Designated Survivor S01 E09 – Wearable Wallpaper

Previously: Atwood was blackmailed into a really fake confession.

The Blueprint

Dani: We begin at night, in some random office building. A middle-aged guy sits in his cubicle, looking around furtively as he copies something onto his laptop. Then we get an aerial shot of him sitting in a bathroom stall, opening said laptop with a screwdriver, and then removing a tiny storage chip from the hard drive inside it. Not sure that’s a thing, but let’s go with it. (S: The only way to survive SnarkTV, really.) He places the chip into a tricked-out quarter that opens to reveal a cavity that perfectly fits a tiny storage drive. Cool!

Computer Dude tosses the quarter (along with the rest of his change) into a bowl as he goes through a security screening. The metal of the quarter disguises the chip inside it, so the scanners pick up nothing suspicious. Where the heck does this guy work, that they’re so paranoid they scan people on the way out? Apple? (M: Lol.) Computer Dude leaves the building, and we see a sign identifying it as the NSA. (I was close.) I’m guessing this guy will turn out to be an older, boring version of Ed Snowden.


Over at the White House, President Tom is watching congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten being interviewed about the upcoming VP confirmation hearings. Kimble assures the reporter the hearings are more than just formality, and it looks like there may be a battle ahead. Alex comes in, wearing a jacket that is either incredibly fashionable or else looks like furniture upholstery. (I think we need Democracy Diva to weigh in here.) (S: Always need Diva.).

Marines: It’s so good to have a Diva:

Dani: Alex thinks Kimble is intimidated by Tom, but he disagrees. I think this “Kimble’s gunning for us” storyline is meant to generate sympathy for Tom, but since we all know MacLeish is a little weasel it has the opposite effect.

Mari: Also because we all basically called this when we first met Kimble. At this point, it’s kind of just like, “yep.”

Dani: The interview with Kimble continues in Aaron’s office, where Emily is also watching (doesn’t she have her own office?). (S: This show loves to do this “people in other rooms are watching the same thing” transition. It’s oddly specific.) Aaron comes in with coffee and mentions how the Senate already unanimously voted to confirm MacLeish. Hang on… why are both the Senate and the House holding confirmation hearings when only the Senate has the power to confirm presidential cabinet members? *checks interwebz* Aha: the 25th Amendment, which governs presidential and vice presidential succession, requires confirmation by a majority of both houses of Congress. #TMYK

Samantha: Interesting, how not difficult it is to find information on how our government really works. *Jim Halpert look at our current government*

Dani: Aaron and Emily laugh about how pissed Kimble was with the Senate’s quick approval, then Emily pauses because she realizes Aaron has memorized the freakishly complex way she takes her coffee. I guess it’s supposed to seem romantic, but FSoG has scarred me too deeply to see this as anything but stalker-in-training behavior. Today it’s coffee… tomorrow, he’ll be tracing her cell phone and buying empty seats beside her on an airplane. (M: *twitches*)

Seth comes in to tell them about the security breach, and everyone mobilizes to learn more.

FBI Headquarters. Chuck the computer-whiz guy tells Hannah that people have been going through Atwood’s office all morning. Hannah recognizes the head of Internal Affairs, who is eager to speak to her.

White House. Aaron, Emily, and Seth brief the president on Boring!Snowden, but at this point the NSA doesn’t know what data he stole, what he’s planning to do with it, and whether he’s acting on behalf of a foreign government. So… less a “briefing” than a laundry list of all the shit they don’t know. Thanks, guys. (S: Another weirdly specific thing this show does often.)

FBI. John Forstell, the director of FBI Internal Affairs, meets with Hannah. He tells her he can’t ignore Atwood’s confession, and the fact that Hannah was with him during the interrogation means she’s all wrapped up in it, too. He doesn’t seem that eager to believe Atwood killed Nassar, but when he asks Hannah who really did she clams up. He warns her that she can either answer him or answer a federal prosecutor, and she’s like whoa, dude.

Hannah calls Chuck and asks him to pull the MacLeish vetting files and bring them to her house. Chuck is crushing hard on Hannah, so he agrees.

Back at the White House, Seth warns Aaron that the press is bugging him for answers on who killed Nassar. I don’t understand why he doesn’t just tell them the White House can’t comment on an open investigation. Maybe they should be asking the FBI? Also, Seth is the Press Secretary. If he wants to complain about shit like this, shouldn’t he be taking it up with the Director of Communications, not someone as important as the W.H. Chief of Staff? Can you imagine CJ chasing down Leo, like “wah, the press keeps asking me questions, do something!” #WestWingForever


Dani: Seth used to be my favorite character, but the writers are ruining him for me.

