Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 9 Review: Winter Garden

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When you're dealing with international crises day in and day out, you have to take your victories where you can get them.

Elizabeth might not have gotten Serbia and Kosovo to put aside their differences for long enough to join NATO, but she certainly helped them take some crucial steps forward.

The fragility of peace was demonstrated during Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 9 in which a piece of fake news almost led to war, but it also provided some badly-needed hope by having the two warring countries get their children together to cultivate a garden.

(TALL) Elizabeth's Presentation - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 9

The situation in the Balkans offered some fascinating parallels to what's been going on in America since the 2016 Presidential election.

Russia planting a fake news story to incite violence between Serbia and Kosovo was reminiscent of the Cambridge Analytics scandal and other similar instances in which false stories allegedly planted by Russian operatives helped influence the US election. 

While the situation in the United States didn't lead to open war, there's more than enough divisiveness to go around.

I liked that the story was told from a more globalist perspective, demonstrating through a story about a war-torn region on the other side of the world the power of words and how lies can change the course of history.

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It was sad that not only did the false story ruin the NATO agreement but that a 12-year-old boy lost his life as a result of lies. Even the Russian Foreign Minister seemed touched by that.

Welcome to Politics - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 9

I think he agreed to look at Elizabeth's evidence even though he didn't want to admit that Russia had ordered the planting of the false stories because he didn't like the idea of a kid dying. Maybe it's wishful thinking on my part, but I had a feeling that it was an unintended consequence of the Russian propaganda campaign.

In any case, his reaction humanized him just a little bit, making him a more believable adversary.

Matt: Why are we even looking into this? Occam's Razor: It's Russia.

For a second, I hoped Matt was wrong and that someone other than Russia was to blame for the planted story. In retrospect, that wouldn't have made sense, but it would have been deliciously ironic for Matt to have to face the fact that he was jumping to conclusions and making claims that turned out not to be true.

Trying to Avert a War - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 9

Everyone worked their butts off trying to resolve the problem, but Jay was the MVP of the hour, and I loved it.

It was impressive how he dealt with everything -- from the Serbian minister's anger to Scott Goodman's reluctance to do anything that might remotely resemble censorship to stop the spread of the fake news.

You want to go take out a troll farm?


He was as excited about taking out the troll farm as he was brokering the NATO deal before it all went south. Excited Jay is fun to watch, and it didn't hurt that he scored points for world peace while he was at it.

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Jay and the team didn't quite get Serbia and Kosovo back to NATO, but they did get them to take another step towards peace thanks to Elizabeth's explanation of where the fake news initiated and what had been done to combat it. 

Russell: This always happens! Four years in with no scandals, you get gravel under you wheels and think you're Moses and can part the Red Sea. You can't part anything. You're in a leaky boat with one oar.
Elizabeth: I'm not sure I follow this metaphor.

The ending scenes in the school were incredibly sweet, especially since the little girl who had been forbidden to see the boy she liked got a chance to be in class with him.

The whole metaphor of growing a garden together could have come off as trite and corny but didn't. There was a sincerity about it that made it a pure feel-good moment.

It was a hopeful moment, and we needed that as much as Elizabeth did.

Blake's New Job - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 9

Blake's subplot was again a highlight of the hour.

Blake had been nervous about being qualified for his new position before he applied, and now it seemed it was hard for him to let go of his old job.

He was critical of Nina every chance he got, and Matt was spot on when he compared his desire to reorganize Nina's reorganized break room to the breakdown in communication between the two departments Blake was trying to get to agree.

A New Assistant - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 9

Nina was overly perky, and her nervousness about offering Elizabeth cinnamon donuts and insistence on saying "cool beans" could drive anyone nuts.

But Elizabeth was thrilled with her, and that's all that counted. I thought Blake was upset about that. Even though he wanted the new job, he also wanted to be the best assistant Elizabeth ever had.

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I loved his solution to the impasse between the Global Health Department and the Office of Environmental Services, though. The two department heads didn't seem to realize they'd been played as they quickly came to a compromise.

If only everything were that easy!

Henry: I don't want to be the guy who's known for blowing the whistle and getting people axed because of it.
Russell: There's only one team, and now everyone knows you're on it.

I wasn't sure at first where Henry's story was going. When Gordon wandered into the McCord house, I thought maybe he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia.

Thank goodness it was just a bad reaction to sleeping pills! 

Matt Has the Answer - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 9

I didn't blame Henry for feeling that it had to be reported. The Secretary of Defense has too much on his plate to risk an undetected medical condition causing him to be unstable. And even though Gordon felt it was an isolated incident, there was no guarantee that was the case.

Henry might not have wanted Dr. Reese to have gotten in trouble, but I was glad to see him go.

I didn't like him trying to threaten and manipulate Henry into not filing the report, and it made me wonder what else he was trying to cover up.

Russell was right to ask for Reese's resignation, and his emphasis on Henry being part of the same team as everyone else tied in nicely to the theme.

What'd you think, Madam Secretary fanatics?

Will the fragile peace between Kosovo and Serbia last, or will Elizabeth have to avert another crisis in the near future?

Did Dr. Reese deserve to lose his job?

And how did Blake do on the first day of his new job?

Weigh in below, and don't forget, you can watch Madam Secretary online if you missed anything!

Winter Garden Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 (6 Votes)

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 9 Quotes

Elizabeth: I was reading that!
Henry: This is a work intervention.

We live in a time when nationalism disguised as patriotism is on the rise, and while I usually leave the poetry to those better qualified, I want to say that this is how we keep the wolves at bay.