Poor President Kirkman (Kifer Sutherland), it seems like the man can’t catch a break. Last week he had to deal with a refugee crisis that may not have ended as ideally as he would’ve liked, but Kirkman continues to fight the good fight, for the sake of the country. I will say this once again, I will take a Kirkman presidency any day over the craziness we are living with now in our real-world landscape. But enough about the real stuff, let’s get back to the wonderful intrigue of the fictional kind. This week on DESIGNATED SURVIVOR, Kirkman must face a crisis involving the Russian government, U.S athletes, a secret from his personal life being exposed, picking his Vice President, who may or may not be involved with the Capitol Hill explosion. All this, and we haven’t even mentioned the two last-minute plot twists. Once again, this was a solid, but not great episode, but it did allow for some plot elements to move forward. Let us dive deeper into the details.
First up, we start with the main story line of the week, which involves the Russian government and a famous U.S. Track & Field coach. President Kirkman decides to give a speech at the White House about uniting the country and has the U.S. Track & Field team on hand, to announce that they will be headed to Moscow to compete in an international competition. Seems like a simple and positive enough thing, right? Well, in Designated Survivor world, nothing can ever be a simple thing. As soon as the athletes arrive in Moscow, Coach Weston is arrested for an “alleged” doping scandal, in which he supposedly had 20 plus vials of HGH in his possession. This makes the entire team complicit and is implicated by the Russian government. Kirkman is furious that this occurred and wants a solution ASAP. He is getting very close to his weekly Jack Bauer-level of angry. He orders the State Department to look into the situation right away, but gets some startling news that Weston is actually a freelance spy for the CIA. The Russians are highly suspicious of Weston and are believed to have planted the drugs, in order to obtain him in an official manner. Kirkman meets with the Russian ambassador in order to find a solution. The Russians will release Weston, but under one condition (when is there ever not a condition on this show), that the U.S. disarm one of their bases near the Russian border in Turkey. Kirkman declines the deal and looks for a different solution, but the clock is ticking on Weston facing trial. Things escalate quickly when Weston is forced by the Russian to admit to the doping on national television. Kirkman and his team come up with a three-way spy trade, involving the Russians, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. It seems like an ambitious plan, but they all agree to it, until another unexpected twist is thrown into the mix. Weston is actually a double agent, working on behalf of the Russian government, which makes the deal fall apart. Kirkman’s admiration of Weston is shattered, but he warns the Russian ambassador to not be too comfortable having pulled a fast one on him. You don’t want to unleash Jack Bauer.
As if the Russian situation wasn’t tricky enough for Kirkman, he has to deal with threats to his personal life. Press Secretary Seth (Kal Penn) is trying to fend of his reporter (and possible new love interest) because she is bugging him for a comment from the President, concerning a story about Kirkman not being the real father of his son Leo. Kirkman admits to Seth and his team that the story is true, when he and first lady Alex were dating, she was already pregnant with some guy’s kid, who ended up going to prison. The problem is that the guy wants to leak the story, but Leo is unaware about any of this. This causes tension between Kirkman and Alex because they disagree about handling it. Alex decides to pay the guy a visit in prison and what do you know, he wants to be released in exchange for dropping the leak. Seth is able to provide a temporary fix, by offering the reporter an exclusive story in exchange for dropping the Leo one. She agrees and their flirtatious dance moves froward. This story line continues to feel tacked on with the rest of the show and an excuse to keep Alex as an active character, but she is better utilized when she is part of the main action, like in last week’s episode. Hopefully this story gets wrapped up soon enough.
Now we arrive to the most interesting story line on the show, which is the ongoing investigation of the person or people involved with the Capitol Hill bombing. As we all know, Kirkman is wanting to appoint congressman MacLeish as his Vice President, but before any of that can happen, he wants the FBI to vet him and he would like to get to know him personally better. Kirkman invites him and his wife over to the White House for dinner with him and Alex. They all seem to be getting along, when Chief of Staff Aaron interrupts to privately inform Kirkman of Nassar’s apparent suicide. It seems like the man can never have a quiet evening eating a fancy meal. During this whole interaction, MacLeish looks mighty suspicious and strangely offers Kirkman help if anything is wrong. MacLeish is trying too hard to seem helpful, which of course makes him a prime suspect. Agent Wells and Atwood definitely don’t trust MacLeish and know he is involved in the bombing in some manner. Wells tells Atwood that who ever murdered Nassar is involved in the attack and MacLeish is probably connected to it. Atwood goes to the White House to meet with Kirkman to inform him of their findings, but surprise, MacLeish is in the room to offer “help.” Atwood keeps it simple and just informs Kirkman that they are still looking into it. Kirkman is frustrated by the lack of information. Meanwhile, Wells meets with a CIA source about finding out about the mysterious Catalan that Nassar confessed about, but the source warns her that this is a dangerous path and Catalan is an American traitor, so we know this is a domestic threat. Back at FBI headquarters, MacLeish pays Atwood and Wells a surprise visit (this guy loves his surprises) to hand Atwood files for his vetting, which is odd and highly suspicious of someone hiding something. This leads to the two twists in this week’s episode. Twist one, Wells finds an envelope in her car with a file on Catalan, who goes by the name Nestor Lozano and quickly links him as one of the guards looking after Nassar and probably responsible for his death. This plays into twist two, as Wells is calling Atwood, he is on the hunt for his missing son and meets a mysterious woman, who is part of a group holding the son captive, in exchange for keeping quiet and making an appointment with Kirkman and doing anything she instructs him to do. Uh oh, the plot thickens!
This episode lacked some of the quick pacing we have come accustomed to on the show and that is mainly because of the Leo birth father plot, which feels as though it has been stretched far enough and is more filler, which takes away from the more interesting plots about Kirkman running the country and the mystery of the bombing. All of the actors continue to do solid work, though I still feel like the writers could dig deeper into the characters and give them some dimensions. Regardless, the show remains a fun ride and I continue to stay engrossed in the MacLeish story line. The question remains just how involved is MacLeish in all of this and is he the mastermind? See you in two weeks!
Season 1, Episode 7 (S01E07)
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