Madam Secretary Season 3 Episode 15 Review: Break in Diplomacy

I loved this episode for two reasons: it tackled an important issue that doesn't usually get a lot of serious coverage, and because of the thinly disguised shade it threw at a certain political leader. 

The writers certainly let us know how they really felt about real world current events on Madam Secretary Season 3 Episode 15.

Sure, names were changed to protect the innocent (writers from libel/slander lawsuits), but the story we heard bore some striking similarities to some actual events.

Henry's Asset - Madam Secretary

I have to applaud the writing team for choosing the Philippines as the home of their fictional ass grabbing Presidential adversary. I mean, the actual Filipino president, Rodrigo Duterte, is pretty psychotic himself. 

The lines they wrote criticizing and analyzing the behavior of Trump fictional Filipino President Andrada were absolutely amazing.

The comments about Andrada's character, in general, may have been even better than reactions to him getting handsy with Elizabeth. 

The irony being that, just like any other so-called strongman, he isn't strong at all. He's just insecure and weak, without any good policy ideas, so he has to bully his way into power and force himself on women to feel powerful...

Elizabeth [about President Andrada]

The most refreshing (if not quite believable) aspect to the assault story was that no one questioned Elizabeth or her reaction.

No inquiries about how she was dressed, or what she might have done to cause him to grab her ass. No one said she was making something out of nothing.

Elizabeth is a woman of privilege – she is rich, white, highly educated, and holds one of the most powerful positions in the US government. And I still was expecting one of the men to victim blame. 

The lack of criticism from Dalton and Russell didn't mean they were sensitive about the situation.

Dalton's reaction leaned towards coddling, while Jackson seemed inclined to ignore the emotional aspect of assault so he could focus on her immediate response.

Russell [after hearing that Elizabeth punched President Andrada of the Philliphines]: I know this doesn't bode well for the Singapore Interchange. Then again, Sugar Ray McCord has put the world on notice about how we deal with bullies.
Elizabeth: That's not funny, Russell.
Russell: I'm not kidding. It's badass.

In fact, the only (tiny) hint of censure she received about her behavior came from her fellow women, for not speaking out about the incident.

I certainly understand and appreciate Daisy and Nadine's reactions, even as I understand Elizabeth's struggle. Opening up about such abuse means not only accusing your abuser but exposing your own vulnerability.

Her staffers arguments could have been made more strongly, or at least with greater appeal to Elizabeth, if one of them had revealed their own experience.

It wouldn't be a stretch – one in five women report sexual assault, and it's thought that numbers are higher than that. 

Daisy: Ma'am, I hope you're not blaming yourself.
Elizabeth: Of course I am. It's my job to keep those talks alive.
Daisy: But Andrada sexually assaulted you. How are you supposed to turn that into a diplomatic discussion? I realize it's your call, ma'am, but I feel like we're covering up for him.

I also would have liked for Elizabeth to have a moment with one or both of her daughters about this issue.

Something like one third of women aged eighteen to thirty four report encountering workplace harassment, so it actually would have been a relevant use of the kids. 

Come to think of it, Jason could probably use an explicit lesson on this as well. 

A talk with all the millennial McCords would have been a much better use of screen time than Jason and Allison talking about the latest viral animal video over breakfast. 

Hard Hitting Diplomacy - Madam Secretary Season 3 Episode 15

Taking a step away from the harassment story, the larger arcs are all starting to come together.

On the one hand, I appreciate the tightly interwoven stories of Madam Secretary; how everything starts off seeming so disparate but then comes together with no loose threads left hanging.

On the other, I really wish there was a little more intrigue to this latest threat. 

It's obvious that the arms smuggling group that Kevin/Joseph was investigating will be tied to the bomb and drone obtained by the militia group Henry is investigating. All I ask is for some conspiracy involving high-ranking CIA or government officials. 

Something so outrageous that it's inconceivable, even in the current sh*tstorm of nutso news stories. 

Russell: God, sometimes democracy just...blows.
Elizabeth: Hey, good title for your memoir.

I'm not sure how much further those two stories will advance towards one another on Madam Secretary Season 3 Episode 16 ("Swept Away"), but Henry's side of things will at least have some airtime.

However, "Henry worries about his undercover operative's safety" isn't really much of a development.

Elizabeth will get the "A" storyline, as always, and I'm quite looking forward to Madam Secretary's take on the Dalai Lama situation.

Yes, there is an actual Dalai Lama situation. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver did an excellent piece on it recently, if you need a primer

Unfortunately, his Holiness will not be appearing as himself. Abby and her horrible haircut will be back, though, apparently with the bananas idea that she'll be granted sole custody of Chloe. I can't wait to see how that plays out. 

That's the whole problem, isn't it? We tell ourselves to suck it up, just this once. Be better for everyone. Like now -- I'm thinking about the bigger picture. But just saying that, aren't I marginalizing women's right to not be harassed and not be assaulted? When does that get to be the bigger picture?


If you missed Elizabeth's struggle to figure out the right thing to do, remember that you can watch Madam Secretary online with us here at TV Fanatic.

And we want to hear your thoughts on "Break in Diplomacy"!

In Elizabeth's shoes, would you go public, or keep it close? What did you think about the Trump taunts? Will Jay save his marriage? Let us know in the comments below!

*Bonus points if you can name my vintage TV reference from the introduction

Elizabeth Harlow was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She left the organization in October 2018.