Congressman Peter MacLeish (Ashley Zukerman) is pulled from the rubble of where the Capitol building once stood. He is a decorated war hero and popular congressman, a “human silver lining” as Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci) puts it. As the (very) early morning briefing in the Oval Office draws to a close, the power goes out which isn’t supposed to happen. The White House has been hacked.
The “one time malicious cyber intrusion” is going to be considered another attack so President Thomas Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) and his advisors decide to keep it quiet. As it turns out nothing has been taken from any of the computers. In fact only one seems to have been compromised, Kirkman’s, and nothing was taken. Rather something was left behind. A video claiming responsibility and declaring more attacks are to follow.
Officials are in a frenzy after watching the video. Harris Cochrane (Kevin R. McNally) thinks this is proof enough to declare war but Kirkman is less convinced. FBI Deputy Director Jason Atwood (Malik Yoba) acknowledges that one of his agents thinks that the whole thing is a set up to send the United States after one terrorist organization when another is responsible. Kirkman asks those gathered to track down the man in the video, and not take any other action until they have more information.
He shows the video to Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen), who at the moment is effectively acting as Congress, and tells her that he doesn’t want it released to the public until there is more information. She thinks that citizens would benefit from having a unifying goal, a common enemy, but he is hesitant to try and unify the nation through war.
Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) questions MacLeish as to whether he noticed anything unusual prior to the explosion. He didn’t notice anything amiss. Kirkman, along with speech writer Seth Wright (Kal Penn), meet with Tyler Richmond (Colin Woodell) to discuss his late father the former president in hopes of finding something personal to include in the eulogy later that day.
Kirkman sees the importance of family and calls First Lady Alex Kirkman (Natascha McElhone) to arrange a family dinner. He then heads to an interview with Elizabeth Vargas. She asks him whether or not he was fired from his post in the Cabinet prior to the attack. While Aaron Shore (Adan Canto) pushes for him to deflect Rhodes points out that he needs to be honest. He takes Rhodes’ advice.
At the funeral, Richmond tells Kirkman he isn’t welcome to speak because he saw the interview and doesn’t want his father’s funeral to become a PR stunt. He invites Hookstraten to speak instead. Her speech is “moving” and people begin to think she should be running the country instead. #boguspotus even starts trending on Twitter.
Wright gets in touch with a few other staffers of the later president and finds out that he and his son were not close at all and in fact hadn’t spoken in nearly two years. During the discussion, the terrorist video leaks and Kirkman thinks Hookstraten is responsible.
They meet and she tells him that she didn’t do it. She tells him to think of this as a good thing because now the national conversation will shift from his firing and her speech to this common enemy. She tells him that he is now “truly the Commander in Chief.” She also tells him that she doesn’t want to be president “for now” and that “primaries are two and a half [years] away, but who’s counting.”
Wells finds out that her boyfriend, a congressman, is among those confirmed dead. She is also reprimanded for “making a bad call” which was to push for a techie (Jake Epstein) to ignore the Constitution and hack a dead woman’s phone.
Kirkman figures out that it was Shore that released the video. He owns up to it because it changed the narrative. He knows that it was insubordination and hands in his letter of resignation, which Kirkman can accept at any time.
Kirkman decides not to accept it, but to name Shore his Chief of Staff and Rhodes as a special advisory, granting her full access. She stops by Shore’s new office on the way home to congratulate him, and tells him to watch his back because she still wants the job.
The episode ends with the techie calling Wells back in to show her what he was able to pull from the dead woman’s cloud. Two pictures from the 34 seconds of time missing from the official security camera. The photos reveal that MacLeish was not there at the time of the explosion and that that is why he survived.
I like this show but it annoys me that Kirkman comes across as a pushover so often. I mean I don’t know if it’s residual Jack Bauer expectations or something but he just seems to flounder all the time and it drives me nuts. I get that he just got thrown in the deep end and doesn’t know how to swim but he spends a lot of time just agreeing with people. I like both Shore and Rhodes and think that Ricci and Canto work well together so the tension that was there when they were vying for the same job was good and it should be interesting to see how it comes into play going forward.
Designated Survivor is new Wednesday at 10 p.m.