Sometimes you just have to get back to basics.
Madam Secretary Season 3 Episode 12 returned to the shows roots by paring down to just two stories, one of which saw the State Department team take a trip to Africa. Henry and Elizabeth both got to do what they do best, with little outside distractions. It was pure bliss.
Elizabeth's mission had pretty low stakes, no matter what Daisy thought. Nobody other than the foreign affairs committee and policy wonks were going to care about the success of that trip. Voters just really don't care about wind farms in Nigeria, even if the Chinese snake the project.
That doesn't make Elizabeth's maneuverings any less impressive. And sometimes getting a win for yourself and your ideals is more important than getting one for the crowd.
Besides it was nice to not have any life or death matters hanging over the teams head for once. It's nice to be reminded that even the less vital missions are taken seriously by those in power.
Daisy: This trip is coming off the rails, Susan, just like I said it would.
Susan: Okay, so a trip to Africa turned out to be complicated. Congratulations, Nostradamus.
I do think there was a missed opportunity for some communication from Russell though. It would have added just a touch of urgency to the problem solving, or given some kind of outside perspective.
At least Nadine and Matt got to get involved by smack talking the DoD. Their scenes were nothing but comic relief and could have easily been replaced with a line or two of dialogue amongst those in Africa, but then we wouldn't have had and Nadine or Matt. That would have been a tragedy.
I really enjoyed the scene where Susan took Daisy to the slave fort. It really played into the theme of ideals vs interests in a subtle way.
Spare me your idealism. More importantly, spare Africa. I lived through the Cultural Revolution. My father was not so lucky. Idealism kills. Mutual interests save lives.Minister Chen [to Elizabeth]
That theme is one I feel like this show could continue to explore for the rest of the season. It has always examined the dichotomy to a certain degree, but speaking it aloud gives it more power.
Henry's investigation also hit on this -- was Mayfield's supplying the Illinois bomber because of his ideals or because both he and ISIS want to destroy the world. Henry's theological knowledge showed us that it's complicated, which is an answer a liberal arts professor would love.
As unrealistic as it may be, I have to say that I love how the writers are tying the more recent bombing and the ISIS/HS cases to Henry's past work. It makes me wonder just how far out they plot this stuff.
Henry: Thanks for looking at us instead of your phones.
Allison: Thanks for being interesting.
Another thing that was great about "The Detour" is that the kids weren't overly featured. They were there just enough to be entertaining without being whiny or bizarrely involved. Although if Stevie absolutely must have a White House internship, I'd like to see her tackle the moral quandary posed by Elizabeth and Minister Chen.
Jay hasn't been featured as prominently this season, but all of that's about to change. Madam Secretary Season 3 Episode 13 ("The Beautiful Game") will show us some of the impact his work has on his home life. While it's rough that his marriage is on the rocks, I'm glad the policy nerd will get some air time.
He'll be in the doghouse over his devotion to the Iran/Israel peace deal, which is going to fall to pieces after a Rabbi organizing a soccer game is killed. If you didn't see that conflict coming back to haunt Elizabeth and her team, you weren't paying attention. Wonder if that mysterious bomb has anything to do with the Rabbi's demise?
And if all that wasn't enough, of course it's the perfect time for the Nobel Prize committee to send somebody to determine if Elizabeth is a good candidate for the peace prize! Hijinks, I'm sure, will ensue.
Nadine: Why can't these people speak English?
Matt: 'Cause then we could understand what they're saying.
Nadine: I hate the Pentagon so much.
If you missed out because your college/professional basketball/football/hockey team had a game, or if you happening to get snowed in, or if you just want to binge the whole season, no worries! You can watch Madam Secretary online with us here at TV Fanatic.
Then you can prove your Fanaticism by joining the conversation in the comments section. Did you like the pared down ep, or do you prefer the tangled mess of individual stories for all? What's your opinion on Idealism v Interests? We want to know!
Elizabeth Harlow is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.