Designated Survivor – Three-Letter Day
By: Patience Kapfer
We see into another aspect of President Kirkman’s (Kiefer Sutherland) Presidential duties on this week’s episode when Kirkman chooses three specific letters out of the 10,000 he receives each month asking for help. The senior staff investigates the requests and then advises the President on how to handle the letters. Kendra (Zoe McLellan) and Emily (Italia Ricci) find it exciting to help with the letters and advise the President, but Lyor (Paulo Costanzo) doesn’t find the same humor in the situation-he says he doesn’t even like letters. The President himself developed this idea of helping the electorate to show he truly cares and does in fact read the letters that are sent to him. Kirkman assigns Aaron (Adan Canto) and Emily a letter written by the widow of Daniel Goff, Sergeant First Class, who would like to know why her husband was denied the Medal of Honor. Seth (Kal Penn) and Lyor are assigned to help Mr. Adamson (Phil Abrams) figure out what’s killing his bees. Seth doesn’t quite see how bees are that important, but the President is quick to inform him that bees are an indicator species that pollinate over 80 percent of our crops, so it is in their best interest to determine what is killing them. Kendra is assigned to look into a pardon in a federal death penalty case. The letter is seeking clemency for Chandler Dern (David Ferry) who was a pharmacist convicted of killing a DEA agent in 2001. The letter explains that Dern appealed his sentence but not his conviction, which is what seemed strange and caught Kirkman’s eye.
Despite the chipper proceedings of three-letter day, the President still has to worry about the proceedings with Alex’s (Natascha McElhone) subpoena. Forstell (Reed Diamond) is offering to seal the proceedings with one large condition-that Alex doesn’t move to quash the subpoena. Alex is still furious about the subpoena and is less than thrilled to “exchange secrecy for cooperation”. Kirkman points out that even with this secrecy, if she appears and her answers lead to an indictment, it will go public. Unfortunately, Kendra tells Alex that her ability to get this case tossed is a coin toss since the evidence against her is wildly circumstantial, except for the existence of the account in St. Lucia in Alex’s name. The only hope they have to clear Alex is for Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) to find the banker that set up the account.
Hannah attempts to find out who set up the account by meeting with a banker under the alias of “Miss Sloane” who is there to set up an account in someone else’s name. The banker, Mr. Brewer (Andy Marshall), is insistent that she cannot open an account in St. Lucia on someone else’s behalf, even when pressed that one of the officers in that bank does offer that service. Hannah further presses Mr. Brewer to provide her with the name of the banker who can open an account on someone else’s behalf, but he concludes the meeting leaving her with no additional leads in the investigation. As Mr. Brewer vacates the desk, he has a secretive meeting with another man who then follows Hannah out of the bank. He turns the corner with a gun ready to aim at Hannah, but she is ready for him and is able to knock the gun out of his hand. She cocks the gun and asks him if he will give her the name of the bank officer who opens foreign accounts. The banker’s name is Alfonso Lang, but unfortunately, Chuck (Jake Epstein) hasn’t been able to find anything about his location other than a contact at Interpol telling him that Lang meets with clients in the District regularly to set up tax scams.
Hannah is called to go with Kendra to the prison where Chandler Dern is being held to question him about the letter sent to the President. Dern informs them that he doesn’t know who sent the letter, but every word is true – he’s innocent. Kendra assures Dern that they are going to look into the case, but Chandler has little hope that anything will come of it. Hannah and Kendra find it a little suspicious that a man with two master’s degrees could be convinced not to appeal with such a highly circumstantial case, so they go to visit Dern’s son, Frank (Benjamin Blais). Frank tells them that his sister has always had problems with drugs and that his father was afraid his investigation would somehow implicate her. When Hannah and Kendra attempt to confront Tracy Dern (Kathleen Pollard) she tells them to leave her alone and refuses to speak with them. They make the assumption that Mr. Dern took the fall for his daughter since she was involved in drugs and now she has a guilty conscious, leading her to write the letter.
Kendra looks into any charges against Tracy, but instead finds a drug conviction of Frank Dern in 2001, six months after his father’s conviction. He was convicted of misdemeanor possession of Ketamine which was a rare designer drug in 2001. This implies that if Chandler Dern was trying to cover for someone, it’s more likely it was his son, and not his daughter. Chandler won’t admit that he’s covering for his son, and the President will not pardon him unless he tells the truth. Kirkman commutes Dern’s sentence so that he will not die for the crime he didn’t commit, however, he will remain in prison until he is willing to tell the truth about his son, since a killer has been allowed to live as a free man.
