Before jumping into the episode, I think it’s worth noting the impact Designated Survivor is having on the United States of America. What was Tom Kirkman’s job before the Capitol blew up and everyone died? HUD secretary. What job did Donald Trump give to Ben Carson because he knew the capital of Maryland? HUD secretary. Would Trump have known the position of HUD secretary existed had he not been watching Designated Survivor? Of course not.
Impact. Relevance. Legacy.
Kal Penn begins the episode by going up to address the press pool, but then some snitch journalist asks if Nassar, the dead terrorist, is even dead. The room goes crazy, but Kal keeps it together. The journalist continues to be terrible, asking if methods of torture were used on him and Kal hits him back with something about the Geneva Convention.
This wasn’t supposed to happen and everyone in the president’s inner circle is shook, especially me. The media, right?
We then go to FBI, where Maggie Q is looking for Malik Yoba. Finally, Yoba walks in and tells Maggie that everything is fine with his son, which is so very false. As you’ll remember, the last episode ended with Yoba’s son getting kidnapped and this evil woman telling him that if he didn’t follow her instructions, the boy would die, and then she gave him a flip phone.
The burner phone starts to ring and Maggie can sense that something’s up, since Yoba won’t answer it until she leaves the room. When he picks up, the evil kidnapper is on the line. Yoba has set up a meeting with the president, as he was ordered, even though he doesn’t know why. He asks to speak to his son, and she’s like nah. Poor Yoba. You hate to see Yoba like this. Love you, Yoba.
Back at the White House, HOOKSTRATEN BACK. She’s mad about stuff, and President Kirkman sits there while she tells him about the things she’s mad about. But in an odd twist, they end the meeting on good terms — the next day are the congressional elections, a major step in building the government back up. She promises not to let her Nassar opinions overshadow the importance of the election.
But who knows what the media will do?
Just as Hookstraten leaves, a new crew of people come into the room to introduce yet another blunder. Of course, with all of the other things happening, this would be the ideal time for an act of bioterrorism. What was thought to be a mere flu outbreak in the Midwest was actually a purposeful, calculated attack by way of ricin. Ninety percent of the bad things that could happen to America have happened in just eight episodes of this show.
After a lengthy ricin briefing, which is concentrated in the Kansas City area, we show up at Leo’s high school. It’s all great, until a JOURNALIST shows up, hanging outside of the school entrance like a creep who exclusively shops at Aeropostale.
This dude is such a snake. First, he pretends to be Leo’s friend by saying, “Hey Leo.” The family’s main Secret Service guy, Mike, is with Leo and asks if he knows this “hey Leo” guy. Why? Because Mike is a professional and can sniff out trouble from inches, even feet away. The guy is no friend, however: He smugly disregards Mike, saying he works for “The Chronicle” which is clearly not a real outlet, and then HAS THE NERVE TO ASK LEO WHAT HE THINKS ABOUT THE RUMOR THAT THE PRESIDENT IS NOT HIS FATHER — A RUMOR THAT LEO DID NOT KNOW ABOUT.
Drain the swamp. Ban the media.
This episode is going to get heavy. In addition to dealing with bioterrorism in Kansas City, Jack will probably have to tell his son that a dude in jail might be his dad. This is not great.
Yoba gets another call and the evil woman tells him to get into the car. Before doing so, he demands to talk to his son, which he does, which causes a stream of Yoba tears, both in his eyes and in mine. After the call ends, he drives to a random abandoned lot. Maggie watches him leave and she gets in her car to trail him.
Maggie sees Yoba and the evil woman talking to one another on a roof, and she takes photos of them from an adjacent building. The terror woman gives Yoba instructions on what to do during his meeting with the president. We don’t find out what those instructions are, but Yoba says it’s impossible. She brings up his son again, and it’s suddenly unclear what Yoba will do.
Another unfortunate thing happens. It turns out Maggie isn’t the only one spying. Someone is also taking pictures of her from a car down below — THE DREADED CATALAN.
Back at the White House, POTUS and WFLOTUS are talking about some real serious stuff when Leo walks in, mid-school day. He’s not skipping school to sell Molly like the good old days, though. He just casually wants to ask his dad if he’s his real father.
