The Diplomat cuts serious geopolitical drama with surprisingly effective humour in an episode that a believably fraying Keri Russell elevates above the premiere.
This recap of the 2023 Netflix series The Diplomat Season 1 Episode 2, “Don’t Call It A Kidnapping”, contains spoilers
Is it indicative of a failing marriage for a wife not to notice her husband has been kidnapped?
One assumes so, but it might just be that Kate has a lot on her plate. She’s dressed in swanky attire posing for British Vogue, after all. But she doesn’t even notice the rest of the Winfield House staff panicking about not being able to find Hal. It isn’t until Hayford wakes her up from what is almost becoming a nap on the estate’s half-moon stone staircase that she realizes he’s gone.
The Diplomat Season 1 Episode 2 Recap
Who kidnapped Hal?
Kate is adamant that Hal doesn’t cheat – she even suggests things might have been easier if he did. And while that’s the kind of thing wives with husbands who do cheat would say, she nonetheless reiterates to a very skeptical Hayford that something is legitimately amiss about Hal disappearing into a car with an attractive young woman, which we saw at the end of Episode 1.
Hal has been kidnapped before. There’s apparently an Islamic State commander who really hates him due to a previous escape. But we learn early on in this episode that Hal has been taken on behalf of Iran’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rasoul Shahin, who calls Hal from Tehran. He even berates the operatives for drugging him.
Shahin wants to express to Hal that Iran had nothing to do with the attack on the HMS Courageous, and to stress that any action taken against Iran will not be taken as retaliatory, but as an unprovoked act of war that will be responded to in kind. It’s vital that Hal gets this message across, as we’ve already established that U.S. President Rayburn is a bit of a livewire.
How does Trowbridge make the situation worse?
“Don’t Call It a Kidnapping” does a good job of showing how the process of geopolitical skulduggery is stifled by a lot more red tape than most film and TV are willing to depict.
Hal’s story must be vetted. His prior relationship with Shahin must be examined, the validity of the information must be confirmed, and until it is, the story can’t be shared with anyone, despite Indian photographs of an Iranian fast boat decked out with a missile doing the rounds, making Iran look guiltier and guiltier.
In the meantime, Kate attends the funeral of the perished sailors, held at RAF Brize Norton, and there, Prime Minister Trowbridge gives a fiery Winston Churchill-style speech promising retribution. He’s vague, though. That is until the widow of one of the sailors, her son perched on her knee, calls him a coward. She has put the pieces together for herself, and she thinks it’s a mighty coincidence that a British vessel has been sunk off the coast of Iran mere days after the U.S. annoyed Iran.
Trowbridge immediately folds under the pressure and promises to rain hellfire on Tehran if it turns out they were responsible. He’s trending on social media almost immediately.
What is Kate’s dilemma?
In the wake of Trowbridge’s Churchill moment – he has historically been accused of not having a backbone, so this is big for him – anti-Islamic violence spikes immediately. A deranged man in a van mows down a family of four outside a mosque, shouting, “Go back to Iran!”
And yet Kate is still reticent for Eidra to pass Hal’s story up the chain. Eidra thinks it’s a control thing. Hayford wonders if it might perhaps be jealousy over Hal’s star power. The truth is that Kate is all too familiar with Hal’s flights of heroism, including one which saw him literally fly from Kabul to Mazar-e Shar?f to convince the Taliban leadership to hold off on seizing Kabul for one more day. He left out the bit about the plane he used to do that being intended for the evacuation of Afghan nationals working with U.S. forces.
In other words, with Hal, you must be doubly sure. Lives depend on it.
Why does Kate go to Ganon?
It turns out Kate is right. She manages to figure out that Hal used a burner phone to place a call to a contact in Italy, a country with sound diplomatic relations with Iran, to get a call to Shahin. The intelligence is still solid enough – the unofficial Iranian position is that they called off the assassination of a man they’d very much like to see killed, so as not to rock the boat geopolitically speaking in the aftermath of the attack on the Courageous – but there’s an element of trademark Hal finesse that wouldn’t look good if anyone found out about it.
Kate nonetheless goes to Ganon with the information, explaining that the CIA dragging their feet verifying it is because she insisted they crossed all their T’s and dotted all their I’s with Hal being the source. But President Rayburn is due to spend 70 minutes at Winfield House cozying up to Prime Minister Trowbridge, and the optics of those two rubbing shoulders after the hellfire speech would have a terrible knock-on effect.
Ganon, though, refuses to cancel the president’s visit.
The Diplomat Season 1 Episode 2 Ending Explained
Kate, much to Hayford’s chagrin, immediately drops in on Foreign Secretary Austin Dennison. She doesn’t give him any details but clarifies Iran aren’t responsible and suggests that perhaps Rayburn’s visit would go a little smoother if Trowbridge provided a little more clarity on his hellfire remark.
Of course, Number 10 will walk back nothing that was said – especially not when the PM was merely repeating Rayburn’s sentiment in the first place.
Kate takes a lot of this out on Hal. She’s adamant that he leaves the country since he keeps placing calls to hostile powers, annoying everyone, and making investigations exponentially more difficult. As Marine One hovers over the grounds of Winfield House, Hal takes that moment to tell her that she can’t divorce him, and he can’t leave, because she’s going to be the next Vice President of the United States.
You can stream 2023 series The Diplomat Season 1 Episode 2, “Don’t Call It a Kidnapping” exclusively on Netflix.