“Madam Secretary” Season 1 Episode 1 “Pilot” aired last Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, at 8:30 p.m., with an encore telecast at 10:30 p.m. on CBS. In this episode, CIA analyst turned professor Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni) was asked by the President of the United States (Keith Carradine) to become the new Secretary of State after his former secretary died in a plane crash. Two months later, the McCord family had moved to Washington DC, where the new Secretary, or the Madam Secretary, dealt with a hostage situation and with her children, who were having difficulty adjusting to school. Read on to learn more about this episode.
The episode opened with two teenaged American boys in Damascus, Syria, where they were being escorted into a prison. Terrified, the younger brother asked his older brother what they were saying outside, and he was told that they were going to be executed.
In the United States, Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni), a CIA analyst turned professor, collected her husband Henry McCord (Tim Daly), a religion professor at the same university she works in, from his circle of disciples. She reminded him that she was going up to Washington DC that night for her spy or CIA reunion.
There, she had dinner with a couple of friends from the “Company.” She revealed that she is adjusting well to normal life, a life without having to go on missions or worry about matters like that. However, their evening was interrupted as her friends received messages that the Secretary of State’s plane crashed on its way to Venezuela.
The next day, she got a surprise visitor as President Conrad Dalton (Keith Carradine) visited her and asked her to fill in the position of Secretary of State. The reason why he chose her is because he had recruited and trained her as an analyst for the CIA, he trusts her and he knows that she thinks out of the box.
Two months later, the McCord family has relocated to Washington DC. Elizabeth’s staff mostly consists of the former Secretary of State’s staff, which includes Daisy Grant (Patina Miller), Elizabeth’s press coordinator; Matt Mahoney (Geoff Arend), her speechwriter; Nadine Tolliver (Bebe Neuwirth), her Chief of Staff; and Jay Whitman (Sebastian Arcelus). The only member of her staff that she hired personally was Blake Moran (Erich Bergen), her personal assistant.
At her office, the new Madam Secretary had a meeting with Daisy, Matt, Nadine and Jay Whitman regarding the dinner that she will have to attend with the King of Swaziland and his ten wives, as it was on the former Secretary of States’ agenda. She then got pulled out of the meeting as the Ambassador of the Czech Republic wanted to speak to her, and Blake reminded her that she had a meeting with the Secretary of Defense, Gordon Becker (Mike Pniewski), and Russell Jackson (Zeljko Ivanek), the Chief of Staff of the President.
Two American teenagers, Tyler (Sean Kleier) and Ethan Cole (Scott Lindley), were captured by the Syrians as they tried to join a group with jihadist elements, whose main goal was to overthrow the Syrian government. They had a website called the Free Earth, where they used Facebook and Instagram to show their readers and viewers the poverty and the bad treatment of women in Syria. The Syrians did this because of the Iranian president’s visit to the United States and the upcoming peace talks with Iran. However, Elizabeth stressed that the situation was urgent as they were going to execute the two boys in one week. Elizabeth wanted to do it her way, but the Chief of Staff disagreed and instead gave her the name and number of a personal stylist, as the Secretary’s image has a lot to do with the job. The two then confronted each other in the hallway of the White House, as she wanted to brief the President regarding the situation. However, Russell told her it was too premature to do so, and he warned her not to take advantage of her friendship with the President to go around him.
She then met the parents of Ethan and Tyler. She found out that Tyler was the ambitious and political. Ethan’s graduation present was a trip to Europe, and he had asked Tyler to come along. However, their parents did not know that they would be crossing into Syria. She told them to try to cooperate with them as much as they could so that they could work better at bringing the boys back.
At home, the McCords found out that their children were not so thrilled about their new school, especially as their daughter, Ali (Kathrine Herzer), was feeling lonely as she misses her boyfriend who was in their old home state in Virginia. She later on asked her husband if she did the right thing, and he told her that she was just overthinking things. They were interrupted by George (William Sadler), one of Elizabeth’s CIA friends. He told her that he had discovered after decoding some emails, that the plane accident that the former Secretary of State was in wasn’t an accident. He had discovered that someone in the White House had arranged the accident for him, as he had a secret bank account in Caracas, Venezuela and dealt with drugs and arms. This meant that the former Secretary of State was living off the grid somewhere in Venezuela. He told her this because she was the only person that he trusted.
The next day, Elizabeth met with the director of the CIA in order to go over the plan to rescue the boys as they had received intelligence regarding the prison that they were being held in. She then signed off it, as Russell had also agreed to their plan and reminded the Director to inform her about the situation two hours out. Both Daisy and Matt then entered to talk to her regarding her statement for the dinner with the King of Swaziland. Afterwards, she was greeted by the personal image consultant or stylist that Russell had given her. However, she bluntly told her that she did not need her at all.
Before she left work, she was confronted by Nadine, her Chief of Staff, who told her that “Operation Stupid Kids” was a bust as the information regarding the prison was disinformation. Then they found an email with a video of the teenagers admitting to be terrorists on the White House email. She showed this to the President and told him that if they don’t respond, the video was going to go viral. Russell then suggested that they don’t cancel the president of Iran’s visit and peace talks, disavow the teenagers, and once the entire world is focused on the fact that they were able to manage to make peace in the Middle East, Syria would look silly and just release the kids. Because they went with Elizabeth’s plan first, the President decided to go with Russell’s.
Later, at night, Elizabeth confided in her husband that she was conflicted as she could not properly advise the President on foreign affairs as she could never get alone time with the President and that she had signed up to become the Secretary of State so that she could affect real change, just as the President had told her. Her husband then told her that she should take action.
She then decided to contact Anton, who now works as a Cultural Attache for Chechnya. She asked him for help regarding the two teenage American boys, reminding him that she had helped his family get out of Chechnya during the revolution. As he continued to refuse, she reminded him that as Secretary of State, she has the power to remove him from office at any time, for any reason.
She then paid a visit to the President’s home and informed him of the unofficial move she had just made. She told him that the job was to advise him on foreign affairs and reminded him that he had hired her because she thought outside of the box and was very nonpolitical about things. He gave her the go ahead, which allowed her to broker a deal with Anton’s contacts for the boys in exchange for medical and food supplies.
However, at the office, she was informed that the Times wanted to do a two-hour special on Mr. and Mrs. Cole. In order to divert attention from that matter so that everything would proceed smoothly with the operation she planned. She decided to call on the personal image consultant. That night, every news and talk show in America was talking about her new modernized style. While at home, she received a text message from Anton, saying that the kids were in the air, on their way back home.
Next morning, the Coles were reunited. Russell paid her a visit at her office and told her off, saying that he is a much better ally than an opponent and would only forgive her this once.
That night, Elizabeth attended the dinner with the King of Swaziland. At first, there was a lot of tension in the air, but she was able to break the ice and convince the King to work with them to address the ever-growing issue of AIDS in his country. She also surprised her Chief of Staff as she was able to name all of the wives and duly acknowledged all of them. That same night, what she did and said at the dinner trended all over Twitter as a woman who cared about global issues.
At her office, she found Henry waiting for her. He then told her that George had died as his car had crashed into a telephone pole. Elizabeth, although devastated, realized that George’s death was not an accident, to which her husband agreed to.
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And that’s it for the recap of “Madam Secretary” Season 1 Episode 1 “Pilot.” For more news and updates, including spoilers and recaps, on “Madam Secretary” and other television shows, keep following Movie News Guide (MNG).
Catch Elizabeth McCord as the Secretary of State in “Madam Secretary” every Monday at 8:00 p.m. on CBS.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons/Gustavo Fernandez