Previously: Tom’s family took a break.
Marines: We start the episode where we left off and I’m seriously, actually thankful for the previouslies and the exposition.
Aaron was going home when he was stopped by a shady someone who it turns out is Charles Langdon who is supposed to be dead. Langdon tells Aaron to follow him and ducks into a church. Hannah and her agents are on their way, but it’s enough time for Langdon to tell Aaron that there is something he needs to do. Charlie’s life depends on it.
Samantha: Probably make-this-character-look-sketchy-but-psych, trope? AKA the theme of this show?
Mari: As far as bets go, that’s a safe one.
Next thing we see, Hannah and her agents bust into the church. They catch up with Aaron, but Charlie is nowhere to be found. Aaron says that Charlie ran away and points them in a direction. Hanna runs after him, but he’s gone.
Dani: I hope if I’m ever running from the FBI, the agents following me totally believe my friends when they say I went that-a-way.
Mari: White House. Seth and Emily are reporting to Tom. Between them, they explain that they have more candidates for VP and for the cabinet, but there are slim pickings on account of no one wants to get dead, I’m assuming. Emily is hoping that (former) President Moss can help with that. He’s offered up a list of names and has promised to throw his weight around. Em’s also organized an informal dinner with the First Lady. Seth can tell that Tom is being a little fanboy-y about President Moss, and Tom starts to tell us about handing out yard signs for him when they are interrupted by one of the Mike Clones. We don’t get to hear what Mike whispers to Tom.
Samantha: Tom likes this former Pres too much, he’s probably actually a jerk. #DontMeetYourHeroes
Dani: So true. Also, I’m pretty sure there’s a Mike Clone whose sole job is to whisper shit to Tom. #CareerGoals
Mari: Hannah has Aaron in an interrogation room. She wants to know how long Aaron was in contact with Langdon and he’s like, “um, what. I thought he was dead.” Hannah insists on knowing, word for word, what Langdon said.
We cut from Aaron starting to explain, to Hannah and Forstell giving Tom the news. Langdon wants immunity in exchange for information. He wants a new life in witness protection. Tom says no way. Hannah seems to be on Team Langdon because he helped her back when no one else believed her. Forstell is a little more unsure because he could have no useful information. In the end, Tom decides to have him brought in.
That’s supposed to be a big deal, I guess, and we go straight to JACKET FLIP.
Seth brings Emily a ceremonial bullet proof vest. It gets passed down from Press Secretary to Press Secretary, and he thought a loan might be in order since Emily is acting chief of staff. She gets a call and has to go, but kindly passes on Seth’s ceremonial gift.
Samantha: I’m discovering that I read into everything happening on this show. Will Emily now be shot? Am I being hyper sensitive or trying to make this show more interesting for myself?
Dani: I mean, A LOT of people have been shot recently, so that makes sense. My biggest problem was this was supposed to be funny but just felt tasteless. President Tom was shot like three episodes ago, and both Seth and Emily were in the line of fire. They should be in therapy for PTSD, not making blithe jokes about wearing bullet-proof vests. Not cool, show. President Tom, do you find this funny?
Mari: Tom is in the Oval Office looking at a file on a situation in Africa. It’s a lot of pictures. Emily walks in and he asks her what she knows about the situation in Naruba. Since his case file is all pictures (D: Haha, just like our president, probably!), she has to give him the cliff notes: A guerrilla warlord named Atsu Kalame broke a cease fire. He’s got a militia of 10,000 and uses child soldiers, mass amputations and human trafficking as part of his terror campaign. Tom feelingly says that he served near there more than 25 years ago as part of the Peace Corps. Emily says that families are fleeing toward the border. Tom tells her to get in contact with State, because they need to do something.
Foggy… day? Part of town? Fog machine? I don’t know. Aaron stands on a foggy street underneath a bridge. Two cars approach him in opposite directions and park on either side of him. Langdon gets out of one car and get into the other with Hannah.
Dani: That seemed… unnecessarily covert. You’re dealing with White House personnel, not the Russian mafia. Oh, wait…
Mari: FBI building. Hanna tells Langdon to start his story from the beginning. He starts with a name: Claudine Poyet. He met her at the Meridian Ball four years prior. He was coming off a nasty divorce and thought himself in love. She had other things in mind. When he figured out what was going on, he tried to stop it. He begs Hannah to believe him because those were his friends that died, that was his President, and he wishes that he had died with them. Langdon calms down a little and says that the weird things started out in small ways. She claimed to work for a contracting firm and asked him to get intel on a government highway contract, that sort of thing, until she upped the ante and asked to see the threat assessment on the Capitol renovation.
