The Kirkman administration tries to hit the reset button
RECAP 4/5/17: Designated Survivor
Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/ABC

100 Days of Kirkman

We begin the episode with President Kirkman taking over the White House press briefing room in order to make an unusual announcement. A president’s first 100 days is generally an important agenda-setting period for the incoming administration, he notes, but, for obvious reasons, Team Kirkman’s first few months have been a bit chaotic. So, POTUS is requesting he be allowed to hit the reset button and make today the beginning of a new 100-day window of governance.

The reporters in the room almost uniformly smile and nod approvingly. The move is a hit! Even Aaron is impressed, as indicated by the text he sends Seth.

Let the governmenting begin!

To that end, Emily and Seth preside over a mini-think tank/policy shop meeting to figure out which issues the administration should address now, while they still have all this political capital. Energy? Social Security reform? Health care? Kirkman walks in to give the troops some inspiration: “Our government will be the phoenix rising from the ashes.”

Even FLOTUS is getting in on it: At a female-filled function, Alex gives a speech that lightly touches on women’s rights. During the audience Q&A afterward, however, the topic shifts to gun control. “We need to deal with guns differently in this country,” Alex tells the ladies in the crowd, who burst into applause.

But, obviously, conservatives are less thrilled, particularly one by the name of Jack Bowman, a senator from Montana. Bowman immediately starts criticizing her remarks on cable news networks and conflates her comment with official Kirkman administration policy, creating a headache for, well, the official Kirkman administration, which expressly wants to avoid any third-rail issues.

They come up with a solution: Have Alex publicly walk back her comments. She does so in a TV interview, though that will come back to bite the president a few paragraphs from now.

Meanwhile, Emily and Seth start working with Kirkman to practice for an upcoming town hall. It doesn’t take long for them to realize, though, that Kirkman’s not exactly a natural; he’s too professorial, aloof, impersonal — in a sense, Obama-esque. He needs to come off less wonky and more personal to connect with everyday Americans.

When the town hall finally comes, Kirkman seems to sail through it. His answers are insightful and relatable, and a couple of them are even funny. He’s hitting all the right beats, and the crowd seems appeased.

But that’s not enough. Kirkman’s gonna Kirkman, so halfway through the town hall, he drops the act and gets real. Enough chit-chat — let’s talk about policy. He announces an ambitious new public-works program to rebuild America’s infrastructure, complete with new labor and education programs to help workers who’ve fallen behind in the changing economy. The music swells. Success!

But then the other shoe drops: A woman in the audience relays an emotional story about her daughter being killed by someone with a firearm — a crime that would’ve easily prevented with common-sense gun control laws. Kirkman becomes more impassioned than ever as he makes the case for a more reasonable stance towards gun laws. People in the audience start to cry. Alex, watching on TV, smiles proudly. In summation, Kirkman is the greatest president of all time.

Okay, not really, but he’s certainly an ambitious one! But of course, announcements are one thing — but how these policy agendas will fare once the reality of special interests, lobbyists, Congress, etc., get their hands on him is another thing.

To get a jump start on that, Kirkman sits down with leading senators and House representatives to discuss ways to make his vision come to life with bipartisan cooperation. (Along the way, he also reminds us that he’s a political independent.)

Nonetheless, Kirkman’s efforts fall flat on at least on person. Senator Bowman beats Kirkman to gun control by quickly drafting an ultra-weak bill. It’s a classic strategy, forcing Kirkman to either support an empty bill or risk looking like he’s not following through on his promise to work on bipartisan gun-control legislation.

Governmenting: Not as easy as it looks!

Shore Things

The bilingual Aaron Shore gets a visit from his cousin Nadia, who’s just about to graduate from Penn and is in the market for a job on the Hill. Aaron puts in a word with a friendly congresswoman, and just like that, Nadia gets an interview. (This might be the show’s most truthful depiction of how D.C. operates so far.)

While he’s at the Capitol, Aaron is forced to reflect on the circumstances surrounding his own career in government — particularly his ignoble exit.

He starts to realize he misses public service, so he heads to Speaker Kimble Hookstraten for advice. And she’s got some: Come work for me!

Shore, of course, accepts, because otherwise what else would he do on the show. This leads to an awkward run-in with Emily in the halls of the West Wing. “I guess I’ll be seeing you,” she tells him with a raised eyebrow. I’ve said it once before, and I’ll say it again: Maybe they’ll kiss again!

The Conspiracy Stuff

Agent Wells and her buddy Chuck find a lead in the hunt for Brooke Matheson, the woman who killed Jason Atwood’s son Luke. The clue: a fingerprint lifted from a photo of a wine glass.

She lets Atwood know, and the two of them decide to pursue Matheson themselves — “off the grid.”

Of course, the plan goes haywire. Very haywire: The bad guys are on to her, so they blow up her and Chuck’s little hideout into smithereens. Wells and Chuck barely make it out alive but remain undeterred.

With Atwood by her side, Wells tracks down the woman they’re looking for in a dark warehouse. They want to arrest her, of course, so they can get more information out of her, but a gunfight ensues, and the woman dies. It seems like pretty much everyone Wells tracks down ends up dying.

They take a thumb drive from the dead woman and pop it into the nearest computer. What they find is disturbing: virtual simulations of beloved American landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, and, um, the Hoover Dam being blown up.

“Oh my God,” Wells gasps. The attacks, it seems, aren’t over.