Previously: Lady MacLeish shot the Vice President and then herself.
Dani: Tom asks Hannah, Forstell, and Mike (the Most Interesting Secret Service Man in the World) how the hell the Vice President was murdered while a team of FBI agents watched. Hannah says they didn’t choose the location, so their options for hiding were limited. (S: Lol no Tom, I was there, they didn’t even try.) Also, she’s less concerned with how than why. She says Beth had to have been deeply involved in the conspiracy. Tom wants to know what kind of fanatics they’re dealing with. Forstell urges Tom to keep as many details from the press as possible while the FBI investigates, and Tom agrees.
Elsewhere, Emily, Seth and Aaron are all awakened with a 5am call telling them to get to the Oval Office. Once there, Tom tells them MacLeish was shot, and they’re all shocked. Emily wants to know why, but Tom’s too distracted by Emily’s weird top to pay attention. Or maybe that’s just me.
Marines: Is it… trying to tell me something?
Samantha: I think it hypnotized me, I can’t remember the last 10 minutes.
Dani: I know it’s supposed to be a bow, but my brain keeps trying to make it into two Imperial walkers in profile. Or maybe a Picasso-esque Enderman. It’s disturbing me.
Tom wants to address the press, but Seth thinks a brief statement from the WH Press Secretary will suffice. Tom says this is something the American people need to hear from their president, though. Emily says the timing looks awfully suspicious, what with Tom having just been shot and all. Tom says they need to project an aura of strength and resolve, because the American people deserve no less. Ugh, get with the times, Tom. A president who cares is so 2015.
Mari: Strength and resolve are so the last things we expect from our President now-a-days. You’re doing fine, Tom!
Samantha: I don’t really understand. Looks suspicious of what? The entire capital and government were exploded a couple months ago. The American people are already convinced that someone is trying to kill everyone.
Dani: I’d say “give the American people a little credit, Emily,” except I’m living through 2017, and I’m not entirely convinced the American people deserve much credit.
Aaron points out that Kimble Hookstraten is next in line for the vice presidency, and Tom asks them to let her know what happened. Funny how he was so eager to tell the public about MacLeish, but when it comes to Kimble he staffs it out. Everyone leaves, and Tom broods at the sun rising beside the Washington Monument.
JACKET FLIP! STRIPES!
In the residence, Tom gives Alex the news about the MacLeishes, and something in his tone convinces Alex that he knows more than he’s saying. He agrees and says hopefully he’ll be able to confide everything to her soon. Then their cute daughter comes in and asks for Tom’s help because she can’t draw a horse. She shows him the picture she’s making, and wow this kid was not underestimating how shitty she is at drawing. She’s also way too old for crayons, and for not understanding that her father has three-hundred million other people to worry about besides her. Ain’t nobody got time for your mutant horses, kid.
Samantha: I was just reminded recently that Anastasia Steele was randomly terrified/hated horses and can we please mail this to her in Fictional People Land?
Dani: Well, we could… but if we disregard her wishes and preferences entirely, intentionally hurting her for our own enjoyment, wouldn’t she just fall madly in love with us? Pass.
White House Press Briefing Room. Seth introduces the president, who thanks the doctors and the American people for their support during his shooting. Then he tells them about the MacLeish murder-suicide and makes a brief statement about the family before leaving. Not really sure why we needed this scene — it offered no new info and did nothing to advance the plot. This show really needs to hire better editors. (Call me, ABC.) (M: I make YouTube videos!)
After the commercial break, we’re taken to the funeral of the Atwoods’ son. It’s beautifully shot in tonal grays to capture the somber atmosphere, and I’m not just saying that to suck up to ABC. After the service, Hannah doesn’t know what to say. She tells Atwood that his son was such an amazing boy, and Atwood looks numb and just says, “and they took him from us.” Hannah hugs Atwood, and my allergies act up a little.
Mari: Okay, now you are saying that to suck up to ABC.
