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'Designated Survivor' recap: 'The Mission'

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ABC/Sven Frenzel

Designated Survivor

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
1
run date:
09/21/16
performer:
Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, Kal Penn, Maggie Q
broadcaster:
ABC
genre:
Drama

Welcome back to Designated Survivor, which took a break last week for the third and final presidential debate (apparently, Wednesday night didn’t need any more ridiculous political intrigue/drama). Whereas the last episode was jam-packed with story lines, tonight’s hour is almost entirely focused on one important thing: The mission to take out Majid Nassar. Let’s dive in!

Preparing for the Titular Mission

President Kirkman originally planned on killing Nassar via an airstrike because he didn’t want to put troops on the ground. However, that plan gets thrown out the window when they receive intelligence that Nassar is no longer where they thought he would be. Apparently, someone in the Algerian government tipped him off before the attack. See, Kirkman, this is what you get when you try the sensible diplomatic route.

This initial setback leads Kirkman to second-guess himself throughout the entire episode. To make matters worse, he still has Kimble breathing down his neck and demanding to know what’s taking so long to make a decision. She also reminds him he’s constitutionally obligated to consult with Congress before going to war. He assures her he knows:

Kimble:It’s reassuring to know that you’re fully aware of your constitutional duties.”

Kirkman:Thank you for your continued vigilance.”

By this point, these two are barely putting any effort into hiding how much they don’t care for each other — and I love it.

Eventually, military intelligence finds Nassar hiding in the basement of an Algerian hospital, which means an airstrike is no longer an option because it would result in too many civilian casualties. So his options are to either wait for another opportunity or to send in Navy SEALs to handle the job. Obviously, he doesn’t want to risk American lives, but it’s the only viable option. The Joint Chiefs suggest Kirkman instruct the SEALs to take Nassar alive (if possible) so he can be interrogated, but Kirkman is unsure because it would increase the danger of the mission.

Before making a decision, Kirkman travels to Virginia to meet with the SEAL team to learn more about its chances of success. The commander says it’s 50/50, but he’s confident they’ll get the job done. “God have mercy on them, because the United States won’t,” says the commander. I’m guessing that epically quotable line was all the reassurance Kirkman needed, because he green-lights the mission.

Kirkman heads back to D.C. and meets with Kimble and Peter MacLeish — a.k.a. Congress — to brief them on the Algeria plan. While Peter gives Kirkman his support, Kimble warns him she will turn her back on him if the mission fails, which is unsurprising — Kimble showed her true colors in last week’s episode. After the meeting, Aaron suggests Kirkman ask Peter to volunteer for speaker of the House once Congress has been re-formed. Kirkman thinks it’s a good idea and tells Aaron to get to work.

NEXT: Designated Survivor gets soapy

[pagebreak]

The Case Against Peter MacLeish

When Designated Survivor first premiered, I was very disinterested in Maggie Q’s investigation plot. It felt like the show was doing it because it thought it had to. But that changed with tonight’s episode, which saw Hannah Wells’ probing take an interesting turn that directly affects what’s going on in the White House.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise Hannah still suspects something is up with Peter. She follows up on the tip she received in last week’s episode and discovers Room 105 was a secret room in the Capitol recently renovated by a suspicious subcontractor. Can you guess who was found in the rubble where room 105 should’ve been? That’s right, Peter MacLeish.

As Maggie digs deeper into the room 105 of it all, Aaron and Emily approach Peter about throwing in his hat for speaker of the House. However, Peter turns them down. “Speaker of the House is pure politics,” he says. “I’m not interested in power for power’s sake.” He says being speaker would prevent him from actually serving the American people. This speech makes me even more suspicious of him.

With some help from Kimble, who makes Hannah promise to keep her in the loop, Hannah learns the names of everyone who worked on the room. However, she soon discovers all eight men died in the past two months — right after they completed work on the room. Further probing leads to the discovery that the men built a bomb shelter in Room 105, which means Peter was definitely connected to the bombing. Hannah takes this information to Jason, who finally believes her. However, he orders her not to tell anyone. (Who else suspects Jason might be involved, too?)

As Hannah gathers more evidence, Peter gains even more access to President Kirkman, who invites Peter to the Situation Room to watch the mission via video feed. The SEALs make their way through the hospital and eventually reach the basement, where they find Nassar has taken several children hostage. During the ensuing gunfight, the SEALs manage to apprehend Nassar, but one of them dies while shielding the children from bullets. It’s worth pointing out Peter didn’t look too pleased about the mission’s success even before Admiral Chernow shared the bad news.

Later that night, Kirkman walks in on Emily, Seth, and Aaron having dinner and learns Peter turned down the job because he didn’t come to D.C. for power. Not surprisingly, that’s a sentiment our reluctant hero/president understands and it convinces him Peter might be better suited for another position: vice president. And now I’m definitely invested in seeing where Hannah’s investigation takes her — it’ll have a huge effect on Kirkman’s administration.

The Wrap-Up

Earlier in the episode, Aaron — who is conducting opposition research on Kirkman — asked Emily if she knew anything about a man named Jeffrey Meyers. Emily lied and said no, but it turns out she does. Jeffrey Meyers is first lady Alex Kirkman’s ex, and he’s serving time in prison. Emily lets Alex know Aaron’s been asking questions about him.

Alex decides to handle this situation herself and meets with Aaron after the mission to discuss it. Aaron tells her Jeffrey has been telling his inmates that he’s actually Leo’s father. Alex’s face tells it all: It could be true. Aaron asks if Leo knows Kirkman might not be his father, and Alex simply shakes her head.

This little plot reveal made me roll my eyes so much. But to be fair, we should’ve seen something like this coming — this is an ABC drama, after all.  

When the SEALs return from Algeria, Kirkman is there at the Virginia base waiting for them. They roll the fallen soldier’s casket into an empty hangar where Kirkman can pay his respects. At one point, Chief Marino, one of the SEALs he met before the mission, arrives. Kirkman, feeling guilty, apologizes to Marino and says he should’ve waited. However, Marino tells Kirkman he doesn’t need to feel sorry — none of them questioned his orders. The episode ends with an amazing shot of Kirkman casting a shadow on the flag-covered casket as he walks away.

Extras:

  • Now, we still need to find out who tipped Hannah off about Room 105? Was it Kimble?
  • Seth spends the episode dodging the press’ questions about Kirkman possibly authorizing military action in Algeria.
  • I wouldn’t object to seeing Emily, Aaron, and Seth hang out more.

Episode Grade: B-

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