brian lindstrom

Musings on Madam Secretary 2.17

Oh, those McCord women. How I love them. “Higher Learning” hit me right in the feels. Secretary McCord shed her State Department cape and donned her ripped (a woman after my own heart) jeans in an attempt to become simply Mama McCord. Of course world chaos would follow the McCord women. I mean, the show is called “Madam Secretary,” after all.

Throughout the series, Elizabeth has been on a personal teeter-totter, trying to balance life in the State Department with her life as wife and mom at home. Admittedly, my heart hurt a little for her in the first scene when she had to convince Alison that she should even go on the visit to Rafferty. It sunk even more when Elizabeth saw Stevie’s packed suitcase. She just wants to be Mrs. McCord, mother of Alison. Unfortunately, that’s as realistic as me becoming the Queen of England.

Balloons, banners and a band welcomed the McCords to Rafferty. I only got pencils and cling-on bumper stickers when I visited colleges. Maybe a plastic souvenir cup was thrown in, too, but that was only at the private schools. Despite Alison’s best hopes and Blake’s best attempt, remaining anonymous was virtually impossible. Shocking. It kind of makes me wonder what college visits are like for the Chelsea Clintons or Malia Obamas of the world. Heck, even Téa herself will be going through that process soon with her kids. I just picture schools tripping over themselves, promising things like rainbow unicorns and dusting every dorm in the glitter of fairy tears. No, thank you. I’ll take my anonymity. I understand where Alison was coming from. Her life was turned upside down and she’s now living in the public spotlight, desperate to be your average American teenager. If a band welcomed me to a college, I’d probably look for the nearest rock to crawl under and live for eternity. However, Elizabeth is doing her best. Cut the woman some slack. And Alison did. Eventually. And it was glorious. More on that later.

“Higher Learning” made me miss college. Tray sledding. Righteous indignation over some obscure wrong. Red Solo cups. Ah, the memories. (I don’t miss the communal bathrooms and shower shoes, however.) I applaud the Rafferty college students for taking a stand on a cause, but this episode showed how much the students didn’t know what they didn’t know. “That’s what you get for giving everyone a trophy for showing up” was the mic dropped by Stevie, also a college student, but one with a unique inside look on the world due to her mother. To solve this crisis within a crisis, Secretary McCord dug into Mama McCord’s brain and went in for the kill: Brian Lindstrom’s parents. Thank Baby Jesus and the spirit of Steve Jobs that Skype and FaceTime weren’t around when I was in school. Brian Lindstrom should’ve been so lucky. Of course Elizabeth didn’t just drop the virtual smack down and leave. Ever the mother, she used the opportunity as a teaching tool and a time to encourage further action against social injustice. Honorary mention goes to DS Agent Matt for his deadpanned “Sorry if I violated your safe space, Brian.” That delivery was gold.

This episode demonstrated just how much the McCord girls are growing up to follow in their mother’s footsteps. I don’t mean they’re lining up to become the next public servant. Stevie, whose transformation has been so sudden it’s given me whiplash, is now Elizabeth 2.0. She drops truth bombs and comes in with the reality checks. Admittedly early in the season, I feared she’d be six months pregnant with Harrison’s baby by this point. (Thank you, Barbara Hall, for going against the stereotypical plot line.) Even Alison’s verbal takedown of College Bro Dude about fascism had undertones of her mother. Just don’t tell her that.

The McCord women bonding did a heart good. They needed the release and, quite frankly, we the viewers did, too. The light moments have been sorely missing this season, considering the darker plotlines. This makes us appreciate these sweet family scenes all the more. (Insert me pleading for a show of the McCords on lockdown inside their home for the 9834796th time.) I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the characters and the actors when they went barreling down the snowy hill. The laughter was so genuine. Also, Téa wiping out and still ending up on her butt? Girlfriend has done this before. That’s tray sledding talent.

The one thing missing from the episode was a joint scene between Elizabeth and Henry. They tend to ground each other and, thus, ground us the viewers. Even though they were in different cities, the McCords still managed to connect at night, like always. Of course it was on the phone, which wasn’t ideal, but they took the time to check in. That’s what makes their marriage so strong. Elizabeth even slept on what is typically Henry’s side of the bed. It could’ve been haphazard. It could’ve been camera blocking. I choose to believe it was purposeful. Because I’m a sap.

