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Home ‘Madam Secretary’ Season 5, Episdode 16 ‘The New Normal’ Recap: The Perfect Storm

‘Madam Secretary’ Season 5, Episdode 16 ‘The New Normal’ Recap: The Perfect Storm

BY David Riley

Published 4 years ago

'Madam Secretary' Season 5, Episdode 16 'The New Normal' Recap: The Perfect Storm

For something as raw and heartful as Madam Secretary, tonight’s episode brings up something controversial but executes it in style.

The issue of climate change has long been a divisive topic, especially within the political and religious sectors. This week’s episode, titled “The New Normal,” offers a glimpse into how legislation and prayers alone aren’t enough to solve the dangerous effects of global warming. Tonight, we see the scope of climate change threaten to erase the Pacific island of Nauru from existence. It’s something that Madam Secretary has tackled before, but only in passing. “The New Normal” takes the narrative further by putting it front and center, with the aspects of conservatism thrown into the mix as well.

For some goddamned reason, a series of typhoons form at the Pacific ocean, with one considered by NASA as a major threat to Nauru. If the inhabitants of the island don’t evacuate, the typhoon is going to drown them with the entire island following suit. Elizabeth (Téa Leoni) is given the task to evacuate an entire island nation to safety. Meanwhile, as the crisis grows into dangerous proportions, Henry (Tim Daly) must flex his religious scholar muscles to get a religious group to fund Elizabeth’s presidential campaign and take a stand about climate change.

The Calm Before the Storm

A group of NASA specialists flies right into Super Typhoon Blessing off the Central Pacific coast. The danger is growing by the minute, and it looks like it’s headed towards land. At the McCord household, Elizabeth frets over his brother, Will, for making a mess. But the house is already in mayhem, to begin with, what with Elizabeth and Henry rushing for a meeting and Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood) fretting over the looming threat of Typhoon Blessing.

Tracee Chimo Pallero, Patina, Miller, Geoffrey Arend, Erich Bergen, Sebastian Arcelus, and Téa Leoni in Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 16


Russell Jackson (Zeljko Ivanek) tells Stevie that Typhoon Blessing isn’t headed to land anymore, but is threatening to tread Nauru. This makes it a State Department issue. At the office, Elizabeth’s team brief her about the incoming threat to Nauru. Their only point person who’s easily accessible right now is David Akua (Tai Hara), a part-time consular official at the UN. As the tension rises, Nina (Tracee Chimo Pallero) and Blake (Erich Bergen) obsess over the news of Ashley Whittaker, a former goodwill ambassador, who’s now dating movie star Bryce Manley. It’s weird how this is major news to Blake and Nina, and Jay (Sebastian Arcelus) also doesn’t see the point of it.

Just as Elizabeth begins to lay out her plans to save the people of Nauru, NASA Administrator Glenn drops by for a surprise meeting and tells Elizabeth that Nauru is along the Typhoon’s path and is in danger of being obliterated. The people of Nauru have to leave the island before the Typhoon hits them full-on. Later, Jay and Blake tell Elizabeth that the President of Nauru and 19 members of his parliament have all died from the Typhoon’s effects. This leaves a clueless David in charge of the small island nation.

The Storm’s Crossfire

David heads over to Elizabeth’s office and is briefed by the Secretary about the nation’s situation. Elizabeth also tells David that he is the new president and that they have to leave the island lest they all die. David refuses, saying that it’s been their home for three thousand years. If anything, it’s the US who’s to blame because of their carbon emissions, prompting super typhoons like these to threaten their land. He leaves for Nauru to oversee the disaster operations.

That night, Elizabeth pours her frustrations out to Henry while looking for their emergency chocolate stash. David doesn’t deserve to suddenly bear his nation’s problems at a young age. But they also need to find a new place for the Nauruans.

Tracee Chimo Pallero and Téa Leoni in Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 16


The next day, Blake offers a solution to evacuate the Nauruan people. The problem is, they’d have to be broken up to live in Fiji, Tuvalu, and New Guinea. Of course, David won’t allow his people to be scattered like this. Jay then directs everyone to look for better solutions to help convince David to evacuate and find a new place where the Nauruans can stay together.

But just as things get even more stressful, Daisy (Patina Miller) alerts the team about a new typhoon—and it’s headed to Nauru fast. Blake and Nina use the gossip card as their possible way out. It turns out that Bryce Manley, the movie star who’s dating Ashley Whittaker, owns a large island enough to accommodate the entire island nation of Nauru. Bryce also happens to be entangled with the IRS over a tax-related impropriety, so Blake sees this as an opportunity to broker a deal between Manley and the State Department. It’s a long shot, but it’s worth taking.

The Deal

Elizabeth sets up a video conference with David to check up on the happenings at Nauru. It’s a full-scale disaster. The typhoon appears to grow stronger by the minute, and this seems to convince David about the need for them to evacuate. He has one problem, though—the people of Nauru wants to protect the sacredness of their religious temples. Elizabeth offers to move the temples with the people if David can convince them to evacuate.

