Madam Secretary Recap Season 3 Premiere

Madam Secretary Season 3 Premiere Recap: To Veep or Not to Veep?

Coming off of a big Season 2 cliffhanger, will Madam Secretary have to retool its title sequence and call itself Madam Vice President for the rest of the season? The CBS drama’s Season 3 premiere answers that question — and quickly — but not in the way you might expect.

In a moment, we’ll want to hear what you thought of the hour. But first, read on for the highlights of “Sea Change.”

WELL, THAT WAS FAST | When we pick up with the Dalton campaign, the president, Elizabeth, Russell and a few others are watching the returns roll in on the night of one of the primary elections. It’s a very tight race… and then Dalton loses. To make matters worse, this means that he’s going to lose his party’s nomination, something that has only happened one other time (Franklin Pierce) in American history. As a dejected Dalton slinks off, Russell angrily turns to Elizabeth and spits, “This is all your fault.”

Then we flash back to two months earlier. In this timeline, Elizabeth has privately accepted Dalton’s offer to be his running mate in the upcoming election, but that news won’t be made public until after the convention. (Side note: I’m no presidential scholar, but aren’t the VP picks usually public knowledge before the party conventions?) So she’s not-really-campaigning-but-kinda-campaigning for the Dalton ticket at places like the Virginia State Fair. (Another side note: of all the fried foods you can grab at a state fair, Bess, fried gelatin balls? I would eat a section of rubber garden hose if it were dipped in batter and took a swim in some hot oil, but even I think fried gelatin balls sound disgusting.)

Long story short, even though Henry’s not psyched about having to cut back on work and such, all of the McCords are united behind Elizabeth’s desire to be vice president.

Then, a big storm hits Bahrain.

WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS | The meteorological event is significant because a) it kills an ensign at the U.S. naval base there, and b) it highlights that the administration/party’s unwillingness to officially recognize a climate change crisis means that all of the fat cats with have sweet, no-bid contracts to work on the bases have zero incentive to raise those bases in order to keep up with rising sea levels.

Once Elizabeth becomes aware of this situation, she presses Dalton to do something about it. But he has zero interest in changing the status quo — and ticking off some of his biggest donors, who happen to have a few of those no-bid contracts — so he lays into his potential VP. “What good is bold idealism if it all but guarantees the loss of a second term?” he angrily asks her. “I’m talking about doing what’s right,” she counters. His response? “And I’m talking about winning.”

Madam Secretary Recap Season 3 PremiereTHINKING OUTSIDE THE BALLOT BOX | But of course, Elizabeth’s ideas have a way of taking root, and when Dalton’s opponent accuses him of being soft on defense during a televised debate, he goes off book and brings up how global warming, though not officially acknowledged by the administration, is putting an insane amount of people in danger every day, yet no one wants to do anything about it. So he vows to change things, likening his move to when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — against the will of his own party — because it was the right thing to do.

Soon after the debate, Dalton’s biggest contributor switches his support to Evans, aka the other candidate. And when we flash forward to the present once more, it’s a defeated Dalton whose focus has shifted to his remaining seven months in office. But when Evans asks Elizabeth to consider staying on as secretary of state for his administration, she runs to Dalton with an idea: “Don’t endorse Evans. Run as an independent.”

It’s a crazy idea, but one that just might work. Dalton is very popular with certain factions. If he can secure a popular Pennsylvania senator as his running mate — sorry, Bess, but you’re off the ticket — it will help his cause. And he doesn’t necessarily have to win the popular vote: If none of the candidates get to 270 electoral votes, the election will be decided by the House of Representatives… and Russell thinks the house might choose Dalton.

Plus, with his “‘dismantling the world as we know it’ platform,” Dalton will need a strong and experienced MadSec on his team. Bottom line: Elizabeth isn’t going anywhere!

THE KIDS AREN’T ALL RIGHT | In other, more troubling news: The McCords learn that someone has hacked Jason’s computer, accessing the web cam various times… and then some guys with a van and a baseball bat attack Henry to get the computer back. Even worse: Elizabeth and Henry later receive a ton of photographs that indicate that someone has been stalking their kids.

Now it’s your turn. Grade the premiere via the poll below, then elaborate on your choice in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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21 Comments
  1. Caitlin Allyssa Lopez says:

    As viewers who love this show and watch very religiously, my mother and I were both in shock at all the twists and turns in this episode especially with Elizabeth telling Conrad that he should run as an Independent and Elizabeth even convincing Russell to come on board and support Conrad and the decision to run as an Independent. But what shocked me was when Henry and Elizabeth realized that Stevie, Alison, and Jason were being stalked.

  2. I was hoping that Dimitris’s storyline would continue

    • Gwen Loomis says:

      I read somewhere that Dimitri will be back, but I don’t know when.

      • Sen says:

        Agree. Dimitri’s character will certainly have a role coming up. Although the prisoner’s swap is a so called inexplicable, it was a sensible thing to do. Not every decision from the administrations can be made public anyway, but that does not mean there was no sound reasoning – and so was Dimitri’s – I would think….

