Nothing like good ol' bioterrorism to ruin Election Day
Credit: ABC/Sven Frenzel
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Being president is probably a pretty taxing job with a lot of tricky roadblocks. I’m sure there’s at least a few people out there who’d agree, but it all gets more complicated when you get the job on accident, can’t find a terrorist who blew up your entire government, and can’t put together an election because of bioterrorism threats — and your pick for vice president is actually working with the terrorists who destroyed everything in the first place. But Peter is the McLeisht of President Kirkman’s worries right now, because on top of it all, his son Leo might not be his son at all. Until Maury shows up with the envelope, let’s break it all down.

Something In the Air

Handling the media, press secretary Seth Wright is all about encouraging people to vote and rebutting accusations about super-flus when one of those pesky reporters asked about Nassar’s death. And man, does that lead to quite the explosion. Explosion of thought, not of the Capitol, because…you know…that’s already been done.

In the White House, Rep. Hookemhorns (or something like that) is pretty upset she’s finding out about Nassar’s death with the rest of the press. President Kirkman kind of apologizes, but he’s getting good at using the whole “I’m president now” excuse. She promises to do her best to help him get a Congress together, but there’s even bigger issues afoot: A doctor from the CDC comes in to inform Kirkman that a toxin has been released in Kansas City, and it’s likely an act of bioterrorism. They immediately think it has something to do with Nassar’s death, but they have to stop that logic. Clearly it’s not holding much water.

After a little investigation, it appears this toxin has been released in relation to the election, meaning voters are being targeted. God help us all if this theory makes it out of the Designated Survivor world and onto Twitter, am I right? The president considers shutting the elections down but instead opts to inspect every polling place. In the meantime, they find a suspect who has traces of the toxin in his home and is attached to an anti-government group. But with that information, they can’t confirm all the polling stations will be safe; in addition, one of the originally infected victims has died. With no other options, Kirkman orders for the elections to be cancelled. But when the president sees the victim’s daughter speak about how her mother worked at the polls so everyone had a voice, the president changes his mind. Classic Kirkman.

On Election Day, Kirkman and Alex go vote proudly like strong Americans, but when they show up at the polling station, it looks like my seventh-grade birthday party — empty. The president responds just like I did…with a strong upper lip but a broken heart. But once America sees Kirkman voting, they turn out in droves. It reminds me of a likely misquoted sentiment from some inspirational figure saying, “Leadership is not taught. It’s earned by facing your fear of toxic terrorism.”

Daddy Issues

At school, Leo and Secret Service Mike are approached by a super-friendly reporter who pivots real hard and asks if he knows the president isn’t his father. It’s pretty jarring for Leo, as you’d expect. In the middle of the day, Leo bails on school and pulls a Maury show, asking his parents if Kirkman is his real father. The president tries to explain his way out of it, but Leo isn’t into it. Alex tries to explain the situation, but Leo isn’t really into logic right now, either.

Amid all that toxin business, Kirkman instructs Seth to find out why Leo was confronted at school. Knowing exactly where to go, Seth goes to his flirty reporter friend who believes her editor probably has something to do with it. Seth invites the rogue reporter in and tells him he’ll never step foot in the White House if he doesn’t abandon the story. That’s when he reveals it was Lisa who turned him on to the story. Oh, Lisa. In the Oval, Alex comes in with some speedy paternity results and hands them to Kirkman, telling him Leo wants to talk to him alone. The president tells Leo he’ll always be his son, but he’s not interested in opening the results. However, if Leo wants to, he understands why.

As Leo sulks in his daddy issues, Secret Service Mike tries to level with him, explaining paternity tests only tell you biology…not who your father is. He didn’t meet his father until he was 3, when his mother married him. Leo goes to his father’s office the next day with a sealed envelope. You read that right — father and sealed — because blood is not thicker than water. Family is what you make of it, and that’s what the holiday season is about. But the president opens the envelope anyway and takes the results to Lisa: He is Leo’s father after all, and he wants Lisa to make it known.

NEXT: The truth won’t set you free

The Guilt Of the Innocent

Hannah, meanwhile, is doing the real work, reviewing those car documents about Nestor Lozano, a.k.a. CATALAN. She wants to share the news with Atwood, but the last time we saw him, he was learning his son was casually kidnapped. After finally coming in, he tells Hannah a lie about Luke’s whereabouts because that was rule no. 1. Rule no. 2 was to set up a meeting with the president, which he did, but he still hasn’t gotten his hands on his son. The mysterious woman calls again and tells Atwood to go to his car, but he demands to speak to his son first. After finding out he’s safe, he follows her instructions and drives to a warehouse, but he’s followed by Hannah. She watches their meeting from afar as the mystery woman hands Atwood a paper and tells him he has to do exactly as it says. Atwood says he can’t, but she has Luke, so… As Hannah watches Atwood and company, she’s being watched herself — by Nestor. It’s a nosy bunch, y’all.

Hannah calls into the CIA, correctly convinced Atwood is in trouble and being made to do something awful, and discovers Atwood is headed to the White House. She tries to prevent him from going in, but security stops her, and she’s stuck leaving a voicemail. It’s not enough to stop Atwood from following through on his plan, which is to admit to poisoning Nassar for “love of his country.” And then he tells the president to push his secret safety button, which triggers all kinds of agents to run in and arrest him.


As Hannah walks into her meeting with Aaron, she gets a text that says to say nothing, but Hannah is not good at following directions usually. As Aaron asks her for more information, Hannah takes the safe route and decides to comply with the text’s instructions. Immediately afterward, she calls back into the CIA to trace the text and get a number. Hannah calls the number and demands to meet the woman on the phone, but the woman declines, only telling her to look into 11:14 p.m. The closer she gets, the more danger she’s in, and she’s not the only woman in harm’s way.

McLeish goes to visit Kimball, who calls him out on his hopes to see the president fail and pass the title onto him. She says if that’s his plan, she’ll make sure she takes them both down at the same time. It’s bold, but Rep. Huckleberry is one who might be able to pull it off. McLeish, insisting she has an overactive imagination, leaves her office to meet up with our mysterious woman who forced Atwood’s hand. He asks her how many more people have to pay before this is over, and she says, “Just one.” Lord be.

Episode grade: B+

Episode Recaps

Designated Survivor
Kiefer Sutherland returns to TV in this ABC political drama. The 2016 new fall show follows his rise to president when all other cabinet members tragically die. Natascha McElhone, Italia Ricci, Adan Canto, Kal Penn, and Maggie Q also star.
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