Welcome back, Designated Survivor lovers! It’s been nearly three whole months since we last saw the show. Do you even remember what happened back then? It’s okay if you’ve forgotten — after all, there’s been a lot of actual government drama since then.
But perhaps you prefer the fantasy version of a dysfunctional government. Luckily for you, this action-packed (and, frankly, excellent) episode picks up exactly where we last left off, so it’s fairly easy to slip back into it. Let’s begin at the most obvious starting point…
THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN SHOT!!!!!
Yes, that’s right, the unnamed assassin that Agent Wells tried to stop did his job and managed to put a bullet in President Kirkman.
This leads to some good news and some bad news. The good: The bullet went through his body without hitting any vital organs or whatever, so he won’t die. The bad: He has to undergo surgery to get rid of the shrapnel floating around inside his chest. This means he’ll be incapacitated for an extended amount time and will have to invoke the 25th amendment, thus making the newly installed Vice President Peter MacLeish — whom Kirkman and basically everyone with eyeballs suspects is a bad dude — the acting president.
This makes him none to happy, so he beckons Speaker Kimble Hookstraten into his hospital room and gives her an important assignment: to keep an eye on MacLeish. “Make sure he’s working in the country’s best interests,” Kirkman says. She replies with a knowing nod.
Speaking of MacLeish, he and his wife are hunkering down to review what went wrong. Their plan has failed — Kirkman is still alive, which obviously wasn’t part of the plan. “How the hell does this happen?” he asks aloud, with a twinge of panic in his eyes. “We need to wash our hands of this.” With a much steadier hand, Lady MacBeth/MacLeish urges calm: “Blood doesn’t wash, it stains.” Besides, she adds, “The mission didn’t entirely fail… Mr. Vice President.”
They soon learn about Kirkman’s surgery and consider it an omen. Mrs. MacLeish gives her husband a cheery pep talk: Maybe Kirkman will die in surgery! And even if he doesn’t, they’ll have a good amount of time in power, so they should make the most of it.
And that they do. When MacLeish gets his briefing as acting president (APOTUS?) late at night, he’s told that the Asian markets are already plummeting due to all the uncertainty coming out of the United States. Experts in the room recommend that he order the SEC to shut down the markets for the next day to avoid a panic. Someone explicity notes that if the American markets tank, consumers stand to lose billions from their accounts.
MacLeish hears this advice and decides to ignore it — he’d rather allow “market forces to play out.” In frightening Steve Bannon-esque fashion, this move sort of hints at what his and his wife’s overall strategy is: utter and total chaos. It’s so worrying that it kind of makes you wonder whether this was a decision Kirkman could’ve made himself before his surgery?
At any rate, after the briefing, Hookstraten barges into the Oval Office to dress MacLeish down. She’s on to him, she announces. “I’ll be watching you.”
“Are you threatening me?” he asks in response in a way that suggests that he thinks he’s being a badass. Yet Hookstraten remains unmoved: “Absolutely. Sir.”