Designated Survivor – Commander-in-Chief
By: Patience Kapfer
Welcome to another suspense filled episode of “Designated Survivor!” They waste no time jumping straight into the conversation between Aaron (Adan Canto) and Charles Langdon (Peter Outerbridge). Langdon takes Aaron to a church to talk; unbeknownst to them the FBI is right on their heels. As Hannah (Maggie Q) and her fellow FBI comrades burst into the church, Langdon makes his escape. With Langdon long since disappeared, Hannah brings Aaron in for questioning. Aaron tells Hannah he thought Langdon was dead just like everyone else did. However, in the brief meeting amongst the two, Langdon told Aaron that he would make a deal with President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) in which he would provide information in exchange for immunity.
While Hannah takes Aaron in for FBI questioning, President Kirkman, Emily (Italia Ricci) and Seth (Kal Penn) discuss meeting with former President Moss (Geoff Pierson) and the hopeful appointment of the rest of Kirkman’s cabinet. Soon after, Hannah and Director Forstell (Reed Diamond) meet with the president to discuss providing Langdon a life in witness protection in exchange for whatever information he has. The president; however, states that “the only thing Charles Langdon has to bargain with is his life,” indicating that President Kirkman is done playing nice. Hannah insists any information Langdon offers could be invaluable and perhaps it would be useful to offer him immunity. Director Forstell says that it’s possible he might not even have any new information and it’s too risky, while Hannah stands up for the interaction she’s had in the past when Langdon contacted her to provide her with much needed info. Kirkman agrees that without Langdon he would be dead, however, he is still hesitant. The notion that Langdon is “running scared” finally convinced Kirkman that it would be beneficial to bring him in and make a deal, as they are short on time and at a dead end.
Hannah brings in Langdon to uncover the missing pieces of the Capitol bombing and attempted assassination. Finally, we learn the name of the mysterious dark haired woman who threatened Agent Atwood (Malik Yoba) on the roof: Claudine. Langdon and Claudine met four years prior. She said she worked for a large contracting firm and asked for small things at first, like intel on government highway contracts. But, eventually, she asked for the threat assessment of the Capitol renovation, specifically room 105. At this point, Hannah accuses Langdon of treason because he should have realized it was suspicious to request the threat assessment. When Hannah asks if how she is even supposed to believe Claudine exists, Langdon shows her a photo of Claudine asleep that she didn’t know was being taken. At this point a look of realization comes across Hannah’s face as she rifles through her documents and pulls out none other than the photo of Agent Atwood on the roof with the same woman.
When President Kirkman himself goes to speak with Charles Langdon, the audience sees a side of him we have yet to fully unearth – fury. He is outraged that Langdon says he had no idea that the bombing was going to occur, but somehow is still alive, while everyone else is dead. Langdon tells Kirkman what he already told the FBI, that he received a phone call from Claudine blackmailing him into doing one last thing…to make Kirkman the designated survivor! Langdon says he refused to make the call, which would leave the task to someone else with enough clearance to make the call. When he refused to make the call, she threatened him and he immediately left the White House to go to the FBI, but on his way he lost control of his car; they’d hacked into it and sent him catapulting off of a bridge. As he made his way up to the street, he saw the flames shooting into the air from where the Capitol used to be.
This was a really full episode because we aren’t just dealing with Langdon this week. In this episode we meet former President Moss, who is brought in to offer President Kirkman advice on his cabinet. It’s obvious that President Kirkman is a little starstruck and glad to have someone with experience to lend a helping hand. Unfortunately, Kirkman’s excitement is quickly dashed when Moss tells him he only gives him a passing grade on his presidency so far and Kirkman shouldn’t have expected much. Moss does fulfill his promise and provide names of accomplished individuals to fill the cabinet positions. Later Moss tells Kirkman that he was in no way prepared to be president, but he has taken it on bravely – finally providing Kirkman with some semblance of a compliment even with all of his setbacks.
The president is faced with yet another international issue and questions Emily about the situation in Naruba. Emily explains to him that a warlord broke a ceasefire with the government. The warlord has a militia force of about 10,000 and is known to utilize human trafficking, child soldiers and mass amputations as part of his terror campaign. We then learn that the president has emotional ties to Naruba, having served in the Peace Corps there more than twenty-five years ago. President Kirkman meets with General Contreras (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) to assess the situation on the ground in Naruba. Contreras tells him that they have satellite images that put the rebel forces about two days outside of the capital with nothing in between to stop them. However, Russia has been protesting a possible UN peace keeping intervention so President Kirkman says he is keeping his options for military action on the table until he has all the details.
As Russia still vetoes UN intervention in Naruba, President Kirkman meets with military strategists to decide on a potential plan of attack. General Cantreras tells him that their best chance may be to attack the rebels by flying in missiles from Ethiopia. However, their plan is destroyed when Emily informs the president that fifteen American humanitarian workers have been taken hostage by the rebel forces and is holding them in several different vehicles in his convoy. This poses a problem because if they continue with their military strike, they will be killing Americans as well. Now, President Kirkman is faced with whether to save fifteen Americans and let an entire village fall under attack or to sacrifice the fifteen Americans to save the village. President Moss is insistent that it is important to focus on the American lives over those of the villagers because they are part of the president’s responsibility. Moss uses the situation to showcase his ability to make tough decisions and bargain using means other than negotiations with the rebel group directly. Tensions are strong as President Kirkman manages to save the fifteen volunteers, but in a moment that made me fear for the president’s “man of his word” reputation as he questions the whereabouts of the missiles. However, he uses his urban planning ingenuity to uphold his deal with the rebel leader while still throwing a wrench in his plans – he destroys the bridges on the way to the village to slow down the rebel forces. With the extra time that President Kirkman just bought, he instructs Moss to convince the Russians to allow the UN peace keeping mission, which bring with it a new title for Moss: Secretary of State.
Still more things are happening with “Designated Survivor” this week! Director Forstell shows Aaron the threat assessment file that Aaron had recalled, but Aaron insists he’s never seen the file before. It is at this point that Aaron learns the FBI had been trailing him and not Langdon when they tracked them down. Aaron is clearly offended that people actually thought he was possible of treason. Aaron returns to the White House and inquires with Seth how Emily is doing with the job of chief of staff, but along with this he delivers his letter of resignation. He also comes to see the president directly. While the president is thrilled to have Aaron back, Aaron tells him that he is not coming back. He insists he could not be effective since too many rumors are spreading that he was questioned by the FBI and his now-shaky reputation would be detrimental to the president. Kirkman says he won’t accept Aaron’s resignation, but Seth is delivering his statement to the press as they speak.
The episode ends with President Kirkman providing Hannah complete autonomy and permission to use whatever means necessary to find the people responsible for this conspiracy. She will report directly to the president with Agent Ritter (LaMonica Garrett) as a liaison. The final scene depicts a determined Hannah walking away from the Capitol building with purpose, leaving no doubt in the audience’s mind that she will find who did this and she will make them pay.