Madam Secretary – Loophole
By: Taylor Gates
Elizabeth (Téa Leoni) insists on making Henry (Tim Daly) breakfast, as he’s been at the office all night. There’s still no word on Nafisa (Ursula Taherian). They found evidence of the safe house location being hacked but not of Nafisa’s identity and think someone might have been a double agent.
Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood) comes into Henry and Elizabeth’s bedroom, happy to finally have caught them alone. She breaks the news that she and Jareth broke up, hoping that they’re not too disappointed—she knows how much they liked him. Elizabeth encourages her to make a list of all the things she secretly hates about him, which does make Stevie feel marginally better.
Nafisa is forced to make a video demanding $100 million and the release of six Taliban fighters. Henry suggests they pay the ransom, but Russell (Zeljko Ivanek) reminds him the US doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. Although Henry understands the policy and its purpose, he argues that the world isn’t so black-and-white anymore. Americans have always been taken by extremist groups, and now when they don’t pay, their execution videos are more likely to become recruitment tools. Henry reminds them of how many countries find a loophole to get these groups the money so their citizens came come home safely. Although Dalton (Keith Carradine) appreciates Henry’s view, he says it’s a nonstarter at this time, and Elizabeth agrees.
Admiral Hill (Johanna Day) mentions the SEAL team that is ready to go. Although they don’t have any contacts on the ground, Elizabeth says a reward might be able to change that. Henry is frustrated as the military operation will be more expensive than the ransom and put more lives at risk. Henry brings up French aid worker Giselle (Carey Van Driest), who was released by the same group the previous day. Although France is denying it, it’s likely they helped come up with the 10 million euros that led to her release. Elizabeth schedules a debrief with her so they can potentially get a location on Nafisa.
Jay (Sebastian Arcelus) is looking for candidates to fill his old policy advisor position, and Matt (Geoffrey Arend) pitches his old friend Ashley to him. Jay, Matt, and Blake (Erich Bergen) update Elizabeth on Daisy’s progress. She’s only two centimeters dilated and eager to give birth. Jay thinks their best option to get intel on Nafisa is to talk to Pakistan. Although their relationship is tenuous, this gives Elizabeth an idea. She tells Blake to set up an off-the-books meeting with Sameet Akhtar (Ravi Kapoor), the Deputy Chief of Mission. During their meeting, she asks him to convince his president to intercede of Nafisa’s behalf, delivering the money for her ransom under the table. Akhtar thinks the Americans are too worried about the rules rules, saying they can’t interfere because of Nafisa’s governmental position. Elizabeth reminds him that her front is teaching English literacy in Kabul and that this is an opportunity for Pakistan to stand on the world stage with the US and denounce terrorism. Akhtar promises to do his best.
Dmitri (Chris Petrovski) and Dylan (Sam Breslin Wright) found a black van on security footage of Nafisa’s kidnapping. The car is a front for the GRU, so the Russians were involved somehow. Dylan thinks their asset has fled back to Russia and is either being rewarded for delivering a CIA agent or in jail for working with the US. While looking for clues in Nafisa’s video, Henry sees that her fingers are subtly tapping on the table. Henry thinks she might be using morse code or another language to try and tell them something.
Elizabeth gets home from work and asks Stevie to have dinner with her since they’re the only two home. Elizabeth is sad Jason (Evan Roe) is at Piper’s house again, wanting him to spend more time with her. Elizabeth reads Stevie immediately, intuitively knowing that Jareth did something to upset her. Stevie pulls out her laptop and shows her the pictures he posted at his grandma’s house. Not only is he smiling really big, but he’s wearing the shirt Stevie got him for his birthday. Elizabeth tells her she has to unfriend him if she wants closure. Elizabeth promises to go to Jareth’s house with Stevie to help her pack up all her stuff.
Dylan and Dmitri have figured out Nafisa was using morse code. They’ve figured out the letters she was trying to communicate but haven’t been able to figure out what they mean. Henry tells them to get the message out to the entire intelligence community to give them a better shot of cracking the code.
At his assistant Adele’s (Sandra Daley) urging, Russell is especially nice to Stevie because of her breakup. Russell launches into a story about how he accidentally lost his girlfriend’s dog and proposed to her just to make her stop yelling at him. They were married for six miserable years after. Russell gives Stevie the advice not to look at this as the time an engagement ended but rather a time she dodged a bullet.
Blake tells Elizabeth that Akhtar phoned and said he couldn’t be of service to her. She’s even more frustrated when Jay can’t make it to Giselle’s briefing with Henry that morning, already attending a disaster relief event. A new policy advisor can’t come soon enough. Matt is crushed when he finds out that Jay did not put Ashley on the list to be interviewed. He goes around Jay and asks Elizabeth about it in the office kitchen and she tells him to give her information to Blake so he can set something up.
