
On a similar note: Bring back Russell Jackson already! I miss his snarky asides.

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