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S05. E16. The New Normal

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When a super typhoon threatens a small Pacific island, Elizabeth tries to relocate the population before the storm makes landfall. Henry gives a speech about climate change to evangelicals.

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The A and B plots sound cohesive enough. Let's just hope they don't spin out of control like a tornado.

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I'm glad there was another reason for Mike B's uncharacteristic outburst, because I was thinking: It's okay when we posters rag on Henry, but he's our Henry, and nobody else is allowed to do that.

What's the accepted waiting period before we can get him a puppy? Or will he just become dog sitter to Daisy and Matt's beagle?

Bess's hairdo was more like a certain nameless former SOS's tonight, wasn't it?

Was that a cornerstone from the Nauruian temple on their new home island?

Edited by shapeshifter

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Strap in, guys and gals, I have a LOT to say about this episode.

To get it out of the way, I've hated Mike B. from his very first appearance, and his comment about cats proved my hatred was justified.  His blow-up at Bess and Henry was also so completely out of line.  Yes, his sweet dog was dying, and I get how painful that is (I cried more when I had to put my first cat to sleep than I did when my dad died, although the grief over my dad obviously lasted much longer); however, that doesn't give anyone license to be a raging asshole, which he always is anyway.

Really, though, the A storyline.  I swear before god...I was too pissed off about the unbelievable inaccuracies to be moved by anything.  So, I'm a walking atlas and have been since I was a kid, and I also know a ton about tropical cyclones (long story short: when Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina in 1989, little NUguy514 had to know what made these scary things work).  I know the vast majority of people know next to nothing about the geography of the South Pacific or the basics of cyclogenesis, but I do.

First of all, while you can pronounce "Nauru" like "NOW-roo," which was sort of how most of the cast was pronouncing it (-ish) in this episode, the primary pronunciation is "nah-OO-roo."  It was driving me crazy.

Second of all, Nauru lies one-half of a degree south of the equator; the Marshall Islands lie about nine degrees north of the equator.  Do you know what doesn't cross the goddamn equator?  Typhoons.  Why?  Because of the Coriolis effect.  There have been a very, very few tropical cyclones that have existed within a few degrees of the equator, and all of them have been minimally powerful.  Tropical cyclones need the Coriolis effect to gain spin and develop a low-pressure core, that spin and the energy provided by warm ocean water drive cyclones' intensities, and that same Coriolis effect also partly dictates cyclones' paths.  Cyclones forming north of the equator in open ocean will generally track west; eventually, many will turn to the north and recurve to the northeast if there are no high-pressure systems or anything blocking that trajectory.  Cyclones forming south of the equator will generally track west and then south and recurve to the southeast.  What Typhoon Blessing (or any other goddamn typhoon) would never, ever, ever do is track west and then turn very sharply to the south (Nauru is almost due south of the Marshall Islands).  It just doesn't happen.  Moreover, "the most powerful tropical cyclone on record" would never, ever, ever be able to sustain itself so close to the equator because of the lack of the Coriolis effect and resulting loss of spin.  Typhoon Phoebe or whatever the second storm was would also never be able to get that powerful and strike Nauru due to all of the aforementioned reasons.  As far as the Marshall Islands go, typhoons tend to be in their formative stages in that part of the Pacific, so I don't really buy that Typhoon Blessing would be "the most powerful tropical cyclone on record" quite that far east and south in the typhoon region.  One last thing: tropical cyclones in southern hemisphere and the Southwestern Pacific are actually called "cyclones," not "typhoons"; since Nauru is technically in the southern hemisphere and the Southwestern Pacific, "Typhoon" Blessing would've become "Cyclone" Blessing once it actually struck Nauru, and "Typhoon" Phoebe would've been "Cyclone" Phoebe to begin with.  ETA: I forgot the most fundamental issue with any typhoon crossing the equator: cyclones rotate counterclockwise north of the equator and clockwise south of the equator, so it's...kind of impossible for them to cross the equator and reverse rotation.

Third and most enraging of all, while Nauru is a tiny country (the third-smallest independent nation after Vatican City and Monaco), it's not some low-lying cay or atoll the way that the show seemed to be presenting it as.  Daisy mentioned that the highest point in the Marshall Islands is only 30 feet above sea level, which is basically right (33 feet, to be exact) and which means the entire nation would indeed be prone to inundation by such a large storm surge (well, it wouldn't actually happen because a large storm surge would only occur around the eye of the storm, which wouldn't go over all the islands in the Marshall Islands, but WHATEVER); however, that's not the case for Nauru.  A storm surge could not inundate the entire fucking island because its highest point is actually 233 feet above sea level.  Two cyclones in quick succession just could not obliterate the island from the face of the earth.  Catastrophic damage?  Yes.  Damage to the point that the island is no longer habitable?  Possibly, yes, because the island has almost no natural resources to begin with.  Complete annihilation?  Uh, no.  When they showed the patch of ocean where Nauru used to be, I didn't know whether to laugh or scream because it was such bullshit, and it was lazy because the writers just assumed no viewer would know.  Well, this viewer did, goddamnit!  I wish they had just made up an island nation and placed it to the north of the Marshall Islands; I would've been 167% less annoyed.