Hannah gives Langdon a “bitch, u serious??” look. She asks if this didn’t make him at all suspicious. He insists that he had no way of knowing that they would use the information the way they did. (S: Buddy. Pal. Please.) The only thing that has stopped him from killing himself is the idea that he can still help and make this right. Hannah asks how she’s to know Claudine really exists. Langdon has a picture on his phone of Claudine sleeping. (D: Creeper.) Hannah immediately recognizes the shady lady she saw back when Atwood was a character on this show.
White House. Tom is meeting with a man named General Contreras. He tells Tom that they’ve got satellite photos less than 3 hours old that put Kalame two days out of Soji. The woman present says that she can reach out to the U.N. Ambassador and hope that they might have better luck convincing the Security Council to vote on a resolution. Tom asks why the U.N. is dragging their feet and to no one’s surprise, the answer is RUSSIA. Tom says that this has all the makings of a genocide which is unacceptable. He wants to know what all his options are, military or otherwise, and asks them to get it to him within the hour.
Now alone, Emily tells Tom that President Moss is arriving. Moss walks in like a superstar, greeting all the staff, remembering their names and stuff. There is a slow focus on his face that immediately makes me suspicious of him because apparently the goal of this series is to make you suspicious of every single darn character.
Dani: I think current events are infecting the writer’s room.
Moss gets escorted into the Oval Office where Tom really is very happy to see him. He tells Moss that he’s totally open to all his advice and Moss says that the advice he got from he predecessor was “don’t listen to the advice of your predecessor.” Tom laughs and is like “no, but seriously. What do you think?”
Moss basically tells him that he was handed a crappy situation and he’s doing okay, I guess. “Passing.” He gives us a quick recap of all the bad things that have happened this season so far and says the problem is that Tom has been reacting to so much bad stuff, he isn’t actually leading the country. He ends the long insult by saying that Tom was simply outgunned (S: Outmanned!) (D: Outnumbered, outplanned!) so he shouldn’t be too hard on himself. Tom says he won’t be. Suddenly all business, Tom asks Moss for the names of the people he’s recommending for cabinet positions. As Tom looks over the list, Moss asks if he can call down to the kitchen. Tom looks annoyed and even more so when Moss asks whoever picks up the line how they are doing.
Samantha: Not to say I knew it, but I knew it.
Dani: You’re so good at TV.
Mari: Aaron is looking at the threat assessment. Forstell tells him that this is a file he had electronically recalled. Aaron’s says that means he obviously didn’t see it and was just acting on Langdon’s instructions. Had he seen this previously, he would’ve remembered it. Aaron asks if this is why Emily was snooping into his phone records. He tells them that if they were tailing Langdon, they could’ve just asked him. Forstell says they weren’t tailing Langdon. Aaron gets it and asks if he needs to get a lawyer. Forstell says that he’s currently just a friendly witness and can walk at anytime. Forstell asks Aaron again what he can say about this file and Aaron makes a face that is either bad acting or bad directing.
Alex is back after a day. Apparently in that day Penny started horseback riding and Leo has grown up. Okay. (S: New theory, the White House is in a time bubble.) (D: Ooh! And all the Mike Clones are just a glitch in the time continuum!) Alex asks how Moss was and Tom admitted that it went a little differently than expected. Tom thought he would be more sympathetic. Alex says they’ll just have to charm him at dinner later that night.
One of the Mike Clones knocks on the door and says it’s time to go. Tom says goodbye to Alex with a kiss.
Tom is taken to see Langdon. We get a stern SIT DOWN CHARLIE from Tom and it reminds me that we briefly saw that flash of DANGEROUS TOM and we were all like “yes! More of that!” but then we didn’t get more of that.
Samantha: It’s like they’re so determined to not make this character Jack Bauer that they scared themselves with that brief glimpse.
Dani: But how cool would it be to see President Tom enter the room like:
Mari: “TELL ME HOW I’M DOING AT MY JOB.”
Anyhow, Tom tells Langdon that he is responsible for the deaths of all the leaders of the country. Langdon says he didn’t know, and Tom basically PFFTS because he and MacLeish were the only two to survive. Langdon says it’s because he wasn’t there. On the day of the State of the Union, he got a phone call from a woman with blackmail information on him. She said she had one more job for him to do: to name Tom the Designated Survivor.
