Designated Survivormay be ramping up the war between the conspiracy and freedom-loving Americans, but there's more warring to be had in the halls of Washington D.C., where politicians climb over each other for prestige and power.

This week's episode of Designated Survivor featured a major play by one of the eldest fat cats still kicking. Speaker of the House Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen) was getting roasted by an ethics committee for a trip to Turkey and her subsequent support of a bill that gave Turkey military aid, and with the stone-faced committee members set to vote against her, she opted to step down from the third-most powerful position in Washington rather than face the humiliation of being booted out. (She still claims that she did nothing wrong.)

Her decision to step down wasn't just to avoid embarrassment and scandal, it was actually part of a bigger plan. In exchange for exiting her post, she got an arts grant renewal passed. And who was a big fan of that getting that grant passed but couldn't do it on his own? President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland). With Kirkman's approval, Hookstraten took on a new job: Secretary of Education.

Virginia Madsen, Designated SurvivorVirginia Madsen, Designated Survivor


So is all chummy with Kirkman and Hookstraten, who started the show looking like one of Kirkman's chief rivals?

"I wouldn't trust Kimble just yet," Madsen tells TVGuide.com. The actress, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the film Sideways, says Hookstraten is a "true patriot" and a "survivor" in Washington. Not just because she was the Republican's designated survivor and therefore didn't get killed in the Capitol bombing, but because she has experience on the job. Unlike Kirkman. And though it looks like things are all tidy between Hookstraten and Kirkman, Madsen says don't be surprised if Hookstraten is setting something up. "Kimble always has a plan," she says.

Madsen says Hookstraten's veteran status puts her in a good position to battle with all the young blood in Washington now that the older class has been bumped off. And part of her experience says to position herself somewhere safe. The choice was to either be run out of Washington or make a move to give her steady footing again, so it wasn't much of a choice at all. Live to fight another day, the saying goes.

But even though Hookstraten's trustworthiness is up on the air, Madsen does think Hookstraten is impressed with Kirkman. The character came in early in the series thinking it was going to be easy to bump an inexperienced Kirkman out of the Oval Office, but he's shown that he can do the job, and do it well.

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"What I like about the show is that Kirkman is an everyman," she says. "The audience can look at him and think, 'he's one of us.'"

But what about that name? When asked what Madsen thought about playing a character named Kimble Hookstraten, Madsen let out a big laugh. "Is it hook-STRAY-ten? Is she German? I don't know." No one's been able to tell her the origin of the strange name, but it doesn't matter because that name now means big things in the world of Designated Survivor.

Designated Survivor airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on ABC.