Madam Secretary s5 ep 14

This week, Madam Secretary’s world tour stops off in Nicaragua, a country with which the USA – and, as it turns out, POTUS himself – has a complicated history. The Nicaraguan President, Sandino, is clamping down on internal opposition. Human rights are being violated all over the place. China is on the prowl. Should we, wonders Elizabeth, take some action? Sanctions, maybe? President Dalton – normally keen to ask for all military options to be on his desk within the hour – is curiously reticent; eventually, and grudgingly, agreeing to be part of an international coalition to do… something. The ante is upped when a group of American missionaries is trapped in a church. American lives are at stake, Conrad! Huh, he replies.

Through flashbacks, it’s revealed that POTUS was the CIA’s man on the ground in Managua in the 1980s, when Sandino’s father was President. Some unfortunate mistakes were made, there’s no two ways about it, and Dalton has been feeling penitent about it ever since. For once, therefore, this isn’t a foreign policy crisis for Elizabeth to swoop in and solve; this one’s on the big guy himself. 

In a smart, pacy episode, there are also a couple of appealing B-plots: Stevie starts to run Russell’s social media accounts, with the intention of humanising him. I’ve never worked a day in the White House, and even I know that trying to put a smiling face on the Oval’s designated attack dog is a bad idea. And Henry’s niece, Sarah, is being deployed to Iraq to work as a trauma surgeon. Her father, Elizabeth’s brother, is less than happy, and would like the White House’s ethics guy to, uh, pull some unethical strings.

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