‘Designated Survivor’ Season 2 Episode 11 Recap and Review: “Grief”

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Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 11

Tanner Buchanan, Mckenna Grace, Kiefer Sutherland, Italia Ricci, Kal Penn and Adan Canto in ‘Designated Survivor’ season 2 episode 11 (ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg)

“What the hell just happened?” asks a surprised Emily (Italia Ricci) “He made the tough decision but the right one. I think the President is back,” replies Boone (Paulo Costanzo) after President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) orders military troops to move in against a Cuba militia in season two episode 11 of ABC’s political thriller series, Designated Survivor.

As the series returns from its winter break, it’s been 10 weeks since the horrible and shocking death of Kirkman’s wife by a distracted driver. The President is in required therapy and not really getting along with his doctor Adam Louden (Timothy Busfield) who tells the President that either they finish their session today or he can get a new therapist after Kirkman tries to cut the session short.

The President’s staff is concerned for him because he hasn’t really gotten much done since the funeral and keeps putting off making decisions about political trips and policies. Emily and Seth (Kal Penn) take a private moment to talk about getting away for a mini-vaca together as a couple. Emily questions if it’s really the right time and Seth assures her it is because she needs the break – they both do.


Meanwhile, Agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) meets with Aaron (Adan Canto) and finds herself on restricted assignment after the investigation into her shooting Rennett (Ben Lawson). His body was never found and there’s no proof he was in on the conspiracy. However, they did discover Wells and Rennett were sleeping together. She and Aaron are to accompany a congressman, as well as few other important people, down to Cuba to meet with its president.

Later in Cuba, Wells and Aaron are on the bus with the congressman and the others headed to the Cuban president’s residence when they’re stopped by a Cuban revolutionary militia and kidnapped. Taken to a guarded shack in the jungle, the militia finds Aaron’s White House ID card and force him to make a video demanding the U.S. pay a ransom in order to the captives back alive.

After watching the video, Kirkman reaches out to the Cuban president for assistance. It quickly becomes clear the Cuban president won’t be very helpful and doesn’t want to risk his own people and agenda for American lives. Kirkman tells his staff he wants game plans and options drawn up right away. The first recommendation is a ground assault by the military which Kirkman is hesitant to sign off on fearing casualties among the hostages. The next idea is a recon mission using a single Black Hawk helicopter to survey the area and find out what they are truly dealing with. Kirkman greenlights the mission.

In another part of the White House, a new young and eager woman named Tricia Simms is applying to be Boone’s assistant. Wanting to get rid of her, Boone sends her on the wild goose chase of tracking down and bringing to him the blueprints to the White House.

In the war room, Kirkman and his people are watching the Black Hawk down moving into the area where the hostages are believed to be when they lose communication with the aircraft. A little later in a presser, Seth relays to the media that the helicopter was able to get back to the aircraft carrier it launched from.

Kirkman is sitting in his office and keeps listening to the last message he got from his wife just minutes before she died. She left a message telling him she beat the investigation and loves him. In a heartbreaking flashback scene, Kirkman wakes up his young daughter, Penny (Mckenna Grace), and tells her that her mother was hurt so bad in an accident that she can never come home. Penny begins crying and asking why, but Kirkman just holds her close to him and tries to comfort her.

Kirkman tells his son, Leo (Tanner Buchanan), about the deadly accident and hugs the devastated young man. His son says she hated it here in D.C. and he never should have brought them here. Flash-forward to Louden telling Kirkman that he has been there for his children’s grief but is avoiding dealing with his own.

Back in Cuba, Wells asks to use the bathroom and while she’s in the little room she manages to open up part of the floor boards (it’s an old wood shack) and sneak out the bottom. She moves slowly and sees one of the American hostages, a wealthy business man named Cross, talking to the boss of the militia and coming across friendly. She makes a break for it and takes out two guards but doesn’t get too far before a large group of militia recapture her. They bring her back and sit her next to Aaron. She tells Aaron what she saw Cross doing and believes he’is in on them being taken as hostages. She points out someone on the inside had to leak the bus route for them to be taken.

Kirkman, not wanting to lose anyone else close to him, decides to pay the ransom which his staff briefly tries to talk him out of with no luck. The President is in the war room getting ready to give the order to wire the ransom when he has a flashback of making plans for his wife’s funeral and hearing Louden say in their session that his unresolved grief can affect his decision making. Kirkman calls off the wire transfer and tells his general to send in a ground assault. If after the first military strike the Cuban militia doesn’t surrender, he’s to send in the Marines. President Kirkman is back!

The militia leader realizes the money hasn’t been transferred so he sets up a video chat with Kirkman, demanding he pay or he’ll kill the hostages, starting with Agent Wells. Wells looks right at the camera and makes the sign of the cross as the American businessman Cross shouts he’ll pay the ransom. The feed goes dead. Emily, who was watching, tells Kirkman that Wells was sending them a message by crossing herself because she’s not Catholic. They realize she was pointing out Cross and Kirkman orders a fast investigation into him.

After some quick digging, it’s discovered that Cross, the militia boss, and the President of Cuba are all in on it. They’re trying to secure finances and bring in more American muscle to keep them in power over the people of Cuba. With this new information, Kirkman’s able to call out the President of Cuba after getting Cross to confess to everything. Kirkman tells the Cuban leader he’ll leave his fate for the people of Cuba to decide after releasing all the information to the press.

Seth catches up with Emily, who has been short with him all day, and asks if she’s into their seeing each other or not. If not, he needs to know now. She says she doesn’t know and he ends the relationship telling her to call him if she ever figures it out.

Kirkman visits with Louden to finish their session and admits he hasn’t been dealing with his grief. Kirkman confesses he keeps listening to the last message she left him. Louden tells Kirkman he has to deal with his grief otherwise he’s just treading water. “You know what happens to someone who treads water for too long, don’t you?” asks Louden. “They drown,” answers Kirkman.

Kirkman visits the reckless driver who killed his wife in prison. Kirkman informs him that he’s going to do everything he can to make sure he always remembers what he took from him and from his children – his wife, their mother, and his best friend.

The last scene shows Wells entering her dark apartment and realizing someone’s in there with her, holding a gun on her. The intruder is Rennett and he says, “We have to talk.”

Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 11 Review:

Emotional, engaging, but a bit rushed, season two episode 11 titled “Grief” brings the political thriller/drama back from its midseason break in the style and feel of its first season with Kirkman dealing with an international hostage crisis that hits close to home while still reeling from losing his true love…his wife. The stand-out performance once again goes to Kiefer Sutherland for his raw and powerful performance as Kirkland, a grieving husband trying his best to put on a strong, solid face for his staff and the country while inside struggling to not give in and mourn the loss of his wife. The scene in which he tells his children they’ve lost their mother forever is filled with heartbreaking emotion as he holds back the tears and stays strong for them.

With Kirkman just beginning to recover from his tragic loss and Michael J. Fox set to guest star in a four-part storyline, it seems Designated Survivor just might be getting back to the political thriller style and storyline that made its first season so compelling. Here’s hoping that’s the case.

GRADE: B

More on Designated Survivor:
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 1 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 2 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 3 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 4 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 5 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 6 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 7 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 9 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 10 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 16 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 17 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 18 Recap

Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 20 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 21 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 22 Recap



Kevin Finnerty

Kevin Finnerty

Professional film critic since 2003 and a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society. Host of “The Movie Guys” radio film review show from 2007 through 2013. Film and television critic for Showbizjunkies.com and a movie buff since 1973.
Kevin Finnerty
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