‘Designated Survivor’ Season 2 Episode 3 Recap and Review: Outbreak

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Designated Survivor season 2 episode 3

Kiefer Sutherland, Italia Ricci, Alicia Coppola, and Adan Canto in ‘Designated Survivor’ season 2 episode (ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg)

“I took an oath to protect the American people and I will not let you get in the way,” says President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) to Mackey, a drug maker who’s been holding back vital information during a deadly national epidemic in season two episode three of ABC’s political thriller, Designated Survivor.

The episode opens in South Carroll Parish, Louisiana where there’s been an outbreak of Influenza A. Word quickly gets back to D.C. (much too quickly, even by television standards) and it’s minutes later that the President is being briefed about the crisis by the CDC. Dr. Bruner (Alicia Coppola) from the CDC is in charge and reveals with this particular strain of the flu they’ll only have 36 hours before it spreads out of control. The other big problem is trying to find a drug that will give those who are already infected a fighting chance to survive.


Meanwhile, in another part of the White House the newly hired attorney Kendra Danes (Zoe McLellan) is mediating a legal issue over the removal of a Confederate statue. It’s not going well, with the words “racist” and “irrational” being thrown back and forth. The respected African American Reverend Dale (Ron Canada) believes they shouldn’t whitewash the country’s past and let it stand to remind people of a darker time in the nation’s history.

Over at the FBI, Agents Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) and Damian Rennett (Ben Lawson) are going through the damage done at the First Lady’s mother’s house which was broken into and trashed by Patrick Lloyd. They’re attempting to determine if there was another reason why Lloyd would do something like this. Wells reminds Rennett, who is ready to sign off on the case now that Lloyd is dead, that the man was meticulous and always had backup plans. The two agents come across a file that shows a heart transplant for Andrew Booker, and Wells is convinced Lloyd left this behind on purpose for them to find.

Down in Louisiana, Influenza A is spreading quicker than they had anticipated. Dr. Bruner, with assistance from Aaron (Adan Canto) and a few others, determines that a new untested and not yet FDA approved drug that was being developed to fight cancer just might be the perfect drug against this superflu. Kirkman instructs Emily (Italia Ricci) to have the CEO of the company making the drug, Mackey, come to the White House to talk. When they meet, Mackey tells Kirkman he only has 10,000 doses and that may not be enough. He also tells the President he wants to help and will send it.

Mackey lied and it’s not long before Kirkman is told that Mackey is trying to sell the drugs down South to the highest bidder instead of just delivering to the infected part of Louisiana as they agreed. Kirkman has Kendra pulled out of the Confederate monuments fight to go to court and have a judge order Mackey to deliver the drugs because it’s a matter of a national health crisis. Kendra proves her case to the judge rather quickly and Mackey is ordered to do just that.

Back at the White House, Agent Wells goes over her findings with the First Lady (Natascha McElhone) and Alex is surprised to see that her mother kept the insurance form from her dad’s heart transplant. She tells Alex that at first her father was on a list but then they got lucky and he got a heart in time.

Kendra returns to the Confederate statue debate which isn’t getting any better because no one is willing to compromise.

Kirkman checks in with Dr. Bruner on how the drugs are working on the patients and she says it seems to be giving those infected the strength to fight the superflu. However, she doesn’t know if 10,000 doses are going to be enough with how fast it’s spreading. Kirkman thanks her for being there on the front lines dealing with the epidemic, and she tells him she does it because she knows he would do the same thing.

Wells and Rennett check in with Chuck (Jake Epstein) who has done some more digging and found a warehouse (why is it always a warehouse on this show?!) that’s connected to the files they found in the First Lady’s mother’s house. Wells and Rennett head out to the warehouse and have to do a little illegal burglaring to get in. Wells notices a light on past a door and is about to check it out when Rennett realizes it’s been booby-trapped. He flings her out of the way just in time as an explosion nearly kills both of them.

Outside the warehouse, local authorities try to question Wells but she just waves her credentials and tells the local cops to go check out her credentials with the White House.

At the White House, Press Secretary Seth Wright (Kal Penn) is dealing with the press, answering all the questions about the superflu and how they’re trying to contain the situation and and cure the infected. He impresses Emily with how he handles the pressure and the hungry-for-answers press.