Thank you all for indulging me.  I feel better.  The more you know.[/endrant]

Edited by NUguy514
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4 hours ago, shapeshifter said:

Bess's hairdo was more like a certain nameless former SOS's tonight, wasn't it?

And "Bryce Manley" bore a striking resemblance to a certain actor, too. Swashbuckler, indeed.

Reason #2 why I could never be a national politician ( or even a local one):  To have to mortgage your own beliefs to attract the attention of a leader that, on any other day, you wouldn't piss on his him if his head was on fire.  Reason #1 occurred back in the last episode when Bess had to make the terrible choice of humanity versus national interest.  However, that being said, I feel more than a little conflicted that Henry went around the pastor's back to get his daughter to throw him under the bus, even though I didn't like him one bit. 

That was very interesting when the NOAA guy asked about Nadine, and there was just a quick shot of him wiping his eye as he turned around in the elevator.

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6 hours ago, NUguy514 said:

Thank you all for indulging me.  I feel better.  The more you know

Thank you @NUguy514!

My Rant: "Get me my motorcade". If Bess is so worried about climate change, why can't she go anywhere without three huge SUVs? I know that there are security protocals and such, but at some point you have be the change.

Edited by marinw
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2 hours ago, NUguy514 said:

Thank you all for indulging me.  I feel better.  The more you know.[/endrant]

Like @marinw said^ above: Thank you, @NUguy514!
I obsess about weather and sea temperatures myself, but have not acquired anything remotely on par with your knowledge—but enough that I assumed they justified (to themselves) fictionalizing the terminology and the science of the disaster when they characterized it as "the most powerful storm in history."

Still, do you happen to know, @NUguy514, if there is any scientific basis to this line explaining the disappearance of the island: "The coral sediment collapsed under the wave pressure. And without bedrock . . ."

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Wow did Bess's brother look like a homeless guy this episode! I'm wondering how many more shots of him like that will we see before the inevitable shave, haircut, and suit, and what it will signify. Because the other alternative (depression leading to suicide or suicide attempt) could be pretty grim.

Edited by shapeshifter
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I wonder how the people of Nauru felt about having their entire nation obliterated on Madam Secretary?  Wouldn't creating a fictitious pacific nation been a rather more sensitive approach?  It might have enabled the writers to concoct a slightly more believable scenario around a nation being wiped out be a "typhoon".  I don't know as much about geography and meteorology as the poster above, but I know enough to know the story was totally implausible for Nauru.  I also had to laugh at the pretty, slim, light-skinned, vaguely Polynesian-looking actors cast as the Nauruans.  Madam Secretary always takes this approach when dealing with Pacific nations.  Never mind that Nauruans would be much darker and almost certainly much, much larger (they're the most overweight nation on earth).  And the would-be new President had a distinctly Australian accent.  But, hey, never let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?

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I did appreciate the mention of Nadine....I still miss her.  And Bess' brother is such a slob, an annoying & unnecessary character.  

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"You spewed massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere!  Now, if you excuse me, apparently I have a plane high-speed electric train to catch!"

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5 hours ago, NUguy514 said:

I've hated Mike B. from his very first appearance.....

Ditto.

5 hours ago, NUguy514 said:

his comment about cats proved my hatred was justified.

Cats are worthy of our derision.

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1 hour ago, OZJOSH said:

I wonder how the people of Nauru felt about having their entire nation obliterated on Madam Secretary?  Wouldn't creating a fictitious pacific nation been a rather more sensitive approach?

Good question, @OZJOSH. This is pure speculation on my part, but perhaps the Nauru PTB gave the okay in hopes of getting donations, given that this UN document states: "The country is now mostly dependent on foreign aid and food imports from Australia and other countries."

*********************

30 minutes ago, Netfoot said:
6 hours ago, NUguy514 said:

his comment about cats proved my hatred was justified.

Cats are worthy of our derision.

Perhaps this episode was in part influenced by this scene from Ghost Busters, which includes both an apocalypse of biblical proportions as well as the infamous "dogs and cats, living together":

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3 hours ago, Netfoot said:

Ditto.

