This week’s episode of DESIGNATED SURVIVOR was one of the better episodes of the season because all of the plot threads were connected to the main mystery of the Capital Hill bombing and the involvement of congressman Peter MacLeish. There were no filler story lines to weigh things down. The episode moved at a taut pace and kept the momentum going until the end. This was a nice reminder of why we started watching the show in the first place. It’s also a continuing reminder of how undesirable being President can actually be, though I still dream of having Kiefer Sutherland as our actual President. A boy can only dream. Now, let’s dive into the intrigue for this week.
A major security opens the episode by showing an NSA employee downloading classified information on a small thumb drive and hiding it in a coin (a nifty trick from the school of Mission Impossible). He walks out of the building undetected and we know this will cause some serious problems for President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland). Soon enough the information is leaked online to the public and the White House must scramble quickly to find who is behind the breach. They quickly discover that the NSA employee goes by the name of Gabriel Thompson, who has been a longtime systems analyst. He stole an insane amount of classified information that is linked to the former deceased President’s administration. It appears he wanted the world to know the corruption that existed in congress. Most of the leaked information is about some members getting paid to do speeches by corporations. Kirkman was also part of the former administration, is Thompson trying to hurt our poor President’s already shaky reputation? The only information connected to Kirkman that is revealed is an email sent by Emily (Italia Ricci), Chief Adviser to Kirkman, years ago in which she made damaging remarks about an old senator groping women. The problem is the old senator is a powerful figure in Washington and key to helping create vital legislation. He also wants Emily fired. Emily quickly decides she wants to resign to help Kirkman, but Kirkman won’t allow it (what a stand-up guy!). Thompson decides to hide at the Venezuelan embassy, since it’s considered foreign soil and he can’t be touched. Chief of Staff Aaron gets an idea that what Thompson really wants is to sit down and talk with Kirkman.
Aaron is able to arrange a meeting between Thompson and Kirkman. Before that can happen though, Kirkman confronts the old senator with Emily in the room. Kirkman informs him that he has files in his possession that confirm Emily’s damaging email about his inappropriate behavior. Kirkman gives him an ultimatum: either retire or the incriminating files will be leaked to the public. The senator wisely chooses the former and Emily is in the clear. Sometimes you have to play hardball to the leader of the free world. All of this creates further sparks between Emily and Aaron, who have been doing a flirtatious dance this season and leads Aaron to finally ask her out on a date, which she gladly accepts (they found love in a hopeless place indeed). Kirkman finally meets with Thompson and turns out Thompson has been trying to help Kirkman all along and is willing to risk his freedom for the important information on the thumb drive. He also warns him about treading cautiously who he gives file “12-80C” to. Kirkman discovers that this mysterious file is indeed a blueprint of Capitol Hill, with a simulation of the bombing. What this shows is that the bombing was an inside job. There is a traitor among them. Cue the surprise music!
Meanwhile in FBI world, agent Wells (Maggie Q) pleads with the Internal Affairs director in the Atwood case (where he confessed to killing Nassar because that mysterious woman and her group kidnapped her son). He hears her out and asks her then if he didn’t do it, then who did? She stays quiet and goes on the hunt for clues regarding MacLeish, where she comes across information about the men that served with him during the war in the Middle East. All of the men she meets have the same story about MacLeish being a great and heroic guy. A dead end, until she discovers a photo of MacLeish and his men during the war and notices that one of the men is Catalan (the killer behind Nassar’s death!). She digs deeper and uncovers that MacLeish and his men are not war heroes, but war criminals because they killed a bunch of innocent people in an Afghani village. Cue the surprise music!
Moving over to what Congresswoman Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen) has up her sleeve. It turns out she is on a media tour where she is making it public about her disapproval of Kirkman’s actions as President and MacLeish’s qualifications to be Vice President before his confirmation hearing. She is has made fully clear that Kirkman should really not trust her. Madsen continues to be one of the best parts of the show, relishing her power hungry role. MacLeish appears to do well during the first round of the hearing. Agent Wells urges Hookstraten to delay the confirmation because she has damaging information about MacLeish, which Hookstraten is all too gladly to comply and inform Kirkman about. Kirkman meets with MacLeish about him having any skeletons in his closet, but MacLeish coyly says there is nothing, which Kirkman doesn’t completely trust. Wells informs Hookstraten that she has concrete evidence implicating MacLeish. With the information, Hookstraten gathers a congressional-committee gathering. As Well approaches Congress in her car, she is struck by an oncoming vehicle and knocked out. Clearly, someone knows she has this information and doesn’t want it released. What will happen to Wells? Will MacLeish be sworn in? Will Kirkman get a day off? All of this leads to the mid-season finale next week, which looks to be a strong episode. Hopefully we get some big answers. Stay tuned!
Season 1, Episode 9 (S01E09)
Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10 PM on ABC
Cristian Barros | Contributor