Designated Survivor S01 E16 – The Same Song and Dance

Previously: Tom crushed it, according to Twitter.

Party Lines

Dani: The previouslies remind us that Aaron now works for Kimble Hookstraten, and that Jack Bowman, the gun-loving senator from Montana, is a dick.

The episode opens in the White House, where one of the Mike clones goes to the Basement of Sooper Sekret Stuff™ to meet Hannah. She shows him the files she found after Atwood killed the woman who’d kidnapped and murdered his son. In case you’ve forgotten, her name was Claudine. Except it wasn’t, so … her name was Brooke. But neither name really matters, because she’s dead now. (This is so dumb. Introducing a second name for this character does nothing for the plot and just makes it more confusing for the viewer.)

Samantha: “Make It More Confusing” would be the best title for this entire show.

Marines: I was leaning toward “Does Nothing for the Plot.”

Dani: Coming up with alternate titles for this show is so much more fun than actually recapping it.

Hannah tells Mike the plans were created by the same threat assessment team at the Pentagon that did the Capitol plans. They don’t know whether the terrorists considered these plans (which include the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam, and the Statue of Liberty) rejected sites, or future targets. Mike says he’ll inform the president, as it’s super important Tom knows about this. Hmm, ya think?

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Mike briefs the president on the new threat. But since this plot point is never again addressed in this episode, this totally could have happened off-camera. Dear show: please stop subjecting us to completely unnecessary stuff, like pseudonyms for minor/dead characters, and this entire scene. kthxbye.

Later, Tom meets with the press and answers questions about the gun control bill that Senator Definitely-Compensating-for-Something (R-MT) reintroduced last episode. Tom agrees the language of the bill is flawed, but he says if it passes the Senate he’ll work with everyone in the House to fix it. He reiterates that gun control doesn’t mean taking guns away from Americans (because heaven forbid), but rather ensuring the guns don’t get into the wrong hands. Seems like a no-brainer… but then so does passing teeny tiny gun safety laws after massive school shootings, so …

Good luck with that?

Samantha: This plot line is going to be tough for me because I, along with many, get real ragey at the insanity of people fighting gun control. WE JUST WANT TO TRY AND MAKE SURE LESS KIDS ARE MURDERED OKAY?

Mari: This recap was written before the mass shooting in Vegas. The reality of living in the US, regardless of where you fall on gun control laws, is that if you just wait for a bit, you’ll have another shooting to add to the conversation.

Dani: Dear America: When your mass shootings occur faster than we can recap a show, it’s time to fix your shit.

Seth, Emily, and Tom discuss the bill during a walk-and-talk. Seth says the social media reaction is mixed, but somewhat positive. He says Alex is doing a roundtable with key stakeholders, and Tom corrects him, saying they’re mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters – people, not stakeholders. Seth is repentant and goes to check on Alex.

Emily reminds Tom they need a simple majority to pass the bill in the Senate, so 51 votes. That’s going to be tough, due to the bill sucking as-is. Tom says that’s exactly why Senator Compensating introduced it – to back Tom into a corner.

Samantha: Man, lets go watch Dirty Dancing instead.

Dani: I’m game!

Emily believes the Democrats will back the bill, but Tom says unfortunately there are only 46 of them. I FEEL YOU, Tom.

Seth meets with Alex and briefs her on the roundtable discussion. She’ll be meeting with a dozen people from across the country, all of whom lost someone to gun violence. Yikes. Seth cautions her not to mention the bill directly or comment on policy, and Alex assures him she learned her lesson after the last time. Then she says that this was what she was hoping for when she and Tom got thrown into the White House – tackling the big issues that really matter.

Samantha: I know that Alex is low on backbone but sometimes she’s so likable. Or….is the bar just really low for me right now?

Mari: Both? It IS a low bar but also she’s probably the character I like the most. And when I don’t like her, it’s usually ’cause of poor writing and out of character behavior.