Cats are worthy of our derision.

giphy.gif

6 hours ago, shapeshifter said:

Still, do you happen to know, @NUguy514, if there is any scientific basis to this line explaining the disappearance of the island: "The coral sediment collapsed under the wave pressure. And without bedrock . . ."

Erosion is certainly a likelihood with waves that powerful, but erosion to the degree that an entire 8-square-mile island would just collapse that quickly and completely into the ocean because of two cyclones?  Not a chance in hell.

And @OZJOSH is exactly right about the actors cast not really representing what the average Nauruan looks like.  They looked more Polynesian (Nauru is part of Micronesia), and they were way too skinny.  The only factual aspects of this episode were that Nauru and Marshall Islands and Samoa are places that exist in the Pacific Ocean.  Oh, and typhoons are real.

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8 hours ago, shapeshifter said:

Wow did Bess's brother look like a homeless guy this episode!

I know!  When we first saw him sitting in that chair, I thought "Man, when Bess isn't home her residential security really sucks....that homeless guy just walked right in off the street.  I wonder if that is going to be the plot of the week?  Nah, Russell already had the have-a-heart-warming-and-politically-significant-interaction-with-homeless-person plot this season.  OMG.  That's Eric Stoltz, playing her brother Will.  Wow, he's looking rough these days...."

The moment with the NASA guy asking about Nadine was nice.  The Johnny Depp wannabe plot detail was hilarious.  Jay being incredibly competent was also really great.  And dammit, show?  Don't kill off the only thing likeable about Mike B.!  Also, I hate you because you made me cry.

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11 hours ago, NUguy514 said:

I wish they had just made up an island nation and placed it to the north of the Marshall Islands;

I loved all your post but apart from the factual errors there is another good reason to make up an island. They are talking about a real place where real people live and tell story that destroys it completely? This is not a science fiction series, where you see NYC destroyed and don't take it personally. This can seriously alarm a whole nation by implying their island can disappear in the next severe storm. The dangers of climate change are certainly important to talk about but not by using a real place at the present time with wrong facts to boot.

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2 hours ago, meira.hand said:

They are talking about a real place where real people live and tell story that destroys it completely?

They probably had a buncha S.I.D.S. lining up to pay for that particular piece of Product Placement!

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20 minutes ago, Netfoot said:

They probably had a buncha S.I.D.S. lining up to pay for that particular piece of Product Placement!

"S.I.D.S."?

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Still not used to climate change being a partisan issue...but not sure the show did the issue any favours by having a story that can so easily be factually dismissed as unrealistic.

Not a fan of Mike B, but definitely cried over his dog. I thought the actor did a great job in that scene, too.

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29 minutes ago, secnarf said:

Not a fan of Mike B, but definitely cried over his dog. I thought the actor did a great job in that scene, too.

I have held the unpopular opinion of enjoying appearances of the character of Mike B -- until maybe this episode when he yelled at the McCords. 
But I'm not sure I will like him without his dog.
   
   

32 minutes ago, secnarf said:

Still not used to climate change being a partisan issue...but not sure the show did the issue any favours by having a story that can so easily be factually dismissed as unrealistic.

Good point. But hopefully those who might be influenced by a fictional TV show won't know any better.

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12 minutes ago, Netfoot said:
2 hours ago, shapeshifter said:
2 hours ago, Netfoot said:

They probably had a buncha S.I.D.S. lining up to pay for that particular piece of Product Placement!

"S.I.D.S."?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Island_Developing_States

Ah! Thanks, @Netfoot. I could only find the other meaning.
Anyway, yes, that was my thought too when I posted:

10 hours ago, shapeshifter said:

perhaps the Nauru PTB gave the okay in hopes of getting donations, given that this UN document states: "The country is now mostly dependent on foreign aid and food imports from Australia and other countries."

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15 hours ago, shapeshifter said:

Wow did Bess's brother look like a homeless guy this episode!

I expected Mike B to talk to her about how her brother needed a makeover for the sake of her image.

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9 hours ago, Noneofyourbusiness said:

I expected Mike B to talk to her about how her brother needed a makeover for the sake of her image.

Mike B's image consciousness on behalf of Bess could be the impetuous for Will's makeover, but I was thinking a romantic interest might motivate him to get a haircut and put on some pants. But I expect that:

  1. the nudge for Will to clean up his style comes from Mike B
  2. Will resists
  3. Bess sticks up for Will's right to look homeless 
  4. but then Will's daughter tells him he's an embarrassment. IDK. How old is his daughter?

