Yesterday’s debut of my guest-poster Lyttenburgh was a huge success: WordPress blog statistics reveal that it was my most popular day since I started the blog, garnering the most number of visitors. Therefore, without further ado, since I know everybody is eager to read the continuation, I present the conclusion of Lyttenburgh’s opus!
THIS ONE RUSSIAN EPISODE: (continued)
Pilot – “Madam Secretary”
AND SO IT BEGINS…
Russia is mentioned in the very first Episode of the first season of the show. From Madam Secretary’s contact (who is a Chechen working in the Russian embassy in DC), amazed viewers will learn that 8 years ago (i.e. in 2006, apparently), there was a “revolution” in Chechnya. Said Chechen was an “asset” probably recruited by Mrs. McCord herself. At first, he refuses to help her solving her (i.e. – American) problem with stupid teenagers arrested in Syria, claiming (and this is an actual quote) that he can “only can get for you caviar and vodka” these days. And we know that with such a beginning the show can’t “disappoint” us in the future!
Russia is not only mentioned but becomes an important element in the third episode. Here, Russian Foreign Minister Gorev (“second in the line of succession” – according to the show) is readily willing to betray Russia’s geopolitical interests and supply Pakistan with missile defense systems – so that they will release a CIA spy, arrested after this “universe” version of the Wikileaks happens. His price? Oh, really nothing – according to show’s creators, Russian ministers are ready to sell their own country’s interests only for an “A” mark for their daughter. Incidentally, the only person who can give this truly undeserving mark is Madam Secretary’s husband – doctor “Spineless” McCord. Drama ensues…
And then comes IT – “This one Russian Episode” of the first season of “Madam Secretary”. What was mentioned before in previous episodes were only glimpses of the putrid horror which is the episode 8 “Need to know”. Because here the show’s creators introduced to their anticipating public (and the world at large which includes, you know, Russia and the CIS countries) their take on several local conflicts that have happened (and, unfortunately, still keep happening) in the former SU countries.
The Horror of Episode 8
The episode begins with the Moldavian PM arriving in DC and asking the Bastion of Freedoom, M’ocracy and the ONLY TRUE ECONOMIC SYSTEM (in short – the US of A) to help in fending off the new offensive of the Transnistrian separatists.
[This is the moment when the majority of Russian readers/viewers will go full “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – what kind of insane blabbering of a bored teenager armed with an world atlas and some cheap rip-off version of Wikipedia am I reading right now?!”]
Moldavian PM Vlad Diacov confides, voice shaking, that “one of the many reasons I fought to free my country from the Soviet Union” is because he doesn’t “believe in Committees” (even the US Senate’s one which might provide him with the lethal aid package). And people all around the world learn yet another amazing historical fact – it turns out Moldova fought for its independence! Saying that USSR dissolved (almost) peacefully with no such things as actual wars for independence is boring and ideologically wrong thing now. Better to made things up to draw parallels between the plucky Moral-Pets-Of-The-Week currently supported by the US and the War of Independence of the North American colonies.
Moldova needs lethal aid pronto, because rebel general’s “Kolba’s men has the latest equipment including MI-24 attack helicopters” (naturally – supplied by Moscow!). As anyone who cares to be informed about both of these regional conflicts (the ones in Transnistria and Ukraine respectively) can attest, helis didn’t play any role in them. At all. One have to wonder did the show creators know anything about the chopper pilots training program and all logistical needs that arise while operating them.
Still, the young Moldovan democracy Needs Help. Secretary McCord &CO are the team you are going to for such kind of help! They will nod solemnly, say “Another day – another democracy in peril” (once again – an actual quote) and do the only thing that the chief international relations office of the US supposed to do – send in an “ex”-CIA counter-insurgency “adviser” to accompany Moldavian PM back to his country to fix all this country’s problems. And they discuss the whole thing so nonchalantly, that you can’t help but wonder – is this a new norm of the USA foreign policy accepted by its own citizens now?
