Madam Secretary Season 1 Episode 17 Review: Face the Nation

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Elizabeth McCord was not her calm, assured self on Madam Secretary Season 1 Episode 17 as she tried to cope with her guilt after the events from the failed Iranian coup. 

PTSD is something very real that many of our men and women in the military and their families have to deal with every day. We don't often think about how other individuals deal with trauma. I'm glad that Madam Secretary didn't gloss over what Elizabeth experienced on Madam Secretary Season 1 Episode 16 and instead put it front and center. 

Elizabeth displayed many of the classic symptoms of PTSD from a short-fuse, inability to sleep, hyper-vigilance and more. She had multiple flashbacks, especially involving Javani's death and Abdul witnessing it. She was dealing with loads of guilt and didn't take kindly to being called a hero because she certainly didn't feel like one.

It was strange to see Elizabeth in such a state. Her responses were all very realistic, and it was clear that this was a woman who was struggling. Henry saw it but couldn't get her to open up. Deep down, she knew it too, but even a health scare wasn't enough to get her to talk.

I know. I'm all messed up. One minute I'm fine, then I'm furious, then I'm numb. The truth is I'm just not ready to talk about what happened yet.


Henry wanted her to take some time to heal and cope, but she couldn't do it, because of how it would be interpreted by the media, the general public (also known as voters) and the President himself. The sad part was they were both right. She needed time to sort through her emotions while she also couldn't be perceived as weak or unable to do her job.

It was interesting that the person who helped her finally get to a place where she could open up was Russell Jackson. They have such an interesting relationship. Allies but not exactly friends and occasionally enemies, he also knew what she was going through.

Elizabeth finally opened up to Henry and unburdened herself. She confessed the guilt she felt over members of her security detail dying to protect her and her deepest secret: her inability to protect Abdul from witnessing his father's murder or to comfort him afterwards.

We do all these horrible things to each another. And there are always - always - kids in the middle. Henry, what have I done to our sweet children?


She was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders and it's not only for her to bear, which she finally realized. She did her interview on Face the Nation without flashbacks or blanking out. She honored those killed by sharing what she saw. More importantly, she knew what needed to be done next. 

Our greatest responsibility as parents is to leave the world a safer and more peaceful world for our children.


Well said, Madam Secretary. 

Overall, I liked how they dedicated an episode to Elizabeth coming to terms with the events in Iran. Not much else happened, but the focus was rightly on Elizabeth. She is a warrior but even they need time to process trauma too. We didn't learn how Elizabeth responded to Juliet's request to come in, but I'm sure that will be revisited soon.

It did somewhat surprise me how obtuse Matt and Daisy were to Elizabeth's PTSD and how long it took them to recognize the signs. I absolutely understood the need to get Elizabeth front and center because the media had to be going crazy, and Elizabeth would be seen as a hero. The President, who was likely getting pounded in the press by his rivals, needed her front and center because she made him look good. 

I get all of that, but their constant cluelessness confuses and frustrates me. These are not entry-level positions they have and they often don't seem particularly good at their jobs.

Daisy wanted to refer to Elizabeth as being exhausted to explain her visit to the hospital. I'm not in PR and I even know exhaustion is the absolute wrong word to use. It fuels speculation, rather than quashing it. 

'Exhausted' is Washington code for complete mental freakout, you 12 year-olds.


Having her team be all sunshine and roses and always get along and be perfect is boring too. But having them seem inept to create tension, makes me question why she would keep them around. Hatchet Mike told her to fire them previously and he wasn't wrong.

The show may be built around Elizabeth McCord, but it is very much an ensemble. Her team, with the exception of really Nadine, still mostly exist to interact with her. They don't need to take center stage, but they need to become people we feel vested in and real.

What did you think of tonight's episode? Did you feel Elizabeth's response to the events in Iran ring true to you? Let me know what you think in the comments below. Don't forget you can watch Madam Secretary online via TV Fanatic and get caught up anytime you want. 

Note: Madam Secretary Season 1 Episode 18 airs on Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 8/7c.

Face the Nation Review

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Madam Secretary Season 1 Episode 17 Quotes

'Exhausted' is Washington code for complete mental freakout, you 12 year-olds.


I know. I'm all messed up. One minute I'm fine, then I'm furious, then I'm numb. The truth is I'm just not ready to talk about what happened yet.