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S04.E15: The Unnamed

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Elizabeth and the team are caught in an uncertain situation when they are about to award a foreign leader with the Medal of Freedom but learn he may have known that a minority group in his country is being persecuted. Also, President Dalton doubts his ability to return to office after being cleared by his doctor, and a past family grievance is brought to light when Henry’s sister pays a visit.

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This show is slipping to me. I’m just not very interested in most of the plot the last few episodes. Part of it (and I know this has always been the case on the show, so I’m not suggesting it’s new) is the focus on saving the world. I feel like they used to balance it better but now it’s just over the top.

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I had the opposite reaction. This episode was dealing with a real diplomatic issue. Nobody's romantic life was stealing away screen time. Dr. Captain Army Candy Esq. CPA PhD Third Of His Name was holding down the domestic scene instead of being a globe-trotting superspy. The show called Madam Secretary was actually about the trials and tribulations of the Secretary of State. I thought it was great.

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It took me out of the story a little bit that the actor cast as the Aung San Suu Kyi of the story was so obviously of South Asian descent.  He actually could pass for Rohingya, instead of Bamar (Myanmar's dominant ethnic group, whose features are much more Southeast Asian), and a Rohingya could never be elected President of Myanmar.  Things like this annoy the geography nerd that I am.

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I'm glad Admiral Arm Candy called Noodle out on what a little brat she was being.  Noodle is a snob, and the Aunt had been nothing but supportive and kind, so her behavior was totally uncalled for.  The Aunt...hoo boy, I'd forgotten about the dysfunctional dynamics in the McCord side of the family.  Sister/Aunt was deliciously passsive aggressive with Admiral Arm Candy, wasn't she?  I did feel sorry for Noodle at that lunch.  Her "Uh, we're going to need a few more minutes" as the truths were flying across the table was deadpan gold.

Edited by HurricaneVal · Reason: to make words more better
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I thought that it was going to end up that the aunt was being so nice the first night because she was sick/dying.

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My husband's guess was sick/dying and mine was financial problems and she needed to move in. But guess she was just having a lull in the old family resentments. 

I also liked this less over the top episode. Good to have Dalton back and he had good reasons for hesitating to get back to the job. I liked how his brother was there now but they showed he still has some struggles (ie anxiety about being at the signing). Made him a more realistic character.

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Yes, it was very nice to get backstory for Conrad; and I was worried he might just resign, and I would miss him! And he brought the gravitas when he went to see the Burmese leader.

And, you could see the toll that being Acting President was taking on the VP. She seems to trust Elizabeth more, and have more of an idea of just how difficult the job is every day. Wonder how that will play out?

Interesting if true: that the Dad lied to the sister about not having enough money to pay for college because he sent Henry. (And Henry laying out that he paid his own way with ROTC and loans). That's a HUGE lie that had a very negative effect on his sister, and she might have to figure out how to reshape her resentments. (In my mother's family, the boys were sent to college, if the girls wanted to go, they had to pay their own way. Result: all the girls got degrees, none of the boys did.)

There actually are lots of subtle class issues in the show, which I like. You have people who clawed their way up vs. people who came up with a a hand from being rich/WASPY/Ivy League. You can see the weight that ambition, intelligence and pedigree carry with almost all the high level government personnel.

These are the kind of things you can get into in a longer-running show, and are rewarding for the consistent viewers. Even if CBS does its damndest to hide the show from us (as they do with ALL their Sunday night shows!)

Edited by kwnyc · Reason: Additional thoughts, wrong country
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37 minutes ago, kwnyc said:

(In my mother's family, the boys were sent to college, if the girls wanted to go, they had to pay their own way. Result: all the girls got degrees, none of the boys did.)

My parents wouldn't pay for me to go to college either.  I was supposed to find a husband and get married and have kids.  And this was 1979.  I got a full time job instead.

I enjoyed this episode.  Not much Henry, a little bit of Noodle, however bratty she was being, and past and present President Dalton.

Edited by roughing it
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2 hours ago, kwnyc said:

That's a HUGE lie that had a very negative effect on his sister, and she might have to figure out how to reshape her resentments.

