After back-to-back action-packed episodes of DESIGNATED SURVIVOR, it was only a matter of time that the show’s momentum would slow down. The pacing of this week’s episode was more reminiscent of some the weaker episodes of the first half of the season. It lacked the surprises and excitement we’ve come to expect from the show. That being said, there were still some intriguing moments that helped up get over this hump and move forward to more exciting reveals down the line. Let us dive into the drama troubling President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) and company.
Within the White House, there were many rumblings occurring in the aftermath of last week’s shocking murder/suicide of Vice President MacLeish and his Lady Macbeth wife. All over the D.C. area, phone calls and news alerts are waking people up about the incident. Kirkman and his staff are in a state of confusion. He meets with Agent Wells (Maggie Q) and her FBI partner to discuss how this mess all occurred. She admits to not factoring in MacLeish’s wife and her Lady Macbeth ways. She also thinks that this leads to one conclusion, that the MacLeish’s wife was part of a larger conspiracy. Since paranoia is running high, Kirkman only provides selective information to his staff, which consists of Emily, Aaron and Seth. He tells them that the plan is to tell the public that the murder/suicide was caused by a domestic dispute (something tells me this won’t satisfy the public). Kirkman informs his wife, who is shocked, of the incident, but can’t provide her with full details, which she understands, but is still visibly annoyed by the secretive nature of everything in D.C. At the White House Press Briefing Room, Kirkman makes an official public statement saying the incident involving MacLeish and his wife was a domestic dispute gone wrong. He leaves it at that and walks off the podium.
In spite of all of the chaos caused by MacLeish and his wife, Emily tries to keep Kirkman busy with some less dramatic, but also important, presidential business. She provides him with some updates about continuing to fill out the remaining administration. Their pick for Secretary of the Interior is declining the job because of all of the chaos in D.C. There is someone else who is interested in the job, though, and that is former Secretary of State Gary Dwyer. He is set to meet with Aaron and Kirkman thinks that is a great idea, since he is a high-profile political figure, which would bring good press for the administration. Given the suspicious nature of Aaron, Emily thinks she should meet with Dwyer, but Kirkman insists to just keep business as usual.
During Seth’s press briefing, a rogue journalist named Abe Leonard asks a pressing question about Kirkman’s assasin, Nestor Lozano. Leonard was provided information about the fact that VP MacLeish was the one that made the kill order, despite FBI opposition, to take Lozano out. Seth is caught off guard and the whole room goes into a frenzy over this reveal. Seth meets with Kirkman and Aaron, who confirm the information as truth. Kirkman tells Seth to find a way to contain the damaging state of this news. More importantly, Kirkman orders his staff to find out who is leaking information to the press.
Aaron quickly approaches Speaker Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen) if she was the one who leaked the information and not only does not deny it, she turns the table on Aaron and blames him because he provided her with the intel. Hookstraten continues to be one of the best characters on the show because you can never pinpoint where her alliances lie. Also, Madsen plays her with such relish that it’s entertaining to watch her take people down, just with a glance and a cutting line of dialogue. Aaron fesses up to Kirkman about the information leak and Hookstraten. He takes it fine, but makes a suggestion to Aaron about taking a week off to rest because his sleeplessness is affecting his judgment. This appears to be Kirkman’s plan to find out if Aaron is truly up to no good.
Meanwhile back in the press shop, Seth tells his staff to find ways of discrediting journalist Leonard, to make his claims about MacLeish disappear for good (something tells me Leonard won’t go down without a fight, which may cause more headaches for Kirkman’s administration in the future). Seth walks back home and is approached by old friends who insist on taking him out to drinks. This whole scene feels a bit out of place with the episode. It doesn’t add to the narrative and just shows that Seth works a lot.
Emily ends up meeting with Dwyer about the taking his old job as Secretary of State. He interrupts Emily that he only took the position out of respect for the office and is not interested in the job. He offers Emily some important information, former President Cornelius Moss is interested in getting back into politics and would make a strong adviser in the Kirkman administration. Kirkman is curious when Emily informs him about Moss because he and Moss have spoken and it never came up in conversation. This may end up being a new mystery for the show, stay tuned.
Trying to beat the press from gathering more leaked information, Kirkman addresses the public on television to inform them that MacLeish did in fact order the kill on Lozano. He continues to say that he wouldn’t have done it that way, but respects MacLeish’s call. He is hoping this puts the nation’s suspicious to rest, but that is never the case in paranoid-filled D.C.
Meanwhile, Agent Wells continues to try to find more answers surrounding MacLeish, his wife and the group they are involved with. She meets with Joyner, MacLeish’s army buddy, who was at the grave site of last week’s murder/suicide and is currently in FBI custody. She presents him with documents that prove things when wrong in Afghanistan, he quickly spills intel. Wells takes the information straight to Kirkman. She tells Kirkman that Lozano, the assassin who tried to take him out, was involved in the violence that MacLeish’s military unit committed in Afghanistan. MacLeish was the one responsible for stopping his men from killing Lozano, a war criminal. Lozano owed MacLeish a favor. The conclusion of this is that MacLeish became radicalized against the government from this event, which also happened to ironically turn him into a war hero to the public.
The episode finishes, in true fashion, with a twist. As Aaron is arriving home, he is approached by a suspicious-looking person on the sidewalk. Wells and her team are keeping surveillance in a nearby van. It turns out to be Charles Langdon, former chief of staff (also Aaron’s current job), who mysteriously didn’t die in the bombing. What does Langdon want? Is he working with MacLeish’s group or in hiding from them? I’m sure all will be revealed soon.
This was decent a episode, but it lacked the excitement we got for the last two weeks. I understand that the show needs us to catch our breath, but they could keep the intrigue excitement moving along more briskly. Hookstraten still provides some of the best moments and we can use more of her and less of Seth going out to drinks with his friends. Hopefully we start learning more about the mysterious group and get some answers. The pace needs to pick up again to keep us on the edge, which the show does well, but what this week lacked. Until next week!
Season 1, Episode 13 (S01E13)
Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10 PM on ABC
Cristian Barros | Contributor