Did you hear that Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord is a murderer?
She’s not (of course!), but the truth doesn’t matter much when a fake news story starts making the rounds in Madam Secretary‘s Season 4 premiere. Not helping matters: Someone does die mysteriously during a closed-door meeting with Elizabeth… but it’s not her fault!
Read on for the highlights of “News Cycle.”
DEAD DROP | Elizabeth attends the United Nations General Assembly, even though doing so means she’s missing helping Allison move into her dorm room for her first year of college. At least Stevie will be there, as Russell’s intern, as will the Chief of Staff himself, President Dalton and Elizabeth’s brother Will.
Once she arrives, Elizabeth brushes off the assistant vice minister of Timor-Leste, who’s clamoring for a meeting with her. But when China pulls out of a free speech resolution… and China just happens to be in the middle of a maritime dispute with Timor-Leste, Elizabeth sees the wisdom of meeting with the assistant vice minister — if only to tick off China.
But once the man and Elizabeth are alone in a room, he has a sip of water — then keels over and dies right in front of her. As he lands, he smashes his face; his blood gets all over Elizabeth’s clothes as she hurries close and calls for help. Things get weirder when she talks with the president of Timor-Leste, who was unaware of her meeting with his dignitary. And then he decides to have the man’s body shipped back to their home country before an autopsy can be performed, which is also suspicious.
THANKS, WILL! | Elizabeth steals away for a quick hello with Will, but she needs something from him: She hands him her bloody blouse, asking him (a doctor) to have it tested to see if there was anything weird in the man’s blood. Will balks but eventually agrees, then teases her about her guilt over Alli’s move-in day. That’s when she reveals that because their parents died when she was a teenager, she had to move herself into school, and that’s why she went out of her way to make sure she was there to help Will relocate to his college… except he can’t even remember her being there. Rude!
Anyway, Will’s tests later come back saying that the dead man was poisoned, and Elizabeth and her team deduce that it was because he was about to blow the whistle on his government’s shady sale of some atolls to an anonymous buyer. Elizabeth & Co. at first think the buyer was China but after some sleuthing, they realize that Timor-Leste’s president (and the whole country, really) is under the control of a Mexican drug cartel that bought the atolls to use as a shipping base. So Elizabeth subtly strongarms China into helping out, and eventually the cartel’s leader is arrested: an important first step.
YOU CAN’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ | Happy ending, right? Nope. Because the cartel also planted a fake news story about Elizabeth killing the assistant vice minister, and enough people in the United States believe it that it starts to become a thing. Elizabeth finds out when she steals away to Alli’s school for a quick lunch with her daughter and Henry, but soon becomes the focus of everyone with a smart phone and a Twitter account.
The crackpot story’s signal gets amplified when Elizabeth goes on a news talk show and the host (who’s kind of a jerk, anyway) plays a soundbite of Sen. Carlos Morejon promising to investigate whether the claims against the Secretary of State have any merit and, if they do, holding her fully accountable. Elizabeth takes the show’s host to task on air — “Really, you ought to know better” — and Russell is apoplectic that she’s made the story even bigger than it was before.
Eventually, the fervor dies down, and Elizabeth has a passing hello with Chief Justice Wilbourne on her way to confront Morejon as he eats breakfast in a restaurant. But the senator refuses to back down. “Twelve percent of the American population thinks you’re a murderer, Madam Secretary,” he smarms on his way out. “I can work with that.”
DMITRI’S DOWNFALL? | In other news, Dmitri is now working for the Central Intelligence Agency, mainly because Henry vouches for him. But what Henry doesn’t know: Dmitri is addicted to painkillers, and it’s bad.
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