Kirkman checks in with Dr. Bruner again and finds out the 10,000 doses of meds aren’t going to cut it and they have to have more. Bruner tells Kirkman the drug was extremely expensive to make and the pharmaceutical company that made it has to have more if they ever hoped to make a profit on it. Kirkman realizes Bruenr is right and has Emily send for Mackey.

In Aaron’s office, Wells is being scolded by Aaron for the warehouse explosion and he demands to be brought in the loop since she answers to him. Wells tells Aaron she’s following a lead but she can’t tell him about it. When he asks why she gives him a knowing look and he realizes it has something to do with the President’s family. Wells tells him she can’t expose him to it until she knows for sure she’s right and has to. Aaron agrees but tells her that Rennett was caught on camera cutting through the fence to get inside the warehouse. Since he’s not an American, Aaron can’t shield him from it so he must go back to London. Wells agrees she’ll tell Rennett.

Kendra is finally able to get a compromise between Reverend Dale and the others to move the statue to another part of town which doesn’t have as much foot traffic.

President Kirkman meets with Mackey and says he won’t let him get in the way of saving lives. However, Mackey is afraid of his business going under and puts making a profit over saving lives. (What a scumbag!) He suggests Kirkman can sue him over the remaining 30,000 doses but he’ll be in for a fight because he’s got good lawyers who can tie it up in the courts for a very long time. After Mackey leaves, Emily tells Kirkman she doesn’t see a way for them to beat him. But, Kirkman has an idea.

Kirkman reaches out to the Reverend, and Dale goes on camera calling out Mackey saying he doesn’t care about the lives of black people (the part of Louisiana that’s suffering from the superflu is predominantly black) because he won’t send more of his miracle drug down to save them. Mackey is watching with the President who tells him he’s giving Mackey a chance to redeem himself and he had better take it. A little later Kirkman goes on television with Mackey, praising him for offering up the 30,000 doses to Louisiana and calls him a credit to the nation.

Kirkman checks back in with Dr. Bruner but realizes she doesn’t look well. She tells him it’s not what he thinks. She doesn’t have the superflu but when she was trying to figure out how much of a dose of the drug to give those infected, she used herself as the guinea pig and ended up giving herself too much of the drug which is causing her liver to fail. Kirkman tells her to come back immediately, but she says a “good soldier stays and sees the job done.” With that, she tells the President she’ll check in with him tomorrow.

The neext scene is Bruner waking up and complaining to Kirkman on how she was escorted and removed from her field of battle. Seems Kirkman had no intention of losing Dr. Bruner and had her brought back to get treated. Thankfully, because of the President’s actions she’s on the mend. Kirkman says she can just tell herself that her General – meaning him – gave her an order which she had to follow.

After saying goodbye to Rennett and flirting just a little, Wells meets with Chuck who has done some more digging. They put their heads together and realize the First Lady’s mother’s past and her father receiving a heart transplant is probably more than just luck and something deeper is there, perhaps a bribe. Chuck finds the mention of a man named Eric Little who might know something, so Wells and Chuck head out to talk to him. When they arrive at Little’s address, they find the front door already ajar. When they enter, they discover Eric Little dead on the floor.

Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 3 Review:

Cluttered, convoluted, and at times contrived, episode three titled “Outbreak” makes the political thriller series more of a political drama with little suspense and too much time spent on the Confederate statue controversy. The series has always had two major storylines in every episode and usually a subplot involving Kirkman’s family. In this episode, however, there are two major storylines – the superflu and the paper trail to the First Lady’s mother – as well as the Confederate statue issue and a ridiculous story about a frog being named after the President by a guy in Delaware which was pointless and not funny. (That’s why it wasn’t mentioned in the body of this recap!)

As episodes go, this is definitely the most forgettable since the show premiered back in 2016. Here’s hoping they quickly get back to the formula that made the first season such a suspenseful and riveting show and get away from the headline politics that are frustrating in real life.

GRADE: C+

More on Designated Survivor:
Recap of season 2 episode 1
Recap of season 2 episode 2
Recap of season 2 episode 4




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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