Designated Survivor – Party Lines
By: Patience Kapfer
In this week’s episode we jump right back onto the case with Agents Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) and Mike Ritter (LaMonica Garrett) examining the threat assessment files of vulnerabilities of the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam and the Statue of Liberty. It is unclear how Claudine/Brooke (Mariana Klaveno) got her hands on these assessments as they are highly classified and even Charles Langdon (Peter Outerbridge) didn’t know of any other potential files of the like. Hannah and Agent Ritter speculate that these could be rejected locations, but it is also possible these are plans for future attacks. Since it’s better to be safe than sorry, Agent Ritter goes to tell the president and alerts the Department of Homeland Security. President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) insists that he is to be informed as soon as they learn any further information and tells Mike that they need to update emergency evacuation procedures in those areas.
This episode is heavy on the actual politics of the presidency and we see that right away when President Kirkman addresses Senator Bowman’s (Mark Deklin) gun bill during a press conference and says he is in support of the bill and is willing to work together with the Democrats, Republicans and Independents in order to create greater gun safety. As Speaker Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen) watches the press conference she tells Aaron (Adan Canto) that no one has reached out to her to discuss the bill, to which Aaron tells her that the president is reaching out now. The president clarifies that this bill is not about taking guns away, but about making sure that guns do not fall into the wrong hands. Following the press conference, Seth (Kal Penn) and Emily (Italia Ricci) discuss opinions of the bill on social media and Seth notes that Alex (Natascha McElhone) has a roundtable discussion with “stakeholders” in the afternoon. However, Kirkman corrects Seth that those are actual people; mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and they can never forget that. As Emily reminds the president that it will be difficult to get fifty-one votes in order for the bill to pass the Senate and move on to the House, Kirkman says that’s why Bowman chose the bill-to back the president into a corner.
The president meets with a senator from Massachusetts to gain the support of the forty-six Democrats in the Senate, but she tells him that she would like to see even tougher background checks for everyone buying a gun. She also reiterates a point that was brought up at the press briefing: that the bill is flawed, perhaps even fatally flawed. The language of the bill is written in such a way that most Democrats would rather avoid it, but the president insists that as long as they can pass the bill in the Senate then they can focus on the language in the House. Kirkman also stresses that he is worried that even though this bill is seriously flawed, if it fails they might never get another shot at a bill like this. The Massachusetts senator agrees and says she will convince her fellow Democrats to fall in line, but also reminds the president that he will need to find five republicans that are willing to vote for the bill. In Kirkman’s quest to obtain Republican votes he goes to an old college friend to try to convince him that supporting this bill would be the right thing to do. Unfortunately, his friend is too worried about the electoral repercussions of supporting such a broad bill and just can’t vote yes for fear of losing his seat.
Aaron and Speaker Hookstraten discuss Senator Bowman’s intentions by moving the bill straight out of committee and onto the Senate floor for a vote. Aaron speculates his ultimate goal is to create a strong reputation early on in his term and claim the Republican Party as his own. Hookstraten tells Aaron that as the ranking Republican on the Hill she needs to handle this carefully, but Aaron on the other hand thinks she needs to show Bowman that he isn’t the only alpha in Congress. Hookstraten invites Senator Bowman to discuss his motivations in Congress and how he needs to think about the long-term with this bill instead of only humiliating the president. She reminds him that they need a united Republican front in order to accomplish anything, but he tells her that she’s the “last of the old guard” and she needs to either get on board or step aside.
Later Aaron and Emily meet at the bar and Aaron approaches the subject of utilizing Hookstraten’s help to gain Republican votes. But since Hookstraten is in the House and this vote is currently happening in the Senate, she would need to use her position as Speaker to assure the moderate Republican’s that they would still be safe in the party if they supported the bill. Since help in politics is never free, Aaron tells Emily that in exchange for the speaker’s help she would like to be considered for vice president. Hookstraten takes her idea of “proper encouragement” of moderate Republican’s straight to Kirkman himself, and tells him that she would be willing to work with the president and other House leaders to amend the wording and get the bill passed. We see a rare moment of friendship when Hookstraten tells President Kirkman that she thinks he is doing the right thing, which is just the thing he has needed to hear. Later Speaker Hookstraten makes a statement to the press that she agrees with the president on expanding background checks and thus urges her colleagues in the Senate to pass the bill.
Slowly, a few Republicans agree to support the background check bill. During this time, Alex makes a trip to the Hill to keep a promise to a woman who had lost her son to gun violence. However, as she is leaving she runs into Senator Bowman who accuses her of trying to gain votes for the bill for her husband. While bidding her farewell, Bowman wishes her and Kirkman good luck on the vote, which elicits the perfect response from Alex: “this isn’t about luck, it shouldn’t be good luck that keeps people safe in a mall, or a movie theater, or a school”. Once Seth and Emily get word that Alex was meeting with a Senator and was seen on the Hill they both become worried that this could have negative effects on the vote later.
As the vote begins, the president, Emily, Seth, Hookstraten and Alex are all glued to the television. While the votes role in, a key Senator that they were counting on from Alaska votes no, automatically putting Kirkman and his staff on edge. But while they are all claiming the blame, they miss a surprise vote-Senator Vandenberg (Catherine Fitch) votes yes! Since her husband was an avid anti-gun politician, everyone expected her to vote against the bill, but because of Vandenberg’s vote the bill passes the Senate! As expected, President Kirkman requests to meet Senator Vandenberg to thank her for her vote. When asked what made her change her mind, she is surprised everyone thought she would vote the same as her husband. When she saw Alex stand up to Senator Bowman, it reminded her that she could stand up to him too and agreed with the president that it should be country over party.
Hannah’s investigation takes a much smaller role in this episode, but that doesn’t make it any less important. She finds that Brooke also owned property in North Dakota and needs to determine why she flew to that property multiple times between 2011 and 2015. She informs Director Forstell (Reed Diamond) that she will be taking Jason Atwood (Malik Yoba) with her to North Dakota. Hannah and Atwood travel all the way to North Dakota to the location of Brooke’s property, but when they arrive there is nothing there. Forstell does some more digging and tells them that underneath where they were standing is an ICBM missile silo that was built in the 1970s. In the morning, Agent Wells and Atwood go in search of a way to get inside the missile silo. Once inside they discover variety machinery from the Cold War. But the most important discovery are cases of the same explosives used to blow up the Capitol. Then, as the camera pans down the hallway, we see there are enough explosives there to blow up three Capitol buildings.