Musings on Madam Secretary 2.13
Excuse me while I tuck away the mountains of used tissues so I can write this week’s Musings.
What “Invasive Species” has taught me is that many families act the same during a time of crisis: fighting instead of supporting one another, yelling instead of hugging, arguing over stupid things like table linens or chicken pot pie instead of talking about what really matters. We also all have our own Maureen. Not all are as rude and acerbic as she, but there’s that one person who makes you physically cringe when they open their mouth out of fear of what horrifying and embarrassing thing they may say. Ah, family.
Maureen isn’t managing web pages or sending out newsletters as the president of the Elizabeth McCord Fan Club. We learned that about .02 seconds into the episode. Elizabeth should’ve just brought a shovel to give Maureen to better help with all the digs that woman took at her. Money. Elizabeth’s job. Henry’s success. Why the groundhog saw its shadow. Maureen basically blames Elizabeth for everything in her world. She even used the phrase “Secretary of State” as if it’s a disease or something to be ashamed of. Of course in classic form, she later demanded Elizabeth leverage her connections to find out who stole Patrick’s money. Maureen pulled the same exact antics Patrick did during his visit last season. You know what they say about the apple not falling far from the tree…
Despite her larger-than-life persona in the political world, Elizabeth is a pleaser in her personal world, or at least in Pittsburgh. She volunteered to help wherever she cold, however she was needed, but she couldn’t seem to do anything right. I’m convinced the woman could’ve brought Patrick back from the dead and Maureen would’ve found a reason to criticize her. I kept expecting to see a shot of Elizabeth’s severed tongue on the floor, cut clean off from biting it so hard. I realize Maureen is a grieving daughter with her own full set of family baggage. I’m not debating that Maureen wasn’t deeply hurt by her father’s death. I also don’t have some deep hatred for her. I actually enjoyed watching the “Elizabeth and Henry Deal With Maureen” side show. However, Elizabeth’s comment that Henry apologized for Maureen the first time the two met 25+ years ago proves this is Maureen’s personality, not Maureen through grief. Did I miss who’s older? Maureen is bossy like an oldest, but it was mentioned that they needed to lean on Henry. I’m a lonely only so I know nothing about sibling hierarchy.
Side note: Kate Burton flawlessly plays the bitch in every role. EVERY role. She makes me want to throttle her through my television. The woman needs to play on Sesame Street or Care Bears at some point, just so she’s allowed to smile.
Henry. My favorite leading man had quite the week, but he (and Tim Daly) soared. I felt for the guy. His relationship with his father wasn’t ideal, but they were still father and son. Death always exacerbates the “What ifs” of life. What if I called more? What if I went home more? What if I said this? What if I didn’t do that? Death has a way of making you see things through different glasses. Rose-colored regret glasses. The fact that Henry remains so troubled from the incident in college proves that the littlest moments are often the things that hurt the most and make you cringe, even decades later. Henry feels guilt for his relationship with Patrick, not just for the college dinner. For a lifetime of situations and arguments and non-conversations. Maureen telling him that she blamed him for Patrick’s death was maybe a look into a small sliver of Henry’s heart that fears that’s true. She also hit him right in the religion, a particularly sensitive spot for Doctor Religious Scholar. From anger to hurt to angst to despair, the range of emotion was evident on Henry’s face, portrayed beautifully by Tim. When his voice caught and he teared up, I did the same. (If Henry cries, I do, too. Apparently it’s some life rule I live by, first realized in Tamerlane.) Henry didn’t think he was the right guy to give Patrick’s eulogy. Turns out, he was the perfect one. Maureen reaching her hand back to Henry afterward as a peace offering was a sweet gesture. I’m sure she’ll continue her trollish ways, but for that moment at their father’s funeral, it was a McCord accord.
I applaud Henry’s refusal to ignore the fact that Patrick committed suicide. Suicide shouldn’t have an embarrassing or shameful stigma. Depression and its effects are real and devastating. Not talking about it is worse. Elizabeth’s admission to Stevie that funerals and burials are more for the living than the dead rings true. What we do after death is for the ones left behind, more than it is for those who died.
Through the drama and the devastation, Elizabeth and Henry stayed each other’s true constant. No matter who was at the center of the firing squad, the other was there, physically and emotionally present. Virtually every scene showed them touching: their hands together, her hand on his leg, their heads resting on one another. A physical reminder that the other is there, supportive and loving. They even have their own sweet way of holding hands, grasping a single random finger. It’s like their own silent language they can speak in public. Of course, my favorite scenes will always be their private talks, be it in bedrooms (which applies to the Pittsburgh bedroom) or on their walks. That’s where the true confessions come out. These two are the poster children for “relationship goals,” as the kids say.
