Madam Secretary – Women Transform the World
By: Taylor Gates
Daisy (Patina Miller) is officially back to work. The entire staff enthusiastically greets her, asking to see pictures of baby Joanna. Though Elizabeth (Téa Leoni) is thrilled to have her back, she reminds her she still has a week left of maternity leave. Daisy replies that she really wants to be there for the Women’s Conference, but being away from her daughter does feel strange. Daisy admits that she hasn’t yet told Joe’s mom about the child since she just lost their son but promises to do it soon.
Matt (Geoffrey Arend) wants Daisy’s help writing his Women’s Conference speech, but she has way too much work of her own. When Daisy says her own parents still haven’t totally come around, Matt offers up his family to give her some assistance. Daisy is touched and uses this as motivation to get up the courage to call Joe’s mom It goes exceptionally well, and she wants to meet both Daisy and Joanna at her house in Connecticut. Daisy nervously asks Elizabeth for a day off to meet Garcia’s family. Elizabeth is more than understanding, telling her to take as much time as she needs.
Daisy visits Joe’s mother Margarita (Saundra Santiago) in Boston. Margarita is absolutely ecstatic about the baby, offering Daisy hospitality and sharing details and photos about Joe and his family.
Russell (Zeljko Ivanek) and Dalton (Keith Carradine) discuss strategies for dismantling Taliban leadership. They finally decide a military strike called Operation Tiger Claw is the best way to go, as it will send a message to Russia and set the stage for a stable Afghan government.
Molly (Christine Garver) is also back from maternity leave and rejoins Henry (Tim Daly), Dmitri (Chris Petrovski), and Dylan (Sam Breslin Wright) at work. They need to collect as much intel before Operation Tiger Claw launches in four days. Dmitri pitches talking to one of his old friends from the Russian military Matvey Sokolov (Yuval David)—he also has problems with some of its leadership and loves anything Western. Although Dylan doesn’t think he’s reliable, Dmitri argues that he is and wants to try to talk to him. Sokolov thinks Dmitri is dead, and seeing him alive could prove the power and goodness of the US government. Henry is afraid Sokolov would rat him out, but Dmitri doesn’t believe he would burn him. Unfortunately, this new plan means Dmitri has to postpone his plans with Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood).
Elizabeth is nervous about Henry going to Afghanistan with Dmitri before Operation Tiger Claw, but Henry tries to assure her he’ll be fine. Elizabeth stashes her reading glasses into his suitcase—a tradition they have when one leaves for a dangerous trip. On the way to the airport, Dmitri muses that if he hadn’t gone to the war college or met Henry, he would be the bad guy trying to destabilize a government right now.
Once in Kabul, Dmitri and Sokolov meet again. Their reunion is a happy one, the two of them hugging once they see each other. However, it’s short lived when Henry reminds Dmitri he’s not safe there. Sokolov warns them that the GRU knows Dalton is planning on launching an operation and has tricks up their sleeves. They press him for details, Dmitri telling him that America is everything they hoped it would be and more. If he helps them, they can offer him cash and asylum in the US. Sokolov agrees to cooperate.
Amina Salah (Anna Khaja), the Afghan Minister of Education, warmly greets Elizabeth at the women’s conference. They catch up, talking about their children and what Salah plans to say in her keynote address. Elizabeth assures her that their military operation is being planned out to the smallest detail to minimize civilian casualties. Salah understands, knowing it’s hard when 68% of the country wants Sharia Law. She thinks that if they could just give the people a taste of what moderate rule is like, they would support a newer, more progressive government.
Henry updates the White House on what Sokolov leaked to them. Apparently Russians have a Taliban operative embedded in the Afghan army: General Nawroz Zrezou (Thom Bishops). He’s going to order his men to stand down during the attack. Since he controls 20% of the troops, the Afghan forces have no hope against the Taliban. Dalton informs President Sharza (Jay Harik), who has Zrezou arrested and replaces him with another officer. However, something feels off about him when they speak. Dalton’s confidence on Operation Tiger Claw has been shaken, and Russell wants to find out how the Taliban managed to turn one of the top Afghan officials. Elizabeth knows this means Henry must stay in Afghanistan a little longer.