Emily and Aaron meet with Mrs. Goff (Joanna Douglas) who tells them that her husband was sent to Kandahar in 2013 to battle ISIL and unfortunately was one of the first American casualties of this mission. At his funeral, Corporal Mankiewicz told her that her husband single-handedly kept the insurgents at bay until help could arrive. However, when she wrote to his commanding officer, Colonel Baines, he ignored her, not answering a single letter over the past four years. When Emily and Aaron meet with Colonel Baines (Thomas Mitchell), he tells them that Goff wasn’t even at the location of the battle; instead he was doing recon in the Kabul Dwarza district where an IED killed him. When Emily and Aaron take this information back to the President, Mike (LaMonica Garrett) says that it doesn’t make sense that Goff would be away from his men if they were expecting hostiles, which they would be. Kirkman tells Aaron to dig deeper to see what really happened. Aaron and Emily find that Goff was in fact at the coordinates of the battle, but they also find that Goff was having an affair with Colonel Baines wife. Baines agrees to recommend that Goff receive the Medal of Honor, but he says he won’t leave out any details, including those of the affair. Kirkman decides to instead give Mrs. Goff a flag and talk to her son, Danny (Gage Graham-Arbuthnot), about his father, instead of allowing them to find about Mr. Goff’s affair.
Meanwhile, Emily takes an off-the-record meeting with Director Forstell to discuss the police abuse case in Cincinnati. He is insistent that they think there was serious wrongdoing and that the investigation needs to continue. However, Emily says they think he is chasing wild conspiracy theories. Although they say they’re discussing the Cincinnati case, it appears that they are instead dancing around Alex and the facts or lack thereof surrounding her subpoena. The purpose of the meeting was so Forstell could underscore that he wouldn’t stand down. Lyor explains that this case is now more personal to Forstell, as he is seeking to run for New York Senate in 2018 and is banking on the outcome of this case to help him. With this new information, Kendra and Lyor suggest that Kirkman appoint a special prosecutor which will remove Forstell from the equation. The President thinks a special prosecutor is far too risky, but says he will take it under advisement.
Seth and Lyor pay Mr. Adamson a visit to discuss the mysterious death of his bees. He thinks that the FAA is killing the bees through the use of a new Air Route Surveillance Radar facility which opened around the time of the die-off. Lyor ends up taking this task very seriously, and surprisingly seems to know a lot about bees. Seth and Lyor hold a meeting with Karen Slater (Amanda Barker) from the FAA who tells them that she thought they had reached an amicable settlement with the Adamsons. After the FAA claims Helen Adamson settled the matter, Lyor is adamant that Helen was the one to kill the bees. Lyor and Seth return to confront the Adamsons and Lyor finds proof that Helen did kill the bees, but Seth tells him he cannot involve himself in their marriage and start a fight. Instead, Seth comes up with a plan that pushes Helen to admit to her husband that she was the one responsible for killing the bees.
Hannah meets up for coffee with Damian (Ben Lawson) who fills her in on the banker. He tells her that Mr. Lang has dual citizenship in St. Lucia and the United Kingdom, along with multiple passports, so he’s exploiting multiple identities so they can’t catch him in real time. While meeting with Damian, Chuck calls Hannah and tells her that Lang has a condo in Georgetown that he leases through a corporation called Montserrat Alliance. Chuck also tells her that he traced a purchase to a company credit card 90 minutes ago, thereby confirming that he is in the country. Hannah recounts everything that Chuck told her to Damian, who tells her he is going to the restroom and will meet her outside. While unlocking her car, Hannah hears the squeal of tires and the rev of an engine as a car comes barreling towards her and just barely misses her as she dives over her hood. Not being deterred, Hannah and Damian head to Lang’s condo only to find that they just missed him-meaning that someone tipped him off.
Chuck develops a list of nineteen potential cars that could be the one that almost hit Hannah. She notices that one of the cars on the list was in an accident a few days prior and leaves to chase down her hunch: Frank Dern. She confronts him about the murder his father is in prison for, but also accuses him of driving one of the cars from his auto shop and attempting to hit her. She is able to arrest him and finally send him to jail after allowing his father to cover for him for 16 years.
Things get really crazy at the end of this episode. Alex corners Kirkman and tells him he needs to fire Director Forstell because she is insistent he is trying to create headlines for himself. Kirkman tells her that she is missing the point of all of this: that Alex’s mother committed a federal crime and there are consequences. He cannot simply change the rules because it suits them. Kirkman says he cannot fire Forstell for doing his job, and asks who would he be if he did. Alex’s response is “my husband,” to which Kirkman replies quite indignantly that she is “one hell of a lawyer, but a lousy defendant.” In a different part of the city, Hannah is enjoying an evening in with Damian when her cell phone rings. On the other end Chuck tells her that someone called Lang right before they got to his condo from a burner phone that he traced to the exact corner Hannah had met Damian on earlier in the day. At the exact same time Damian had left to use the bathroom before meeting her.