Off topic, but this sort of thing really does happen in real life.  I have a friend who's sister's husband had an ex-wife who continually lied to her daughter about how "Daddy doesn't care" and how "Daddy is a slacker, doesn't pay his child support" or "I'm barely scraping by, but look at the sacrifices I'm making to [buy you these fancy shoes] [pay for band camp]  [send you to college]" etc.  Daddy did care, and he did pay his child support, plus bought the shoes, paid for band camp, and paid the college tuition.  He couldn't understand, after all those years, why his daughter was always so cold and hostile and resentful when she was with him.  He just chalked it up to his ex being really bitchy about him.  Turns out he didn't truly comprehend the absolute depth of her lies and machinations.  It all came out one day during a screaming fight with his daughter after her college graduation, when she laid out the only truth she knew out to her dad.  He responded with notebooks full of the meticulous records he'd kept of all the child support payments and extras he'd paid for since the divorce.  He might not have comprehended the depth of his ex's lies, but he did know her fairly well, and kept those records in case she tried taking him to court in a fit of vindictiveness.  He and his daughter have a fairly healthy relationship now, but he is very rueful about those wasted years.

So, that part of the episode was very believable to me.  If you are only offered the "truth" from one source, then that is the only truth you know.  And if offered from a sufficiently manipulative source with a sick agenda of pitting family member against family member, then the lies are constantly reinforced and you are drawn tighter and tighter into that sick orbit.  I am interested in exploring this side of the McCord family.  It will give something for Admiral Professor Arm Candy to do when he's not off leaping tall buildings with a single bound.  I also think when these ugly family truths get exposed, the golden McCord children will have their eyes opened.   I'll be particularly interested in seeing how all this affects Jason, if it will knock his privileged little attitude a bit askew.  If they go there.  I hope they do.

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On 3/26/2018 at 7:33 PM, HurricaneVal said:

I'm glad Admiral Arm Candy called Noodle out on what a little brat she was being.  Noodle is a snob, and the Aunt had been nothing but supportive and kind, so her behavior was totally uncalled for.  The Aunt...hoo boy, I'd forgotten about the dysfunctional dynamics in the McCord side of the family.  Sister/Aunt was deliciously passsive aggressive with Admiral Arm Candy, wasn't she?  I did feel sorry for Noodle at that lunch.  Her "Uh, we're going to need a few more minutes" as the truths were flying across the table was deadpan gold.

 

On 3/27/2018 at 2:31 AM, bros402 said:

I thought that it was going to end up that the aunt was being so nice the first night because she was sick/dying.

 

On 3/27/2018 at 3:57 AM, knitorpurl said:

My husband's guess was sick/dying and mine was financial problems and she needed to move in. But guess she was just having a lull in the old family resentments.

I agree and am waiting until next week to see if she drops a diagnosis on them. (I didn't watch scenes, but am hoping she is still visiting next week since we didn't get any scenes with Tea and Kate.) Even Henry seemed surprised by some of her actions and conversation (ordering takeout, carrying her own suitcase, etc.) I'm with @kwnyc and want to see how this reshapes her resentments (I love this phrase and will be incorporating it into my daily life).

Apparently when you have to pay Kate Burton, Christine Ebersole and Fredric Lehne, you can't pay Wallis or Sebastian. Boo. (not that I don't love those actors, but would have loved to see Stevie interact with her aunt, or Jay's input on the Burmese crisis.)

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Loved this episode! Conrad is one of my favourite characters only rivalled by Bess and Russell so I throughly enjoyed his back story. Bonus we get a scene of how he met Russell! 

Was so happy to see his brother at the end. That was really sweet and such a nice touch to show us that everything sort of worked out in the end.

What was with Noodle being an obnoxious twerp this ep? She was bordering on Jason levels of annoying! 

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On ‎26‎.‎03‎.‎2018 at 7:05 PM, Notwisconsin said:

Yeah, I don't think that they've done a "ripped from the headlines" thing in ages.

I'd say they did one just the week before. It might have been a made-up country but there are a number of countries where LGBTQ people are persecuted and last week's episode sounded a lot like the news that came out of Chechnya last year - right down to the head of state who claimed that there are no LGBTQ people in his Country.

Maybe it wasn't ripped from the current headlines but the crisis in Myanmar started last summer, so it wasn't new either.

Also, the last male white rhino died most recently and they touched on rhino poaching in the latter half of last season and when I told my parents about the permafrost episode (episode 7) of this season, my dad mentioned that he'd recently read an article on the dangers of thawing permafrost.