The talk does not go well. Leo storms off — rightfully so — causing Pops to exalt to the heavens, “I’m not waiting to take that DNA test.” Seconds later, he gets a call with an update about bioterrorism. Of course he does.
I genuinely feel like this show might cause Trump to bow out before inauguration. If he gets it in his head that every day as president is this insane and hectic and difficult, there’s no way he’ll go through with it. DESIGNATED SURVIVOR, WHY DIDN’T YOU COME OUT 10 MONTHS AGO.
For Jack’s next crisis, he’s updated about the ricin attack. All of the people who were infected are … poll workers. The ricin was deposited on the voting machines, where it could become airborne. Essentially, the target for this terrorism seems to be voters, and in a larger sense, the upcoming election. What will they think of next?
A bunch of whatever things happen, but it doesn’t matter because Yoba is in the White House, talking to the president, and — I shit you not — he tells POTUS he’s the one who poisoned Nassar. He doesn’t stop there. Yoba goes on to say that he did it for his country and that a man like Nassar doesn’t deserve to live and that he’d do it again. He stuck to the kidnapper’s script and is promptly arrested.
The president, speaking with Aaron and Emily, is dumbfounded and thinks something is up. Moments later, they find a suspect in the ricin case. This is good news, which means bad news is en route — and it’s a double whammy. First, even though they found the ricin suspect, they discovered he’s part of a group whose membership talked about spreading ricin at polling stations. And then, after learning the attack might not be contained, one of the exposed victims — a school teacher — died.
Following that, Kal Penn punks that journalist who rolled up on Leo, but not before learning that the journalist took the lead because Kal’s press pool crush gave him the story. You don’t lie to Kal Penn. There will be consequences.
The is starting to get really absurd. Even more so than usual. While POTUS has an intense conversation with his inner circle about cancelling the election, his wife walks in with paternity results. In a weird way, it’s all starting to get funny. The show is like a run-on sentence of thrill, with the lack of breaks making it feel like a musical — which, if I may suggest something, Designated Survivor: The Musical and/or On Ice.
There are 16 different plot lines happening at once, but right now the two most interesting ones are Yoba and the paternity test. POTUS meets with his son; he has the results in an envelope, but gives them to Leo before looking. He doesn’t want to see because he says he doesn’t need to see, because he’s Leo’s father. It’s all very sweet. He does admit, however, that they shouldn’t have kept him in the dark. So far, Leo hasn’t opened the envelope.
As for Yoba, he’s in maximum-security prison. Maggie is summoned into the White House to meet with Aaron, because they want to talk to people close to Yoba. Right as she’s about to go into his office, however, she gets a text from an unknown number, telling her not to say anything. She doesn’t say a work, but begins the process of attempting to trace the call.
Oh, and President Kirkman decides to not cancel the election, which he announces in the best speech he’s given as president. It’s happening, and he says he’s going to vote first, which probably means he’ll get ricin all in his system and maybe die, but I could be off on that.
The next morning, the president goes to vote and the polling station is practically empty. It is very discouraging, yet another speed bump in POTUS attempting to gather the trust of the nation. Luckily, two consecutive positive things happen later in the day. First, Leo approaches his dad and said he didn’t need to open the results either, resulting in a big, cute, awkward dad-son hug. Then, reports come in that the election had massive turnout, in large part because Kirkman voted.
We see these long lines, these huge crowds, and it worries me. Gives me the feeling everyone who voted is going to die. Prove me wrong, Designated Survivor.
The episode ends pretty phenomenally, with POTUS finding out that he is the father. He confronts the journalist who leaked the scoop, and says this sentence aloud: “I believe our country is only as strong as our journalists.”
What a moment.
And then, one final twist. After a sketchy meeting where MacLeish and Hookstraten both announce they want Kirkman to fail, MacLeish meets up with the evil terror woman. It’s revealed they’re working together, but not the way you’d expect: It looks like she has also has something on MacLeish, so he’s carrying out her demands like Yoba. This show is insane. This show is beautiful. This show makes no sense.