Madam Secretary – The Essentials
By: Taylor Gates
Elizabeth (Téa Leoni) is doing yoga while watching the news. Apparently Senator Morejon (José Zúñiga) is calling for a government shutdown on economic grounds. Despite Dalton’s (Keith Carradine) best efforts to prevent it, Elizabeth will probably still have to furlough thousands of employees. Henry (Tim Daly) tells Elizabeth his dilemma with Dmitri’s (Chris Petrovski) drug problem. She suggests that he come clean with Director Haymond (Michael Gaston), as he knows how messy intelligence work can be and will appreciate his honesty.
Henry goes to bat for Dmitri with Haymond, saying that the fact he opened up about his problems is a good sign. He’s also an invaluable asset to their current and future plans. Haymond is surprisingly understanding, saying that spy work can take a toll on people. Instead of firing Dmitri, he’s going to send him to a discreet rehab until he can get clean. If he compromises security in any way, though, it’s going to come back on Henry.
Henry goes to Dmitri’s house, but Talia (Masha King) says she hasn’t seen Dmitri in two days. He told her he was going away for work on a secret mission and couldn’t even bring his phone. Masha blames herself for Dmitri’s actions, but Henry assures her it’s not her fault. He decides to track the phone Dmitri has been using to call in sick from work.
The two find the pay phone Dmitri has been calling from. Across the street is a motel with a security camera, and Henry and Talia make the desk clerk tell them where Dmitri is staying. When they find his room, Dmitri tells them he went to the motel to get clean, saying he’ll take any drug test they want. He refuses to go to the rehab and sit around talking about his feelings and childhood. Talia thinks this might not be such a bad idea considering their parents weren’t the best, and the two fight about the best course of action. Dmitri breaks down, saying he’s ashamed and just wants to handle things alone. Henry tells him that’s not a healthy combination and that he must go to rehab. Henry drives Dmitri to the facility, giving him a pep talk. Dmitri impressed the team before, and he’ll do it again when he comes back.
Nadine (Bebe Neuwirth) tells Elizabeth that, although she’s stressed about getting a furlough list together, she’ll have it done by the end of the day. She also informs her that they moved Daisy’s (Patina Miller) baby shower up to the next day. Elizabeth is relieved when Nadine assures her there won’t be any games at the party, but Blake (Erich Bergen) is disappointed.
Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood) asks for advice on what to do during the meeting with Senator Morejon. One of Russell’s staffers tells her to pretend to be taking notes but really watch the expressions of Morejon’s staffers. Her biggest asset in there is the fact that nobody in the room thinks she matters. During the meeting, Dalton tells Morejon he needs to make peace with the financials for the sake of the American people. Morejon argues that the shutdown will signal to the American people they understand the spending problem. Dalton refutes this, pointing out that he and his staff are looking are looking out for actual people’s lives—not just messages. After the meeting, Russell’s staffer tells Stevie she’s going to need a new job soon.
Jay (Sebastian Arcelus) briefs Elizabeth on a refugee crisis in Lebanon. There was a riot at one of the camps the previous night due to a lack of electricity. Because it’s so dark at night, criminals come out and women become afraid to leave their tents to go to the bathroom, which leads to unsanitary conditions. It’s only a matter of time before there’s a cholera outbreak. Elizabeth wants to do everything they can to get electricity up-and-running, but due to the government shutdown, all the contractors will be laid off the next night.
Daisy and Matt (Geoffrey Arend) pressure Nadine to give them the inside scoop on the layoffs, but Nadine tells them barely any of the decision is up to her and her hands are tied by the guidelines. Nadine’s son Roman (Ethan Peck) and his girlfriend Shindi (Christine Chang) call Nadine to tell her she’s going to be a grandmother. They’re relocating from Southeast Asia to the Bay Area to have the baby since Roman got a job offer. The only problem is Shindi’s name matches one on the no-fly list, and if they can’t get it cleared up before the shutdown, she may be too pregnant to go. Nadine decides to go to Homeland Security herself to plead the case.
Daisy pays Nadine a visit in her office where Nadine explains her predicament with Homeland Security. Daisy tells Nadine about her own problem—she doesn’t want to be furloughed because of her pregnancy. Nadine reminds her that, if they do that, she could sue and never have to work again, but Daisy says her job in important to her. All she wants to do is take a few weeks of leave and then come straight back. Nadine tells her it’ll likely be more complicated than that. Daisy is worried she’s going to lose herself once she’s a mom, but Nadine assures her that, while some things will fall away, richer things will take their place.