Overall, one of the things that I like about the show is that they don't seem to make up much. They take certain liberties in story telling because it's a TV show, so they have to. But they seem to be very attentitve to what is going on all over the world and then they make that into an episode. Considering the issues the show is dealing with, I've always thought that TPTB imagined that Dalton's first term started in 2012. 

 

On ‎26‎.‎03‎.‎2018 at 7:33 PM, HurricaneVal said:

I'm glad Admiral Arm Candy called Noodle out on what a little brat she was being.  Noodle is a snob, and the Aunt had been nothing but supportive and kind, so her behavior was totally uncalled for. 

She may have been nice in that episode but from the way it sounded in season 2 (and the way Henry reacted to her kindness) this seemed to be new. It sounded very much like the aunt had the attitude problem in S2. I also don't think she was that bad. She was what I'd call aloof. But she doesn't like Renoir and she wasn't in the mood to sugarcoat it and considering how Maureen seems to have treated Bess ever since Bess met the family, I don't blame Alison one bit. I'd probably not have been in the mood either if someone had looked down on my mother because she had money and called my mother names for years. I also thought that Maureen's comment in response to Alison's remark about the cheese in the restaurant was unnecessary. Alison sounded like she made an observation and that Stevie would have a hard time finding something to eat is a fact, nothing else. And that has nothing to do with the restaurant but that she's an on-and-off vegan.

I think it was okay that Henry gave Alison a nudge in the gift shop but anything else would have been overkill, in my opinion.

 

On ‎27‎.‎03‎.‎2018 at 1:30 PM, kwnyc said:

Yes, it was very nice to get backstory for Conrad; and I was worried he might just resign, and I would miss him!

Yes, I worried about that, too! I've actually worried about that for a couple of episodes. While I like the VP, I like Dalton better. I also like how they're portraying the Dalton-Bess and Dalton-Bess-Russell relationship and while it would have opened up new avenues of story-telling, I don't think I'm ready for the conflict that Hurst as President would have brought to the show. I think it would have echoed S1 and S2 in terms of the Bess-President-Chief-of-Staff relationship and as interesting as that could have been, I prefer how it is currently.

 

 

On ‎27‎.‎03‎.‎2018 at 4:42 PM, HurricaneVal said:

So, that part of the episode was very believable to me.  If you are only offered the "truth" from one source, then that is the only truth you know.  And if offered from a sufficiently manipulative source with a sick agenda of pitting family member against family member, then the lies are constantly reinforced and you are drawn tighter and tighter into that sick orbit.  I am interested in exploring this side of the McCord family.  It will give something for Admiral Professor Arm Candy to do when he's not off leaping tall buildings with a single bound.  I also think when these ugly family truths get exposed, the golden McCord children will have their eyes opened.   I'll be particularly interested in seeing how all this affects Jason, if it will knock his privileged little attitude a bit askew.  If they go there.  I hope they do.

I think they're well-aware of the "disfunctional" McCord family. Stevie was right there when they revealed that Henry's siblings were calling Bess "Queen Elizabeth" and the kids all heard them argue in that same episode. Jason told his dad he didn't want them to end up like Henry and his dad and Stevie was deceived by her grandpa when he pretended to be still on the Union Board. I'm not under the impression that they're completely oblivious.

 

On ‎28‎.‎03‎.‎2018 at 3:10 PM, betsyboo said:

Apparently when you have to pay Kate Burton, Christine Ebersole and Fredric Lehne, you can't pay Wallis or Sebastian.

The latter two are regulars, the former three are guest actors, so I don't think one has anything to do with the other. The McCord children don't all appear in every episode since at least S2, and Arcelus has been missing from an episode or two in previous seasons as well. It's probably all about the hours/days that they have in their contracts. Considering that Conrad and Russell weren't in the previous two episodes, I would think that Carradine, Ivanek and Arcelus either negotiated the time off (I heard that actors getting time off in the middle of the season isn't unusual, especially not a few seasons in) or that they got the time off/reduced hours instead of a pay-raise and that could be about the budget that CBS gave them at the beginning of the season.

 

I expected the episode to be more intense than it was but I liked it. So much that I would have liked it to be a bit longer so that they could have included a few more scenes. 