Dylan tells Henry that the Taliban’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs contacted him and said he would personally deliver Nafisa to them safely in exchange for $50 million in amnesty. He wants out, and this could be the break they need. Henry says there’s no harm in determining if this is legit and orders him to quietly move forward with vetting him.
Henry and Elizabeth talk to Giselle, who was held with Nafisa for the last few days she was in captivity. She got the same code as Nafisa, but it didn’t mean anything to her. They were held in a windowless room in the dark, so she didn’t see much, but she sometimes heard explosions. Henry and Elizabeth piece the code and the explosions together, figuring out there were land mines, which means they were likely in Eastern Afghanistan. Until they can vet the source Dylan told Henry about, it looks like a military operation is their best option for rescuing Nafisa.
The team goes into the control room. Although there’s no visual proof Nafisa is in the building, they’ve heard phone calls from the location in which she was mentioned. They break into the building but find no sign of Nafisa—just her ID in a torture room.
After this dead end, Henry brings up his asset again. Although he’s a member of the Taliban, Henry thinks they should take advantage of this loophole and enlist his help, as he obviously wants to leave the group. Elizabeth is worried he could take their money and start his own terrorist group, but Henry reminds them of all the past presidents who have negotiated under-the-radar, although it was before 9/11. Henry doesn’t think holding onto this policy is worth Nafisa’s death.
Although Dalton understands where Henry is coming from, he can’t support working with the Taliban minister. Henry is upset that Elizabeth didn’t go to bat for him, but Elizabeth says she can’t reject a policy she agrees with. Both she and Dalton have been in situations like Nafisa and knows their decisions have real-life consequences. If Henry were ever to be in Nafia’s situation, she would find a way to pay the ransom too, but that is her heart talking, and there’s a reason policy is written in the cold light of day. Henry isn’t so sure the informants they’re willing to hand money over to are trustworthy either, telling Elizabeth that policy can be rewritten.
Matt tells the team he might have a way to get India and Pakistan to help them by finding a loophole. Although there is no money involved so it would technically work, Matt doesn’t yet have the details of the plan worked out. Jay chastises Matt for not working out the kinks and wasting Elizabeth’s time. Sensing tension and an attitude from Jay, Elizabeth requests to speak to him during a break.
Jay tells Elizabeth that Matt has been bypassing the chain of command, apologizing for reacting inappropriately. Elizabeth shares a story of when she was promoted task leader at the CIA. When she sat back and let the department do their work, it was a disaster, as nobody knew what was expected of them. She had to set boundaries and act like a leader so they wouldn’t all be miserable. She tells Jay she actually likes Matt’s crazy idea, telling him to make it work.
Jay apologizes to Matt for losing his cool in the staff meeting but tells him that going around him to the secretary ticked him off. Jay says that he looked at Ashley’s resume and—while she had lots of good qualities—she didn’t rise to the same level as the other candidates. Matt apologizes, saying he didn’t think it was a big deal, but Jay tells him he has to respect him as his boss while they’re in the office. They can be buddies outside of work, but not during it.
Matt and Jay deliver some great news to Elizabeth. India has agreed to the deal with Pakistan, and Elizabeth calls up Akhtar to help enforce Pakistan’s end of the bargain. Both India and Pakistan successful hold up their ends of the agreement which is a victory for Elizabeth. To make things even better, Daisy has given birth to a healthy baby girl.
The Taliban throws Nafasi out of a car, and although bruised and traumatized, she is finally free. Henry and Elizabeth are both relieved by the news, Elizabeth even telling Henry that his argument is making Dalton look over and reconsider their hostage policy. Henry, Dmitri, and Dylan video chat with Nafasi, who tells them their asset is now dead and did not rat her out. The team is now convinced a leak snitched on both the asset and Nafasi. Henry invites Dmitri over for dinner to decompress for his stressful week.
Elizabeth is helping Stevie pack up her things from Jareth’s house when she spies the boots she bought him and gets upset. Elizabeth assures Stevie she doesn’t miss Jareth—she just misses seeing Stevie so happy. After Stevie revels he only wore the boots once, Elizabeth throws them in trash, causing Stevie to laugh. Elizabeth sees that everyone is visiting Daisy in the hospital to hold her baby, and Stevie tells her to go with them, saying she’ll be fine.
Stevie and Dmitri run into each other on the street outside the McCord house, Stevie revealing that she and Jareth broke up. Dmitri says it was his loss for sure. Stevie asks him out for coffee or a drink, but he says he has to be up early the next day. Stevie puts her number in his phone, telling him to call her sometime.