Designated Survivor 1×03 “The Confession”

Every week we’ll go over the best and worst parts of this week’s Designated Survivor episode, lavishing special care on all of the times Kirkman is inexplicably ignorant about the world.


  • Malicious forces hack into the White House computers (the staff terms this a “One-time malicious cyber-intrusion,” which I think is a hilarious deadpan joke and not a stupid attempt at jargon, but you can never be sure with this show), which makes for an exciting sequence when the lights in the White House go out and everyone starts to fear there’s another attack.
  • Virginia Madsen, as Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten, continues to be a treasure. She immediately picks up on the blindingly obvious fact that the White House has been hacked and, when rival aspiring chiefs of staff Emily and Aaron scurry away to deal with it, suggests drily: “Perhaps it’s about that problem you’re not having.” Love her! She also masterfully manages to steal the spotlight at the President’s funeral when Kirkman, who’s been disgraced because everyone just found out he was actually fired on the morning of the attack, is disinvited from giving a eulogy. In my opinion, it’s pretty much all the President’s fault because if you’ve fired someone, you OBVIOUSLY should not then assign them to be the person who will keep the government going when everyone else is dead. But Kimble uses the situation to her best advantage, and who could blame her? Then she cheerfully admits she plans to run against Kirkman in the next election. What a champ.
  • Kirkman stands firm against political pressure to start a war, demanding 100% proof that al-Saqqar committed the terrorist attack before attacking them. It’s especially admirable since US Presidents are not always known to wait around for actual proof, as those of us alive in the days just after 9/11 may recall.
  • Maggie Q shows a glimmer of subtlety in her acting when Agent Slurs-A-Lot finds out her married boyfriend is definitely, totally dead and she tries to hide her grief. It’s a sad moment (followed immediately by a painfully long, clichèd tale of woe about how she ended up with a married boyfriend, but that probably belongs on the other half of this listicle).


  • “Unbelievable, right? He’s like a human silver lining,” says Emily of the survivor discovered in the rubble at the end of the last episode. Ahh, I love the smell of an inept metaphor in the morning.
  • So, it turns out the President wasn’t exactly a great dad, and his son is estranged from him. Said son is especially pissed off about a particular concert he once gave that his dad missed. Apparently, the President did go to see his son’s concert, but he let the poor boy think his father never showed up, because he “didn’t want to attract attention” away from his son. But he did everyone else that his son had done a great job. And then I guess he forgot to ever clear things up with his son, like it never occurred to him to just have a one-on-one conversation after the fact. Sure, you don’t want to steal the spotlight or anything, but you’ll happily go ahead and claim several acres of real estate in his emotional landscape for the giant daddy issues you’re giving him. (Oh, and he apparently spent an HOUR of a cabinet meeting TELLING all of the cabinet members about this recital, instead of, I don’t know, governing. Worst president ever?)
  • Agent Wells finds a video of the Capitol that cuts out thirty seconds before the attack actually happened, and the video shows a woman taking pictures on her phone. Clearly the answer is that a techie MUST hack into “her cloud” RIGHT NOW or else… well, nothing, as the techie points out, since everyone is already dead and any information they might get probably isn’t that urgent. But Wells comes back with, “If we don’t play dirty we don’t stand a chance. Do it.” With an airtight argument like “Do it,” obviously the techie has no choice but to violate the fourth amendment and hack into the lady’s cloud.
  • Kirkman chooses the stupidest, most cliched way possible of deciding between his rival chiefs-of-staff Emily and Aaron (who are clearly about to develop some sort of will-they-won’t-they dynamic, in a clearly doomed pale imitation of Amy and Dan from Veep). Emily is ethical and honest, like him… so he picks Aaron, in order to have someone to balance him out. But he still like rilly rilly wants Emily to stay on as a special advisor! So, basically, “You’re a better person and more likely to make decisions I agree with, but I’m going to give your distasteful, grasping rival the title and give you a consolation prize because otherwise the ending of this episode would be too predictable.” Or something.

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