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Designated Survivor recap: Season 1, Episode 6

President Kirkman mulls a ban on immigration to gain support from the nation’s governors

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ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg

Designated Survivor

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

Somewhere, in an alternate fantasy universe that can only be glimpsed once every seven days on Wednesday evenings, Kiefer Sutherland is president of the United States. Let’s spend some time there…and maybe never come back.

The Governors Ball

Tonight’s episode opens with President Kirkman looking mighty sharp in a tuxedo. He’s on his way to a soiree for all the country’s governors, in the hopes that if he schmoozes them enough, they’ll support him as he tries to replace the nation’s Congress and appoint a new Cabinet.

As it turns out, he’s pretty good at parties! The governors all seem to like him, or at least his booze. It’s going so well, he decides to make a speech to the room.

Big mistake. As we know, whenever people make speeches on this show, terrible things happen. Tonight is no different: Halfway through Kirkman’s speech, the White House is attacked.

We learn a Chechen national — apparently linked to Al-Siqar — shot up the place with an AR-15. There were no casualties, but Agent Ritter was shot and is in critical condition. Luckily, he was able to kill the shooter before further harm could be done.

Ritter, fortunately, will be okay. But the attack itself ends up adding even more dimensions to the country’s political reality.

First and foremost, it leads to a mini-refugee crisis when Governor Rivera of Florida decides to ban a plane full of vetted Syrian refugees from entering Miami. The plane is already in Miami, but he simply won’t let them off. They could be terrorists who also want to shoot up the White House with an AR-15, he reasons. Kirkman, of course, disagrees, setting up one of the episode’s main conflicts. Really, this problem exists primarily so the First Lady, whom we are regularly reminded is an immigration lawyer, has something to do.

Meanwhile, the governors have their own demands: They want to interrogate Kirkman to find out if he’s really up to the task of being president. So they set up a strange mock hearing, asking him questions about his prior jobs, his emotional temperament, where he sees himself in five years — the usual job-interview stuff.

Kirkman is shaken. “Maybe you’re right! Maybe I shouldn’t be president!” he declares, before running out of the room in shame.

Needless to say, it’s not a good look. Seth and Aaron chase him down to slap some sense into him. Together, they give him an inspiring pep talk: “You’re a good president! You is smart, you is kind, you is important!” Kirkman smiles sheepishly and decides to give this whole president thing another go. He storms back into the room to give the governor bullies a stirring little speech. He is the right man to unite the country and lead Americans forward in this hour of peril, and if the governors don’t support him, history will not be kind to them.

After some murmuring, the governors agree to line up behind him — but with one condition. They (by which I mean, the one from Arizona) want him to ban immigration. Like, all immigration, from everywhere. This especially pertains to the plane full of refugees, as refusing them is the first step the governors are requesting.

Kirkman agrees to it, much to the chagrin of his wife. The moment FLOTUS finds out, she fiercely berates him in the Oval Office. “I’m not disappointed in the president, I’m disappointed in you,” she says before walking away, leaving him alone to whimper by himself.

Here’s the crazy part: He ends up going through with his decision and boots the refugees up to Canada. It’s a bit of a shocker. So far in the series, we’ve come to expect Kirkman to waffle a while before deciding to do the moral thing in the end. Not this time… He shrewdly calculated it would be more helpful in the long run to have the full support of the governors. Kirkman, it seems, is becoming a real politician after all.

NEXT: Who’s really behind the attacks on America?