‘Designated Survivor’ Season 2 Episode 18 Recap and Review: “Kirkman Agonistes”

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Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 18 Recap

Michael J Fox and Kiefer Sutherland in ‘Designated Survivor’ season 2 episode 18 (ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg)

“What’s going on?” asks President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland). “A coup, sir,” answers Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci) who’s joined the President’s staff in the Oval Office to inform Kirkman his presidency is in jeopardy in season two episode 18 of ABC’s Designated Survivor.

The episode picks up right where season two episode 17 left off with the reveal that the President’s private and confidential therapy sessions have been leaked. Aaron Shore (Adan Canto) and Agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) tell the senior staff they’ll be investigated because only a handful of people knew Kirkman was seeing a psychiatrist. The senior staff is forced to hand over their cell phones so Chuck Russink (Jake Epstein) can rule them out as the leak. A few are hesitant but all ultimately comply.

It soon becomes obvious that this latest problem is going to escalate as senators and other politicians refuse to do business with Kirkman as long as his mental stability is in question. Lyor Boone (Paulo Costanzo) meets with Kirkman’s psychiatrist (Timothy Busfield) to convince him to release a statement that the President is doing better now than when he first started therapy and that his words in his audio notes are being taken out of context.

Damian Rennett (Ben Lawson) meets with his former Russian handler to try to get information on Gamine – the hacker causing all the trouble for Kirkman. She gives him a lead and suggests he should do what he needs to keep himself alive. He can still be useful to the Russians with everything he has learned about America.

Kirkman’s informed that a total of seven hours of therapy sessions have been leaked. One of the tapes from the sessions suggests a special closeness between Kirkman and Andrea Frost (Kim Raver). Seth Wright (Kal Penn) handles the overly aggressive press and their questions about the President’s mental state.

Chuck finishes checking the White House senior staff phones and clears them. Chuck tells Wells he’s going to check the White House visitors during the timeline of the leaks, hoping to come up with a few suspects.

Boone discovers the cabinet is meeting with the Vice President to try to invoke the 25th Amendment deeming President Kirkman mentally unfit to hold the office of Commander in Chief. Kirkman meets with his VP and is furious she didn’t tell him. She reminds him the process is supposed to be secret and that she wants to give him a chance to prove that he’s mentally competent. There will be an impartial fact-finding mission led by legal expert Ethan West (Michael J. Fox).

Ethan arrives at the White House and introduces himself to the President and his staff. Ethan demands documentation on everything he feels is relevant, access to all the staff, and has plans to interrogate the President as well as his staff.

Boone meets with West for lunch to tell him he has evidence of all his professional failures and shady deals. West counters with information on Boone’s shady past actions that could destroy him as well, if the public knew about them. The meeting ends up being nothing more than a stalemate.


Back at the White House, Emily is worried that her request to Chuck to find the leak in the White House using any means (including illegal methods) and his subsequent discovery of the leaker will come back to ruin both her and Kirkman. Emily talks to Chuck who reveals he didn’t break the law to get the information, even though she told him to. Chuck did some old-fashioned legal digging and calling in a favor to get the information to catch Moss. Emily thanks him and as he’s about to leave, Chuck informs her he’s more than just the computer guy who works in the basement. He says he can do more to help the White House.

President Kirkman gives an interview and admits to the therapy sessions, assuring the American people he’s serving their interests. Emily and Boone think the interview went okay, but it needed to be stronger. They are far from out of the woods.

Meanwhile, Chuck has narrowed down the list of suspects with Gamine, and Wells and Rennett follow his new lead to investigate an art gallery. They pose as a married couple looking for information on the person who bought a vintage art piece.

Kirkman visits Boone in his office and asks what he would suggest. Boone fears there’s no good, solid way to recover from the therapy sessions leak. He reminds the President that he was never a true politician, that he was a teacher originally. Kirkman picks up on what Boone is suggesting and asks if he’s suggesting he should walk away. Boone says yes so that his legacy of being the man who stepped in and took over the Oval Office after the Capitol bombing will remain intact.

Next, Kirkman meets with Frost and admits he wonders if he was ever the man for the job of president. She assures him he is. Kirkman confesses he’s not sure if he can handle the job of being president anymore.

At the next press briefing, Seth gets fed up and scolds the media. He claims history will judge them on how they cover and treat President Kirkman who only sought out help after losing the love of his life, his wife.

Chuck shortens the list even more and it looks as though the hacker might be Dr. Frost who was at the White House visiting on those dates. He calls Wells to let her know. As Wells is trying to make calls to alert the President, a car speeds by and shots are fired from it. Rennett gets in front of Wells and is shot multiple times.

Back at the White House, Kirkman decides to ignore his staff’s advice and attend the science fair with Frost. While admiring the students’ accomplishments, Kirkman tells Frost more will come out from his sessions about how he feels about her. However, the memory of his wife is still such a big part of his life. Frost assures Kirkman she’s honored to be his friend.

Later, Kirkman meets with his staff and thanks them for all their hard work. He believes they’re the best staff he could ever ask for. Kirkman sits down with West who warns the President that he’s not going to “pull any punches.”

The episode ends with Kirkman visiting his daughter and telling her what’s going on. She interrupts him and says she knows he’s not crazy. He asks her where she heard that and she tells him some kids at school. She told them her daddy is sad sometimes and misses her mommy, but isn’t crazy. Kirkman smiles and hugs his daughter.

Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 18 Review:

Dramatic and at times forced, episode 18 titled “Kirkman Agonistes” moves the political thriller once again in the zone of political drama/soap opera with the leak of Kirkman’s therapy sessions tapes and the rushed overreaction by the cabinet to try to have him removed. What should have been perhaps the beginning of a two-part story arc is crammed into one episode.

The true surprise (although it’s not really that shocking) is the shooting and possible death of Rennett. He might be faking his death to return to working for the Russians or maybe to get out from both the Russians and Americans altogether.

With West about to try to take down the President and Kirkman and his staff getting ready to defend themselves from claims about the President’s mental state, it should be interesting to see who comes out on top.

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 11 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 12 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 16 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 17 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 20 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 21 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 22 Recap




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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