‘Designated Survivor’ Season 1 Episode 14 Recap and Review: Commander-in-Chief

Designated Survivor Episode 14
Geoff Pierson and Kiefer Sutherland in ‘Designated Survivor’ episoe 14 (ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg)

“You said he’s running scared. Bring him in,” says President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) to Special Agent Wells (Maggie Q) about Charles Langford who has been discovered alive and on the run in ABC’s Designated Survivor season one episode 14 titled ‘Commander in Chief.’

The episode begins exactly where it left off with Aaron (Adan Canto) being approached by Charles Langdon (Peter Outerbridge). “I thought you were dead,” says Aaron to Charles who instructs him to follow him into a nearby church. Langdon tells Aaron he needs him to do something for him and that his life depends on it. Their conversation is cut short when Wells and other FBI agents burst in. Langdon manages to slip away unseen while Aaron is taken into custody.

At the White House, President Kirkman meets with Emily (Italia Ricci) and Seth (Kal Penn) to go over the visit with former President Moss (Geoff Pierson). Their meeting’s cut short when the President takes an emergency meeting with Wells and he’s told Langdon wants to make a deal. Kirkman, seeing him only as a traitor, says no but Wells pushes saying it’s the only good lead they have. John Forstell (Reed Diamond) fears it could be a set up. Deciding to trust Wells, Kirkman tells her to bring in Langdon.


It doesn’t slow down for President Kirkman when he hears there’s a developing situation happening in Naruba, Africa where a civil war is about to start. Kirkman tells Emily and the State Department they need to do something to help the nation’s victims. If they don’t, it could be genocide and he won’t let that happen.

Wells brings in Langdon and interrogates him, with Langdon telling her the old sob story of his marriage ending and thinking he found love with Claudine, a woman he barely knew who found him fascinating. She seduced him into giving her small amounts of inside information about highway contracts and renovations. However, when she asked about the Capitol and a special renovated room, Langdon started to realize he was in trouble. She blackmailed him into giving her information. Wells asks why she should believe this story and he shows her the only photo he has of Claudine who he admits didn’t want her picture taken. Wells looks through some of her photos and shows Langdon one. He says, “That’s her.” Turns out Claudine is the mystery woman who met with Atwood about his kidnapped son.

In the situation room, the President is meeting with advisers on the Naruba situation. They agree to sending in drones to handle the uprising and to stop the rebels from attacking its capitol.

A little while later, President Kirkman meets with former President Moss who has a list of suggestions to fill out Kirkman’s cabinet. Kirkman asks Moss for his thoughts on how he’s doing as president and Moss gives him the cold truth. “You’re reacting, not leading,” says Moss. He continues saying that he would give Kirkman a passing grade but just. Kirkman is a bit put off and bothered by the former president’s honest opinion but continues on with the meeting and looks at his list.

Meanwhile, Aaron is being interrogated by Forstell and discovers the FBI wasn’t following Langdon but were in fact following him. He asks if he needs a lawyer and Forstell tells him that as of right now he’s just a helpful witness in an ongoing investigation.

Alex (Natascha McElhone) returns home with the kids and tells Tom that his daughter now wants him to get her a pony. They catch up on events and she asks how his meeting with Moss went. Tom tells her Moss is not impressed with him. Alex smiles and tells Tom they’ll just have to charm him at dinner.

Kirkman visits Langdon and Langdon reveals the mystery women hand-picked Kirkman to be the Designated Survivor. Kirkman doesn’t believe him, but Wells encourages him to listen. Langdon goes on to recount the day of the attack on the Capitol, how he got the call to pick him and if he didn’t do it, they would kill him and those he cared about. He left his office and drove to the FBI but didn’t make it because his car was hacked and they crashed it. Langdon was thrown clear and when he came to, he saw the fire where the Capitol used to be. He’s been on the run ever since.

