‘The Diplomat’s Eidra and Stuart embody the practical puzzle of secret work romances


Debora Cahn writes tense foreign policy negotiations and smart, amorous, modern relationships between highly intelligent minds like nobody’s business. We’ve strolled down enough Washington halls valiantly hanging onto every syllable and manilla folder in The West Wing and Homeland to know.

And in The Diplomat, Netflix’s political drama woven around the new U.S. ambassador to the UK amid an international crisis, these well-trodden halls lead us through high-stakes diplomatic relations to one of Cahn’s best screen couples yet — and not necessarily just the main one.

Keri Russell and Rufus Sewell’s boisterous, complicated, long-term diplomat couple Kate and Hal Wyler radiate enough intellectual sexual tension to power a naval aircraft carrier. It’s as incredible to watch as it is infuriating to Kate. And yes, Kate is understandably struggling with her simmering attraction to David Gyasi’s unsettlingly debonair British foreign secretary Austin Dennison.


‘The Night Agent’ literally doesn’t sleep. Someone allow him a nap.

However, in all this flirtatious diplomacy within the walls of the Foreign Office in Whitehall, there’s a more subtle office romance hiding in plain sight. We’re talking CIA station chief Eidra Park, played by Ali Ahn, and Kate’s right hand, deputy chief of mission Stuart Hayford, played by Ato Essandoh.

Five actors stand in an office in

Who’s gonna know?
Credit: Alex Bailey/Netflix

Eidra and Stuart’s relationship is one revealed early in the series as privately romantic, publicly professional, unbeknownst to their colleagues and reports. They stagger their entrances and exits, never express affection beyond their lightning-fast banter at work, trade only suitable intel and flirt over extra “mercy-fuck” information. (“This is a mercy declassification of eyes-only intelligence,” Stuart laments.) They pretend to be in the office when they’re eating breakfast together at home, pull guns on each other accidentally with the new advent of apartment keys, and honestly debate each other’s professional opinions — lives are literally at stake, so…bravo.

“Will you look at me over candlelight? Talk about Russian non-government paramilitary organizations?” Stuart asks in the kitchen.

“You know I will,” Eidra replies.

“Will you look at me over candlelight? Talk about Russian non-government paramilitary organizations?”

Because they’re highly competent adults, Stuart and Eidra do manage to keep their relationship separate from their work, running internal proceedings at the U.S. embassy and managing ops between the CIA and M16, respectively. Yes, they talk about Russian submarine movement off the British coast while making a late night omelette, but they’re careful with what information they trade.

Secret workplace romances aren’t anything new onscreen — from Parks and Rec’s Ben and Leslie to Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Jake and Amy and New Girl‘s Winston and Aly. They’re pretty common occurrences offscreen too(opens in a new tab) — a third of U.S. workers surveyed(opens in a new tab) said that they’re currently in or have had a workplace romance, and 50 percent of workers reported they’d had a crush on a coworker. But Eidra and Stuart’s high-powered jobs within the U.S. State Department give us an intense new landscape for watching the practical logistics of dating someone in a sea of relationship-building and foreign policy: “In those jobs, who else is going to understand what you do?” Ahn told Netflix’s Tudum blog(opens in a new tab)

Ato Essandoh stands outside a government building in

Credit: Alex Bailey/Netflix

In fact, they’re so good at covering their dating life up they’re literally surrounded by intelligence gathering professionals who never clock it before they finally decide to go public — well, they’re pretty much forced into it by Hal’s shrewd detective work. Before that, Eidra sees Kate and Hal’s tempestuous and politically strained relationship as an example of exactly why not to openly be with someone else in their business, telling Stuart, “Being a tandem couple has fucked both of them. But mostly her.”

Cahn makes a point of regularly calling out the sexist double standards women deal with the political sphere during The Diplomat. Kate and Hal’s marriage is quite literally held together by Kate’s possible VP appointment, a position archaically reliant on a conservative outward appearance of matrimonial bliss, and Kate deals with misogyny and being upstaged by her husband on an almost hourly rate. Notably, Eidra calls out the difference in reaction she’ll get from going being public with her relationship with Stuart in episode 6.

“Dating a station chief’s a hotshot move. It makes you look good. Makes me look like a fucking girlfriend,” Eidra teases Stuart in episode 6. “When you show up and a relationship’s in place, it’s old news. Here, it’ll make me look like I haven’t been doing my job because I’ve been swooning over you.”

Ali Ahn stands in an office in

Credit: Alex Bailey/Netflix

Unfortunately, Eidra and Stuart’s proverbial walls are so firmly built they’re unable to express their real feelings to one another, and what they actually want. They both spend so much time trying to convince the other person they don’t care about commitment that any real emotions get somewhat lost in their practicality. The closest they get to this is Stuart freaking out in episode 5 about the possibility of war with Russia — “That’s the kind of thing where people have babies, because it’s apocalyptic.” — but appears even more perturbed by Eidra addressing the potential of moving in together. In contrast, though highly competitive, Kate and Hal have reached the level of their 15-year relationship where they’re so comfortable and practical with each other that Kate has Hal smell her own armpit for acceptable pong level.

In Eidra and Stuart, Cahn has written two fully formed, complicated characters who thrive outside their relationship, high-ranking foreign service officials whose frankly intense careers and highly compelling personalities are defined beyond their connection with each other. Both spend a large part of the series just individually ruling at their jobs. Eidra knows more about every room before she enters it than they know themselves. Not only is Stuart required to steer Kate’s assimilation into the UK while laboring to help her keep Hal from meddling in state affairs, he’s recruited by the White House chief of staff Billie Appiah (Nana Mensah) to suss out Kate for the vice-president role, a fact he can’t reveal to Eidra without approval. 

Ali Ahn and Ato Essandoh stand with their arms around each other in

Credit: Alex Bailey/Netflix

Unfortunately, this means Stuart has some pretty vital information about possibly moving to D.C. at the end of all this, intel he’s not allowed to share with his partner, but intel which will inevitably affect their relationship. Stuart and Eidra’s break up scene is deeply sad to watch, as Stuart’s romantic actions in episode 4 requesting Eidra turn down a posting in Cairo take on a more frustrating angle for her. “You wanted to go public with a relationship that’s about to end. Why would you do that?” Eidra points out. And folks, she’s right.

But after that finale, though, we’re unclear on exactly what’s ahead for Eidra, whether Stuart’s alive or not, and if he is, whether Washington will break them up for good. But for the first season of The Diplomat, we’ve rarely seen more compelling, furiously intellectual, and formidably practical office romance.

The Diplomat is now streaming on Netflix.(opens in a new tab)

#Diplomats #Eidra #Stuart #embody #practical #puzzle #secret #work #romances


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