I’m happy the writers didn’t just focus on the adults. Death affects everyone, and the McCord kids aren’t clueless toddlers. Each reacted in a different way. Jason coped the way any budding anarchist would by cracking into Patrick’s computer, thanks to Alison’s sleuthing. The argument between Jason and Henry in the kitchen came full circle, when Jason later admitted he didn’t want to fight with Henry. It was a sweet, poignant father/son scene, one Henry probably wishes he could’ve had with his own father. Life is so cyclical. As for Jason’s outburst, I’m not sure what that was about. He could’ve just been being a (very good) teenager, ate Pissy Flakes for breakfast or have something else going on that will be referenced later. Either way, he’s still my favorite McCord kid. Also, don’t be so eager to grow up, dude. The real world ain’t so fun. Just ask Stevie.
Which bring me to the eldest McCord. Miss Stephanie has come a long way from moving out of the house because of who her mother is. In fact, she’s now running interference to protect her mother. When Elizabeth whispered her nickname “Queen Elizabeth” (which felt like a gut punch), Stevie looked at her mother in shock. It’s like she’s now at the adult table and her eyes were opened to the messy aspect of families. Their heart-to-heart about Maureen was a life lesson for both. Elizabeth is willing to get repeatedly burned by a loved one to be part of the family. It’s messy, but it’s her mess. Leave it to Elizabeth to soften my cold, hard, black heart for Maureen. I love badass Elizabeth, but nothing beats the vulnerability that comes in her roles of mom, wife, sister, sister-in-law, etc. That said, I would’ve given a kidney to hear Elizabeth go off about Maureen and eviscerate her the way she does foreign leaders.
So apparently political things happened at the State Department. I wouldn’t really know. I tried to pay attention. I really did. I just preferred the family storyline so I didn’t invest much time into this side plot. It’s basically this week’s ISS story for me. I fear I need to eventually figure out what happened because with Nadine telling Russell she has to let Elizabeth know, it sounds like it’s going to come back at some point. Also, everyone needs a Nadine. That woman is fiercely protective of Elizabeth. Quite a road those two have travelled down so far. She’s the person you want in your corner when your life is falling apart. You’re a mess and she not only has your laundry washed and folded, the animals are fed, your Christmas shopping is done and your taxes are in the mail.
“I don’t take orders from you.” The earth shook when Nadine dropped that microphone. Of course Russell tried to take control when Elizabeth was away. He also called Matt “son” in such a condescending way, like he’s trying to assert his authority over Elizabeth’s staff. Noticeably absent: Conrad. I’m fine with that.
This was my favorite episode, by far, since “Catch and Release.” We were even treated to a Will call. If I can’t get an episode of the McCords on lockdown, I want a holiday with the McCords, Henry’s family and Will. I don’t care which holiday. Christmas. Thanksgiving. Arbor Day. Super Tuesday. Whatever. I can only imagine the family dynamics with those explosive personalities. Sign me up.
It’ll be interesting to see where Henry goes from here. I don’t think his DIA life is completely over, and the effects of his father’s suicide will continue to echo. I honestly have no idea what the next few episodes will bring… and that’s exciting.
–I don’t know if they did, but I love to think Elizabeth and Henry were forced to sleep in a twin bed. It takes them back to their dorm room days. Another full circle aspect of the episode.
–Elizabeth took a shot of liquor to cope. I feel you.
–Elizabeth flinging herself on the bed saying “Holy smokes” was one of my favorite shots of the entire episode, and I had a lot of favorites. Hats off to the director.
–“He believed in marriage.” Cut to a shot of Elizabeth. My heart melted.
–The smirk Elizabeth made after she told Stevie “and then I fell in love with your dad” melted my heart again. I don’t have much heart left. The writers keep snatching little pieces every week.
–Elizabeth traded in her tie blouses in the State Department for an apron in a kitchen. It was such a stark contrast from her typical day-to-day persona, another little nugget of Elizabeth the loving wife, willing to do anything to keep peace with her in-laws. Which brings me back to Henry’s “World’s Best Dad” apron and their phone call from Iran. Swoon. Requesting a GIF set of both apron-clad McCords, please and thank you.
–Speaking of wardrobe, every McCord sibling wore a plaid shirt and/or a vest at some point. Elizabeth obviously married into the uniform because even she sported both. I can only imagine what the wardrobe department looked like while they shot this episode.
–The episode started in the kitchen. My heart jumps when these family scenes begin an episode.
–I agree with Elizabeth. UVA gave Henry the greatest two-for ever.