Although Nadine points out the absurdity of the mistaken identity—Roman’s girlfriend is 25 while the real woman on the list is in her 60s—Homeland Security is unwilling to work with her. Nadine is devastated and terrified, knowing that Myanmar’s infant mortality rates are high. She sees a picture of the Homeland Security worker’s children on his desk and gets emotional, telling him someday he’s going to disappoint his kids and they’re going to resent him for it. Eventually he’ll embarrass himself doing everything he can to do them a favor just like she’s doing now for her son.
Eventually, Homeland Security comes around. Nadine gives Roman and Shindi the good news—her visa has been approved and she’s free to travel whenever she wants. The two are ecstatic, telling Nadine she has to visit them soon. They wish she lived on the west coast so she could see them more, and Nadine gets sad that she’s going to miss out on so much.
Elizabeth asks a worker at the Lebanese camp about the chances of the electricity being up in two days. She tells them it’s not good, as the Lebanese government miscalculated and their grids are overworked as it is. Elizabeth promises to do whatever she can by talking to the highest officials. The team offers to stay until the mission is complete even if there is a shutdown in D.C. The engineer goes on a rant about how politics always seem to get in the way of progress, and Elizabeth sympathizes with her situation, frustrated at the bureaucracy as well.
Elizabeth talks to Lebanese Ambassador Nassif (Peter Ganim) about the power grid, and he tells her the hard truth: they’re either going to need more time or more money. Elizabeth is determined to continue funding their electricians during the shutdown. She talks to Dalton about designating a few of the contractors in Lebanon as essential. Russell reminds her that many people have asked for special favors that impact citizens much closer to home and looking like Dalton values refugees more than them could be damaging to his approval rating. Although Dalton wants to help Elizabeth, he simply can’t. Elizabeth understands and promises to find another way.
Elizabeth finds out there has been a cholera outbreak in the camp and suggests that they try to power it using solar energy. Although this idea was deemed unfeasible when the camp was first built, technology has improved since then and it’s worth reconsidering. Elizabeth is determined to find a company willing to ship panels to Lebanon for free by the next night.
During Daisy’s baby shower, Jay tells Elizabeth some good and bad news. The good news is there’s a new solar company willing to do the job for free within the time frame. The bad news is they’re from Israel and since they and Lebanon are technically still at war, Lebanon is not going to allow them on their soil. Hearing they have representatives in the states, Elizabeth gets an idea and calls a meeting with the company heads and the Lebanese Ambassador.
The company is not happy about the idea of handing their product over to a CIA front company and not getting any of the credit for it. The Lebanese Ambassador is not happy about the idea of taking aid from Israelis. Elizabeth reminds them of the benefits: the company will have the US government in its debt and Lebanon will get stability. They reluctantly agree and the solar energy succeeds, powering the camp.
During the final few hours of the fiscal year, Morejon reminds Dalton that the American people will blame him for the struggling economy if the shutdown doesn’t happen. Dalton tells Morejon that he’s asking him to throw hundreds of thousands of people out of a job, and he can’t in good conscience do that. He tells Morejon to do his worst. Both Morejon and Stevie are confused as to why Dalton is leaving the meeting three hours before the shutdown happens instead of continuing to try and negotiate.
Russell shows Stevie what Dalton is using that time for—going to a veteran’s meeting and telling them how to go about contacting services they may need. He gives them his word that, if they ever need to talk, they can call his office and speak to him personally. Russell tells Stevie that Dalton comes here every month and never tells anyone about it. He knows there are some duties that are sacred. Stevie tells Russell that, from the looks of it, Morejon’s staffers seemed scared. Russell hopes she’s right, as the Senate just let the clock run out: the shutdown is officially happening.
Nadine gives Elizabeth the furlough list along with a copy of Matt’s speech she will deliver to those affected by the shutdown. Elizabeth rants, upset about having to put so many people on indefinite, unpaid leave. Nadine asks for some time off in order to see her family. Elizabeth happily grants it and congratulates her on becoming a grandmother, saying they’ll make things work with her job. However, seeing the look on Nadine’s face, she realizes Nadine isn’t going to be coming back from her leave. Nadine admits that she doesn’t want to return. She loves public service, but it’s gotten so vicious lately and she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her career fighting. Although Elizabeth wants to beg her to stay, she sees that Nadine knows what she wants in her heart. Nadine says it’s been an honor to serve Elizabeth, and Elizabeth hugs Nadine, emotionally thanking her for everything.
Elizabeth gives a speech to all those who being furloughed. She says the world will be poorer for their absence, and they are all essential to helping make it a better place. They all push her to be better and she will be counting down the days until their return.