Designated Survivor – One Year In
By: Patience Kapfer
President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) has successfully maintained his presidency for an entire year and seems to be conducting the American government effectively. Well, all except for the scandal surrounding how much money it cost to rebuild the Capitol building. The beginning of this episode showcases a beautiful montage of the rebuilding process of the Capitol building, followed by Kirkman marveling at the splendor of the repaired rotunda. It’s obvious that President Kirkman is just as awed by the new rotunda as any of the audience, with its intricate carvings and beautiful sculptures. As he marvels at the building, Kirkman also provides the audience and his security detail with the history surrounding the original Capitol building. Kirkman goes on to ask Mike Ritter (LaMonica Garrett) if rebuilding this symbol is worth seven billion dollars, to which Agent Ritter responds, “It’s worth so much more.”
Back in the White House, the news media is taking an entirely different stand on the amount of money it cost to rebuild the Capitol building. Many blame him for putting the United States in greater debt and say that they should call it “Kirkman’s folly.” Even though he rebuilds the entire building in a year, the cost was enough to upset the American people and give the media yet another reason to discredit his presidency. The media also points out that Kirkman used Patrick Lloyd’s (Terry Serpico) Pentagon hack as an excuse to jam through an emergency defense bill. Unfortunately, even after a year in the presidency, Kirkman’s opponents still won’t allow him to have just one day without criticism.
In other, potentially positive, news the president is finally ready to hire a political director and Emily (Italia Ricci) has found just the one – Lyor Boone (Paulo Costanzo) – who is exceptionally picky about where his water comes from. Lyor is; however, extremely well qualified and has vast experience to back up his educational resume. President Kirkman asks Lyor why he thinks he needs a political director, to which Kirkman is asked what he wants out of his presidency. In true Kirkman fashion he says that his first goal was to rebuild the government and regain stability, but now it is time to show the people that they can trust their government and prove their vote matters. Lyor goes on to unabashedly criticize the president’s ability to achieve his goals and obtain positive approval ratings (which doesn’t initially look good for Lyor’s future working in the White House). Despite his harsh and very direct words, Kirkman says that he would like to try working with Lyor on a trial basis.
No sooner does President Kirkman finish dealing with Lyor before he has to deal with another challenge to both his presidency and America. A Russian plane was hijacked at a Chicago airport. Obviously, the president is displeased as he made sure to secure millions of dollars for the Department of Homeland Security so they could overhaul their protocols to prevent situations such as these. The hijackers were able to take control of the plane using ceramic knives, but the hijackers haven’t made any demands. Out of the one hundred and sixty-five passengers, sixty-eight of those are Americans making this a true American problem. Some of the passengers are also humanitarian workers from the World Health Organization (WHO) planning to pass over into Ukraine to deliver medical supplies. The president concludes that the hijackers plan is to bring the west into a regional conflict by hijacking a plan on US soil with American citizens on board. He sends Aaron (Adan Canto) and Emily to meet with the Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors because Russia will use this as an excuse to attack Ukraine. The meetings are met with hostility by both sides saying that America needs to help fix terror in the Ukraine before it’s willing to help the US and the Russian’s think they get to decide how to respond since it is their plane. To make the hijacking even worse, one of Kirkman’s old friends from the Peace Corps was on the plane for the humanitarian mission. Sadly, when Kirkman got into Stanford’s doctoral program he neglected the mission to Ghana that he had promised to go on with his friend and that ended their friendship.
The Ukrainian hijackers want the US to help broker a deal with the Russians for forty-seven billion dollars and they want repatriation of the remains of Ukrainian nationalists. The hijackers say that if the demands are not met they will start killing passengers at midnight, beginning with the Americans. They are also receiving word of a naval build up of the Russian navy as well as the Russian Sixth Army massing at the Ukrainian border. Even asking the UN for help proves to be futile as both sides refuse to work with the United Nations. It seems as though both sides want the situation to continue to deteriorate-which spurs a thought in our exceptionally clever president. Aaron also finds that Swiss bank accounts were opened in the hijacker’s names a week ago and the money traces back to a state run Russian bank. Why would Russia pay Ukrainian separatists to hijack a Russian jet?
In a brilliant show of presidential power, Kirkman meets with both the Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors together. He accuses the Russian ambassador of paying the terrorists while the Ukrainian’s do absolutely nothing to help the situation. President Kirkman surprises the Russian ambassador when he speaks a Russian proverb right back to him and then explains that if there is one thing that he is, it’s that he is thorough. If any person is hurt on that plane Kirkman threatens to wake up every morning determined to punish those who are responsible. He will sever diplomatic relations and continuously mount sanctions on Russia and Ukraine. Both men leave the office in stunned silence. As President Kirkman put it, “play time is over.” Kirkman is successful in releasing the passengers and convincing Russia to remove its troops from the border.
While the president is dealing with matters of national security, Agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) is in Amsterdam continuing to focus on finding Patrick Lloyd. When we first see her again it appears she is making a risky decision being too drunk at a foreign club inviting the conversation of a man she doesn’t know. When she says she needs to go home, this sketchy man insists that he will take her home, which he does, but to his home. As we begin to assume the worst for our usually so vigilant FBI agent, she gets off of his couch and hits him over the head thereby giving her enough time to search through his belongings. After finding his sim card she uploads it so that Chuck (Jake Epstein) can examine the information. The sim card contains a series of addresses that Chuck says the addresses don’t link with any businesses or homes, but that’s because they are all nodes for the dark web. Hannah goes alone to the Amsterdam coordinates despite being warned that Lloyd was Special Forces and is extremely dangerous. Of course the guy from the bar followed her, but Hannah is able to gain his trust through her association with the FBI and Interpol. We learn this man’s name is Damian Rennett (Ben Lawson) and he’s been tracking Hannah for two weeks while also hunting Patrick Lloyd.
Seth (Kal Penn) struggles in this episode to cope with handling the constant negativity surrounding the president and the events in the United States. He is offered a job as the head of marketing for a manufacturer. He considers this for a time because, as Emily puts it, he thinks he is the reason for the sinking ship. In the end, he turns it down when he realizes that everything negative happening to the president is not his fault. By the end of the episode Seth, Aaron, and Emily come to the agreement that Lyor doesn’t fit and shouldn’t be working for the administration. However, when they go in to discuss his future with the president, they are met with an entirely different perspective. Lyor gives a fantastic assessment of everything he witnessed during the day with Seth, Aaron and Emily and says that he wants to work there because he thinks that he can really make a difference.
But no episode of “Designated Survivor” can end without a little drama. Although all of the passengers had managed to get off of the plane, two remained on board when an oxygen canister accidentally ignited by a spark from the tramway. One of those passengers was a doctor who had been administering to a sick man and that doctor was President Kirkman’s best friend from the Peace Corps. This weighs on the president in two ways; that he wasn’t able to save everyone and that he couldn’t save his friend who he felt he abandoned in the past. In the final scene we learn where Patrick Lloyd decided to travel-back to Washington DC.