Dani: Over in the Rayburn Building, Aaron and Kimble are discussing Senator Compensating. Dude’s super political – he resigned his governorship specifically so his replacement could appoint him to the Senate, and he’s already talking about a presidential run. Kimble says he’s still a Republican, and since she’s the ranking member of that party she must be careful how she handles him going behind her back to reintroduce the bill without consulting party leadership. Aaron says if Kimble doesn’t assert herself now she won’t be the ranking member of the party for long.

White House. Tom and Emily meet with a Democratic senator, and where have I seen this actress before??

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IMdB tells me her name is Kearran Giovanni, and she was in 92 episodes of Major Crimes. Huh. Never heard of it.

Samantha: That’s the show that was a spin off of The Closer on TNT. Man, I miss Kyra Sedgwick being a BAMF on my tv.

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Dani: I met her at the ATX TV Festival this year! She did a panel on female representation and is totally a BAMF in real life, too.

Tom and Emily ask Senator Crimes if the Dems will support the bill, even though it’s weak-ass legislation that just expands background checks a little and doesn’t go nearly far enough. Tom says at least it gets the ball rolling. He’s afraid they won’t get another chance if the bill doesn’t pass the Senate. Senator Crimes agrees to convince the Dems to support it, but tells Tom that if they get a whiff of tax cuts for the rich or cuts to Medicare or Social Security, they’ll pull their support. Tom assures her they’re on the same page.

Elsewhere, Hannah shows Forstell a marketing video for Browning Reed, a private military contractor that was shut down after their people shot a bunch of civilians in Afghanistan. (Unlike Blackwater, which is a real company whose personnel murdered a bunch of Iraqi citizens in 2007. But they didn’t get shut down – they just changed their name. Because ‘MURICA!)

Browning Reed is defunct, but they still have some real estate holdings. They pay taxes on Brooke’s (Claudine’?) house, and they also own some land in the boonies of North Dakota. Forstell says the North Dakota property looks deserted, but then Hannah reveals that Brooke flew out there four times between 2011 and 2015. Hannah wants to figure out what’s out there, and she’s going to take Atwood, even though Forstell doesn’t think that’s a great idea.

Samantha: Because it probably isn’t. For, like, a huge amount of reasons.

Mari: Didn’t we do this whole song and dance last episode?

Dani: Another alternate title for this show: “The Same Song and Dance as Last Episode”

White House. Tom meets with Secretary of State Moss (the former president), and they discuss the bill. Moss lays down some tough love on Tom – the bill’s language is piss-poor (this guy is totally modeled after LBJ, amirite?), but it’s the only bill he’s got. Gotta fight the war in front of you, yada yada yada.

Rayburn Building. Kimble meets with Senator Compensating, who’s basically a walking cliché for all things yee-haw. She warns him that Congress has a lot of moving parts, and his attempt to embarrass the president with the gun control bill may have unintended consequences. The Republicans have bigger priorities, and they need a united front to accomplish them. But Senator Compensating basically says screw your united front. He tells Kimble that she’s the last of the old guard, so she can either get on board or step aside.

White House. Emily gives Tom a list of moderate Republicans who might be swayed to vote for the bill. Tom went to college with one of them, so he’s hopeful he can convince him. Emily says they’ll get started on the rest.

Alex meets with the people who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence. There’s a brief photo session with the press, during which someone asks if she’ll be discussing the bill. Seth tries to shut it down, but Alex answers about the day being for people, not politics. It’s the perfect answer, and Seth is happy. He ushers out the press so that the roundtable can begin.

Samantha: Could people stop underestimating and treating Alex like a child now? Thank you so much.

Dani: Deserted Parking Garage of Don’t Go In There. Hannah meets with Atwood (why the secrecy??) and invites him to North Dakota. I guess this dude’s hard-up for a vacay, because he agrees.

