Nadine goes home alone to her condo that night, and goes back to the office early the next morning. During her morning run-through with Blake, she tells him everything she and Daisy had uncovered the night before.
Not only is Simone Le Clair EIL, she is Mike's former boss. And not only is the EIL a center-right think tank, but it's not actually center-right at all. It's radically-right, radically-everything-the-US-stands-against. And for a year, Mike had put himself directly inside of it. She doesn't know what to think, but she certainly has something to say about it.
If Mike is putting the Secretary's work at risk in favor of his other work interests, then Nadine will be damned if she doesn't fix this mess while it's still fixable.
Beyond a few short, cursory texts (I'm tied up at work - maybe this weekend? she suggests noncommittally), she does not talk to Mike. It's not weird, necessarily - they both often get busy - but it certainly will be if she doesn't find out the truth, and fast.
Gravely, Blake agrees that this information deserves the Secretary's immediate attention.
Nadine meets Elizabeth at the elevator and they walk to the other woman's office together. Blake closes the door behind them.
When she tells her, the Secretary is understandably taken aback.
"Mike B is a genuine snake," Elizabeth says in a low and biting voice.
"Ma'am... I would like to believe that he would not betray you like this." And god she wants nothing more than for that to be true.
But she's also seen him put himself first before, and she has no doubt that he is capable of doing it again. Certainly if he is, this offense is much worse than working conflicting interests of two Senators in Washington. This offense is Attorney General-worthy.
She fervently hopes it's untrue.
When the Secretary tells her the following morning that Mike Barnow is not, in fact, jacking them around ("He quit when he found out their real agenda," Elizabeth says, "and I have his pay stubs to prove it"), Nadine could not be more relieved.
Everything is fine, now - he is exactly the person she thinks he is, her work remains uncompromised, and Simone Le Clair is not his girlfriend. It all works out.
"We've found damning evidence of Perrin taking Russian money, and I think it's exactly what we need to push France out of the Article 5 vote," Elizabeth is telling her now. "But it can't be traced back to this office."
Nadine knows exactly what she's getting at. "You need a third party to leak it."
"I need Mike to leak it."
"Would you like me to call him in today, ma'am?"
"Immediately. Have Blake push my afternoon appointments if you have to. And I would like you to sit in on our meeting."
"Of course, Madam Secretary." Nadine excuses herself from Elizabeth's office and dials Mike's number on her work phone.
When he answers he is reasonably cooperative, if a little curt. He agrees to cancel an upcoming meeting of his in order to meet with Elizabeth immediately after lunch, and then hangs up on her in the middle of her goodbye.
"If the video is as damning as you say it is, why not just leak it?" Mike is sitting in the seat next to Nadine and he already looks disinterested in what she and the Secretary have to say to him.
"Then Perrin spins it as American propaganda and France spends a week chasing its tail over whether or not it's authentic -" Nadine points out.
"In which time Russia completes its strangulation of the legitimate government in Bulgaria and it's too late," Elizabeth finishes.
"So you want your old buddy Mike to leak it for you." There's a tinge of distaste in his tone.
"You have the right contacts in the French media."
"And a reputation for discretion."
"Ironic, don't you think?" he mutters, turning toward her, and she gives him a look of confusion. "That I'm the discreet one?"
She bristles ever so slightly, and when she responds her voice is dangerously soft. "I beg your pardon?"
"Something tells me you can handle the moral ambiguity. Now are you in, or are you out?" The Secretary's no-nonsense tone leaves no room for indecision. If he feels any loyalty to this office, then he needs to prove it right now.
But in an almost childish manner, Mike pretends to deliberate it for a few seconds before giving his answer; even when they all know that he will do as the Secretary bids. They all do as the Secretary bids. He may not necessarily work under Elizabeth, but he still serves at her pleasure. "Sure," he says finally, getting up from his seat. "Whatever you want." He gives Elizabeth a parting nod and walks out of her office without another word. Whatever accusations the Secretary had thrown in his direction still wounds him.
Nadine follows him out half a second later, trying not to look too obvious about chasing him down, but he's walking too fast for her to keep up. She has no choice but to practically run down the hall after him. "Hey," she hisses, "hey." She grabs him by the elbow and wheels him around. "Do you mind?" she mutters, and nods toward her office. She has one hand on the door already, prepared to physically drag him inside if need be.
"Why not?" he says blandly, and when she holds the door open for him, he walks inside without protest.
"What's going on?" She's bewildered.
He looks at her in disbelief, as if she ought to know exactly what his problem is. "I know it was you," he enunciates, and when she shakes her head, he continues, "that did the sleuthing, and ran to teacher."
So that's what all this was about?
"Well of course it was me!" she exclaims. "And if you thought I might be in the thrall of some hostile foreign power, then I would hope that you would go to the Secretary too!"
His eyes widen as she's talking, like he can't believe what he's hearing, and he lets out a long and drawn out sigh. "All you had to do was ask. That's all you had to do."
And then she deflates slightly, because it's all being thrown into sharp relief. It makes sense, now, why he's so upset over this.
She's done this to him before - in exactly this way.
He brushes past her. She calls him back before he can walk out. "Mike." He turns back. "My first obligation is to this job," she says soberly. And she thinks - she knows - that she's said this to him before, too.
She can't remember if it hurt this much then.