Later, Matt (Geoffrey Arend) and Daisy meet with Manley and his lawyer about the possibility for him to donate his island to Nauru in exchange for the State Department leaning on IRS to forgive his debts. After a small argument with his lawyer, Manley agrees to donate the island. But there’s another catch—aside from having the IRS to acquit him, the State Department also has to nominate Manley for a Nobel Peace Prize for his act of providing a new home for the Nauruans. Elizabeth scoffs at the idea, but it’s the only way to have a secure place for the Nauruans. Besides, the IRS deal also seems to point to a resounding yes.

Meanwhile, in an effort to take responsibility for the US’ actions of pollution, Elizabeth brings Russell and President Conrad Dalton (Keith Carradine) an appropriations bill to pay for other countries to deal with climate change. It’s the only way to bring the resiliency fund off the ground. Russell thinks Congress won’t approve it. Because of this, Dalton refuses to lend his support.

Climate Change and the Religious Right

Henry and Elizabeth meet with Mike B (Kevin Rahm) for breakfast. He has arranged a speaking slot for Henry during a Christian conference with Pastor Eli Bragg (Jim True-Frost), one of the leaders of the largest megachurches in America (and also a well-known conservative). Mike is hoping that Henry’s religious prowess will be enough to impress Bragg and have his church become Elizabeth’s campaign donor. It’s already looking to be a tricky situation since both Henry and Elizabeth are not that into organized religion.

Later, Russell arranges a meeting for Henry to meet Bragg and his daughter, Ruby (Lilli Kay). Their conversation turns a bit sour when Bragg brings up the topic of God having his hand on the typhoon situation. An annoyed Henry tries to counter Bragg, but Russell reverts it back to the topic at hand. Bragg’s upcoming conference would like to have Henry over as an olive branch situation to appease their political tension. Henry is free to speak about any topic sans the controversial issues. Henry then suggests speaking about poverty and what it meant in the life of Jesus.

Tim Daly and Lilli Kay in  Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 16


That night, on their way to the conference, Elizabeth tells Henry about the various dead ends that they’ve been encountering regarding the whole fiasco with Nauru. Henry decides to help by speaking about climate change instead of poverty. The crowd gasps, but Ruby is oddly impressed with Henry’s thoughts. Bragg, on the other hand, is visibly bothered but proceeds to introduce Elizabeth to a couple of his colleagues.

After the conference, Elizabeth and Henry arrive home to see Mike B angrily waiting for them. Elizabeth thought that Bragg’s gesture of introducing her to his friends meant that he was sealing the donation. But it turns out that Bragg balked and pledged to donate to another candidate from Iowa. Mike is furious and quits right then and there. A heated shouting match ensues, with Mike walking out and calling Elizabeth’s campaign a failure before it even starts.

Later, Blake calls Elizabeth to tell her that the typhoon is indeed heading towards Nauru. With all the stressful events of the day, Elizabeth thinks that Mike might be right about her. He’s always been a good judge of character, and what he’s saying might also be true in her case.

The next day, Henry meets with Ruby to task her if she can speak about climate change. Henry sees the doubt in her, and that the activist in Ruby has to take a stand for those who are displaced and affected by massive typhoons. Ruby is iffy, but Henry knows that she’s going to do what’s right.

The Common Ground

Liz returns to Russell and Dalton to tell them that Ruby is willing to back Elizabeth’s new resolution. This piques Dalton’s interest and finally expresses his support. Their meeting is interrupted by an urgent call from Blake—the typhoon is set to make its landfall on Nauru in less than four hours.

Elizabeth calls David again, who’s now visibly frantic and unsure of what to do. But just as Elizabeth tells him to evacuate, the line is cut. Thankfully, the State Department team gets word that the Nauruans made it out safely, with only a few people who stayed behind.

Later, Elizabeth heads over to Mike’s place to apologize. That’s when she discovers that Mike’s angry demeanor is because of his dog, Gordon, on the verge of death. Elizabeth offers her comfort as they remember fond memories of Mike and his dog. “You know how Truman said that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” Mike says. “I did.” Elizabeth then assures Mike that she will always be his friend.

The episode ends with Ruby going on live TV to say that she believes in the threat of climate change, despite her father’s belief of it being political propaganda. Meanwhile, Congress votes for Elizabeth’s resolution to pass. At the State Department, Blake shows his team the previous location of Nauru. The island is no more. But with a massive loss comes a massive gain—David leads his people into their new island and hoists the Nauruan flag.

‘Madam Secretary: The New Normal’ Overall Verdict

Nothing can be as real as climate change. This is something that “The New Normal” executes beautifully. Tonight’s episode exceeds in many ways—it has fantastic dialogue, an emotional touch, but overall, a heart. Madam Secretary has always been a show that’s human enough to show us how life in the White House and State Department goes. It might not be as realistic as today’s current political climate, but it sure does offer a good escape for us to hope for a better government.

Madam Secretary continues next Sunday, March 24th, with “The Common Defense” at 10/9c on CBS.

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