White House. The showrunners are just straight-up stealing scenes from “The American President” now, as everyone (including Tom) frantically works the phones, calling Senators to beg for their votes. Alex comes in, obviously shaken from meeting the folks who’d lost loved ones to senseless, preventable gun violence. She reminds Tom how lucky they were when he was shot, which is both appropriate and realistic. Most people don’t just bounce back from a gunshot wound. Alex tells Tom he has to win this, and he agrees.

Random DC bar. Aaron’s fiddling with his phone when Emily pulls up a chair beside him.

They discuss the bill, and Aaron suggests Kimble can help. Even though she’s in the House, she has sway with some Republican senators. Aaron says the moderates don’t necessarily oppose background checks; they’re just afraid to cross Senator Compensating. Emily asks what’s in it for Kimble, and Aaron tells her to think about it. She does – and realizes it’s the Vice Presidency.

White House. Tom meets with the Republican senator he went to school with. Tom promises the language of the bill will be fixed in the House, but Senator Not-Really-Your-Friend says he has to vote on it the way it’s written. Tom tries to persuade him some more, saying they have a chance to do something really good here. But Senator Notyofriend says he was appointed by a Republican governor, and he can’t go rogue on his first big vote.

Yes, I see the moral dilemma now.


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Dani: Over on ANM News Network, Senator Douchey McCompensating is blabbering about Alex’s roundtable being a blatant PR stunt. I’m not really listening to what he’s saying, because I’m distracted by him suddenly having a southern accent. The writers made a point of him talking about his family’s cattle ranch in Montana, so why does he suddenly sound like he comes from South Carolina? Does Hollywood just equate guns with the south?

Tom turns away from the TV when Kimble arrives in his office. Kimble says she can persuade some of the moderate Republican senators to vote for the bill. If the bill gets to the House, she will commit to working with Tom to amend the bill appropriately, and she’s willing to go on record with that promise. Tom is surprised and grateful. He tells Kimble that all he can offer is a promise that he’ll be very grateful down the line. Kimble says that’s all she needs.

Outside, Kimble gives a press conference and confirms everything she just discussed with Tom. Seth and Emily are happy.

Samantha: This show has made me cynical on Kimble. How will she ruin this good thing?

Dani: North Dakota. Atwood and Hannah make their way to the property. Hannah tells Atwood to pull over two miles out, and they’ll go the rest of the way on foot. Atwood says it’s weird having Hannah give him orders, since he used to be her boss. It’s weird for Hannah, too. Atwood appreciates being included, though. He thought he’d have closure once Claudine (Brooke?) was dead, but not so much. Now he thinks it won’t get better until everyone behind the attack are dead. (M: So glad he’s totally okay to be here!)

White House. Tom gets a call from Senator Notyofriend, who just had a long talk with Kimble. She convinced him to vote for the bill, and Tom is ecstatic.

Elsewhere, Seth checks on Emily, who we can tell is hard at work on the vote because her hair’s all messy and tied up. As Emily moves senators’ names from the Nay to Yea board, she tells Seth that Kimble got them three senators. Seth asks if they have Aaron to thank, and Emily is cagey with her answer. Seth doesn’t think Kimble would align herself so closely with Tom unless there was something in it for her. He tells Emily there’s a pool going in the press, but Emily gets squinty-eyed and says the president hasn’t agreed to anything. Seth chuckles and is all ‘alrighty then’ and the way he dangles his feet as he sits on the arm of the coach is just adorable. I tried to find it for you but came up blank. I did find this, however:

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Mari: Worth it. Thank you.

Dani: It’s funny until you realize that one is a actor on a television set, and the other is our new reality. #HaveSomeDignityFFS

Mari: Wow, unworth it. Un-thank you.

Dani: LOL, sorry.

Senate. Alex walks through the halls with Senator Crimes and thanks her for meeting to discuss federal gun trafficking legislation. Senator Crimes thanks Alex, who says she made a promise to a woman at the roundtable who lost her 12-year old grandson to gun violence. They discuss everything that still needs to be done, and Senator Crimes tells Alex she led this charge in her home state of Massachusetts, and she’ll do the same on the Hill if and when they have the momentum. Alex thanks her again and leaves, but on her way out she’s stopped by Senator Compensating. (Doesn’t the FLOTUS have a Secret Service detail? Can she really just stroll around in public? CRAP, don’t tell me we ran out of Mike clones!!)

