‘Designated Survivor’ Season 2 Episode 20 Recap and Review: “Bad Reception”

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Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 20 Recap

Adan Canto and Kiefer Sutherland in ‘Designated Survivor’ season 2 episode 20 (ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg)

“I’m representing the family of Matthew Jennings,” says Ethan West (Michael J. Fox) to President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) who’s trying to negotiate the release of an American teenager in season two episode 20 of ABC’s political thriller, Designated Survivor.

The episode begins with a back tie benefit dinner and President Kirkman talking to the Ambassador of Bultan, hoping to get him to persuade the Prime Minister of his country to secure the release of Matthew Jennings (Gage Munroe). Matthew was arrested on a charge of graffiti. The ambassador makes it clear that without a trade it’s unlikely the teenager will be released. As the party continues, President Kirkman sees Ethan West who informs him that he’s now representing the mother of the teen.

Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci) meets with Kendra Daynes (Zoe McLellan) on the President’s choice for a judgeship, Steven Flannery, who back in the day was sort of a mentor to Kendra. Kendra’s excited and tells Flannery who’s hesitant to take the job.


Meanwhile, Agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) meets with the automotive entrepreneur and friend of President Kirkman, Dax Minter (Chris Butler), and seeks his help. She tells him she was fired by the President for looking into Frost (Kim Raver) but believes she’s the master hacker they’ve been after. She wants him to invite Frost to lunch to give her time to sneak into her house and find the evidence she needs. He asks why him, and she says because he has the best interests of the President in mind.

Back at the benefit dinner, the Ambassador to Bultan collapses and when Aaron Shore (Adan Canto) checks on him he doesn’t have a pulse. Early the next day, the President and his staff talk about the death of the ambassador and how it will effect negotiations trying to get Matthew home.

Kirkman decides to have Secret Service Agent Mike Ritter (LaMonica Garrett) investigate who could have poisoned the ambassador. Even though he died of a heart attack, everyone agrees it smells of foul play.

Ritter teams up with Chuck Russink (Jake Epstein) to investigate the ambassador. Working together, they discover the ambassador had a lavish lifestyle and owned a ranch but seemed to have financial issues. They head to the ranch and talk to a man who believes he’s getting his money back from the ambassador who borrowed $2 million from him and invested it in horses.

Back at the White House, President Kirkman meets with Matthew’s mother and assures her that he’s doing everything possible to bring her son home.

In the press room, Seth Wright (Kal Penn) is handling the questions about Matthew when one of the reporters receives an alert that says Matthew has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Kirkman talks to the Prime Minister of Bultan to try to make a deal to get the kid out, and the Prime Minister wants an agreement signed giving Bultan control of the Pulu islands. Seeing no other option, Kirkman agrees to the deal. He opts not to listen to the reservations voiced by Aaron and Emily.

A problem comes up with Flannery while Kendra, Seth, and Emily are vetting him. It seems he was named in a sexual discrimination suit years ago at a law firm. Seth knows the woman who filed the complaint and offers to talk to her to see if it’s something they should be worried about.

Later, Seth meets with her and it turns out it was a different co-worker who she filed the suit against. But, she adds that Flannery knew about her being turned down for a promotion after turning down a date with a superior.

President Kirkman talks to Matthew via satellite and assures him he’s doing everything he can to get him home. Matthew confesses to Kirkman he’s ashamed of the events that landed him in prison. He knows he’s being used to blackmail America for his release and tells Kirkman not to give in to their demands. The video feed goes dark and Kirkman realizes he can’t go through with the deal and must find another way to get the young man home.

Meanwhile, Ritter and Chuck have discovered the true killer of the ambassador after catching him on video at a café where he swapped out the ambassador’s drink with a poisoned one. The murderer is the CEO of an active environmental firm and he despised the ambassador trying to sell his ranch because of what it would do to the very large oak tree on the property. The CEO had filed for court injunctions but failed.

Chuck rejoins Wells to help her sneak into Frost’s home while she has lunch with Dax. While Chuck monitors the lunch via computer feed, Wells searches the house and discovers a false wall in a closet. Behind the wall is a huge room with computers and large hard drives.

“It’s like NASA,” says Wells as they go about downloading the data in the master computer. Chuck warns Wells that “the subject” is leaving the lunch and heading home. The race is on for Wells to get all the data copied while the subject arrives home. Chuck keeps Wells updated and when the subject is about to enter the home, Wells takes the now 100% copied drive and escapes via the roof, unseen.

Kendra and Emily agree that the old claim shouldn’t stand in the way of the judgeship for Flannery. Kendra admits to Emily that back in the day she and Flannery had a hook-up but that it was consensual. Emily tells her it’s not a big deal and to go ahead and tell him he should be a lock for the judgeship.

Kirkman finds out from his staff that West is on all the media networks claiming the President is soft in dealing with Bultan and mocking the Prime Minister. Kirkman sends for West while asking his staff to do some digging. They discover that West knew Matthew’s aunt years ago and that he blames himself for her untimely death. She was stabbed to death waiting for him and he never showed up for their date.

Kirkman and West team up against the Prime Minister. Kirkman tells him that the Pulu island deal is off the table and that West is going to sue them because they destroyed much of the area’s resources. West tells the Prime Minister to google him and see what he’s up against, promising him he’ll make destroying Bultan financially his mission in life. The Prime Minister asks what they want and Kirkman tells him the release of Matthew. The Prime Minister reluctantly agrees. West thanks Kirkman for letting him help get the boy back safe, and Kirkman assures him everyone deserves a second chance.

Kendra meets up with Flannery who’s excited to become a judge.

Later, Kendra tells Emily she told Flannery it was a no-go and blamed the GOP. She admits to Emily that she’s not sure if she was coerced into the one night stand with Flannery years ago because of his charm and her wanting his approval.

Kirkman meets with his friend Dax in the Oval Office and reveals Wells thought it was Frost who leaked the private conversation he had with her in the Oval Office to West. Kirkman had the Secret Service sweep the room for devices. They found one in the model car Dax gave him as a gift. It was Dax’s house Wells snuck into while he had lunch with Frost! Dax is the master hacker!

Kirkman asks him why he did it and Dax tells him he’s tired of the government and all of its sanctions and intrusions into his business. Wells walks in and reveals to Dax she was never fired and that they staged that conversation in the Oval Office so he would believe she was. Dax has been set up and played.

Later, Kirkman meets with Frost to thank her for all her help and friendship. She tells him she’s moving to San Francisco partly due to her new business enterprise. He wishes her the very best.

Wells meets with Chuck and they discover after a little digging that the person who killed Rennett is his former handler, Valeria (Nora Zehetner), who was actually trying to kill Wells.

In the last scene of the episode, Aaron meets up with Wells at a bar and tells her he cannot sanction her to go after Valeria because they are going to be doing business with the Russians. Wells gives Aaron her badge and FBI ID and walks out.

Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 20 Review:

Dramatic, suspenseful, and surprising, season two episode 20 titled “Bad Reception” finally reveals the identity and eventual capture of the master hacker via a sting operation on Dax conducted by the President, Wells, Frost, and Chuck. This was a smartly written episode showing just how bright and cunning Kirkman can be when pressed. It also shows once again how Kirkman is truly the President who knows how to take on corrupt foreign leaders to save American lives.

With Wells going rogue to hunt down Valeria and Kirkman about to go up against his former friend, President Moss, the season finale should be both intense and exciting.

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 18 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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