Designated Survivor recap: 'The Ninth Seat'
You do not want to make President Kirkman angry … or maybe you do because all that happens when he gets angry is he yells sternly and then immediately apologizes for “losing his temper.”
“The Ninth Seat” focuses on the new government’s attempts to fill the vacant Supreme Court. That beautiful foe Senator Bowman isn’t pleased about not getting his way on the gun control bill, so he’s taking out his frustrations by not letting Kirkman’s justice nominations pass. The president is not having it — and he will sternly tell you so.
In order to fill the Supreme Court, the president has called on his former supervisor from his university days, Julia. She has been working tirelessly for weeks to get nine nominees vetted. In order to get quick approvals, she’s been working with senior leadership in the Senate to find four progressives, four conservatives, and one impartial independent. The independent would serve as chief justice so that everything is fair and everyone is happy. And according to Julia and Emily, everyone is happy and on board with the plan.
So, naturally, Kirkman is thrown off guard when Bowman, one of the senior leaders who’s been in on these talks, says his party won’t accept the nominated chief justice (he has shown liberal bias in the past). Either the Republicans get five justices they find acceptable or they’ll hold up ALL confirmations.
And here’s where Kirkman gets angry. He says there are 126 cases on the Supreme Court’s docket that can’t be heard. Bowman is holding the justice system hostage, he quips. One of the other Republican senators offers a compromise: If Kirkman puts another chief justice name forward, the Republicans will consider it. Kirkman agrees, and Bowman smiles. (This guy has a face you just want to punch. Mark Deklin, you’re doing your job too well.)
Julia comes up with another name, and Bowman and his side immediately shoot it down. Emily and Kirkman come up with yet another name: Julia, herself. She’s not a judge, but she did clerk for Justice Gray, and her decisions are studied in law schools. They say the right would never be able to say no.
In seems like a perfect plan until Julia tells Kirkman why it’s not: She has early onset dementia. It’s a sad turn for the character we just met — and Kirkman takes it hard. But even though Julia can’t take the job herself, she does find a solution.
Calling another senior leaders meeting, Kirkman has Julia explain her plan: There will only be eight supreme court justices. Four on the right and four on the left. The number of justices isn’t dictated by the constitution, and the next president (or Kirkman at a later time) could nominate one as he sees fit. Bowman acquiesces; “I can wait you out,” he tells the president. Man, I really do want someone to punch that guy.
In other political news, Congresswoman Hookstraten is ready to be made veep. She helped the gun control bill pass in the House and she’s ready for the president to hold up what she thinks is his end of the deal. Aaron tells Emily all this, but Emily says Kirkman never promised anything. I except this situation to heat up in the next episode or two, but the bigger story line of the episode is Abe Leonard.
Abe has graduated from Teen Mode (anyone else LOL every time they say this?) to The New York Standard. They’ve tasked him with reporting on the conspiracy theories around Nestor Lozano. This takes Abe to Iraq, where he meets with a terrorist leader who tells him that Lozano paid Al-Sakar to take credit for the capitol bombing — they didn’t actually do anything.
Abe rushes back to Washington and asks Seth if the president has a response. Seth of course has nothing to say on the matter (someone should really clue this guy in at some point), but he asks Emily to flag with POTUS. After all, Abe Leonard’s last crazy story ended up being confirmed true.
Abe next goes to Hookstraten. He’s poking around about MacLeish as well, and he heard that Kimble wouldn’t approve his VP confirmation initially. Kimble refuses to say anything, but the conversation spooks Aaron. He calls Wells’ phone, which is routed to Forstell, who tracks Aaron down himself.
Knowing what Abe was asking from Hookstraten, Forstell immediately takes his intel to the president because he believes someone in the White House is leaking him classified information. Since the investigation into the terrorists is ongoing, Forstell says they have every right to detail Abe Leonard, but the president isn’t loving this.
They don’t have to rush into a decision too quickly, though, because Abe’s editors think his story is all conjecture and won’t publish as is. The reporter decides to search “Nestor Lozano Conspiracy Theories” on not-Google to see what’s out there already. A window pops up that shows him video footage of Wells firing her weapon at the shooter during the presidential assassination attempt.
Shortly after, Leonard realizes he’s being followed around D.C. He confronts Seth about it — he thinks it’s the FBI tracking him because he’s getting too close to the truth. As always, Seth is clueless.
Later, Leonard gets a package on his car that contains an old-school Nokia phone. It rings, and the man on the other line tells him they have information about Nestor Lozano and to meet him in one hour. But that’s information for another episode because the rest of the hour is filled out with Wells and Atwood’s adventure in North Dakota.
Following their discovery of lots and lots of explosives, the two FBI agents call Forstell. He wants to send in a team, but Wells doesn’t want to tip their hand just yet. She’s sure there must be clues in Driggs, the town closest to the silo site. Driggs is a tiny town with nothing in it — except lots of people with out-of-town license plates, which is not suspicious at all.
As Wells and Atwood walk around the town, a man comes up to them and says there are storms coming. Wells replies, but it’s clearly not what the guy wants to hear and he quickly walks off. Seeing that she failed some sort of test, Wells not-so-subtly takes pictures of the guy’s license plate and a book she sees in his car titled “Pax Americana.”
At the local bar, the FBI agents are able to ask questions about all the visitors in this small town. The bar owner says they call these people “True Believers.” They visit the Air Force property three to four times a year and burn bonfires. He says there are also lots of trucks and choppers going to the old base. All of this adds up to: They found the terrorist cell!
If that weren’t confirmation enough, Wells spots a guy at a gas station with “NVWS” tattooed on his wrist. And that’s the same letters printed on the explosives she and Atwood found. Bingo! And then when Wells is able to swipe the guy’s Pax Americana book, she learns that this group wants to replace the current government with a “new empire” and that “NVWS” stands for “No Victory Without Sacrifice.” Double bingo!
After failing to get back to the site — they were stopped by “hunters” (definitely terrorists) who told them it was private land — Wells and Atwood call in what they’ve found. Forstell reports back that all the cars’ license plates are stolen, and they have a task force an hour away ready to move in.
Wells wants to get one closer look before they do that, though, so she and Atwood infiltrate on foot. It’s a good thing they do because those bonfires the bartender said the “True Believers” love? They’re actually there to create a landing zone for an incoming helicopter. And out of that helicopter steps dead man Nestor Lozano. Somebody’s got some explaining to do!
How deep does this terrorist cell run? Who is leaking information from the White House? Who’s tailing Abe Leonard? Is Hookstraten going to be made vice president? And when will someone just tell poor Seth something? All questions will have to wait until next week — or until the end of the season, more likely.