We get a dramatic cut to black and then Tom asks why this woman would want Tom named Designated Survivor. Langdon doesn’t know and he refused. Tom wants to know who did name Tom, then, but Langdon doesn’t know. This frustrates Tom and he gets up to leave, but Hannah asks him to hear Langdon out. Blackmail Lady told Langdon that if he refused he was a dead man and they had eyes everywhere. She proved this by telling him the color of the tie he was wearing, even though he was in his office in the most secure building on the planet (D: an Apple Store?). Langdon hung up and got the hell out of the White House. He decided to drive straight to Alexandria and the FBI, but he lost control of his car on the way. He says the bad people hacked it somehow. We watch in flashback as Langdon’s car goes over a bridge. He obviously survived and when he came to, the Capitol was already up in flames. So he ran.
Forstell and Hannah confirm his story, saying they found his car in the river and there was no evidence of him being at the State of the Union. Tom asks everyone to clear the room. When they are alone, Tom tells Langdon that as far as he is concerned, Langdon is complicit. If he wants to make a deal for his life, Tom wants more info. Langdon insists that he’s told everything he knows. He doesn’t know why these bad guys wanted Tom as Designated Survivor, but he figures it’s because Tom was the least qualified cabinet member and least likely to present an obstacle. Ouch. If it makes Tom feel better, our current, in real life, actual President is way, way, way less qualified. (S: #StillABetterPresidentThanCurrent) (D: #It’sAPrettyLowBar)
Someone comes to see Seth. We’ll call him Dude with News. Dude with News says that he’s got a friend with clearance who told him that Aaron Shore was escorted to FBI headquarters by agents. (D: Dude with News must work for Exposition News Network.) Seth shuts down Dude with News and tells him that Aaron is on personal leave. Dude with News says if he finds out it’s true, this is going to be a story and he’s going to say that Seth denied it. Seth tells him to knock himself out.
War! War! War! Room. The Lady we met earlier tells Tom that Russia vetoed the peace keeping measures for Naruba. Tom asks what their options are and General Contreras explains that Naruba is one of the poorest countries on the planet. Friendly governments in the area aren’t keen to take this on. Tom asks where that leaves them and Contreras says that their best option is to fly in UAVs from Ethiopia and Djibouti to take out Kalame et.al. There would be heavy rebel force casualty. It would take them 6 hours to get the UAVs in place and it’ll take Kalame’s forces a day to reach the capital. Everyone shares a look and Contreras says that if they want to keep their options open, they need to get the UAVs off the ground now. Tom agrees.
Hannah tells Aaron that he’s free to go. He says that’s good because his office has been asking where he is. There is a reporter snooping around. (D: His name is Dude with News; get it straight, Aaron.) Hannah tells him that Langdon cleared him and Aaron says that YEAH. He could’ve told them that. Hannah says it wasn’t personal and Aaron is like, “yeah. It just feels that way.” The President and his closest friend both thought him capable of treason. Hannah tells him that these are dangerous times and thanks him for his cooperation.
Samantha: I get that that would suck but also someone BLEW UP THE CAPITOL BUILDING so these are sketchy times, Aaron.
Dani: But, but… my crush didn’t trust me! Waaah!
Mari: White House. Moss is still going on about the food at the White House. Tom is still looking less than amused. He turns talk to business and asks about a guy named Ambrose for Interior. Alex jumps in and says that Ambrose has been inconsistent on climate change. Tom gives her a grateful wink. Moss tells her that she reminds him of his own wife. And then says that Ambrose knows that being truly energy-independent takes compromise. And then he keeps talking about food.
Dani: This is me in pretty much every meeting at work. Blah blah market share HEY, LET’S TALK ABOUT FOOD.
Mari: I’m the person who asks what’s for lunch at 9:00am so.
Emily and Seth are eating in her office. Seth tells Emily about the Aaron/FBI thing and he truly believes it’s crap. He texted him anyway, just to give him the heads up, but he hasn’t heard back yet. They both can’t believe they are dealing with this. Emily gets a call and has to take off, but she tells Seth he doesn’t need to know why yet.
Moss and Tom take a walk out to one of the balconies. Moss spouts a couple of platitudes before turning talk to Naruba. He correctly guesses that Russia vetoed stuff and also that the war people are saying Naruba is poor and worthless. Moss says it comes down to people and quotes Lincoln to emphasize. Tom recognizes the quote and asks Moss to imagine the courage it took for Lincoln to stand up for equality, knowing it would mean sending brothers to fight against brothers. Moss heard that Tom went to visit the SEAL team that took out Nassar. It’s a noble gesture, but at the cost of putting faces to names who might become casualties. Tom says they lost a man and not a day goes by that he doesn’t think of him or his family.
Moss: Commander-in-chief. It’s not just a title.
BUT IT IS, SIR. IT IS.
Moss continues that it is an awful responsibility. Tom wasn’t prepared for it but he took it on bravely. Now, Tom has the power to decide who lives and who dies.
And we all say: WHO TELLS YOUR STORY.
