‘Designated Survivor’ Season 1 Episode 20 Recap and Review: Bombshell

Designated Survivor star Maggie Q
Maggie Q in ‘Designated Survivor’ episode 20 (Photo by John Medland / ABC)

“The jackals are at the door, Mr. President,” says Secretary of State Cornelius Moss (Geoff Pierson) to President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) after learning the truth that the search is still ongoing for the real conspirators of the Capitol attack in ABC’s Designated Survivor season one episode 20.

The episode begins with Agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) trapped on the tanker at sea and hunted by the goons who kidnapped her. As she makes her way around the boat, she sees what looks to be weapons packed in crates on board.

The action switches to up in the air on Air Force One where Seth Wright (Kal Penn), who was so excited to ride on the famous plane, discovers he has motion sickness while flying and spends most of the time in the restroom being ill which Moss finds amusing. Moss is mentoring Kirkman, getting him ready for what he can expect in Toronto for the big NATO summit. Moss is hoping that Kirkman will be able to get their allies to join the cause of reducing the international arms race, something he never got to do when he was president. When they land both Moss and Kirkman meet, unofficially, with the key players including the Prime Minister of France and they seem to make a good impression.

Back on board the tanker, Wells has made her way to the radio room and knocked out the radio man. She begins broadcasting an S.O.S. and says, “Mayday! This is FBI Agent Hannah Wells.” She’s able to say it a few times before two more goons show up. She knocks them out and makes a run for the deck, but she gets knocked out by another goon.



Back at the White House, Mike Ritter (LaMonica Garrett) brings in Chuck Russink (Jake Epstein) to help him salvage what’s left of the documents that mention Browning Reed. Chuck ends up creating a trace for whoever has been deleting the files. When he/she comes back to delete the last few pages, Chuck should be able to track him.

Back at the summit, Seth shows President Kirkman a news story from reporter Abe Leonard (Rob Morrow) declaring Al-Sakar was not behind the Capitol bombing and that the real terrorists are still at large. Moss tells President Kirkman to get out in front of it and squash it, but Kirkman tells Seth to say they’ll look into the story. Seth also needs to say for now they’re going with what the intelligence community is telling them. Seth starts to suggest the President deny it, but Kirkman tells him strongly to do what he told him to do.

After Seth leaves, Kirkman admits to Moss the story isn’t false and apologizes for keeping him out of the loop because it’s a matter of national security. Moss is upset but eventually calms down after realizing Kirkman really had no choice in the matter. Kirkman and Moss are worried they’ll lose the confidence and trust of their NATO allies with this story, and sure enough France and Britain are the first to demand answers about the surprising news story. They will table the arms reduction plan until the matter is resolved. The French Prime Minister reminds President Kirkman they supported the United States’ retaliation attack after the bombing but now with this story coming to light, it seems their cooperation was agreed to under false pretenses.

Back in New York, Abe Leonard does a television interview talking about conspiracies and the White House trying to cover it up. He even mentions Lozano which catches the attention of Patrick Lloyd (Terry Serpico) who isn’t pleased at all about Abe bringing up Lozano. Patrick calls his mole, Jay Whitaker (Richard Waugh), and tells him Abe has served his purpose.

When Leonard gets back to his office, his editor instructs him to go with Alyssa from the legal department and talk to the FBI as a potential witness. At first, Abe argues about the request and refuses to give up his sources. He finally agrees to comply with his boss’ request.

Forstell (Reed Diamond) gets a call from the Coast Guard advising him that what they thought was a distress call from a ship named Hannah Wells was actually Agent Hannah Wells. Forstell meets with the Coast Guard and is told they’re looking for the tanker but haven’t found it yet.

Back at the summit, Kirkman thanks Seth for handling the press as they gave him a hard time about Abe’s story. The President apologizes for not being able to tell him more and Seth responds by telling Kirkman he knows him well enough to trust his judgement.

First Lady Alex Kirkman (Natascha McElhone) calls her husband and Tom realizes he’s been keeping her in the dark about what really happened with the Capitol attack. She reaches out, telling him she’s not sure how to help him. After a long pause, Tom answers her by saying, “Just don’t lose faith in me.”

Kirkman meets privately with the French Prime Minister and says he understands why they sidelined his arms-reduction plans but that Moss is going to reach out to his contacts in Russia and work with them bilaterally to reduce weapons. “The question is simple, Prime Minister. How do we want to leave the world for our children?” asks Kirkman. The Prime Minister realizes Kirkman is a dreamer and is pleased with his idealism. She thanks him for his time and says she looks forward to their next summit, shaking his hand.

On the return flight, Kirkman thanks Moss for his counsel and for standing by him. Moss admits he really didn’t have much choice, confessing to Kirkman he sees something great in him.

Forstell gets a call from the FBI informing him they’ve found the ship in a harbor in Baltimore. Forstell, along with other agents, move in and check all the tankers but don’t find Wells. That’s because she’s been moved to a van. As she wakes up and steps out of the van, she sees a bomb inside the van set to explode in three minutes. Wells looks up to see she’s in the parking garage of the FBI headquarters.

Designated Survivor Season 1 Episode 20 Review:

Oddly paced and fairly uneventful, episode 20 titled “Bombshell” lets the cat out of the bag to the public and press about the real terrorists possibly still being a threat. It also found Agent Wells trying to escape only to end up finding herself in a “explosive” situation. Of all the episodes of this usually very suspenseful and dramatic series, this one seems to be nothing more than filler meant to stretch the season to one extra episode before the season finale.

The best part of episode 20 were the scenes between Sutherland and Pierson as President Kirkman and his Secretary of State Moss working together to try to make a good impression on their NATO allies and to reduce nuclear arms around the globe. The actors have solid chemistry and the dynamic of Moss being a mentor and advisor to Kirkman is intriguing.

With the next episode being the season’s finale, here’s hoping Agent Wells finds a way out of her deadly situation and that she teams up with Forstell, Ritter, Russink, and of course President Kirkman to find enough evidence to bring down Lloyd and his terrorist group.

GRADE: C

More on Designated Survivor:
Designated Survivor Season 1 Episode 21 ‘Brace for Impact’ Recap
Designated Survivor Season 1 Episode 19 ‘Misalliance’ Recap
Designated Survivor Season 1 Episode 18 ‘Lazarus’ Recap
Designated Survivor Season 1 Episode 17 ‘The Ninth Seat’ Recap