  3. ejdax37 says:

    Is it just me or was there some acrobatic back bending not to say Republican or Democrat in this episode? I found an article that said they were trying from the beginning not to use those titles just to try and keep in a equal footing, but I did feel it slide a little into the silly territory in this ep not to say it. Loved the episode though, knew she would be VP they would have to change the name, LOL.

    • Jim says:

      Yeah, but if you think about it they have to be Republicans. The opponent who beat him in the primary was more war hawkish and anti-science and the opposing party was said to be looking to slash the defense budget completely and be isolationist. So they’re moderate Republicans fighting off tea partiers and Democrats. As for this whole ridiculously contrived electoral scenario of running as a third party candidate, it’s very unrealistic and it would never work. For one thing it would spend all of Dalton’s political capital making everyone from both parties completely unwilling to work with him on anything, removing his ability to govern for the rest of his term. Both parties would have a vested interest in making him look as bad as possible. Hard to convince people you can do the job well when you already have it and they can see you can’t do it. I appreciate the writers want to give us something different than a normal election narrative in a year when we’re all so very weary of all this already, but this show is usually pretty smart and has never insulted our intelligence before. Until now.

      • Sarah says:

        The climate change denial put them squarely in the Republican camp, which was strange because they’ve always previously come off more Democrat to me. I know Bess always declares she’s non-partisan while acting like a Republican’s worst nightmare, but even Dalton and Russell have generally seemed to have moderate-liberal opinions and policies. And I may just be mistaken, but I never got the impression Dalton was at all unpopular either – everything about this episode just seemed a little… off.

  4. Susan Anderson says:

    About time we got more focus on the real dangers of real climate change/global warming. This was an excellent effort, well dramatized and explained, and I look forward to more.

  5. Still love this show but sometimes it veers in the general direction of fantasy (think Scandal). Made I should start watching Veep.

  6. This is the most awsome show on TV at this time. Please keepNo matter what happens. Dont take it off.
    it.

  7. poohbah says:

    Elizabeth’s speech about climate change andUS foreign policy in the Persian Gulf area is the kind of speeche we should be hearing in this election. Foreign policy and a critical analysis of the repeated failures of US policy in the Middle East is never mentioned and real discussion about climate change and the security issues surrounding t it continue to be ignored.

  8. BM says:

    I love this show to pieces but I don’t like that they have a tendency to do things which aren’t relevant. Why was Bess acting President in last season’s premiere? The story could have been told without it and it was never relevant throughout the season. Same this time around. Why was it relevant for Dalton to ask Bess to be his VP? I get that they didn’t want to go there cause the show is called Madam Secretary. However, why do it if they don’t make it relevant to the story? And I have to admit, it also feels a bit like, “yeah, she was asked but naw, it’s not going to happen, cause it’s a boy’s club after all”.

    I am curious to see where they are going and where they are going with the characters. Now that they’ve nixed Bess’ chances of going “up” in the world, I’m wondering how they can keep up the pace and character growth. Where can the characters go from there? And right now it feels like Henry has more possibilities than Bess – and that is not good for a show that is supposed to have a female lead.

    And I think it’s a bit unfortunate that they’re making the characters go through and election season when there’s this election circus going on right now. I kind of hoped that they’d losely follow the timeline and have the election over sooner rather than later. After all this drama, I’m not sure I need the fictional drama.

  9. Bob Earnhardt says:

    I love this show and “wasn’t thinking out of the box when it started.” Also, quite refreshing to see a candidate and his team doing what’s right rather than appeal to the politics involved. Wanted Beth to stay Madam Secretary since that is where she could have the most impact. Look forward to a campaign focused not on how much money you made or how loud you can yell but one that serves the greater good of the people who make this country strong, ie the “little” people! This show will represent what can happen if the administration does the right thing. As usual, Ms. Leoni can and will deliver with the support of her staff and leadership.

  10. ninamags says:

    Isn’t fried Jello a thing at this years Texas state fair?

    I think it is.

  11. Well played President Sex Stud Dalton. Going to enjoy this season

  12. I found the switching of the military base from Bahrain to Tunisia to be rather silly. The base in Bahrain is predominantly to protect the shipping route in the Persian gulf, but Tunisia is in the Mediterranean and nowhere near the Persian gulf. If a ship wanted to patrol the Persian gulf, it would have to go through the Suez (or around the whole of Africa) through the Red sea, around the Arabian Peninsula until finally reaching the Persian gulf. Djibouti or Kenya might even have worked, but clearly not Tunisia.

  13. Eileen Moriarty says:

    Wish I had seen it but Direct TV was out for the entire show
    Really like this series!

  14. Mary Patterson says:

    What a great show. Enjoyed the twists and turns. I’m looking forward to Season 3 and what the writers have planned for us.

  15. Mirn says:

    I love the show but disliked this episode. I sense they patched together a new plot line at the last minute. A lot that was out of character and unrealistic. I hope it doesn’t bode ill for Season 3.

  16. For some reason, the episode was not broadcast on time, and so my DVR did not catch it; and nor did I.

  17. Tim Sacco says:

    “If he can secure a popular Pennsylvania senator as his running mate — sorry, Bess, but you’re off the ticket — it will help his cause.” Um, but it was Bess who suggested the popular Pennsylvania senator, then pressed Dalton when he resisted!