Speaking of Henry, he’s knee-deep in Jibral Disah. The Jose Battle of Passive Aggressiveness is now in Round #4586. “Murphy Station” is like a game of ping pong with Jane in the middle, looking for earplugs or another uterus of sanity. “Losing Mimi was a pretty big risk.” “Not my call.” Ouch. You could see the dagger fly across the room into Henry’s heart. The dude already internalizes everything. Let’s just add this to Dmitri, Russia, his father, his sister…..

Henry once again proved why his experience makes him perfect for this job. (No, I’m not still fully on board with this. Yes, I’m along for the ride.) Between his religious scholarly expertise and his personality, he was able to extract key information from Laila. He related to her on a personal/professional level, told her she can help change the world if she spills her guts, and promised to help get her family out of Libya and get her back in the classroom. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Dmitri and his sister would agree. I’d like to think that although Henry used the same techniques he resorted to earlier this season, he’s come to realize where the cliff is and how to draw himself away before he falls into the abyss. Get back to me after this situation causes some sort of breakdown. Yes, I’m still waiting for a breakdown.

Henry in his new job is being portrayed like Elizabeth is in hers: the reasonable sensible one, the person to use kindness instead of jumping straight to force, the one offering alternatives no one else has thought of. In certain scenarios, they’re both made to appear they’re the only competent person who swoops in to save the day in a room full of inept coworkers. As much as Elizabeth is Mrs. You-Don’t-Even-Know-There’s-A-Box, Henry is Mr. What’s-A-Box? Their kids will never be able to get away with anything. The psychological warfare game alone….

Along those lines, and this is probably an unpopular opinion, I did roll me eyes and literally say “of course” when the crisis was buttoned up so perfectly in Chile. Even the dude on the mountain survived an avalanche. Sometimes I feel like Madam Secretary is the Full House of political dramas in the sense that every crisis is solved in 42 minutes. There have only been a few failures, Dmitri being one of them… and I’m still not satisfied with how those repercussions magically disappeared by the end of one episode. Even when Elizabeth fixed the problem with Brian Lindstrom, the music swelled as she made her point and then came in to save him from his parents. Of course that was the mother in her and I applaud her for not hanging him out to be cut off from his parents. I also like that she has so many wins in her column. I just wish they weren’t all so neatly wrapped up so quickly. Feel free to take away my fan card.

Something I noticed more this episode than any before is the growing talk about elections. Daisy mentioned it. Russell mentioned it. They made decisions about what to do in Chile to keep certain members of Congress happy, eluding to elections. As much as I think Conrad has the personality of a pet rock, I don’t want Elizabeth to be president. It’s too early. She’s still getting her State Department legs. Wait until Season 5 or 6 *coughCBS *cough* before even possibly exploring that option. Even though I think she’d be exceptional in that position, I’m still not sure I want her in the Oval Office. Although it would be a gold mine in terms of storyline potential, it would mean more time at work, taking away those Team McCord scenes we crave. Get back to me in a few seasons. *Cough* CBS *cough*. Clearly there’s something in my throat.

Other things:

–Elizabeth trying to slyly grab pastries in the State Department is like a child swiping candy, hoping her parents don’t see her. Also, Elizabeth smelling food/wine is my new favorite side show.

–Stevie pulling confetti out of Elizabeth’s eye was so sweet. I have no idea why this 3-second scene struck me, but it did. Probably because it seemed so real. Not many other shows would “waste” the time with something so insignificant, but it shows how far the mother-daughter relationship has come in the last 2 seasons.

–I loved seeing the McCords in their “comfies.” Plaid pajama pants, ripped jeans, t-shirts. I swear this week’s wardrobe came straight from Téa’s own closet. I just picture her saying, “Don’t worry, guys. I got this.”

–“Jason could be in for a surprising birthday present.” Proving that she’s first and foremost a mother.

–Pissed off Russell. Everybody drink.

–Stevie and Alison had matching hats in the McCord kitchen. The family that wears accessories together….

–“Are you never not fully groomed?” “It’s before 10pm.”