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Designated Survivor recap: Season 1, Episode 4

The Kirkman administration goes to war

Posted on

ABC/Sven Frenzel

Designated Survivor

TV Show
run date:
Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, Kal Penn, Maggie Q
Current Status:
In Season

Michigan! Algeria! Michigan again! This week’s Designated Survivor takes us all over the map and crams in an intense amount of plot into one 40-minute episode. It looks like this will be the show’s general strategy going forward, so let’s once again break it down by story line—starting with my favorite one.

The West Wing Stuff

The press is getting antsy. It’s been seven days since the Middle Eastern terrorist group (supposedly) took credit for the attack on Washington. Why hasn’t the U.S. bombed anything yet? The journalists want to know.

This prompts the Kirkman Administration to do what they should have done on Day One: assign someone to be press secretary.

They choose some generic white guy named Carter — I guess because he just happened to be in the room at the time. Bad idea, though: Carter is pretty bad at press secretary-ing. He stammers, he sweats, and he generally fails to project the kind of confidence that the White House needs to right now.

Sensing all this, speechwriter Kal Penn/Seth Wright gives Carter some tips. Mainly, he just tells Carter to stop sucking.

At first, it works. With Kal Penn looking on proudly, Carter handles his next presser with the slick confidence of a man who has earned Kal Penn’s approval. But then he messes up by violating the first rule of being press secretary: being honest. He tells the reporter-filled room that America’s brand new president wants to remove Royce, the elected governor of Michigan, from office. (We’ll get to the Royce story later.)

The bloodthirsty journos jump on this bizarre misstep, and Carter panics. A lot: Instead of, say, clarifying his remarks or deflecting questions, our boy simply runs out of the room, forcing Kal Penn to quickly step up to the lectern and handle it himself.

Kal Penn, it turns out, happens to be a natural at the position. Although his first question on the job was a bit of a softball: “Who are you?” I guess all the good journalists died in the explosion and were replaced by their unpaid interns, because you’d have to think that these White House press corp journalists would know very well who he is. The man wrote huge speeches for two presidents — the previous one’s final SOTU address and the new one’s very first address to a terror-shaken nation — in one day!  

Soon, however, everyone will know who is. Kirkman officially hires him as Press Secretary, setting up a music-swelling and, yes, West Wing-worthy ending (or at least pre-twist ending) in when Kal Penn delivers a lofty, idealistic monologue in the White House press briefing room, all while the camera treats us to handsome shots of key Kirkman allies looking noble. C.J. Cregg would be proud.

NEXT: Kirkman v. Michigan