But now I'm reading @Athena5217's post below, and yes, Noodle should be part of the makeover.

Edited by shapeshifter

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13 hours ago, OZJOSH said:

 I also had to laugh at the pretty, slim, light-skinned, vaguely Polynesian-looking actors cast as the Nauruans.

Doesn't Nauru have the most obese people per capita in the world?

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15 hours ago, OZJOSH said:

I wonder how the people of Nauru felt about having their entire nation obliterated on Madam Secretary?  Wouldn't creating a fictitious pacific nation been a rather more sensitive approach?

I assumed it was not a real place until I read the posts here. Usually when there is a storyline involving a war or big disaster on these types of shows they make up a country. I’m happy for Madam Secretary to raise my geographic awareness, but I’d rather it not be with a storyline like this.

Nauru seems to have plenty of environmental problems from mining and there could have been a great plot involving some American company with lots of campaign money to donate but Bess won’t take it because the company had mining operations in Nauru that destroyed the land. I bet there is a perfect Thomas Aquinas (cue Henry) quote for that ethical dilemma.

I think I was equally depressed by Mike’s dog and Eric Stoltz looking so old and ragged. He needs a makeover from Noodle ASAP.

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6 hours ago, Athena5217 said:

I was equally depressed by Mike’s dog and Eric Stoltz looking so old and ragged. He needs a makeover from Noodle ASAP

Should I be worried that this is leading up to a PSA episode on suicide prevention?

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This show has already left me crying once before over Bess's horse, but I didn't even think about what might be going on until Mike B answered the door talking about MRIs. Then I was a goner for the rest of it.

For all that I worry about what the forus on specific parallels to real-world politics could mean for this show's renewal chances, I have to say that way these characters talk about things feels so much more real and powerful than when the same ground is covered on certain other shows. (*cough* Shonda Rimes)

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On 3/18/2019 at 8:38 AM, BuckeyeLou said:

And Bess' brother is such a slob, an annoying & unnecessary character.  

isn't everyone on TV's?

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9 hours ago, Athena5217 said:

I assumed it was not a real place until I read the posts here. Usually when there is a storyline involving a war or big disaster on these types of shows they make up a country. I’m happy for Madam Secretary to raise my geographic awareness, but I’d rather it not be with a storyline like this.

...

I think I was equally depressed by Mike’s dog and Eric Stoltz looking so old and ragged. He needs a makeover from Noodle ASAP.

I also thought it was a made-up place!

I felt sad about Mike's dog.  I've had far too many dogs over the years that have gone to the Rainbow Bridge; I know what that feels like for me.

On 3/18/2019 at 12:09 AM, shapeshifter said:

Bess's hairdo was more like a certain nameless former SOS's tonight, wasn't it?

I don't know what this means.  What's a "former SOS"?

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1 hour ago, zoey1996 said:

I don't know what this means.  What's a "former SOS"

SOS = Secretary of State 

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12 minutes ago, shapeshifter said:

SOS = Secretary of State 

Thanks!  Makes sense, and I understand the comment now, too.

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I'm not au courant enough about real world weather science or Pacific geopolitics to be bothered by innaccuracies or misplaced attention, but what impressed me about this episode was how well it was unified around the theme of loss - the island nation, the dog, Bess' potential presidency...

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i think that this might be the beginning of the end...it might be nice if they just went into the sunset on a high note.

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On 3/19/2019 at 6:32 PM, Notwisconsin said:

i think that this might be the beginning of the end...it might be nice if they just went into the sunset on a high note.

Who here thinks they'll actually be bold enough to rename it Madam President? (I am actually asking)

Edited by Noneofyourbusiness
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On 3/18/2019 at 10:27 PM, MaryHedwig said:

Doesn't Nauru have the most obese people per capita in the world?

I believe that is American Samoa

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I like Mike b, and I really felt with him because Gordon is so cute and friendly.  

I also didn't mine him yelling at sos and Henry.  Yes, it was nice to take a public stand.  But it was kind of an indulgence, particularly when someone has worked so hard on your behalf.  The decision to change the game up IN THE CAR....ON THE WAY THERE was a little selfish in light of the fact that Mike b spent a lot of time setting it up.  

I have no problem with there being real consequences for actions, even if they are well intentioned and righteous.  If Bess can't even play the game enough.for her husband to give an agreed upon speech for a group of people who aren't even politicians (though they donate) she may be too inflexible for the big desk.  

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I for one really liked Mike B. in this show telling off Elizabeth and calling her pompous and blue blood in her attitude.  She certainly always comes across like that.  Thinks her mission in life is to save the whole world.

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