Wells tells Kirkman the footage of the Capitol shows Langdon wasn’t there the day of the attack. Forstell confirms to Kirkman that the car crash checks out, too. Kirkman asks to have the room alone with Langdon and when it’s just the two of them, Kirkman asks him why he was picked to be the Designated Survivor. Langdon says he doesn’t know for sure but he suspects that out of everyone on the President’s Cabinet, he was the weakest link and not likely to pose a threat to whoever is behind this.

Back in the situation room, President Kirkman learns of a new complication in Naruba. It seems 15 American volunteers have been captured by the militants Kirkman wanted to target with his drone strike. Kirkman is in a no-win situation: he can either go ahead with the strike to save 100,00 citizens of Naruba and sacrifice the 15 Americans or call off the strike and leave the people of Naruba at the mercy of the warlord and his militants. He delays the drone strike for now and attends his previously scheduled dinner with Moss, which is uncomfortable.

After dinner, Moss and Kirkman talk and Moss tells him that being Commander-in-Chief is an awesome responsibility. “It’s the loneliest job in the world,” says the former president. Moss gives free counsel on the Naruba situation and tells him he has a CIA contact who he can call to work out a deal to have the 15 Americans extracted out by helicopter. Kirkman has to agree not to attack the militants in order for it to work, and Kirkman reluctantly agrees. However, once the Americans are out of harm’s way, Kirkman tells his general that he told the militant leader he wouldn’t attack his troops but never said anything about taking out the bridges leading to Naruba’s capitol. He gives the order for the drones to do just that, with both his staff and Moss in agreement.

Kirkman asks Moss to help him form the cabinet as his new Secretary of State, saying they make a good team. Moss accepts.

At the FBI, Aaron finally gets cleared with Langdon’s confession and is told he’s free to go. Aaron is upset he was a suspect and Wells tells him as she leaves, “These are dangerous times.”

Aaron doesn’t waste much time and pays a visit to the President. Kirkman invites him in and welcomes him back, but Aaron says he’s not coming back. In fact, he’s resigning. Kirkman apologizes to Aaron for the investigation and assures him it was to clear his name, which it has, and now they can get back to the real work. Aaron tells Kirkman that it’s still his job to protect him, even if it’s from him. He tells Kirkman that he’s tainted with rumor and gossip about cover-ups and investigations and that the last thing Kirkman needs while trying to help heal the country is the loyalty of his chief of staff being questioned. Kirkman refuses to accept Aaron’s resignation, but Aaron tells him he has no choice because he sent copies of it to the press before they met.

Realizing he doesn’t have a way to hold onto Aaron, Kirkman tells him it’s been an honor to have him as his chief of staff and Aaron responds by telling him, “Mr. President, the honor was all mine,” as they shake hands. On his way out, Emily asks him what’s next for him. Aaron tells her he hasn’t thought that far ahead. “I’ll try to do the job as good as you,” says Emily. “No, do it better than me,” replies Aaron as he leaves.

The final scene has Wells meeting with President Kirkman who tells her she now reports only to him, not the FBI. She’s in charge of finding out who’s behind the conspiracy and bringing them to justice.

Designated Survivor Episode 14 Review:

Revealing and dramatic, episode 14 titled ‘Commander-in-Chief’ gives Agent Wells both a new lead to follow in the investigation of who is behind the conspiracy inside the government and the new task of reporting only to the President. It also introduced a new ally for Kirkman, as he hires Moss to help him build up the nation. Plus, episode 14 saw the exit of Aaron from the White House and perhaps politics altogether.

The stand-out performance once again goes to Kiefer Sutherland as President Kirkman who doesn’t hold back his contempt for Langdon for betraying his country and his uneasiness with Moss. Initially he feels as though he’s being belittled and chastised, but he works past that to form an important alliance. Sutherland embodies Kirkman’s inner strength, morals and at times his naive understanding of how Washington really works to get things done, and his portrayl gives the show the anchor and strength it needs. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing President Tom Kirkman.

With Moss on board as Kirkman’s new Secretary of State and Agent Wells having free reign to investigate the conspiracy, it seems the tables have turned and Kirkman and his team are now – for the first time – ahead their hunt for those who would bring the country to its knees.

GRADE: B