Madam Secretary Season 4 Episode 14 Review: Refuge

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You can't make these kind of atrocities up.

Sadly, Madam Secretary Season 4 Episode 14 is based pretty strongly in fact. Names and locations were changed to prevent international incident, but honestly, it was barely disguised.

Kat and Jay - Madam Secretary

The production team really did their research on Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov when they created Nuri Lakoba. The wardrobe team even flat out copied his hideous camo sweatsuit. 

Hell, the only thing they could have done to make the allusion clearer would have been to have a "Missing Cat" poster in the background. 

I guess that would have been a little difficult to fit into the SVTCs window. 

Related: Get HBO via Amazon Channels for Addictive Dramas, Hilarious Comedies, & Hit Movies!

Kadyrov even actually said "We don't have any gays," so the writers didn't even have to make that up. I'm surprised they didn't use actual footage of survivors; it's certainly available and would have been even more impactful.

Of course, not even a fictional TV show could plausibly explain why our country wouldn't help these refugees or why sanctions against such a tyrant would take so long to enact.

If only the real world moved at Elizabeth McCord's pace. 

You know that LGBTQ-friendly NGO, Rainbow Georgia, that you worked with? One of their employees gave us up. Why? He hates Kurds. You see, being righteous in one area doesn't mean that you are righteous in all areas.


There have been a few episodes now that were clearly inspired by issues important to the cast. The Matt-centric Madam Secretary Season 3 Episode 6 is still the best example of this, but Sara Ramirez did a great job here as well. 

Obviously anytime an actor can draw from personal experience it helps their performance, but the beauty of Ramirez's scene with Sebastian Arcelus was the simple realness of it.

She didn't overplay her reactions, and walked the delicate line between opening up to a new coworker about mundane details about your life and being forced into playing ambassador of Queer-ness.

I'm bisexual. Uh, you can also say pansexual or, uh, fluid or non-monosexual, but uh... . Yeah, I'm queer.


It was mildly frustrating to have to watch Jay say things like "I'm going to just keep talking," but he was clearly the surrogate for the audience, so I guess we'll forgive him.

I just loved the little touches Ramirez brought to this scene -- getting up to close the door, specifying that Kat only speaks for Kat, and not using gendered pronouns for her child. They really elevated her performance.

Having Jay and Kat bond over how having kids changed them could be seen as trite, but I think it worked here. Again, with Jay as the surrogate for the audience, it may have helped open peoples minds a little wider. 

Related: The 100: Clarke Griffin's Positive Bisexual Representation

Henry's retirement seems to be going just fine for everyone. Personally, I could have skipped the commendation scene altogether. 

It was nice that he honored his whole team, but they skipped the most interesting part of CIA honors, which is how they take away your medal.

But having him at home, tackling projects and doing his best at being cool dad was great. Really, I think a 50/50 split of house husband and boring War College professor who never brings work home really works for the show. 

Henry: They want to give me a commendation for some reason.
Elizabeth: Like, because you deserve it?
Henry: Yeah, or they know I was driven to quit by political BS. They didn't back me up, and now they want to make themselves feel better.
Elizabeth: Yeah, no. The CIA doesn't really do regret.

Dear God Almighty, but I actually found myself sympathizing with Jason.

Okay, yeah, freaking out about getting a perfect PSAT score is sort of the epitome of privilege, but the kid's anxiety about deciding his future is super relatable. Even if you're a grown up.

I actually wanted more time for the scene where Henry reassures the kid that he has time and that the only expectations on him are to be happy with his choices. Would explaining that college is the perfect time to find your path have been so hard?

Will: I get it. You can't talk to your parents about everything, and it's embarrassing to buy them yourself. [slaps a ziploc of condoms on the table]
Jason: No, no, no, no, that's...
Will: No, it's okay, I got 'em from the clinic. Should see you through the month. There's a big jump in STDs in your age group. Syphilis is back!

And then there was the scene visiting Uncle Will. Maybe it's because my own mother took a similar, if less sex positive, approach to sex ed, but I was cracking up.

But again, I would have loved to have had that scene expanded and had Will really explain the complexities of his decision to move back stateside. 

In a world where we talk so much about rape culture and masculine toxicity, Jason's romantic notions are touching and sweet. But tying your future to a romantic partner at such a young age isn't exactly the healthiest approach to life. 

Woah, dude. You're acting like I'm using trivia to fill some void or distract myself from feeling a little stalled out lately because my love life is nonexistent and sometimes the loneliness in my apartment feels like a prison.


As for other character's romantic sensibilities, why on Earth is Blake trying to set Matt up with Captain Ronnie? Is Blake not on #TeamMaisy? Jay really needs to start rallying support for his bro.

I'm even more upset that Matt would be considering this date with poor Ronnie when he just had the realization that he's in love with his coworker. Really, being on the same trivia team is the least awkward thing about him asking her out.

I also just don't like the weird symmetry of Matt dating Ronnie after Daisy dated Oliver. It's either lazy writing to have them date people from the same office or just creepy AF. 

Blake: Stop. Captain Ronnie Baker, from CYBERCOM?
Matt: Okay, to be clear, she is not the captain of The Bill of Right Answers. That would be me.

It looks like the staff will be taking a backseat again on Madam Secretary Season 4 Episode 15 ("The Unnamed"). Elizabeth will be preoccupied with finding out of the winner of humanitarian award is covering up ethnic persecution in his country.

Best guess for real world correlation: Aung San Suu Kyi (leader of Myanmar and Nobel Peace Prize winner) and the Rohingya crisis. It's timely and controversial, the kind of topic Madam Secretary's writers love to highlight. 

Of course, one crisis is never enough. Dalton will be resisting a return to office, finding himself unable to trust the assessment of his doctors. 

Henry: No gays in Abkhazia?
Elizabeth: It's sick. The guy could have passed a polygraph, his hate was that true. [pours wine] You know what I hate?
Henry: His hair.
Elizabeth: His hair!

Personally, a president who is overly cautious about his mental fitness sounds like a tantalizing dream right now. 

As if Elizabeth didn't have enough fires to put out (you just know she'll be the one who has to convince Dalton to come back), her sister-in-law stops by for a visit. 

It's a good think Henry quit his super-secret job. It looks like he and Allison take his sister on a tourist blitz before she drops some kind of emotional bombshell on him in the middle of a museum gift shop. 

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What did you think of "Refuge?" Did Kat and Jay make the right move?  What would you name your trivia team? How long before Henry goes completely stir crazy? 

We want to hear your thoughts! Join the conversation in the comments section below to sound off!

And remember, you can catch up on past Madam Secretary reviews anytime, or watch Madam Secretary online.

Refuge Review

Editor Rating: 4.3 / 5.0
  • 4.3 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0 (10 Votes)

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

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Madam Secretary Season 4 Episode 14 Quotes

Henry: Shouldn't you be packing for this conference thing?
Elizabeth: No, come on. It's more fun just hanging out with you, drinking wine, and complaining.

Henry: No gays in Abkhazia?
Elizabeth: It's sick. The guy could have passed a polygraph, his hate was that true. [pours wine] You know what I hate?
Henry: His hair.
Elizabeth: His hair!