Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 14 Review: Something Better

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Madam Secretary returned with a story about America's past manipulations in Nicaragua that almost lost American lives in the present.

Involving Dalton's backstory as a CIA operative gave us a rare glimpse into the man who sits in the fictionalized version of the White House.

And as an added bonus, Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 14 featured Raymond Cruz, who played one of my favorite characters on Major Crimes. I was thrilled to see him again!

(TALL) Looking Presidential - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 14

I loved the way "Something Better" integrated real American history with a fictional conflict. It was realistic and interesting as well as educational. 

The US really did use CIA operatives to help overthrow an oppressive government in Nicaragua during the 1980s.

This episode did a good job of building on that by creating the unintended consequence of creating another dictator as bad as the first through CIA-sponsored violence.

Elizabeth: There were no easy choices then. Deaths under Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot numbered in the hundreds, whether by privation or outright murder. How could we not push back against that?
Dalton: I guess you're right, but my God we made some horrible decisions. Myself included. Sandino Junior might not have turned out be such a monster if we hadn't killed his mother.

Dalton's refusal to use force to quell the new crisis was confusing to his staff and seemed at odds with his usual tendency to use force to show bullies that the US isn't putting up with their nonsense.

(TALL) Russell's Social Media Use - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 14

But it made total sense given his backstory.

The reveal of what had happened was well done; there were clues spread through some flashback scenes in Nicaragua that barely registered until after all was said and done.

For example, I noticed Dalton's name on the door when the two CIA guys went in to see their boss.

But I didn't make the connection that he was the same guy until he told the rest of his story.

Related: Madam Secretary Review Season 5 Episode 10

Dalton made a good point in the present, too, about how the US did terrible things in the name of trying to prevent violence and ended up creating a monster.

It's hard to say how Sandino Junior would have turned out if his mother hadn't been killed, and Elizabeth's counterpoint that the US was responding to gross violations of human rights under similar dictatorships all over the world had some merit.

In any case, Dalton's reaching out to Sandino's father to try to resolve the situation was a nice way of making amends as well as resolving the situation.

A Stern Meeting - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 14

The staff seemed to think that Sandino Senior aiding the protesters would put an end to the threat against their lives.

I wasn't so sure.

Sandino Junior was cold and angry, and while he probably wouldn't have his own father killed there was no telling what he might do about this betrayal.

I was glad Elizabeth acknowledged that the crisis wasn't entirely over! 

Sebastian Arcelus as Jay Whitman - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 14

She was right, though, that there was no reason for Jay not to go on his date.

Jay seemed reluctant to meet up again with Annalise and relished the idea of work, something he used as an excuse.

I was wondering what was going on until he finally admitted that he was scared of it not working out.

Related: Get CBS All Access via Prime Video Channels for Hit Shows, Exclusive Originals & Live TV!

Jay was definitely overthinking it, and since he was jealous of whatever guy with whom Annalise appeared in her Instagram photos, it wouldn't have made sense for him to not at least try to see her.

Russell Helps a Kid Out - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 14

Speaking of Instagram, Russell really didn't get how social media works when it comes to political causes!

Stevie: Do you have a few seconds to approve some more fun posts for social media?
Russell: Oh yeah. The president of Nicaragua is about to start a war and Congress is trying to kill health care for millions of children but Real Russell Jackson wants to post about his latest set of golf clubs!

In a way, he was right to be annoyed. With all the crises in the world, it seemed ridiculous to be posting anything fun or lighthearted.

But his insistence that he has to be feared in order to get things done didn't really make sense.

The whole reason he needed a social media campaign was to counteract the negative public reaction to that viral video of him arguing with the protester.

So he needed to show his human side, and Stevie did just that by posting the Panda Cam video.

Stevie Takes a Meeting - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 14

Stevie tagging the congressional representatives who made fun of Russell's interest in pandas was a brilliant move. I'm not surprised that turning the pandas into a photo op got results.

Russell showed himself to be a compassionate politician who makes time for sick children and the representatives who opposed the health care bill didn't want to risk looking heartless in comparison.

Related: Madam Secretary Review Season 5 Episode 13

I would have liked to have known more about what was in the bill and why those representatives opposed it.

But at the same time, Congresspeople who don't have anything better to do than send stuffed pandas to the Chief of Staff to needle him might not be thinking of their constituents' best interests anyway.

It was nice to see him give Stevie a well-earned compliment, though, especially since she's screwed up in all sorts of ways on various jobs.

Facing the Crisis - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 14

Sarah's storyline was an enjoyable break from the heavier stories of the hour.

I thought her father was projecting his own fears onto her until she snapped at the kids that there was nothing cool about people dying.

So what do you think is going on with Sarah? Do you think seeing wounded people close to her own age has shaken her up?


It was good to see Will again, too. Elizabeth was right that someone like him who had been in Sarah's position was the best person to reassure her.

Henry's continual attempt to interrupt a conversation that made him uncomfortable to order provided some comic relief, too.

Over to you, Madam Secretary fanatics!

Did you like learning about Dalton's backstory? 

Did you agree with his current decisions regarding Nicaragua, especially his decision to appeal to the elder Sandino to resolve the crisis?

And were you excited that Jay's long-distance girlfriend wasn't totally forgotten after all and that he went on that date?

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

Something Better Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
  • 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.3 / 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 14 Quotes

Spy 1: What the hell just happened?
Spy 2: I think our rebels just decided to rebel on us.

Spy 1: Do you mind? I can't hear anything.
Spy 2: There's nothing to hear yet. Though I gotta admit, I'm impressed these rebels can tell asses from elbows, never mind infiltrate Sandino