Senator Compensating introduces Alex to three other Republican senators and smarms about her being in the building “working Senators.” Alex assures him she’s not there for votes, she was just keeping a promise to a woman who lost her son to gun violence (I thought it was her grandson?). Senator D-Bag tells Alex he admires her civic spirit.

Alex says the vote is about doing what’s right, and she just hopes 51 senators can feel the same way. Then she tells them it was an honor to meet them all and leaves. The cameraman zooms in on the lady senator from Tennessee, who stares after Alex thoughtfully. Ten bucks says she’s going to surprise everyone and vote with the Dems. (S: Please. I need it. I need to live out this fantasy.)

Back at the White House, Emily meets with Tom, Moss and Seth in the Oval Office. They need 2 more yes votes. Emily mentions a senator who agreed to vote with them if they add Medicare reforms, but Tom nopes that idea. (Emily should know better; she was there when Senator Crimes said they’d pull their support over cuts. What good is one yes vote if it loses you 46?). They only have three senators they can possibly flip, so Emily takes the one whose Chief of Staff she knows, and Moss will work the one who was in his cabinet back when he was president. Tom offers to take the senator from Alaska. She has a moderate streak, but… Alaska. Emily tells him to wait, because they learn one of the Dems didn’t like Tom aligning himself with Hookstraten, so they’ve decided to vote nay. Okay, I’m sure the 315 people who are shot EVERY DAMNED DAY in America will totally understand that reasoning.


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Dani: Now Tom has no choice but to convince the senator from Alaska. It’s not looking good for Team Piss-Poor Bill.

North Dakota. Hannah and Atwood hike through the woods, but they don’t find anything at the coordinates. It’s just a big empty clearing.

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Back in Washington, Emily, Moss, and Tom stand on street corners with “Will Work For Yes Votes” signs. Not really, but close. Emily’s acquaintance, the Chief of Staff, wants to know how persuasive Tom is willing to get, and Emily says just give them a number. I’m confused – a number for what? Are they paying him for the vote?? Moss works a Texas senator who’s worried about getting re-elected. Moss says he carried Texas by 60 points (definitely LBJ) so his endorsement still has weight. The senator asks if he’s seriously willing to endorse him, and Moss tells him to prove he deserves his endorsement first.

In the Oval Office, the senator from Alaska tells Tom he’s asking her to commit political suicide. Tom argues he’s asking her to do the right thing, but she says she’d be sacrificing all the other “right things” for this one right thing. Hmm, I don’t follow that math. (S: JUST DO ALL OF THE RIGHT THINGS OHMYFUCKING GOD.)

Emily’s guy gives her a number – Colorado’s infrastructure needs exceed $785 million. Emily initially balks, but the guy tells her if they add that amount to the budget, he’ll persuade his senator to vote for the bill. Emily says she’ll confirm within the hour.

Moss tells Senator Texas that if he can’t find his spine on this issue, Moss might just run for the damn senate seat himself. Senator Texas is surprised that it’s that important to him. Moss says he’s not asking for himself. He’s not even asking for the president. He’s asking for the country. And also? He’s not really asking. I kind of love Moss.

Tom keeps working on Senator Alaska, but she’s reluctant. He says if she vote for the bill and doesn’t get re-elected because of it, then they’ll find her a place within his administration. She says she’ll have to think about it. Tom tells her to vote her conscience, and I really don’t think he understands how Washington works.