Mari: There is so very little to ruin here because everything is MEH, and yet they are managing it…

Dani: Emily joins Aaron and Seth to let them know that Boring!Snowden just dumped a bunch of stolen government documents on WikiLeaks. In the Oval Office, an expositiony news reporter tells us what the documents reveal: several cabinet members from the previous administration abused their power with various pay-to-play schemes. Tom clicks off the TV and asks how bad it is, and it turns out not very. It doesn’t look great, naturally, but everyone implicated thus far died in the Capitol bombing — except Tom. Aaron asks Tom if there’s anything they should know, but Tom is a fucking Boy Scout. Dude’s probably cleaner than a Disney family sitcom.

Hannah’s D.C. Apartment That Seems Way Too Nice for an Agent’s Salary. Chuck is trying to process the fact that the next VP was involved with the conspiracy to blow up the Capitol. Hannah says Forstell is suspicious of her, but she can’t back down on MacLeish now. The only lead she has is that “11:14pm” thing, which is why she needs to comb through the vetting files. She tells Chuck she knows he’s taking a risk by helping her and she’d understand if he’d rather bolt. But Chuck says he’s in love Hannah is smart and dedicated and usually right, so he’s in.

Samantha: Chuck, I’m sorry, but I’m probably always going to have to imdb your name.

Dani: Elsewhere, Kimble is arguing with some congressman who accuses her of holding up MacLeish’s confirmation just to mess with Tom. Kimble tells him their job isn’t to give the president what he wants, it’s to do what’s right for the country. (If only Paul Ryan believed this…) (S: Rage crying, brb. Call your representatives, readers!) Kimble goes over to MacLeish and his wife and wishes the little weasel luck on the hearings. MacLeish thanks her, and the entire exchange is one of the least genuine things I’ve ever seen (intentionally so).

Hannah’s Apartment. Chuck and Hannah continue to search the files and eventually realize 11:14pm isn’t a time … it’s the date 11/14/2005, and the “pm” stands for Peter MacLeish. They find the date and his initials on a report detailing how MacLeish earned a Bronze Star in Afghanistan. Hannah decides they should talk to the other men in MacLeish’s unit and get their take on the events of 11/14.

White House. Emily and Seth are watching the House confirmation hearings when they get an alert about another WikiLeaks data dump. Seth scrolls through the documents and says nothing can touch them, but Aaron comes in to disagree. One of the items involves Senator Hazelton, a guy who came out of retirement after the bombing to join the senate again. He’s on some key committees, and the White House can’t afford to piss him off. Unfortunately, Emily once wrote a scathing email, calling him a lecherous old man who prefers groping female staffers to promoting them.

After the commercial break, Emily is in the Oval Office, profusely apologizing to Senator Hazelton. (S: NOPE, no thanks.) It’s horrendously painful to watch, plus it’s obvious the senator has no intention of accepting her apology. He calls her a nobody and insults her several times, then he reminds the president of the power he wields. Senator Dickhead then tells Tom that he has until the close of business to get rid of Emily. Once he leaves, Emily reminds Tom he needs the senator as an ally, so he has no choice but to accept her resignation. Huh, Emily isn’t likable even as a martyr.

Hannah’s Apartment. Chuck has managed to compile a list of eight guys from the 11/14 mission who currently reside in the Maryland/Virginia area. Wow, that’s convenient! Hannah splits the list in half, saying she can’t cover that much ground on her own. Chuck protests, because he’s not a field agent. Hannah tells him there’s a short list of people she trusts right now: one is in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, and the other is him. I think the word “list” was generous there, Hannah. (S: Could’ve just said “two people”, Hannah.)

Scary Federal Prison-Looking Place. Forstell interviews Atwood, who has waived his right to an attorney and insists he’s guilty. Atwood provides specific details about Nassar’s death, explaining how he snuck the poison into Nassar’s food. The interview is being recorded, and we cut from the live action to Tom later watching the video of the interview. Tom asks Forstell whether he thinks Atwood capable of killing Nassar, and Forstell says anything’s possible. (M: That’s a stupid answer to that question. Thanks for nothing.)