Good Guys vs. Bad Guys
On the one hand – this episode’s entire premise is some sort of the “Aesop” portrayal of the Ukrainian crisis which is still taking place right now (also, keep in mind that this episode premiered on November 9 of 2014). On the other – it deals with a very real breakaway republic of Transnistria, which has indeed fought for its independence against Moldova more than 20 years ago. Needless to say, in our world, real Transnistria is not waging any kind of war against Moldovan government.
And surely enough Transnistrian higher ups look nothing like they are portrayed in the show. See, American shows need rather simplified narrative – Good Guys vs Evil Guys. When you can boil down all Bad Guys into one Arch Villain – kudos for you! You just made the whole thing easier to digest and understand by the intended audience. And if real life fails to provide you with an easy target to demonize, hate and despise – well, you just have to invent one.
And the show – once again! – delivers to its non-insignificant loyal viewership just this kind of Bad Guy!
“The separatists leader general Kolba is particularly ruthless… The one killing innocent Moldavians in the name of restoring the Russian empire.”…
“We are talking about the guy who is up to his neck in torture, abduction and murder.”
Needless to say that “Kolba” is hardly a Russian (or even Moldavian) last name. In Russian “Kolba” means “laboratory flask”. And the only Kolba (as a name) I’ve found via Wikipedia is a small village of less than 15 hundred people in Kirgizia.
Next. Neither War for Transnistria’s, nor the current armed conflict in the Eastern Ukraine in real life had One Supreme Leader, Designated Bad Guy. The people of Transnistria fought for independence and survival as the people of the (Donetsk and Luhansk) People Republics are fighting right now. A lot of people of various political views have supported them in their struggle, with monarchists and right-wingers consisting a maybe, noticeable, but, nevertheless, not really powerful or significant minority. Needless to say, no one of them really kills innocent people for lulz and dreams of restoring Russian Empire.
And yet this American TV show deliberately makes the Designated Bad Guy a crackpot dictator wannabe, ridiculous and incompetent, simplifying for its audience real life by painting the world in black and white. And, it appears, that the creators of this show honestly believe their own words.
And as for Transnistria being the staging area of someone who wants to “recreate Russian Empire” (once again – show’s words, not mine!) take a close look at these pictures of the real life Transnistria :
It took me literally 15 seconds to find these pictures. Don’t know about the show’s creators, but at least for me a hammer and sickle symbols is a huge giveaway that Russian Imperial ideals here are not featured prominently. And I won’t even mention such outdated concept as the factual research of the topic – why?
So, what can be said about this episode’s Ultimate Bad Guy? Oh, the usual stuff – prostitutes, expensive cars and misogynistic tweets about our Holy Madam Secretary. Also – he is so into this “Recreate Russian Empire” shtick, that wears modern Russian uniform. Not a czarist one, not self made something – a real Russian uniform. In short – he is a grossly incompetent, unlikable two-dimensions card-carrying villain. A true testament to the writing skills of the show’s team and the general IQ of their intended audience (as they see it).
The Plot Twist
But here comes an inevitable 3rd act (totally unexpected!) plot twist – Moldavian PM’s plane… disappears! Cue the following dialog:
“We believe the airplane was shot down.”
“Do we have evidence?”
”Not yet, but it was near border of rebel airspace”.
Wait a minute – what did you say? “Near rebel held airspace”?
After some initial shock the State Dept and CIA do the only thing possible by a country serving as the Rampart of the International peace – send its drones into another sovereign country’s airspace for intel gathering – naturally, without asking for permission. The stakes are high and the State Dept and its Fiery Avatar Elisabeth McCord will do everything in their power to save those who need to be saved. The “ex”-CIA Jim the Moldavian, that’s it. After all he is a valuable asset, has a lovely wife, is a voter and the US citizen, while the Moldavian PM is just – meh!.. There are plenty of those like him where he came from who would be equally “loyal” to the Washington no matter what. Truly – an amazing moral story for all Quslings around the world unintentionally given to us by the show’s creators!