I thought Henry's wordless reactions to his sister's unusual behavior was great and the way Alison looked back and forth between them in the restaurant cracked me up.

I would have loved to see a bit more Bess-Henry interaction but there didn't seem to be any time for it. Still, it would have been nice to have at least one scene at home at night. On the other hand, we don't really know how much time Bess spent at home, so it's likely she came home while everyone was asleep already and rushed out of the house in the morning.

I'm not sure that Lydia's sudden protectiveness fit with how we got to know her. I don't really know why, it just seemed like someone assumed that this is how it should be because it's almost always written like that and not entirely how the character would react.

It was good to see Russell again. I wish we'd have seen more of him in the two previous episodes but I take what I can get. And it looks like SecDef was "unfired". I'm really glad about that, too, because I like him and I like the dynamic between him and Bess, too.

I thought Hurst's reluctance was kind of odd. I get what Russell said but she's been in office for a few weeks. Pulling the US out of a trade-agreement that Conrad supported seems like a pretty big deal to me, too, especially since Conrad supported and wanted it. And the whole thing with the refugees and Turkey from the previous episode seemed to be a rather delicate situation as well. Are we to assume that just like in this episode, Bess did most of the talking/guiding then, too?

I know I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of Bess and Hurst clashing (it mainly came from episode 11 when Hurst seemed hell-bent on pulling rank and ignoring Bess' advice) but I really wish we'd have gotten more of them together as it doesn't seem like they necessarily would have clashed. From the way the two episodes were written where we did get Bess and Hurst it seems like they would have found an interesting way to deal with the two. And I like their dynamic anyway.

When Hurst became Acting President, I thought it would be an opportunity for her to position herself for the Presidency, however, this episode made me realize that it might not have been that big of an advantage because she had to make decisions in those weeks that she was President and every single decision could potentially be used against her during an election. If it ever got out that she was afraid to make the call, she'd probably never stand a chance as any man would spin it like "women are weak and afraid to use military force" even though that wasn't it.

Interesting that Bess was there at the end when Conrad signed the letter. I guess, there's nothing to it considering she's the show's main character, however, if this were real politics, there'd probably be meaning to it. Hurst had to be there, Bess didn't. She was there because of her relationship with the President and that probably would get the rumor mills about a presidential run going in real life.

I really loved how they imagined Russell and Conrad first met. That was very well done.

I have to admit, I prefer Kat without Jay. She also seems to be better suited for the chief-of-staff position. I know they can't do that but without Jay there, I didn't mind her present/dominant personality one bit as she seemed to be the most senior advisor in the room without Jay and I think that worked. I also think it would have worked had Jay been there and still been policy advisor.

My favorite scene was probably the scene between Bess and Dalton. I really liked Bess' motivation to go see him and I thought the acting was really good. You could feel Bess' need for him to come back, she was pleading without begging but she knew when to let it go. I think Conrad's reluctance was understandable, that would probably freak me out, too. I did expect Bess to remind him that the system worked and that there was no reason why it wouldn't work again even though that probably wouldn't have convinced Conrad either. I think it could have been interesting had they shown Bess making the request and Conrad's reaction to it. But I didn't see the request coming and was actually puzzled what the request was and wondered why they didn't show it. Generally, Conrad and Bess have such a great relationship and dynamic and I just really like scenes like these. I think they manage showing/portraying the years that they've known each other while still respecting their positions so very well!

Edited by CheshireCat
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It would have been nice if they had a Carradine play Conrad's brother. The one from Revenge of the Nerds doesn't seem to be to be getting too much work of late.....

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49 minutes ago, Notwisconsin said:

It would have been nice if they had a Carradine play Conrad's brother. The one from Revenge of the Nerds doesn't seem to be to be getting too much work of late.....

And the other Carradine is dead.

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On 3/31/2018 at 4:07 PM, CheshireCat said:

Generally, Conrad and Bess have such a great relationship and dynamic and I just really like scenes like these. I think they manage showing/portraying the years that they've known each other while still respecting their positions so very well!

This!!!! Conrad and Bess scenes give me life!

I am a hardcore shipper on another show and live for scenes of my OTP but I will say that I look forward to Conrad and Bess scenes just as much! Both are such strong characters and yet they have these amazing scenes where I feel like they have helped each other grow. One of the most awesome relationships on TV for me! 

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