Madam Secretary s5 ep 11

“I feel”, says Elizabeth, “like the soul of our country is at stake”. As with the first episode in this two-parter, there’s no doubt that the real subject is the real-life Trump administration, rather than the fictional big-hatted redneck Governor of Arizona. And in the world of Madam Secretary, Elizabeth is determined to raise the stakes: having been arrested, she refuses to be released, pending trial, while there are still children being detained; then, having been offered a deal in which she pleads guilty to a misdemeanour, she refuses to do that as well, leaving her facing trial for a felony. Which is just the sort of thing that might get in the way of a run for the Oval. Russell Jackson is apoplectic with fury, and for one delicious moment I thought that Henry was going to start punching him for bad-mouthing his wife.

But then one of the guards leaks a video of conditions inside the detention centre, and makes a public statement deploring what’s going on. And, suddenly, Elizabeth looks vindicated. Presidential, even. Jay brokers a legislative deal with Senator Morejon which will allow him to continue to look tough on immigration while reducing the number of asylum-seekers; the charges against Elizabeth are dropped; and she and Henry are able to have their marriage renewal party, with the actual Peter Frampton providing the music. Also, I think I saw her former enemy Morejon there, and all of a sudden I’m wondering whether he might just end up as Elizabeth’s running mate. Not the best episode, but its heart was in the right place.


The Good Doctor s2 ep 17

Two Cases this week, in a fantastic episode. Kenny has a 200lb tumour – props to the production design team for this one, although I’d be at least as happy if we’d been left to imagine it, tbh – which is to be removed by a Melendez-led surgical team. And Laura, an old friend of Lim’s, is in with her newborn daughter, who has brain injury symptoms consistent with being shaken. Lim follows the scientific evidence to its logical conclusion, while Laura continues to insist that no-one has been abusing her baby.

And Shaun is still marooned in pathology, still very unhappy about it – despite the support of the ever-perky Carly – and still hoping to persuade Han that he should be allowed back in. His ongoing problem is that Han is unpersuadable, no matter what he does. In fact, not content this week with just one spectacular save, Shaun comes up with two. The surgery on Kenny goes badly wrong. Melendez, who knows Shaun’s talent for three-dimensional thinking, calls him in for a consult on Kenny, and Shaun provides a solution which will allow for both the removal of the tumour and the survival of the patient. 

Meantime, he also comes up with another interpretation of Laura’s baby’s injuries, one which would mean that Laura didn’t abuse her daughter, and which proves to be consistent with the medical evidence. Laura is understandably unhappy that her friend thought her capable of assaulting her baby, but nonetheless perhaps a little ad hominem about it. “You don’t understand love”, she tells Lim; who, in response, persuades Melendez that the two of them should be open about their relationship.

For Shaun, it’s all further proof that he should be back in surgery, and he corners Han in his office, saying that he’ll refuse to leave unless Han gives him his old job back. “I am a surgeon!” he shouts over and over; once again, in Han’s eyes, proving his point, and ending – I think – in Shaun’s dismissal. I worry that the upshot of all of this, in the season finale, will be that Han will leave and Shaun will stay. I’d quite like Han to hang around; the scene this week in which he proves himself quite the master of hospital realpolitik with the tribunal investigating Shaun, Melendez, and Lim, was a delight. But I suspect that there’s only room for one of them at San Jose St Bonaventure. And Glassman finally gets the all-clear, which with any luck will mean that he can get a proper storyline again.

Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 11

It’s Avenge Joe White week on H50. Danny travels to Joe’s ranch, where Steve – rocking, it should be said, a somewhat unconvincing beard; I was half expecting Danny to reach out and give it a sharp tug – has been hiding out for over a month. With Catherine.