Fearless and Most Humane Guardians of the Democracy and Human Rights, a true Order of Jedi (you know – the CIA) quickly gathers all needed information about the possible leads and implications of this case:
“Two months ago, the co-pilot of Prime Minister Diacov’s flight visited the Crimea.”
“Not your typical holiday spot”.
“Turkish intelligence has evidence that he took a meeting with general Kolba”.
[And this is the moment when on the phrase that Crimea is “not your typical holiday spot” Russian viewers/readers begin to laugh hysterically and, upon laughing so hard that they fell off wherever they are sitting right now, they can’t help but repeat Mikhail Zadornov’s most iconic phrase]
See, people?! It was dastardly Russian operation all along! The show doesn’t explain a thing, but the faithful audience gets the right message – the Evil Ruskies are behind this Atrocity. We Have a Need to Protect!
The plot of the Evil General Sergey Kolba is just “brilliant”! He places his agent on Moldavian PMs plane, hi-jacks it and lands on its territory. Why? Fur Evulz, of course! The fact that our Madam Secretary calls it “an ideal plan” – to deal with an adversary while avoiding international accusations for his “disappearance” – is just plainly sad.
So, the CIA intel reports say that the Air Force One of Republic of Moldova is held in “an ex-Soviet airbase in Rebel territory… in Tiraspol”.
This is sooooo facepalmy that even the most jaded Russian viewers/watchers would just scream. Scream profanities of the tallest order. This Stronghold of the Team Evil is described in the most horrific, blood-curling details: “Dozens of veteran troops (who, apparently, just graduated from the Imperial Stormtroopers Academy), gun emplacements and the latest Russian hardware (for which there wasn’t’ enough budget in the show, so we won’t see any of it!)”. And all of these “rebels” are Romanian speaking… What can I say? This is Transnistria for you!
What Is To be Done?
So, what should the State Secretary of the US suggest here? How will she deal with this crisis? As usual for this show – send in a special-forces team on the S-30 “Hercules” plane, kill all “boogies”, save the hostage(s), ignore international borders, law or the purpose of the office of the State Secretary. Diplomacy, after all, is for “weak” as the show “Madam Secretary” keeps demonstrating to us episode after episode. Only black ops and force projections matters.
The finale is totally predictable. Brave US Special Forces easily (and without ANY losses) storm the airbase, blow up all helis, save the only one who really matters (that’s Jim the Moldavian – and Moldavian PM is dead and unlamented by everyone). Secretary McCord’s team is ready to celebrate:
“Kolba’s forces are in retreat”.
”More like collapsing. After we took out his airforce, the majority of his men deserted”.
“Yeah, our Russian friends can’t be happy about that”.
Yeah… if only the Tranistrians in early 90s or the armed forces of the (Donetsk and Luhansk) People Republics were deprived of their helicopters and aircraft which contributed so much to their unstoppable bloody march against the peace-loving… Oh, wait!]
And that’s basically the finale of every episode of the show. It MUST end in a clear cut “victory” of the Good Guys. Yes, there might be some collateral damage, or some “tough” (for a 9 year old, maybe) moral choices, but in the end everything is justified by the fact that “The Bad Guy Are Vanquished”. Death Star explodes – rebels are victorious. Roll in the credits. Don’t think – just approve.
So, that’s the first “Russian” episode of the “Madam Secretary” show. True, Russia itself is not featured in it directly – only on a periphery. But the sort of “Aesopian language” and analogies used in this episode (and in the show in general) are so anvilicious, that you must be literally living under a rock not to see a rather heavy-handed message nailed mercilessly into the loyal audience sculls. Namely – ‘If only Hilary was still a Secretary, we won’t see this kind of s…tuff!’. As for the general level of patented Russophobia ingrained in all such portrayals of Russia and Russians, this episode avoids (more or less) the most blatant ones, but still checks 5 out of 20 core traits of “kliukva” that I’ve provided earlier. +5 bonus points for portraying the Russians as the bad guys.
Thus ends (in the complete destruction and, probably, occupation of Transnistria) the first of “Madam Secretary’s” Russia-themed episodes. Unfortunately – it’s not the last…