Tom walks over to the Oval Office, where the NSA heads are waiting. They located Boring!Snowden, but they say they can’t arrest him because he’s on foreign soil. Tom thought his passport was frozen, and the NSA confirms this and says he’s actually right down the street. Tom is confused, and this whole exchange (with the NSA being needlessly cryptic and Tom being unbelievably naïve) irritates me. Aaron has to explain that Boring!Snowden is at the Venezuelan embassy, and since Venezuela has no extradition treaty with America they can’t touch him. Wow – that was easy… you’d think they could have just lead with that.

Mari: There’s a list of two reasons why they didn’t:

  2. This show is bad

Dani: After the commercial, Tom and his advisors have a conference call with the Venezuelan ambassador, who refuses to release Boring!Snowden. They say he came to them seeking asylum, which they’ve granted. Tom pleads, but he gets nowhere.

House Confirmation Hearings. One of the congressmen asks MacLeish about being awarded the Bronze Star, requesting he relate the incidents of 11/14 for the Committee. We hop back and forth between MacLeish telling his tale and Hannah interviewing his former unit members, who pick up the story wherever he leaves off. Basically, his platoon hit an IED and were pinned down under heavy fire from the Taliban and insurgents. MacLeish singlehandedly drove them back (uh-huh), allowing medics to come in and save the wounded. Each of the men say he’s a hero, but MacLeish says he just did what anyone else would have done in his position.

Samantha: Wow does this feel Manchurian Candidate. Hopefully on purpose?

Dani: Hannah and Chuck confer, and the stories they keep getting are so similar that Hannah wonders if everyone has been coached. She has one interview left.

Aaron’s Office. Emily is waiting for Aaron, who actually comments on how much time she spends in there (preach). Aaron assures Emily that the Hazelton memo will blow over, but Emily disagrees. She knows how badly the White House will need Hazelton’s support on critical legislation. Aaron reminds her the president refused to take his resignation when he leaked the al-Sakar video, and Tom barely knew him. No way is he going to accept Emily’s. Emily agrees and tells Aaron that’s why he has to accept it instead.

Emily, honey… you don’t really need anyone to accept your resignation. Just email it and then stop going into the office. It’s not that complicated.

Mari: Okay, right? Imagine if you had to keep showing up to work because no one will say they accept your resignation…

Aaron tells Emily Tom won’t accept her resignation because he needs her. And he’s not the only one (gag). Then Seth comes in and they guiltily spring apart, even though it didn’t seem like they were standing all that close together before. (S: Even the characters are forcing this sexual tension.)

Seth gives Aaron what he calls an “I Told You So File,” which is basically a list of all the reporters who want to ask the president about various things, including the Nassar murder. Wow. Can you imagine any other scenario where an employee who’s two to three levels your subordinate would present you with an I TOLD YOU SO file of stuff they’re supposed to handle as part of their fucking job? This is so stupid. Aaron tells Seth he should feel free to tell them no, and I think he needs to follow it up with “now go do your goddamned job and stop bothering me with stupid shit.” But Emily says you can’t blame the press for trying, because everyone wants five minutes with the president. This gives Aaron an idea, and he quickly leaves for the Venezuelan embassy.

Hannah’s final interview is with Sarah, the widow of a soldier from MacLeish’s unit. Sarah says the Army shipped home her husband’s foot locker after he died, and it was filled with medals, letters, and photos. Hannah asks to look through these mementoes, and Sarah agrees.

Venezuelan Embassy. Aaron meets with Boring!Snowden and says he knows that all the guy really wants is five minutes with the president. B!S eventually agrees, but then Aaron gets pissy, asking why he should reward him with this coveted audience when he hurt Emily, the president’s most trusted advisor (LOL). B!S says he had to jeopardize Emily to get the president’s attention, but he also has the key to saving her career.

Foot Locker of Exposition. Hannah rifles through the fallen soldier’s stuff, eventually finding a photo with MacLeish and the other Army Rangers. A closer look reveals another familiar face: Catalan! Hannah calls Chuck with the news that MacLeish and Catalan are buddies. She asks him to access the Counterterrorism Database, but Chuck’s been locked out of the system. He looks up and spies Forstell making his way towards his office. Chuck warns Hannah not to come back.

Oval Office. Aaron tells Tom about Boring!Snowden’s request to meet with him. B!S gave Aaron some files as a show of good faith: a year’s worth of memos, emails, and chats that prove Hazelton was sexually harassing his employees. B!S has agreed to stop releasing documents and hand over everything he took in exchange for a meeting with Tom, but Tom doesn’t think inviting someone who stole classified documents to the White House is an option. He does, however, ask Aaron to bring Hazelton in for a little tête-a-tête.

