After the surprising news in last week’s episode of a survivor being found alive within the rubbles of what was once Capitol Hill, President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) must continue his DESIGNATED SURVIVOR duties of running the country and move things forward for the American public. The question is, how does one do that when the chips or in this case public opinion seem against you? Well, it appears the answer is to do an on-camera interview with ABC reporter Elizabeth Vargas.
Before the interview, President Kirkman gathers his staff to come up with some next-step plans for the country. Before any ideas can be thrown out, the power goes out through the White House, causing major concern throughout the Oval Office. Could this be the next attack we may have suspected? Before anyone has time to pull out their flashlights to tell spooky stories, the back up generators kick in, but the panic has been set in motion. It turns out the black out was caused by a cyber security breach from a hack video delivery, featuring terrorist Majid Nassar in a confessional of admittance to the attack. General Cochrane (Kevin McNally), as trigger-happy as ever, thinks this is solid proof to launch into war, but FBI director Jason Atwood (Malik Yoba) presents a different theory that was presented to him by agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q), where she believes the video and the bombs recovered from the attack are a diversion from the real attackers. President Kirkman asks Jason if he believes this to be true, but Jason just says that he believes in Hannah. The information is enough for President Kirkman to hold off on a war-like attack and decides to send out a manhunt for Nassar. He then presents the video to Congresswoman Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen), who appears to be cooperative with his decisions, though she does admit that it would be unifying for the country if there was a common enemy, President Kirkman disagrees. I still have a sneaking suspicion that Hookstraten is up to something to undermine Kirkman.
Back in FBI land, agent Wells decides to visit Congressman McLeigh in the hospital, the found survivor of the attack, whom she believes is a key witness regarding the bombing. Unfortunately, he doesn’t offer much insight by saying that all he remembers is seeing the President speak and then total darkness. All he feels now is guilt for being the only survivor and losing many of his friends in the attack. Wells and Atwood converse about the identities of the deceased and Atwood confirms that the identity of one of the deceased was a congressman who Wells has been looking concerned over. Wells is devastated by the news and confirms to Atwood that she had been having an affair with the congressman, which Atwood is not surprised by, he is the head of the FBI after all, knowing important intel is the name of the game.
Meanwhile, inside the White House, President Kirkman and his speech writer Seth (Kal Penn) meet with the former President’s son, Tyler, about speaking at his father’s funeral service and expressing their condolences. Elsewhere, we find First Lady Alex Kirkman (Natasha McElhone) and her young daughter Penny unpacking their things to get settled in, when Penny discovers what appears to be drugs in her brother Leo’s bag, which to leads to a storyline that feels like an after school special about Alex lecturing the dangers of having drugs around, which Leo admits to having no good reason for doing what he did. I probably could have done without this storyline, since it took away from the momentum of the other more intriguing narrative threads of the episode. One of which is the competition between Seth and Emily (Italia Ricci) for the role of Chief of Staff. Before that can be decided, President Kirkman has his interview with Elizabeth Vargas, who asks him many expected questions, but throws him a curveball about how the former President had fired him prior to the attack. Kirkman pauses to converse with Seth and Emily, who have different opinions on how to handle the situation, she believes to be fully honest, while Seth thinks it’s best to deflect. Kirkman decides to answer by saying that the former President moved him to a new position, but Vargas fires back by saying that it’s just another way saying being fired. There’s that gotcha journalism, such a pesky thing.
When President Kirkman arrives at the funeral service for the former President, Tyler feels duped from what he saw in Kirman’s interview and tells him he would rather not have him speak at the service, which Kirkman respectfully complies with, but a last minute speaker is added to the bill. It’s none other than Congresswoman Hookstraten, who speaks with such a commanding confidence, you would think that she is making a bid for the presidency. Well, Kirkman certainly takes it that way and slights Hookstraten on his way out of the service.
News quickly breaks that the Nassar video was leaked to the press and has gone viral. The media and the public continue to question if Kirkman is competent enough to run the country. Things are looking not so good for President Kirkman’s public image. Kirkman is starting to reach Jack Bauer-like levels of anger and decides to confront Hookstraten if she is behind the leak, since she look awfully presidential during the funeral service. She vehemently denies any involvement in the leak, though she does admit that she will be making a bid during the next election, so the seeds are starting to be planted. Kirkman finds out that Seth was being the leak, which he admits to and that it was the right call for his image. Kirkman was not happy being blindsided, but appreciated being challenged and welcomes it, which leads to him appointing Seth as his official Chief of Staff. Emily, not so pleased with the decision, is given a special title to be a part of Kirkman’s staff, though she does warn Seth that his job is not on the most solid ground. Before the episode concludes, we are given two important pieces of information. First, Wells has a techie video search all of the people that were filmed in Capitol Hill before the explosion, we see Congressman McLeigh, but seconds before the bomb went off, he is nowhere to be found. Second, we see Seth meeting with a mysterious woman who hands him a file with Kirkman’s name on it.
“The Confession” wasn’t as strong of an episode as the first two, since the narrative in this episode had some threads that weighed it down a little (the mentioned Alex/Leo storyline), but writers Jennifer Johnson and Paul Redford continued to offer compelling plot details, like the cyber attack and the questionable motives of Seth and Hookstraten, not to mention the bigger role that Congressman McLeigh now plays. Overall, the episode moved at an efficient pace, though I still believe the characters could be given some more dimensions because Sutherland continues to anchor the show, but it would be nice for other characters to shine as well. Still, we were left with some compelling questions that will keep us hooked for next week: what side is Seth playing? Will Hookstraten continue to cooperate with Kirkman? Is McLeigh working with the attackers or is he being used as a distraction? I’m sure we will continue to get more clues/answers to satisfy our curiosity. Until then!
Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10PM on ABC
In the crowded TV jungle, Cristian searches through the dense vines to find quality programming for all to enjoy.
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Cristian Barros | Contributor