While President Kirkman is in surgery, MacLeish throws the country into chaos
RECAP: 3/8/17 Designated Survivor
Credit: ABC/Sven Frenzel

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…


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.”

Meanwhile, we find out that the government has tracked down the person they believe was responsible for shooting Kirkman. After being informed of this, MacLeish swaggers into the Situation Room and gives his forces the green light to shoot to kill. Aaron Shore is aghast — kill him? The president (or, really, any sane person) would want to keep the suspect alive for questioning to get to the bottom of this. Also, um, due process and stuff. In fact, the whole SitRoom is in agreement. It’s crazy to just immediately murder this guy upon contact.

But they’re all overruled by MacLeish, who obviously wants to ensure the erasure of any connection between the assassination attempt and himself. But the disagreement is enough to make you wonder — is Aaron Shore one of the bad guys like we thought he was? Maybe he’s still some sort of bad guy, but he’s simply working in a different bad-guy group from MacLeish? Or, perhaps, he’s actually… a good guy after all?

It’s a tricky question that almost comes to a head a couple scenes later when Aaron confronts Emily about her behavior of late. “Are you investigating me?” he asks her point blank. She deflects: “You’ll have to ask the president yourself.” Looks like we’ll still have to wait a minute before finding out what Aaron’s whole deal is.

Anyway, while all that’s happening, the MacLeishes are walking along the White House portico and recapping their situation. They’ve just been told that Kirkman’s surgery went well, and that he’s able to resume his duties. Peter frets: Will he be okay? Are they in trouble? His better(?) half does her best to reassure him, noting that thanks to the execution he ordered in the Situation Room, there is no longer a trail connecting them to the conspiracy.

The next morning, the stock market begins to sink as expected. Wall Street is in the dumps, and the nation’s morale is even lower. Kirkman gets wind of this from his hospital bed and decides to do something about it. He puts on his most presidential hospital robe and goes to the window to give the crowd of concerned citizens — not to mention the many press crews assembled outside — the kind of wave that only a healthy and not-dying man could give. The plan works. In an instant, the DOW rebounds back to normal, and everyone is happy again, much to the chagrin of Peter MacLeish.

If you thought that was enough excitement for one episode, you’re very mistaken. All through the evening, Agent Wells has been held in custody and refusing to speak to anyone besides President Kirkman. And, at last, the episode ends with Secret Service Agent Ritter bringing Wells directly to Kirkman at the hospital. Why? For one reason, of course: They both want to discuss what they know about Peter MacLeish. Dun dun duuuuun!