White House. Emily updates Tom on some cabinet appointments and says how hard it’s been to get people who are willing to fill the roles, which I guess is what happens when the Capitol gets blown up and the replacement politicians keep getting shot. Washington DC has a serious attrition problem, you know? (S: Did Voldemort curse DC, too?) Emily mentions some guy coming in to talk to Aaron about the Secretary of State role, and she asks if maybe she should meet with him instead, “in light of recent events.” But Tom says it’s business as usual until Aaron gives them an actual reason to doubt him.
Press Briefing Room. Seth blah-blahs about the MacLeishes then opens the floor to questions. The guy from Northern Exposure and Numb3rs (Rob Morrow), who’s sporting the classic Vagabond Reporter™ look (ill-fitting suit, too-wide tie, unkempt hair, five o’clock shadow), stands up, and Seth welcomes him back to the White House but also wants to know what publication he’s with.
Northern Report3r (M: A+) tells him Teen
Vogue Mode, and when everyone laughs he calls them all lemmings and informs them Teen Vogue Mode reports on real issues now, unlike the rest of them.
Samantha: You alllll stop laughing, all of you reporters. SHAME.
Dani: These writers REALLY don’t like the WH press pool.
Northern Report3r wants to know about the guy who shot the president, because his source says MacLeish overrode the FBI and deliberately prevented them from taking the shooter alive. He asks why MacLeish wanted the shooter silenced. Seth laughs him off and says he’ll get back to him, and Northern Report3r’s like ‘haha, yeah you do that.’
Oval Office. Tom is pissed that Northern Report3r knows so much, but Seth is SHOCKED that it’s true. Um… if you didn’t believe it then why the fuck would you go storming into the Oval Office with it? I hate this show. They’re ruining Kal Penn for me!
Seth says the entire press corps is going to be digging into this now, and Tom says they need to contain it before paranoia spreads. Right… paranoia about some crazy questions asked by some derelict reporter that were so far-fetched even the Press Secretary didn’t believe them. Sure.
Mari: And he works for Teen Mode, what even, am I right?
Samantha: Also, everyone is probably already pretty paranoid from the mass murder of most of the government, right? So…this probably won’t matter much within that grand scheme.
Dani: You’re so cute with your logic and your reason and stuff. #adorbs
Tom tells Emily and Aaron to figure out who leaked the info, since they were both there when it happened. Emily rushes to tackle this Very Big Crisis, but the cameraman focuses on Aaron, whose weird expression says he either knows something about the leak, or else he has to poop. I have no clue how to read these people.
Mari: What? I think you nailed it.
Tom tells Seth he wants to address the nation (again) on account of the raging paranoia that’s sure to spread over those few questions Northern Report3r asked, or whatever. It makes zero sense to me, and even Seth is like “dude, I’m pretty sure you’re just supposed to insult the reporter on Twitter now, or something.” Haha, no, because that would be CRAZY. *sobs* #AnyoneElse2020
Seth eventually convinces Tom to cool it with the speechifying. Seth promises Tom he’ll “buy him some time” so that when Tom does address the public is will be proactive instead of reactive. But… they’re still reacting to the questions, so wouldn’t it still be reactive? I think the writers are just trying to use words politicians use, regardless of their meaning.
Mari: And that also has absolutely no real life mirror at all ha ha ha ha *still sobbing* #MaybeSomeoneQualified2020
Dani: Andrew Mellon Auditorium/Federal Triangle (totally looked it up). Aaron marches into Kimble Hookstraten’s office and says he knows she’s BFFs with Northern Report3r. He accuses her of leaking the classified info from the Command Ops incident, and she doesn’t deny it. Aaron gets pissy because he told her about it in confidence. Huh, I don’t remember that at all. I guess I should try to pay actual attention to this show when I watch it. (S: See? It’s hard!) (D: It really is.)
Aaron condescendingly tells Kimble she just jeopardized national security, and she’s like nuh-uh bitch, that was you. Aaron gets oh-shit face. I’m no fan of Aaron, but I’m with him on this. Kimble told a random reporter — Aaron told a member of Congress with security clearance who btw had already been asked by the president to monitor MacLeish. There’s a big difference… unless you’re a TV writer looking for an easy plot device, I guess.
