DESIGNATED SURVIVOR started off with a bang this week by plunging us back into the action of where we left off in last week’s episode, where Agent Wells (Maggie Q) and Atwood, hiding in the woods, discovered that Nestor Lozano, President Kirkman’s would-be deceased assassin, is in fact very much alive. We will dig in deeper about this reveal later on. This was an uneven episode that had a difficult time juggling the tone of the political drama with the conspiracy events. Let us dive in deeper and get to the bottom of things.
We begin with President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) moving further along with the gun-control legislation, which is now being signed by Kirkman into law. This is a big win for the Kirkman administration, since there have been many setbacks, to say the least. By his side in Congresswoman Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen), the moderate Republican (remember Kirkman is an independent), who helped facilitate this bill into now the law of the land. It’s a time for celebrating and Kirkman rightfully thanks Hookstraten for her vital efforts. He thanks her enough to make the offer she has been anticipating, to be his new Vice President. She gladly accepts and the vetting process commences, but since this is the world of politics, conflict is always around the corner.
A new political scandal erupts when news gets out that Hookstraten once took a paid trip to Turkey, which is problematic because the media insinuates that it may have been a bride for political favors. Of course, this information didn’t appear out of nowhere, it was the handy work of our good friend and the man everyone loves to hate, Senator Bowman of Montana. He is clearly still feeling the sting of losing the gun-control legislation. When a mysterious man shows up in his office to provide damaging information to Hookstraten, Bowman has no problem leaking it to the public. When Aaron confronts Bowman about the leak, Bowman smiles with that slimy grin and denies it (don’t you just want to smack that grin right off?).
Hookstraten sits with Kirkman in the Oval to tell him personally that her actions and past votes were not compromised. Kirkman assures her that he never doubted her, when the news broke and that he still fully supports her in being the new Vice President. She appreciates the support, but Emily interrupts their conversation with not-so-great news: the House Ethics Committee is opening an investigation into Hookstraten’s alleged political misdoings. Hookstraten takes the news in stride telling Kirkman that she is the “old guard” and there are newbies who are trying to push her out. She is a survivor of the old Congress, along with Kirkman, and they don’t seem to gel with the new wave of political figures gunning their way into D.C.
Kirkman remains steadfast in his support of Hookstraten, despite the advice of his staff. Emily points out to him that the publicity of Hookstraten makes her political damaged goods and he would be best to move to another candidate. Seth, who usually remains loyal in his support of Kirkman’s decisions, thinks that Hookstraten might have a difficult time overcoming this mess. Kirkman doesn’t care and sticks to his instincts, continue to support Hookstraten. He tells Emily and Seth to run a newspaper op-ed in her defense, but they can only find a mid-level paper to run it, with only the support of a one-term Arkansas congressman. Kirkman is disappointed to hear this, but tells Emily and Seth to run it anyway. Hookstraten can use any good new right now.
We move to the best scene of the episode and it was Hookstarten in full bulldog-mode, chewing someone out and not taking any nonsense from anyone. She is fully aware of the mysterious man who provided Bowman with the damaging information. She invites this stranger to meet with her in her office. We soon find out that this man was a former staff member of hers and one who was fired to taking bribes without her consent. Hookstraten lays into him and tells him that he messed with the wrong person. She has document evidence that implicates him. His days in D.C. are over. Madsen plays this scene with all of its dramatic relish. She continues to prove why she is the MVP of the show. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of Hookstraten or you will be served. So long disgruntled guy!
Going back to Agent Wells and Atwood in the woods. Someone from Lozano’s cult-like group spots them from afar and they make a run for it. Luckily, they are able to escape, but Atwood sustains a gunshot wound on his shoulder, but it’s just a flesh wound. Still, Wells tells him to sit out to recover. Wells takes her information back to D.C. to disclose their findings. An important question is brought up. If Lozano is alive, who is the dead body that they have belong to? Wells goes over to coroner’s office and studies the body that clearly isn’t Lozano. After some heavy research, she discovers that Lozano faked his death by sending out a willing decoy in his place. The dead body is identified as Desmond Legarth, a former Army veteran and Browning Reed employee. It turns out he had close ties with the CEO of Browning Reed, Patrick Lloyd. Lloyd is wealthy politically-involved figure, who has become a prominent figure in the alt-right movement, though his views appear to be more extreme.
Wells pays a visit to Lloyd at his ranch. She tries to question him, but doesn’t get very far. Lloyd is stern and arrogant in his refusal to answer Wells’ line of questioning. Despite the setback, Wells is able to hack into his truck and keep tabs on his location. Lloyd leaves the scene with a passage that sounds awfully familiar to Wells. Lloyd’s remark is a direct quote from the Pax Americana book Wells obtained last week. The connections are starting to add up, Lloyd appears to be a part of Lozano’s cult-like group. The question is are they group responsible for the Capitol Hill bombing. Time will tell.
Wells goes back to some dingy motel to get some sleep, but is quickly suspicious and runs back to her car, but before she can get in, she is kidnapped by a group dressed in black and taken away in a white van. The driver is none other Lozano himself.
Meanwhile, intrepid journalist Abe Leonard (Rob Morrow) gets a tip that the White House is covering up the truth about the attack. That’s all of the information that is provided, but he is able to get a car’s license plate, which belongs to a White House staffer, but who? Abe meets with the mole in a parking structure to get more information. Turns out that mole is connected to Lozano and his organization and there you have your weekly twist.
This was another decent episode, but lacked some of the focus of last week’s White House-heavy episode. The jumping between the White House drama and the Agent Wells events was more jarring than usual and felt like two different shows, but by the end of the episode, things were all tying together. My other quibble with the episode was the logic of having Wells staying in an open motel, making her vulnerable for the kidnapping. She should be staying in a secret location. This felt a bit forced to create more conflict for the show. Hopefully the show stays away from these type of narrative trappings. The Hookstarten drama remained the most compelling element and made the episode worthy for her chewing-out scene alone. Now that there are only three episodes left this season, I’m hopeful the writers pump up the momentum and give us the answers and strong finish we anticipate. Until next week!
Season 1, Episode 18 (S01E18)
Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10 PM on ABC
Cristian Barros | Contributor