‘Designated Survivor’ Season 1 Episode 6 Recap and Review

Designated Survivor star Kiefer Sutherland
Kiefer Sutherland stars in ‘Designated Survivor’ (Photo by Ben Mark Holzberg / ABC)

“We all want the same thing, to rebuild our country,” says President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) to an assembly of the country’s governors attending a fancy D.C. gala in the hopes of putting Congress back in place minutes before shots are fired outside in ABC’s political thriller, Designated Survivor.

Agent Ritter (LaMonica Garrett) is on his way home when he hears about the shots who goes looking for and finds the shooter. He puts the shooter down but not before he gets wounded and has to be sent to the hospital. It turns out the shooter has links to Al-Sakar and is attacking the government that took the terrorist leader and is holding him in an undisclosed location.

The next day things get even more complicated when a plane full of vetted Syrian refugees are not allowed off the aircraft which has already landed in Miami. The state’s governor is extremely concerned that any of the passengers could be a possible threat. Kirkman tries to reason with the governor but to no avail.

Things go from difficult to stop-dead-in-your-tracks mode when, during Kirkman’s meeting with the country’s governor, a group of them demand to know exactly what he stands for. If he doesn’t answer their questions in enough detail, they will block his attempt to create a congress. Aaron (Adan Canto) and Emily (Italia Ricci) talk to the President in private and neither are fans of his giving into the governors. Aaron even reminds Kirkman that he doesn’t answer to the governors, but Tom is willing to give it a shot if it means he can get the elections started for congress. Needless to say, it’s a disaster. All of the governors but one who has known Kirkman from years ago, basically question if a low level cabinet member who was picked to be the Designated Survivor is really qualified to be the Commander in Chief. Upset and touching upon Kirkman’s own doubts and fears, he responds, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t be president,” and then he quickly exits the room.

Aaron and Seth (Kal Penn), who has been flirting with a journalist who just became part of the White House press corps, go after Kirkman. Aaron gives him the pep talk he needs to go back and deal with the power-seeking governors. So, back into the lion’s den Kirkman goes, delivering a second, shorter speech about how he’s the man whose job it is to unite the country and lead America forward. If they don’t support him, history will not be kind to them. After some head-shaking and grumbles, the governors agree to get on board but with the condition that he will put a freeze on any immigration for the time being until their citizens feel safe again.


Meanwhile, at the FBI Agent Wells (Maggie Q) and her boss are getting ready to interrogate the terrorist leader to find out if he was really behind the attack on the capital. During the questioning, Wells tells Nassar she doesn’t think he planned the attack at all and that she knows his group takes credit for attacks they haven’t taken part in. Nassar keeps insisting that his group DID attack the capital and will not stop. This goes on and on and on until finally Wells threatens to transfer Nassar to Pakistan along with his secret family who won’t do so well there. It seems his mother is being treated for diabetes and the medical plan for family members of terrorists wanted by the Pakistan government isn’t very good. Nassar breaks and gives up a name of the man who actually planned the attack and told Nassar and his group to take credit for it. He reveals the mastermind is named Catalan. Once back at FBI headquarters, Wells and her boss run the name through a secure database and find nothing.

Back at the White House, Kirkman makes the deal to secure getting the elections underway to recreate congress. This causes a fight between him and his wife, Alex (Natascha McElhone), who’s an immigration lawyer and has been working to get the passengers off the plane in Miami. Tom tells her the refugees are not going back to Syria but to Canada and will still be free. Alex doesn’t want to hear it because all she can see is that it’s no longer she and him against the world and that being president is changing them. “I’m not mad at the president. I’m disappointed in my husband,” says Alex as she leaves the room.

Seth is approached by the new lovely reporter in the press room and he decides to ask out. She doesn’t hesitate to use the opportunity to tell him a source has told her that Tom Kirkman is not Leo’s biological father, asking confirmation. Seth just looks shocked and doesn’t respond. (Nice poker face, Mr. Press Secretary.)

Wells and her partner are headed back to talk to Nassar again when they hear a commotion. When they arrive at his cell, they find the guards looking over his dead body. It appears Nassar committed suicide. (Sure he did.)

Review of Designated Survivor Episode 6:

Since its debut back in September, Designated Survivor has become one of the best new series on television. The series has produced one great episode after another, that is until episode six. Every series has a weak episode here and there and that’s exactly what episode 6 titled “The Interrogation” is, extremely weak. With poor writing, forced speeches and pep talks, and a boring non-crisis for the First Lady to deal with, it feels as though episode six was nothing more than a filler.

Having Sutherland’s character Kirkman waver and become willing to subject himself to the governors’ kangaroo court at this stage just doesn’t make sense. He has already dealt with one insubordinate governor and has the two surviving cabinet members backing him, as well as the success of capturing the terrorist leader Nassar. It’s not believable that the governors would make the demands the way they did in this episode, especially since all Kirkman would have to do is hold a press conference revealing the individual governors who are holding up the country moving forward in putting together a new congress for their own personnel agendas. Their careers would be over. Every series has a forgettable episode and that’s really what this one is.

With the FBI losing their only lead and Congressman MacLeish getting closer to becoming the Vice President, it should be very interesting to see how much longer Agent Wells and her boss wait to bring Kirkman into the loop about their suspicions of MacLeish being in on the attack on the capital.

GRADE: C-