White House residence. Alex peers out the window at the missiles and snipers protecting the building and its inhabitants. Mike assures her all that stuff was there before; they’re just adding more to increase security. He says it’s temporary, and Alex unhappily repeats him. Okay, but like why is Mike just hanging out with the First Lady in this scene? Doesn’t she have different Secret Service people? Unless maybe they’ve cloned Mike, and there are actually like fifty different Mikes running around the White House? That would explain a lot, honestly.
Mari: AND IT WOULD BE KIND OF A COOLER SHOW. #MIKECLONES2020
Samantha: Much cooler, head canon ACCEPTED. #SaveUsMikeClones
Dani: Oval Office. Aaron has told Tom that he’s the leak. He apologizes for his lapse in judgement and promises it won’t happen again. Tom says Aaron is exhausted and should probably take a week off and rest. Aaron says he’s fine, and he should be there to help handle this fake crisis. Tom makes it clear it’s not a suggestion. Aaron sad-pandas away, and Tom can’t seem to look him in the eyes, probably because he knows this was a weak-ass plot device.
After the commercial break, Tom lets Emily know about Aaron.
Elsewhere, Seth’s staff lets him know people are asking if MacLeish was involved in Tom’s shooting. Seth pulls aside a woman with no visible forehead and tells her they need to shut down Northern Report3r. No Forehead exposits that Northern Report3r is a Pulitzer-prize winner, and Seth re-exposits that he’s actually a disgraced Pulitzer prize-winner. He tells No Forehead he doesn’t want to smear Northern Report3r’s reputation – he just wants to remind everyone of all the retractions, corrections, libel lawsuits, defamation settlements, and other bad-reporter stuff he’s done. Damn, I’d hate to see what actually smearing his reputation looks like. No Forehead’s psyched because they finally get to spin something, but Seth gets frowny-faced.
ACME Razor-Wire Prison. Forstell takes Hannah to visit the ex-soldier guy MacLeish went to meet in the cemetery the night his wife shot him. Hannah’s convinced the story of the conspiracy begins with MacLeish’s unit in Afghanistan, but Forstell gives her a weird look. Is he in on it, too? I don’t trust him. Or anyone on this show. These recaps are basically just us saying I DON’T TRUST THEM over and over. Also, isn’t it kinda weird that Forstell drives Hannah to the prison but then doesn’t go inside with her? He just drops her off at the door. Is he moonlighting for Uber?
Mari: Damn, I thought I didn’t trust him before, but now that he’s moonlighting for Uber, I definitely don’t trust him.
Samantha: Gotta go with Lyft if you want that trustworthy vibe bro.
Dani: Hannah asks Cemetery Soldier about Afghanistan, but he doesn’t want to talk. She shows him the CIA report on their mission, which Cemetery Soldier says is bullshit because it makes them look like baby-killers. Hannah points out that they did kill civilians, including women and children, but Cemetery Soldier claims extenuating circumstances. Hannah says she knows he wants to tell someone the truth, plus MacLeish will now go down in history as a war criminal because of the CIA report. Cemetery Soldier gets angry because MacLeish was a baby-killing HERO! Or something. He claims Hannah wouldn’t understand, and she’s like ‘make me understand’ then. His lips get all trembly, and there’s a sound-over (like a voiceover, but just sounds) of battle, as if he’s remembering. Then we go to commercial.
When we return, Tom’s in the residence with Alex, who wants to take the kids to Camp David. Tom freaks out, because he thought they agreed the White House was the safest place for them. But Alex says that Tom is a target, so probably the safest place isn’t right next to him, yeah? Tom says Camp David is a compound in the middle of nowhere and not exactly FunTown, USA for the kiddos. Alex argues that he hasn’t been to their school and seen what it’s like for them. She wants them to have a normal life (guessed she missed the memo on her husband being president now), but Tom says his family’s the only thing keeping him together. Alex doesn’t want to do this, but they have to think of what’s best for the kids. They’re interrupted by Mike’s evening-shift clone, so the discussion is on hold for now.