Danny thinks they’ve been playing house, but if so it’s a specifically McGarrett-esque form of mummies and daddies: also on the premises is the Danish lawyer of Omar Hassan, the man behind Joe’s death. The lawyer has been beaten to a pulp in an attempt to find out where Hassan is. Which, y’know, credit where due: I mean, I too am a lawyer, and I’d totally give my clients up at the first polite enquiry from the Big Kahuna. Maybe they breed their legal professionals tougher in Denmark.

Anyway, Steve finds out that Hassan is in Laos, and puts his squad together: Catherine and Danny, of course, plus Junior (“Teams! Hooyah!”). And a couple of old friends: Wade “Gutch” Gutches, who we’ve seen once or twice before; and, meeting them in Laos, Harry Langford, the Lidl James Bond himself. You know how this goes: a looped security feed, guns, a stand-off, and so on. Steve gets to Hassan, but doesn’t kill him: what he really wants is the whereabouts of Agent Greer, former squeeze and current traitor. And he gets it, meaning that Catherine can shoot her predecessor in Steve’s bed, a task which she undertakes with ill-disguised relish. Which of us hasn’t, at some point, wanted…? I’ll leave that thought there.

There’s a B-plot in which two bros successfully bid for the contents of a storage locker, and discover themselves to be the proud owners of a human skeleton. (I think I’ve seen this in another show before, but can’t place it.) The bros are themselves killed, and the bones taken, before Noelani can get there to examine the scene. It’s really only intended as an occasional distraction from the main event, but it helps to round out a very good episode.

The Good Doctor s2 ep 16

Following Han’s orders in last week’s episode, Shaun has moved from surgery to pathology, where he’s shown the ropes by the perky and personable Dr Carla Lever. Her perky personableness does not, however, move Shaun, who still hankers after a return to surgery. And he sees an opportunity for just that, when Sadie, a young woman who presents with vague symptoms of tingling limbs and a premonition of doom, is  scanned and diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Shaun, however, thinks that Sadie has something else, and wants to talk to her to work up a full history. 

This request is rejected, but his conclusion is correct: Sadie is, in fact, suffering from an unpleasant but entirely non-fatal parasite thing related to the eating of sushi. Unfortunately, Han takes the view that this kind of proves his point: Shaun has terrific diagnostic skills, which make him ideal for pathology; and he’s unlikely ever to develop his communication skills to the point where he’s suitable for surgery. So Shaun stays where he is. Whether that decision is right or wrong I’m not yet convinced that Han is a bad guy per se. Maybe he’ll do something vicious next week.

The other Case of the Week features Clarence, a pastor with a tumour on his spine. This one is treatable, but Clarence wants a risky intervention which will remove the tumour but leave him with pain he thinks he deserves for failing to save a parishioner from suicide. This is clearly idiotic, whatever one’s view of religious faith, but if that’s what the patient wants that’s what the patient gets. The funny thing, though, is that when the tumour is removed it’s shrunk to half its original size without any apparent medical reason. Is it a miracle? Or is it explicable? Morgan (theist) and Claire (agnostic, I’d say, rather than flat-out atheist) debate the relevant issues. And who’s to say? Not the writers, who leave it unresolved. A good rather than exceptional episode.

Public Service Announcement 18 of 2019: The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor), Tutti Frutti

Well. I am VERY excited by the return tonight of Australian medical drama The Heart Guy – Doctor Doctor in its home country – for its third season. (It’s been renewed for a fourth, incidentally.) Its virtues are old-fashioned: decent plotting; a bit of redemption for the trying-not-to-be-a-bad-boy lead character; a notably strong cast, in particular Rodger Corser, Hayley McElhinney, and Nicole da Silva; and a proper ship that we can all get behind. While continuing to emphasise that this show will not change your life, I like it quite a lot, and the s3 trailer above suggests that we’re going to get at least some of what we want (Drama, 8pm).