Hannah calls Kimble Hookstraten from her car and asks her to delay the MacLeish confirmation. Kimble is intrigued. Hannah says she can’t talk about it over the phone, but she’s working a lead that could prove damning to MacLeish. She just needs more time. (S: I mean I guess I’m relieved that Hannah is at least sorta communicating with some people.)

Oval Office. Hazelton comes in looking smug and cheerful, then he sees Emily and his mood sours. He repeats his earlier warning, but Tom says nobody else gets to choose his staffers.

Tom says he’s not going to fire Emily, because everything she wrote about Hazelton was true. He shows him the documents from B!S, and the senator accuses him of extortion. Tom tells him, no, extortion would be threatening to hold the economic stability of our nation hostage unless the presidents fires a member of his staff, dickhead. Tom suggests the senator go back into retirement, and Emily tries not to smile too much.

Hannah meets with her CIA contact (Tim) in a seedy diner. She shows him the photo of MacLeish and Catalan together, thinking the CIA would have a file if Catalan worked intel during that mission. Tim tells her no file existed when he went to pull it, because someone had buried it. He eventually dug up a report on the 11/14 mission that tells a vastly different story than the heroic one MacLeish prefers. In this version, the Ranger unit massacred a series of Afghani villages after members of their unit had been killed by a Taliban sniper. They hit 3 villages in 24 hours, leaving “countless” dead. Hannah takes the file and hastily leaves the diner.

Tom is reading B!S’s psychological profile when Alex joins him. He’s having a hard time accepting all these high-ranking officials doing the unexpected (the Deputy Director of the FBI commits murder, a Senior NSA Analyst with 20 years of tenure commits espionage). Hmm, sounds like Tom might be amenable to the odd conspiracy theory, which might serve him well eventually. Alex asks him what his gut says, and Tom says he doesn’t think B!S is crazy. He wants to figure out what would be so important that B!S would risk everything to relate it, since he knows he’ll go to jail forever as soon as he leaves the embassy. Alex tells him to keep thinking, and wow the writers really struggled to come up with lines for her this episode. (M: At least she got the upholstery jacket.)

B!S arrives at the White House (which I just accidentally typed as Shite House, lol. Ever since 1/21/2017, amiright?). He’s told to empty his pockets, so he places his wallet and loose change into a bag for Mike the Secret Service agent (who examines it for dangerous materials, one hopes). B!S is handcuffed and then led into a room where Tom awaits. Tom tells B!S they have only a few minutes before he’s taken to a federal prison, so he’ll make this quick.

Hang on… Tom’s the president. Shouldn’t he be allowed to have as many goddamned minutes with this guy as he wants?? (S: HA. Yes.)

Anyway, Tom tells B!S that he knows he had a stepdaughter who died in the Capitol bombing, and he knows he raised the girl from the time she was a baby and loved her dearly. Tom asks why he sacrificed so much for this meeting, and B!S says he needed someone he could trust to ensure an attack like the one that killed his daughter would never happen again. B!S has read every email Tom’s ever sent (creeper), plus he knows that every fourth text Tom sends is to his children. B!S says Tom’s ethics are above reproach (fucking Boy Scout, y’all).

B!S tells Tom about the hard drive in the fake quarter, and Tom fishes it out of the evidence bag. Mike the Secret Service guy watches, but naturally he isn’t worried that this newly revealed fake coin might contain Anthrax or something dangerous to the president. (I’m guessing all the good Secret Service agents died in the Capitol bombing.)

Tom asks why B!S is giving him the hard drive, and B!S says it’s because he has much bigger problems than an NSA whistleblower. Then some guy comes in to tell them the transport is ready, and they pull B!S from his chair. B!S whispers a quick warning to Tom, telling him to be super careful with File 12-80C. Tom frantically memorizes the file number, and I don’t understand why he doesn’t just demand a few more minutes with the prisoner. This is dumb.

Mari: They force every bit of tension. It seems compulsive at this point, where a character can’t even sit down for a few minutes together before a bit of forced tension comes to kick their chair. 

Dani: Tom gives Mike the hard drive and says B!S sacrificed his freedom for whatever’s on it, so they’d better find out why. After the commercial, Mike pops the little hard drive into a laptop, because in addition to overseeing the First Family’s security, Mike is also a coding and decryption genius. Mike says his mad skills come from doing rotations in other departments, like I/T. Hmmkay, Mike.