Seth leaves the White House to take a shower and change his clothes, but he’s jumped on the street by three of his college friends. They ‘SUP BRO him and badger him for not answering their texts, and Seth says that’s what happens when the president gets shot and the vice president is murdered by his wife. College Friends beg him to go for drinks, and Seth eventually agrees to join them for just one. I predict this won’t end well.
Mari: I mean, does being badgered to go to the outside generally end well?
White House. Hannah infodumps the Afghan mission to Tom. I know I don’t pay attention very well, but I watched this twice and it still seems incredibly convoluted. Basically, Nestor Lozano (aka Catalan) (aka the guy who shot Tom) was a covert CIA operative who was supposed to pay off some Afghan warlord to fight the Taliban, and MacLeish’s unit was supposed to escort him. Then the deal went sour and the warlord decided to kill the nice people who’d just brought him $5 million because sense this none makes. The warlord and his thugs pursued MacLeish’s unit and picked them off one by one, which I guess made them snap because “the rules of engagement no longer applied” so they just killed everything they saw, enemies and friends, women and children. But it’s okay because someone was shooting at them, see? Have I mentioned I hate this? Anyway, after the slaughter MacLeish’s men wanted to kill Catalan when they discovered he was a CIA operative (??? I am so lost) and MacLeish stopped them because Catalan was just following orders. Not sure which part of that makes anyone a hero, but there it is. Catalan owed his life to MacLeish. (S: Uh….. yep…. I totally understand… what happened…. good plot, show.)
Bar of This Won’t End Well. Seth’s College Friends say terrible things about Tom and his administration. They think everything going on with MacLeish killing the shooter (which they read about in Teen
Vogue Mode) looks bad and Seth should get out while he can. Seth defends his life choices and leaves.
White House. Hannah tells Tom she thinks the Afghanistan mission is how MacLeish was radicalized – because his unit (with whom he shared a profound bond) was sent into a slaughter because of a covert mission with a war criminal, then when they returned home their sacrifices were ignored by a callous government. I’m having a hard time following this logic, because I’m pretty sure you don’t get to pick and choose your assignments when you enlist in the military, and I doubt this was the first time a unit has assisted with covert ops. Also, they straight-up killed people when things didn’t go their way, so this just feels like they’re saying “Hey, it was hard work shooting all those women and children and innocent civilians WE WANT A PARADE!” This whole storyline does a major disservice to the military.
Tom says the mission that made MacLeish a hero turned him into a traitor and I feel like this entire scene was created just so he could deliver that line. I am so done with this.
Mari: I’m sorry, but I have nothing to add to your general displeasure. This show needs so much help.
Dani: After the commercial break, Mike’s driver clone takes Tom to his daughter’s school and conveniently arrives just as his daughter is hopping out of the Secret Service convoy. A bunch of agents escort her into the school, forming a human shield around her so she doesn’t get cooties from all those loser, non-first-family children. Tom watches tearfully and then tells Driver Clone Mike he’s seen enough. Here’s a suggestion, Tom: since both you and your daughter were heading from the White House to her school at the same fucking time, maybe next time you let her ride in the car with you? At the very least, save the taxpayers some gas money.
Mari: Or he could go send his family to live in New York and cost the taxpayers more money. Whichever.
Dani: Well when you put it like that I guess an extra SUV doesn’t sound so bad.
Back at the White House, Emily meets with the guy they asked to be Secretary of State, but dude says thanks but no thanks. He only came in out of respect for Tom – and because he’s BFFs with the last president, who’s offering to supply recommendations for all of Tom’s open cabinet positions.
In the residence, Tom tells Alex they can try the Camp David thing for a month and see how it goes.
Samantha: Bye family we hardly ever saw anyway!
Dani: We’ll miss you never!
Over at the FBI, Hannah’s looking through all the evidence collected so far. Forstell comes in to remind the viewers that they have zero leads on the woman who took Atwood’s son, or on the guy who tried to kill Hannah (who Hannah later killed at former-Chief-of-Staff Langdon’s house). He also reminds us that Langdon is out there somewhere, which I’m sure is not heavy-handed foreshadowing at all.
