‘Designated Survivor’ Season 1 Episode 9 Recap and Review: The Blueprint

Designated Survivor Episode 9 Kiefer Sutherland and LaMonica Garrett
Kiefer Sutherland and LaMonica Garrett in ‘Designated Survivor’ (Photo by Ian Watson/ABC)

“Mr. President, do you have anything to hide?” asks Aaron (Adan Canto) of Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) as the White House is trying to figure out what a former NSA worker might leak after stealing intelligence in ABC’s political thriller series, Designated Survivor.

As episode nine of season one episode begins, a NSA employee named Thompson walks out of the NSA building after stealing top secret data Snowden style. The White House is informed the next morning and the hunt is on to find out where Thompson is and why he stole government secrets. Is he acting alone and what does he intend to do with the data? As the day goes on, Thompson begins releasing details on low-level crimes the past presidential cabinet members were involved in. This causes Aaron to ask the president if there’s anything they need to worry about being leaked about him. Kirkman is a bit taken aback by Aaron’s question, but tells him he’s not aware of anything damaging that could be revealed.


However, Thompson does have something on Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci) – a year-old memo she sent regarding a senator who’s very inappropriate with young women. The senator, whose name is Hazelton (John Bourgeois), takes great offense to this and it just so happens he’s a key figure in helping get things moving in the Senate for the president. Hazelton meets with President Kirkman and warns him he can make life tough by holding up bills in the Senate unless the president immediately fires Emily. Emily, not wanting to ever hurt Kirkman’s presidency, turns in her resignation which he refuses to accept.

Over at the FBI, Agent Wells (Maggie Q) is grilled by Internal Affairs Director John Forstell (Reed Diamond) who suspects she knows who killed Nassar if Atwood didn’t. Wells says nothing and Forstell tells her she’s basically knee-deep in it and should look out for herself. Even with that warning, Agent Wells remains mum.

After her meeting with Forstell, Wells reaches out to the only person she trusts, Chuck (Jake Epstein), her tech guy at the FBI. They meet up and she brings him up to speed on Peter MacLeish (Ashley Zukerman), Atwood’s phony confession, and the attack at the Capitol. He’s hesitant to help her but admits he thinks the world of her professionally. Even though the conspiracy theory is hard for him to swallow, she’s usually right so he agrees to help.

Back at the White House, the president receives word that whistleblower Thompson is seeking refuge at Venezuela’s embassy. The embassy is just down the street from the White House but is technically on foreign soil so they can’t touch him. Kirkman reaches out to the Venezuelan diplomat but has no success in getting Thompson turned over to his men.

Emily approaches Aaron with her resignation but he also refuses to accept it. (It’s obvious Aaron has a huge crush on Emily.) Aaron realizes that Thompson’s real goal is to get some one-on-one time with the Commander in Chief. Aaron heads to the embassy and meets with Thompson, telling him he can arrange a five minute meeting with the president, even though he’s angry at him for damaging Emily’s reputation and career. Aaron tells the president about the deal, but Kirkman wants to meet with Senator Hazelton again. This time Kirkman puts the senator in his place, telling him they have followed up and everything the whistleblower has leaked is true – in particular the disclosures about him. Kirkman suggests it might be best for Hazelton to consider retirement. Kirkman does this with Emily in the room watching as the senator leaves with his tail between his legs.

Meanwhile, Wells and Chuck talk to the survivors of MacLeish’s ex-military unit and they all tell the same story of how he saved them, calling him a hero. Wells and Chuck notice the men they talked to all had the same major talking points. “It’s as if they were rehearsed,” notes Wells. On Wells’ last visit, she comes across a photo of MacLeish and Catalan together. Wells keeps digging and reaching out to her deep throat source to discover that MacLeish is really a war criminal, NOT a hero! It seems he and his unit killed innocent civilians (non-combatants) in Afghanistan.

While all this is going on, MacLeish is participating in his confirmation hearing and is getting hit pretty hard by Kirkman who doesn’t want him as vice president.

Wells calls Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen) and confirms she has the proof to keep MacLeish out of the White House but doesn’t want to reveal what it is over the phone. Wells needs to show her in person which means Kimble needs to somehow delay the hearings. Kimble lets President Kirkman know she’s holding up the confirmation of MacLeish due to new information that’s coming in about him. Kirkman knows Kimball and he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her on every issue, but he believes she may have found something important so he’s okay with her handling the situation.

Kirkman has a brief sit down with MacLeish in order to let him him know about Kimball’s search for any dirt on him and MacLeish tells the President there’s nothing to find. However, as MacLeish is leaving he mentions to the president that Atwood’s partner seems to be obsessed with him and worries she may have cooked up a lie or some sort of fake conspiracy theory. Kirkman thanks MacLeish for telling him and as the man leaves, it’s obvious Kirkman is now becoming more wary of MacLeish.

Thompson meets with the president and gives him the fake money piece which has the stolen data, warning Kirkman to be careful who he lets see file 12-80C. It turns out that Thompson never wanted to hurt Kirkman but was actually attempting to help him and warn him. Kirkman gives the file to Mike (LaMonica Garrett) to open.

Agent Wells is speeding down the street using her police lights to get through traffic as she attempts to get to the hearing in time to expose MacLeish. Suddenly, she gets cut off by a cab driver and then slammed into by a van.

Back at the White House, Mike has opened the mysterious file 12-80c and it’s the blueprints and a computer simulation of the Capitol bombing made three years prior to the actual attack. They now have real proof the attack on the Capitol was planned and aided by someone on the inside. “We have a traitor among us,” says Kirkman.

Designated Survivor Episode 9 Review:

Suspenseful, engaging, and revealing, episode nine titled “The Blueprint” quickly moves the plot forward and finally brings Kirkman into the loop on the fact the attack on the Capitol was an inside job. It’s a fast-paced hour that only slows for a brief and unnecessary flirtation between Aaron and Emily which adds nothing to the main story and honestly feels out of place in this show.

With Kirkman finally having hard evidence that a traitor is among them and with Agent Wells out of commission following the horrific car crash, the next episode should be extremely intense. Can’t wait!

GRADE: B