Samantha: I think maybe Mike is the bad guy. Too many random skillz.

Dani: That would make an awesome plot twist. ABC should really just have Snark Ladies write this show.

Aaron comes in to angrily tell Tom that Hookstraten is delaying the MacLeish hearings. Aaron says a staffer told him she has something that could be damaging, so Tom hurries off to meet with MacLeish.

MacLeish assures Tom there’s nothing that could derail the proceedings, and Tom says he had to ask. They shake hands and part, but then MacLeish comes back and says something has been troubling him. He shyly tells Tom that Atwood’s most trusted agent, Hannah Wells, seemed to be obsessed with him. He thinks she lost someone in the bombing, and maybe that’s why, but he just hopes she isn’t trying to convince Hookstraten of something nefarious. What a clever weasel! Tom promises to take it under advisement.

Over at the House Committee, Hookstraten is pacing nervously when she gets a call from Hannah, who tells her she has the evidence they needed. Hannah says she’s on Constitution Ave, headed her way, and it’s such a specific detail that you know something bad is going to happen. Hookstraten thanks Hannah for letting her know. After they hang up Hannah flashes her police lights and speeds through traffic, while Hookstraten tells her fellow congressmen to reconvene the Committee, as her witness will be there in 10 minutes.

Aaron’s Office. Emily shows up (as usual) and thanks Aaron for saving her job earlier. Have I mentioned how much I hate this Savior/Damsel in Distress trope? Emily didn’t even try to save her job… she obviously knew Hazelton was a cad, but she never once defended her viewpoint. Instead, she meekly apologized and waited for the hero to save her.

Emily wonders if there was a non-work-related reason Aaron worked so hard to keep her around, and he says maybe there was. She tells him if he thinks of it to let her know and then flirt-walks away. Aaron asks her to have dinner with him after work, and she pretends to think about it for a minute before agreeing. What was my earlier prediction… that they’d be boning by episode 10, right? I’m still on track! (S: Congratualtions!) (M: So good at TV!)

Mister Robot Goes to Washington. Mike has located File 12-80C, which contains blueprints and schematics and a guide to blowing up the Capitol. (I wonder how many times I can type “blowing up the Capitol” before I’m visited by the feds. No doubt we’ve put Snark Squad on their radar!) (M: This is like when we first got banned from school computers. Moving on up!)

Constitution Ave International Raceway. Hannah zips through traffic like a madwoman. She makes a sharp turn then slams on her brakes when a taxi pulls out in front of her. While the cab collects its annoyed rider, Hannah impatiently sits waiting for it to move. She never sees the headlights approaching the passenger side of her vehicle until a van slams into her at top speed. The airbag deploys, but Hannah’s head hits the side window hard enough to crack it. (S: I mean. They aren’t going to kill Hannah this early so my tension is at a minimum.)

Back at the White House, Tom and Mike are appalled by a graphic animation that shows exactly where to place bombs at the Capitol for maximum destruction. Tom asks who created it, and Mike tells him the US Government did back in 2013 as part of an overall threat assessment. Tom realizes that someone leaked this file to Majid Nassar. As the music swells, Tom states the obvious: there’s a traitor among them. Duh-duh-DUHN!!!

Samantha: This was such a dumb ending because we, the audience, have known there was a traitor since the beginning. It just makes Tom look slow and incompetent. Yay, you’re finally sorta catching up.

Dani: Many dumb. Much irritate.


Next time on Designated Survivor: Tom gives a speech at MacLeish’s swearing in, so probably someone will die on S01 E10: The Oath


Dani (all posts)

I’m a serial procrastinator with mild OCD, so instead of writing my next novel I’m probably counting the ice cubes in my drink to make sure it’s an even number. I am also low-key obsessed with Dutch painters, Norse mythology, and Canadian bacon.

Marines (all posts)

I'm a 20-something south Floridan who loves the beach but cannot swim. Such is my life, full of small contradictions and little trivialities. My main life goals are never to take life too seriously, but to do everything I attempt seriously well. After that, my life goals devolve into things like not wearing pants and eating all of the Zebra Cakes in the world. THE WORLD.

Samantha (all posts)

I'm a 25 year old graduated English major I can often be found singing too loudly (poorly) in the car or spending some time (hours) on Tumblr. I am a lover of Harry Potter, the Spice Girls, and too many other things.

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