Samantha: Eliiiiiza. *sobs*
Dani: Still too soon.
Mari: Forever too soon.
Emily joins them with news: they’ve just gotten word that Kalame’s forces have take 15 American humanitarian workers hostage. He’s holding them in several different vehicles in his convoy and they don’t know which ones. If they continue with the strike, they will kill Americans.
War! War! War! Room. Tom comes in and asks how they didn’t know they had Americans in Naruba. Lady says that they never registered with the embassy and they had no way of knowing. Moss says these terrorists are using the same strategy Hezbollah used when they hijacked TWA 847. (D: Why is Moss there? Is it Take Your Predecessor to Work Day?) Contreras says there is one hour left until the UAVs are over Naruba.
Oval Office. Tom says that he hasn’t decided what to do about Kalame yet. Moss tells him to make up his mind fast. Tom doesn’t know how to justify 15 lives in exchange for 100,000, but Moss reminds them that they are 15 citizens to whom he has a responsibility first. This was a failure of intelligence and Kalame has Tom backed into a corner. Moss thinks Tom has to secure the safety of the 15 and then decide what to do with Kalame.
Aaron waits for Seth in his office and gives him a non-answer about the FBI thing. He asks how Emily is doing in the job and Seth diplomatically says she’s doing fine. She doesn’t do things like Aaron does, but she’ll get it done. Aaron grabs an envelope he has with him and gives it to Seth. He tells Seth to read it because it could use a bit of his magic. (S: AU where Seth actually wields magic.) (D: “You’re a wizard, Kal.”)
Back with Tom, he’s still saying the same thing about not knowing how to exchange 15 lives for 100,000. Moss offers up a different option: buying back the Americans. Zimbabwe has 7 million of Kalame’s dollars because of sanctions. Tom can offer to lift the sanctions for the release of the Americans. Tom asks what’s to stop him from just bombing Kalame anyway and Moss basically says it’s because he’s a square. For real.
Tom hates this. Moss says he hates it too, but that’s the world they are living in. Tom asks for more details and I wish I could say that I care even a little bit about any of this because it involves bad terrorist guys and many lives at stake and stuff but… this is boring. The gist is that Tom agrees to Moss’ plan.
Presumably the next day, Aaron comes to visit Tom and resigns. Tom says that he gets that Aaron is angry, but he was just having him investigated to clear his name. Aaron says that that’s all great but now word has hit the rumor mill that he was interrogated by the FBI and he doesn’t think that Tom’s administration can afford any hint of scandal. (D: LOL at how insignificant this “scandal” seems in comparison to other scandals and other White Houses.) Tom won’t accept Aaron’s resignation but it’s too late because Seth is already distributing Aaron’s statement to the press. Aaron says that serving Tom has been the greatest honor of his life. Tom asks if there is anything he can say and Aaron says no. Tom is full of feelings and says the honor has been his and he let Aaron down. Oh, Tom, it’s not your fault! The acting direction on this show makes EVERYONE seem suspicious.
Samantha: So Aaron must be off the show now, huh?
Dani: Aaron who?
Mari: I wouldn’t be so quick, ladies.
Emily comes in with Contreras and interrupts the moment. Aaron sees himself out quickly, and Tom is so choked up he needs a moment to compose himself. Emily says that their contact in Naruba did the negotiating thing and helicopters are on their way to the extraction point. Tom heads to the War! War! War! Room.
There, they watch the feed of the helicopters arriving. The Americans are released and helped onto the helicopters. Everyone claps the success and then Tom is like, “cool. Let’s bomb them.” See, Tom was an urban planner before and he’s looked at the map and highlighted some infrastructure they can bomb in order to stall Kalame. It’s still keeping his word as he’s not bombing Kalame’s forces. (D: Wow, cool, good thing there was an ex-urban planner around to outthink all these military strategists.) Moss gives something half between an admiring smirk and an oh damn smirk. Moss tells Tom that was a smart move and asks what Tom is going to do with the extra time. Tom says it’s what Moss is going to do. Tom wants him to convince Russia to like peace, or whatever, as his new Secretary of State. Even though Moss is retired from public service, the country needs him.
If you ask me, Moss hasn’t been hanging around the White House, ordering all his favorite food this whole time because he doesn’t want a job.
Sure enough, Moss accepts. (D: Hey, you’re good at TV, too!)
Aaron gives over all his ID and badges and stuff and of course Emily catches him. She smiles at him and asks what’s next but he doesn’t know. Emily says that she will try to do the job as well as he did, but he tells her to do better.
Next time on Designated Survivor: Alex releases a public statement and it’s drama in S01 E15 – One Hundred Days.