Rayburn Building. Aaron tells Kimble the vote will come down to the wire, and Kimble says she did all she could. Aaron says if it passes it’ll be because of her, and she tells him that if it fails the same cannot be the case. It has to be Tom’s failure. Aaron says what about the vice presidency, and Kimble says it was a conversation, not an oath. Also, she has no intention of tying herself to a lame duck administration. She appreciates Aaron’s loyalty to the president, but she expects him to do some major damage control if the bill doesn’t pass.

Samantha: Here it is.

Mari: And Aaron should’ve expected it like we did.

Dani: He’s obviously not as good at TV as we are.

Back at the White House, Emily is playing with her Yay/Nay boards (seriously, why is she always fiddling with it even though there’s no movement of votes???).

Seth comes in all panic-boo because someone told someone else that Alex was on Capitol Hill today, meeting with Senator Crimes. This is TERRIBLE because… I don’t actually know why, honestly. But apparently the fact that she was spotted talking to Senator Compensating makes it OMG EVEN WORSE because the vote is just hours away. I seriously don’t understand why this is bad. (S: Same.) (M: The first lady was out of the house without permission!!!) Seth wants to tell Tom, but Emily says he can’t because it’s not their place. They’ll just quietly reconfirm the votes and pray no damage was done. Um… okay?

Samantha: Seems professional.

Dani: North Dakota. Forstell sends Hannah and Atwood infrared images of the area they hiked to. Turns out there’s an old ICBM missile silo from the 70’s beneath the empty field. Too bad they didn’t have access to some sort of government database that might have shown that. You know, if they’d bothered to research the North Dakota address before flying out there and ordering infrared satellite images and stuff. Your tax dollars at work, folks. Since it’s too dark to go back now, they’ll sleep in the car and return at first light.

White House. Everyone gathers in Emily’s office to watch the vote. Moss’s senator agreed to vote yes, so it all comes down to Senator Alaska. The vote begins, and everyone votes as anticipated. When it comes to Senator Alaska there’s a long pause, and then she finally votes no. Everyone sad pandas because that means the vote will be tied, and since there’s no Vice President to break the tie the bill won’t progress to the House.

After the commercial break, Alex and Emily tell Tom they’re sorry, and Moss says it was a hell of a lot closer than he expected. The voting continues in the background, while Tom says it was no one’s fault and they all tried their best. Then Seth interrupts because SURPRISE the Republican senator that zoomy cameraman introduced us to earlier voted yes. Moss infodumps that she was appointed to fill her husband’s senate seat, and said husband was as red as they come. Everybody goes off to celebrate the victory, and Tom tells Emily she did a great job.

Over in the Rayburn building, Kimble and Aaron have been watching the vote, as well. Aaron also infodumps about the woman’s husband voting down anything even slightly gun-related, and he assumed she would, too. Kimble says apparently everyone did. Even Senator Compensating, who looks pissed. (S: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA YOU SUCK.)

Back in North Dakota, Hannah and Atwood find a secret entrance inside a tunnel. They enter the missile silo and begin to investigate.

In the Oval Office the next day, Tom and Alex meet with Senator SURPRISE and thank her for voting yes. Tom asks what changed her mind, and she tells him she’d always felt this way. No one ever bothered to ask her, though. She says seeing Alex stand up to Senator Compensating reminded her that she could, too. She tells Tom to keep doing what he’s doing, and he promises he will.

Samantha: I kinda love this.

Mari: Okay, maybe NOW everyone will stop treating Alex like she shouldn’t walk, talk or otherwise do anything ever?

Dani: I wouldn’t hold your breath.

ICBMs-‘R-Us. Hannah and Atwood go deeper into the silo, which is like a Cold War time capsule. Hannah opens a somewhat modern-looking military trunk and finds a couple of the bombs that were used to blow up the Capitol. She sweeps her flashlight around the room, where hundreds of identical trunks sit. Hannah says it’s enough explosives to blow up three Capitols, and the episode ends on that note of dunh-dunh-DUNH.


Next time on Designated Survivor: Tune in for the pulse-pounding excitement of assembling a Supreme Court in S01 E17 – The Ninth Seat


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.

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.

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.

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