Later, Hannah goes to Atwood’s house and finds him lying on the couch as if he’s lost the will to move. (We call that “Monday” in my house.) His wife left because she can’t stand to be in the house where everything reminds her of her dead son, plus the FBI fired him. Hannah implores him to tell her everything he knows about the woman who took his son, hoping to rally him with the prospect of revenge, but he gets pissed that she’s using him to work the case. Hannah swears she just wants justice for his son, but Atwood’s like fuck off, justice won’t bring him back. Hannah pleads, but Atwood coldly tells her to get out of his house. Hannah blinks backs tears and leaves.
White House. Tom is surprised by former President Moss’s offer to help choose his cabinet, as he’s spoken to him several times since taking office and the dude never indicated any interest in returning to politics. Um… how is offering to give you some names a sudden proclamation that he wants to return to politics? Tom thinks Moss was a great statesman, but Emily reminds him he’s a politician first and foremost. She fears he’ll take attention from what Tom’s trying to accomplish, but Tom thinks it would be good for the nation to see the two of them working together. Emily will set it up.
Samantha: Everything that should be *good* for the nation in the wake of a huge freaking tragedy inevitably ends up not because everyone is shit in this universe. Really makes it hard to feel the levity of what happened sometimes.
Dani: Seth is confronted by Northern Report3r, who think it’s a weird coincidence that both the Post and the Tribune ran stories on him and his fall from grace on the same day. I think that’s weird, too – must have been a slow news day, because seriously who the fuck cares? Northern Report3r tells Seth that discrediting an opponent is a common tactic used by people who find themselves faced with a truth they can’t deny. Hmm… I think I’ve seen that before. (*cough* RUSSIA is FAKE NEWS *cough*) (S: How many more tears can I hold?)
After the commercial break, Tom tells Seth it’s time to tell the nation what MacLeish did with regards to the shooter. Seth acquiesces.
Random Bar. Kimble sits alone, doing some paperwork, when she’s interrupted by Northern Report3r (man I wish I’d realized how annoying it would be to type Northern Report3r so often. His name is Abe, okay?). Abe complains about the amateurs at the White House, and Kimble warns him not to underestimate them. He doesn’t take her seriously and continues his surly assessment of the Kirkman administration. I like Rob Morrow, but it really feels like he’s playing a caricature of a boozy, churlish reporter, rather than a multi-dimensional character. He tells Kimble he’s sure there’s a connection between MacLeish and the shooter, and he’s going to figure out what it is.
White House. Tom bids an emotional farewell to Alex and his kids before loading them onto a helicopter bound for Camp David. I’m sure if I cared the least bit about any of these characters I would have found it very moving. Here, have some gifs.
Later, Tom addresses the nation from the Oval Office, responding to the question raised by Northern Report3r (whom he calls a “respected member of our press pool,” lol). He confirms the rumors and says he trusted MacLeish’s judgement as a soldier and that MacLeish made a split-second decision which he believed to be in the best interest of the agents and the public. Tom then launches into a speech that feels like the writers were trying really, really hard to be Aaron Sorkin. He talks about mistrust and transparency, and about reason and truth versus speculation and rumor. He even quotes Lincoln’s famous “a house divided against itself cannot stand” speech. But alas, these writers are not Aaron Sorkin, and this address is neither particularly stirring nor memorable.
Tom returns to the residence and is all sad and lonely because his family is gone and nobody loves him.
Elsewhere, Aaron parks his car on a residential street in D.C. that somehow has zero other cars. As he walks away, someone calls his name. It’s Charles Langdon! OMG, who could have predicted we’d see him in this episode?! Aaron looks surprised, but Langdon keeps walking and says “not here” all cryptically. Aaron looks around and then follows him.
Conveniently, there’s an FBI surveillance van capturing the whole thing. Also conveniently, Hannah is inside said van, even though we JUST saw her watching Tom’s address in her apartment two minutes ago. The episode ends with Hannah telling us that’s Langdon, in case we missed the earlier infodumpy scene. If only, Hannah. If only.
Next time on Designated Survivor: There’s Hamiltrash in the White House on S01 E14 – Commander-in-Chief