I should probably have mentioned before now that BBC Scotland is repeating Tutti Frutti, which for many of us of a certain age is one of the defining comedy-dramas of its time. Brilliantly written, and with a cast to die for – Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Wilson, Maurice Roëves, and Katy Murphy – it hasn’t been shown on TV for the best part of 30 years, probably due to some licensing problem or other. I equivocated for a while about rewatching it, but ultimately decided that I was quite happy to live with my memories of the show, rather than risk spoiling them. I did, however, catch a couple of minutes the other night, from which it was instantly apparent that the person writing the subtitles is successfully eliminating all of the poetry, beauty, and humour from the dialogue. Well done, whoever you are (Saturday nights, 9pm).

Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 10

Within the first couple of minutes of this blistering episode we’ve had an “oorah!”, a go-bag, and Joe White. Hey-ho, I thought, I’m going to like this one. And I did. Hired assassins are taking out the six-man SEAL team which did the thing in Marrakesh to which Agent Greer alluded a few episodes ago. Three are already down, leaving Steve, Joe, and a dude named Cole. The thing in Marrakesh, incidentally, was the taking out of a high-value target, on the orders of Greer. It might not even have been legal, apparently. Huh. Steve does at least ten illegal things before breakfast most days, because that’s how the Big K rolls, bitches. 

Anyway, Steve is attacked at home – bizarrely, they only send one assassin; haven’t they heard of Steve? – and survives, chasing his badly-wounded assailant off. Grover starts to track him down. Steve and Joe, realising that this needs to be ended, hatch a plan, and in furtherance of it Steve visits Greer, who seems to be quarterbacking the whole thing from prison. According to her, the people behind Operation Get The SEALS are “rich, motivated, and ruthless”. Ooh! (It’s the son of the high-value target, now himself a wealthy shipping magnate in Denmark, who is funding the revenge operation.) Steve drops a couple of indiscreet hints, hoping to draw the assassins out, and he and Joe then retreat to Joe’s rather gorgeous Montana ranch. Cole turns up for the lolz. 

Although Steve has made it clear that the rest of the Five-0 has to stay away from the Last Battle itself, they help a little. Grover captures the guy, half-dead through blood loss, who tried to kill Steve. You must help me, he says. You’re police. Only thing I must do, replies Grover magnificently, is “stay black and die”. And I’m not police; I’m Five-0. (Once again I have to reflect on the fact that people from all over the word are supposed to know about the existence and legal powers of this local police force.) Adam’s contribution is, of course, to talk to an old Yakuza contact.

So Steve, Joe, Cole, and a shit-ton of guns settle in at Joe’s ranch, and wait for the baddies, who duly appear. Inevitably, a huge battle ensues. The assassins are all killed, but at a price. Cole dies. Joe is hit. There’s a surgeon on the next ranch, he says to Steve; can you take me there? The only means of transport is equine, so Steve and Joe saddle up, leaving behind a ranch whose market value has just dropped considerably. But on the way to the surgeon, Joe calls a halt; there is no surgeon. He’s dying and he knows it.

And he’s right: before a beautiful Montanan sunset, Joe White breathes his last, in the arms of his most successful, uh, “tadpole”. It’s quite a big deal; Terry O’Quinn has been around this show for years, and now there’s no-one left to call Steve “son”. I thought this was the best episode of the season so far, and I fully expect Steve to go apeshit next week.

Public Service Announcement 17 of 2019: Deutschland 86

Deutschland 83 caused something of a stir when it hit our screens almost exactly three years ago: its first episode was the most-watched foreign-language drama premiere ever, and the show unfolded into a witty and pop-culture-literate take on the depths of the Cold War as seen from the East German side, handling with skill and intelligence the intersection of the personal and the political. As ever, of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that when it was shown, the idea of a divided Europe and a warmonger in the White House seemed quaint. Oh God. Anyway, I said at the time that I’d be up for a sequel, and here it is: we’re three years closer to the Wall coming down, Martin is in exile in Angola, and his Aunt Lenora is now on manoeuvres in Cape Town. It starts tonight at 9pm on More4, with the whole thing available via All4 thereafter.