His eyes dart from her eyes to her mouth, and back again. "I get that," he says softly, and there is something like regret written all over his face. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go do some dirty work." He leaves without a backward glance. She watches him go, feeling a hollow space open up inside of her chest.
Nadine is still in her office when he comes back.
It's late. Jay and the Secretary have already left for Brussels, and the rest of the floor is empty. Mike slips inside, his whispery movements loud in the silence. He says nothing.
She can tell from the set of his jaw that he's still fuming, still angry at her, and the tension between them is thick. She dares to cut through it. "Perrin will be impeached," she offers. A nod to Mike's efforts. It's a small offering, and as safe a place to start as any.
"Yeah," he replies tightly. "You're welcome." They fall into an awkward silence again.
"I know you're angry with me," she says finally.
He blows out a breath. "Damn right I'm angry. It's the same thing with you." All over again, he doesn't say, but they both know it's what he means.
"No. You think you see something that's wrong, and instead of asking me, talking to me, you prefer to take kicks at my career." His tone is biting. "It's getting old, Nadine."
"We were trying to keep NATO from falling apart," she says, and her voice is level but she still sounds defensive. 'We', she said. 'We', where Elizabeth was the second half of that syllable, and it suddenly strikes Nadine how she and Mike have never shared this pronoun, not in any way that really counts. 'We' has always been Nadine and Vincent; Nadine and Roman; Nadine and Elizabeth; Mike and his wife. Never Nadine and Mike. "We were... there was a lot riding on this." He understands that, doesn't he?
"Your work is not more important than mine!"
"It was a time-sensitive issue -"
"You should have asked me."
"You could have told me!" Her voice rises, and so does she. If he wants a fight, well she can damn well give him one.
"There was nothing to tell! I'm not here to tear down democracy, Nadine, I promise," he says acidly. "And by the way, I don't even work for you! I'm not obligated to tell you anything!"
"And I'm not obligated to explain my work-related decisions to you," she snaps back. "I serve at the pleasure of the Secretary first."
"Oh, don't worry, you've made that abundantly clear!"
"Don't make this personal, Mike," she warns. "You already knew this going in." In fact, he's always known it.
"It's not personal at all! You're casting aspersions on my career! Professional courtesy goes both fucking ways, and you could maybe show me a little more of it."
"And to whom do you show professional courtesy?" she asks with disbelief. The entire nature of his work rests on his ability to steamroller others' careers. Honestly, the sheer irony of him telling her that she ought to extend greater...
"You," he says flatly.
"Oh - like every time you criticize the way we do our jobs?" she demands. "Or the time you tried to fire the lot of us -"
"Now who's making things personal?"
She rounds her desk so that she's standing in front of him. "I don't understand why you're so angry about this," she says, and she thinks her bewilderment comes through in her voice. "It's nothing I wouldn't have expected you to do."
"If you think that I'd do that to you, then you don't know me as well as I thought. I wouldn't have blindsided you like that. That's your thing," he spits.
That hurts, but given their history, she can't say that it's untrue. "Look," she tries, a little desperately, because things are starting to feel like they're spinning completely out of her control, "Daisy and I stumbled across a picture of you with Simone Le Clair, and something felt off, so we looked into it. That's all! I didn't intend to ask you about something that might have been nothing at all."
"Or, ask me at all. Even when you did think it was something."
Well, by then it had seemed a little too serious not to take it directly to McCord.
"I was doing my job," she insists.
"And that erases me from the picture altogether?"
"You have always put your work ahead of me!" he shouts, and underneath the sheer volume, he sounds genuinely hurt. "Not just ahead of my work - ahead of me."
She bristles, and her tone is suddenly razor sharp. "Don't pull that card. I don't owe you anything." She likes him and she likes what they have, but she won't allow him to use that against her. Her personal life has no bearing on her professional obligations, and he is only hurting himself by conflating the two.
"I guess not," he says bitterly. "All the years we've worked together and I've never mattered to you the way that…" He stops himself short and looks away, and that hurts most of all.
"That's not fair," she says softly.
But he is already sealing away his vulnerability even as she speaks, and her weak reply does nothing but fuel his anger again. "Are you sure? Because you see one random picture with me and the EIL president and suddenly you think that's enough to -"
"- try and throw me under the diplomatic bus without even -"
"Mike," she tries again, but he's working himself into a seething rant.
"- the decency to just give me a quick phone call to confirm that I'm actually tearing apart world democracy -"
"Mike, I thought Le Clair was your girlfriend!" she explodes, and her eyes widen in surprise at her unintended admission, and all the insecurity that it implies. (It was partly about the Perrin intel, yes, but it was also very much about... this. Damn.) "I thought she was your girlfriend, okay?!"
They're revisiting all kinds of old injuries today, it seems.
He tosses it back in her face in a whirl of cruel fury. "So what if she was? You should be accustomed to playing the mistress!"
The crack echoes in the room when Nadine slaps him across the face. It shocks them both.
She's reeling. He's always known exactly how to hurt her. His recrimination hangs in the air between them, heavy in their stunned silence.
Mike breaks it first. "Damn it, I didn't mean that," he says hoarsely. His cheek is visibly hot with her handprint. He sounds genuinely, sincerely ashamed, but he's over the line, and she's past caring.
"Get out," she says evenly, icily. She's never used that tone with him before. She moves behind her desk, putting it between them like a barrier. She refuses to look at him. She can't; she might hit him again.
To his credit, he obeys without protest.