Can someone get President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) a bus ticket to Mar-a-Lago? This guy is getting worked from all angles on Designated Survivor, and "Commander in Chief" continued to put Kirkman through the ringer. Guy could use a break.
The main thrust of the episode, however, was to reshuffle the deck while also filling in some holes in the ongoing story, which it did quite well. But in the process of doing that, it spun one of its characters out of orbit and into the unknown, leaving us all wondering how the White House day-to-day will look moving forward. And with the Veep out of the picture, someone else joined the White House! This was the classic-restructuring-two-episodes-after-a-double-murder-in-a-cemetery episode.
Let's take a look at what happened in "Commander in Chief."
1. Kirkman meets up with the previous White House renter
As teased last week, former president Cornelius Moss (Geoff Pierson) paid a visit to Kirkman to offer some advice: Don't take advice, basically. Yet he was all about giving Kirkman advice, which Kirkman gladly accepted. Moss was particularly knowledgable about the White House private chef's wagyu sliders, which he talked about multiple times and ordered every chance he got. This man, one of the country's great leaders as indicated by the reception he got at the White House, really missed the free food perk that came with the job. That's a man who can relate to the American people. Kirkman/Moss in 2020?
2. We're back to a crisis of the week!
Even conspiracies need time to catch their breath, and with a huge chapter of it closed following Peter MacLeish's death, the approach to the conspiracy was noticeably more relaxed than it has been since the midseason finale. And you know what that means... how can Tom deal with another clusterffffudge somewhere in the world?
This time, Aruba — as made famous by The Beach Boys' "Kokomo" — was under siege by a rogue warlord, and Tom had to make the tough decision to save the hundreds of thousands of natives or 15 Americans taken hostage by the bad guys. With a tag in from Moss, the two figured out how to help both by releasing some funds the government held that belonged to the smugglers in exchange for the Americans and Kirkman put that Housing and Urban Development education to work by blowing up a few bridges to stop the warlord's advance into the main city. Aruba is saved, for now, but traffic might be a bit of a pain in the butt. Also, Kirkman kind of broke a rule by negotiating with terrorists, which could come back to haunt him.
3. Dammit Watch 2017
My friends, it is with a heavy heart that I tell you that there was no appearance by President Curse-man. We shall retire Dammit Watch until Kirkman lets another bad word slip, and until then, his approval rating — according to me — will drop a few points. I like my presidents foul mouthed.
4. The old administration was in bed with the conspiracy
I mean literally! Former Chief of Staff Charles Langford (Peter Outerbridge), who we first met running around the Virginia forest and most recently saw psssst-ing at Aaron (Adan Canto) in last week's episode, was brought in by the FBI and he had some beans to spill. His story: He was seduced by a woman named Claudine — the conspiracy's Ms. X — who gradually dug bits of information out of him, including the threat assessment documents for the Capitol Building that Aaron pulled for him. Then he ran away like a scared little chihuahua when he realized he was doing something wrong, the conspirators hacked his car and made him drive over a bridge, and then he hid. Basically, this guy is a weasel and gave the conspirators the opening that led to the Capitol bombing. Charles Langdon is a horrible human being.
But he did drop one huge piece of information: It was no accident that Kirkman was designated survivor on that fateful night... the conspirators wanted him there because they thought he would put up the least resistance. Well, conspirators, you thought wrong. Whatchu gonna do when Kirkmania comes for you!?!?!?
5. What kind of unemployment can a chief of staff get?
The FBI also brought in Aaron for questioning, and if you've ever been in government, that's not a good thing! Aaron was cleared of any wrongdoing — turns out it was Langford who made Aaron dig up the threat assessment doc that got him in trouble — but as he said, "politics is perception," and right now the perception is that Aaron is somewhat dirty. So in order to protect the administration, Aaron decided to distance himself from Kirkman and resigned. Honestly, I'm a little disappointed Aaron didn't fight for his job harder, but then again, if he was up to something no good, wouldn't he have attempted to stay in his post? He may have just cleared himself to us, and we can begin the redemption of Aaron.
6. Hannah climbs the ladder
One thing I don't think any of us wanted was to continue the cycle of Hannah (Maggie Q) getting stymied by her superiors. She's our favorite, and just because she knows more than her bosses doesn't give them the right to slow her down. So after bringing in Langford and Aaron and sorting out that mess, Kirkman called her in and gave her a massive promotion. She now has a secret office in the White House and reports directly to the president. How awesome is that?! And to show how awesome that is, the episode closed on a close-up shot of Hannah with the White House in the background, like it was a music video for D.C. pop princess. All it needed was some cool rock guitar licks and maybe some fireworks and it would have been the best ever.
7. Role call
Just as telling was what didn't happen. There was no Kimble Hookstraten, no Jason Atwood, no Abe Leonard! The push back into situation-of-the-week scenarios means many of the established stories may see skip days. Looks like when Tom ended the episode saying that he'll have more time to govern, he meant we'd be the ones seeing it.
What did you think of the episode?
Designated Survivor airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on ABC.