Have fun, Trump. Being president sucks.
"President" Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) got a visit from Governor Drama in this week's episode of Designated Survivor, as the ABC political thriller continued its lurch into the soapy antics we're used to from the network. Kirkman found his new job interfering with his previous job of husband and all-around good guy, as a plane full of Syrian refugees led him to make a tough decision that went against his wife's wishes.
But it wasn't just Tom who was mired in dramaville. Seth Wright (Kal Penn) may mix business with pleasure thanks to a fetching young reporter, and Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) and Jason Atwood (Malik Yoba) made big headway in their painfully long search to uncover whatever conspiracy blew up elected officials.
It all amounted to an episode that showed how Designated Survivor is being pulled in two directions: it wants to be considered a serious political drama but it also needs the eyeballs of the masses so it isn't ashamed to do a "you're not the father!" storyline. All these extras seem like noise while we wait for the real plot — the conspiracy and identity of the attackers — to develop, and all in all it keeps Designated Survivor an incredibly watchable network show but not mandatory.
Let's run down what we learned in this week's episode, "The Interrogation."
1. Governors aren't happy that Tom is president... again!
So we're doing this again? The see-saw battle for Tom to prove his legitimacy as President of the United States swung back to "Nope" when Tom convened all 50 governors (party!) to discuss rebuilding Congress. A few fought him on it for all the same reasons we've heard before — he's inexperienced, the president planned to relieve him of his position, etc., you know, what we've heard many times before — and one had the gall to request that he answer a bunch of questions so they knew where he stood on certain issues. And Tom said, "OK." C'mon, Tom, you're PRESIDENT. You don't have to do this.
But he did, and that's when Designated Survivor, for some reason, decided to fill Tom with self-doubt. After just a few questions, Tom literally said, "You're right, maybe I shouldn't be president," and then stormed out of the room! Ugh, weak. But his pouting didn't last long, as Aaron (Adan Canto) gave him a pep talk that reenergized his Chief, who went back into the room and gave his own standard-issue speech about unity and then all of a sudden everyone was cool with Tom being president.
Look, we knew this would be a recurring topic of the show especially early on, but Designated Survivor needs to incorporate it in new, exciting ways. So far it's been the same thing over and over; someone says "You're not my president," then Tom gives a speech and an American flag waves somewhere. We need to move on, or address this issue in a better way than this.
2. Tom can't be both President Tom and Husband Tom
Governor Rivera (David Norona) from Florida had a pickle of a situation when a plane of 300 Syrian refugees landed on his tarmac, its passengers expecting to be let in to America. But with the recent terror attack, xenophobic Floridians were cautious about letting in foreigners who have even the most remote possible ties to terror organizations. Meanwhile, Tom's wife Alex (Natascha McElhone) was making plans to welcome these refugees out of human decency. Forced to pick his fight — with the governors saying they'd support rebuilding government in exchange for shutting down ALL immigration (extreme, right?) — Tom chose to side with the govs, disappointing his wife and shipping the Syrians to Canada. Hope they like hockey!
Tom forced to choose between his ideals and his service as president is the best way for Designated Survivor to tackle political issues and the difficulties that come with being boss of U.S.A. This can and should continue.
3. Tom didn't say, "Dammit!"
4. Aaron is up to something and may be part of the conspiracy
I never trust a man with slicked-back hair, and Aaron and his gallon of mousse gave us the biggest reason to think he may be up to no good. After Emily and Aaron casually offered Peter MacLeish (Ashley Zukerman) the vice presidency at a function — is that really how these things work? "Can I get you a drink? No? How about a job as vice president then?" — Tom asked Jason to use his FBI snoops to vet MacLeish, you know, to make sure he isn't involved in any way with a terror organization that maybe just blew up the Capitol building. Jason, knowing that Hannah suspects MacLeish of being involved in the bombing, stalled, forcing Aaron to reach out to pals and vet MacLeish himself. And his report, which we never saw, came back squeaky clean!
Oh really, Aaron? You just went ahead and did it yourself? You gave him the go ahead without showing us your work? That's awfully fishy, if you ask me. Prediction: Aaron is in on everything! (And the show will redeem him at some point to bring him back into the "good guy" fold.)
5. Seth is about to get duped by a pretty woman
Not that I think it's unreasonable that a woman could fall for Seth, but new reporter Lisa Jordan (Melanie Scrofano) is clearly using her womanly charms to get further with the White House Press Secretary. When Seth first saw her, he looked like Cupid shot him with a nuclear missile and was two protruding eyeballs and an "A-ooooooo-ga!!!" away from being a cartoon. Later, Lisa approached him and asked if he felt like they had some connection earlier, which sorry, never happened from her side of things. The only reasonable explanation for this is that Lisa is literally trying to hop into bed with Seth in order to get scoop. It's D.C., so this is pretty close to the truth.
Of course the big question she had for Seth wasn't about the refugees or the bombing, it was about Leo not being Tom's son. Yikes! Scandal may not be back until next year, but we got one brewing right here.
6. Hannah baby steps closer to the truth... and also loses a lead
Hannah got some face-to-face time with prisoner Majid Nassar (Nick Massouh) to pick his brain about the bombing, and I'd say she did a damn fine job. This is the Maggie Q we all wanted to see. Assuming that Nassar is taking responsibility for the explosion even though he didn't do it, she successfully leveraged a threat against Nassar's family — a tried-and-true television device to get someone to do something when the writers hit a wall — to get the truth: He didn't do it! Someone called "Catalan" did it and asked him to take the blame since they both hated America. And at the end of the episode, Nassar was dead of mysterious circumstances! What will Hannah do now?
We may finally be past this never-ending red herring that keeps slapping us in the face. We all knew that Nassar didn't do it in the first place because Hannah was so obviously right, and have been waiting for Designated Survivor to acknowledge this and move on. Six episodes later, it did, and things better get more interesting as the next chapter of the conspiracy unfolds.
Designated Survivor airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on ABC.