During his interrogation, Zrezou defends himself, saying he didn’t betray his country since all the citizens want Islamic law. Henry asks him what he thinks his daughters’ lives will be like under the Taliban—no more school, no chance of going to work, and arranged marriages. But Zrezou says the Taliban will allow girls the chance to get educated and enter the workforce; they already have. Henry relays what Zrezou said to Elizabeth, who wants to confirm Zrezous’ claim.
Stevie and Dmitri wait for a car after their date. Stevie asks where he was the last couple of days, curious if he’s seeing other people. Dmitri says the only other person he’s seeing is her father at a work conference. They make plans for the next night and take a selfie together. Once Stevie gets in her car, Dmitri looks at the picture and notices a suspicious figure in the background behind them. When he starts walking away, the vehicle begins to follow him, and he ducks inside a subway station. The next day, Dmitri tells Henry that Sokolov never showed up to his extraction point but doesn’t mention the sketchy car.
Elizabeth tells Salah that the Taliban may be open to diplomatic negotiations in exchange for a seat in the Afghan government. Backchannel communications between Sharza and the Taliban have already begun, so getting the US and NATO involved could help keep things peaceful and fair. Salah is disheartened—most of the 68% in favor of this don’t remember what true freedom is like and now never will. Elizabeth reassures her there’s a faction of the Taliban open to moderate rule and that she will do her best to negotiate it. She thinks if there’s an opportunity to solve things with words instead of guns, they should try and take it. Having just one woman in those talks, Salah says, would give her some hope.
Henry’s team finds out that Sokolov and his girlfriend have been tortured and murdered. Henry asks Dmitri if he wants to take the day off, but he refuses. He finally tells Henry about the car that was following him, giving him the license plate for him to run.
Elizabeth tells Dalton and Russell about the Taliban wanting a seat at the table in exchange for not fighting. They would recognize a democratically elected government and be an active minority party. Women would be allowed to work but not drive or serve in the new government. It’s not ideal, but it could be a good first step. The US, for instance, didn’t let women vote at first either. Dalton calls Becker (Mike Pniewski) and Hill (Johanna Day) to his office to weigh in, but they are both still adamant about a military operation. Not only would this negotiation be terrible for women, but it would be an insult to gold star families whose children died trying to keep the Taliban out of power.
Elizabeth and Hill talk in the hallway. Elizabeth appreciates the fact they’re both trying to look out for the great good. Hill explains that, where Elizabeth sees a small negotiation window, she sees a wedge to crack open the system and liberation millions of women, still challenging her on her diplomatic approach.
Ephraim Ware (Clifton Davis) gives Henry the results of the license plate search. Dmitri was being followed, but by the CIA, not the Russians. It’s procedure after an agent has finished a stint in rehab. Ware promises to inform him from now on, not mentioning the fact that Dmitri was with Stevie. Stevie goes over to Dmitri’s house for dinner. The two sit down to talk, and she thanks him for making her feel more like herself after her breakup with Jareth.
Before Salah’s speech, Elizabeth tells her that Sharza has accepted the Taliban’s terms, so a military operation is officially off the table. They’ll soon have a revised constitution of moderate Islamic rule and US troops will stay for three years to make sure the Taliban holds up their end of the bargain. Although women won’t be able to hold office, Elizabeth thinks it’s a good starting point. Upset, Salah tells Elizabeth not to try to sell her on the plan right now. She goes to give her last speech as Minister of Education.
Elizabeth introduces Salah with a beautiful speech, calling her an inspiring survivor who has worked tirelessly to give a new generation of girls hope. She tells everyone to remember all the women who came before her and paved her pathway as well. It strikes a cord with the audience, and they all get emotional. That night when Elizabeth gets home, she makes sure to appreciate her family and hug Alison (Kathrine Herzer).