Madam Secretary Season 3 Episode 4 Review: The Dissent Memo

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Sometimes you've got to play dirty if you want to win at ten dimensional chess.

I'm just hoping that Elizabeth's outside the box thinking on Madam Secretary Season 3 Episode 4 doesn't come back to bite her in the ass.

I'm pretty sure she's in the clear, but you never know what's going to look like favor trading to the press. At least she managed to help the people of Angola.

Things aren't looking as good for the team at Black Dog Station though. A time sensitive situation may have forced them to make a fatal error by moving too quickly. 

Getting On the Ballot - Madam Secretary

Cross promotional hype is almost always lame, but by attempting to pimp CBS Sports and the NFL, Madam Secretary may have hit a new low. I know this wasn't anybody on the writing teams idea, and that it was almost positively a mandate handed down from corporate to the producers. But man, did they fumble that ball.

Having now exhausted my football metaphors, let me be more clear. Everything about the "football diplomacy" felt forced. There was one shining light, and that was Henry's cute one liner about the Browns. I didn't understand what he said, but it was cute.

Everything else was garbage. Unnecessary garbage.

For one thing, a big part of why I hate dislike football is because it regularly preempts or delays scripted television. Football is why Madame Secretary is scheduled to tape for 90 minutes on my DVR. And it's not like the NFL even has the redeeming factor of marching bands!

Also, appealing for a change in election law by doing a Browns pregame show? Ohio has four major cities that share six major league sports teams. The better move would have been doing a pregame on the BTN for the Ohio State University. Pretty sure everyone gets behind the Buckeyes...and they have an awesome marching band.

Henry: Are you kidding me? Who wrote these talking points? The Browns have got way bigger problems than finding a go-to receiver on third down.
Elizabeth: Can I just say how adorable it is that *this* is the most opinionated you've been about my job?

Failed attempts at corporate synergy aside, there actually was some pretty strong plot to "The Dissent Memo." Okay, so, yes, the end was wrapped up a little too neatly due to the convenient meeting of the tech bro in the first act, but the writers get a pass on that based on the DC nerd cred points they racked up by utilizing the concept of a dissent memo in the first place.

Elizabeth's storyline with the Angola elections was pretty cut and dry, easily tied up with a neat little bow. Unfortunately all of Elizabeth's witticisms about the situation took screen time away from Henry's arc with Black Dog Station.

The laundering of antiquities to fund terrorism doesn't sound all that complicated on paper, but I could have used more explanations about what was going on with that French archeologist. I love the idea of this arc, but it really needs to be slowed down some so the audience can connect all the dots more easily. Henry and Jose sitting in the basement of the Pentagon just doesn't cut it.

So,all we have to do is find an agent who looks like this archaeologist, who speaks perfect French, and then somehow convince these extremists to that they should violate their religion and meet her face-to-face so she can set up the op. But, yeah, once we do all that, it's like you said, "Boom."

Henry [to Jose]

At least Stevie's finally figured out why getting married at the end of Madame Secretary Season 2 would have been a terrible idea. I'm a little confused why Elizabeth and Henry both keep emphasizing the marriage thing to her though. Jareth may be a nice kid, but does anybody really think that they're anywhere close to being ready to decide to get married?

Of course, I don't have kids, let alone ones old enough to be contemplating marriage, so maybe this is still some reverse psychology parental voodoo. But maybe they should point out that if you don't know that his mother has a title, maybe you don't know each other well enough to bind your troth to each other. 

OF course, based on the looks on the dear couples faces as they rode off on that non-DC  bus, marriage may be a null problem anyway. 

Why would anyone pour the milk before the tea?! It doesn't make any sense, you can't tell how strong it is. I looked it up. George Orwell is with me on this.

Stevie [to Jareth]

One thing that's been missing of late is Nadine. Sure, she's been there, but she hasn't gotten to steal any scenes lately. I want to know what's happening with her and her kid, with Matt staying at her place, if she has a new boyfriend. Basically, Bebe Neuwirth is a treasure and we deserve more of her. 

At least Russell has stayed prominently in the picture, and hasn't lost any of his biting wit. Actually, I revise my previous wish and amend it to this: more Russell/Nadine scenes please.

It just seems as if the support staff at the state department has taken a backseat so far this season, and they're a good part of why I fell for Madame Secretary. It'd be nice to get them some real stories again and not just quippy lines, funny as they may be. 

Elizabeth: Marcia Forman is having a field day with this dissent memo.
Blake: Marcia Forman is an unhappy woman desperately trying to make herself relevant.
Matt: Aren't we all?

Alas, the McCord family stalker returns on Madam Secretary Season 3 Episode 5 ("The French Revolution"), but it's unclear if that will be the final resolution to the arc or not. The promos would have us believe that the suspect is apprehended only to be let go by Henry and Elizabeth, but the press release I received only mentions an important lead. Honestly, I see this being drawn out through November.

While the stalker case goes on (and on and on), Elizabeth is planning a state dinner for the French, who I imagine to be the second most intimidating dinner to host, losing only to the QEII. Of course Henry's unsanctioned op on French soil is going to make her job more difficult, because Elizabeth can never catch a break. 

Remember, if an NFL game runs long and screws up your DVR recording, you can always watch Madam Secretary online. We've all been there. Come and vent your frustrations about that (or the lack of Nadine) in the comments section once you're all caught up!

The Dissent Memo Review

Editor Rating: 3.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 (53 Votes)

Elizabeth Harlow was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She left the organization in October 2018.

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Madam Secretary Season 3 Episode 4 Quotes

Matt [proposing possible sanctions]: Agricultural imports. I mean, they get a ton of poultry and grain from us.
Daisy: Not sure how American farmers are going to feel about that.
Blake: Not as bad as the Angolans if we cut off their food supply.

I'm sensing an Eeyore footnote.