‘Designated Survivor’ Season 2 Episode 9 Recap and Review: Three Letter Day

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Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 9 Recap

Paulo Costanzo, Kal Penn, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, and Kiefer Sutherland in ‘Designated Survivor’ season 2 episode 9 (Photo by Ian Watson / ABC)

“This is a damn set-up,” says Alex (Natascha McElhone) to White House Council Kendra Daynes (Zoe McLellan) as she gets more frustrated over the case involving her mother in ABC’s political drama Designated Survivor season two episode nine.

As the episode kicks off, Aaron (Adan Canto), Emily (Italia Ricci) and Seth (Kal Penn) enter the Oval Office on “Three Letter Day, a day in which President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) chooses three letters out of all the ones mailed to him asking for help. He then focuses on those problems and tries to take care of the issues raised.

Kirkman assigns Aaron and Emily the case of a military widow whose husband was denied the Medal of Honor. Seth and Lyor Boone (Paulo Costanzo) are tasked with looking into why a poor beekeeper’s bees keep dying, and Kendra’s assigned to investigate the case of a convicted killer who’s only 72 hours from being executed.


Before Kendra leaves, she tells the President she needs to go over his wife’s case with them. Kendra tells them the only way to keep Alex from an indictment is for Agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) to find the banker who opened up the account in St. Lucia in the First Lady’s name.

Wells visits the bank and tries to find the man, claiming she needs to set up an account in a friend’s name. However, the man says they don’t handle business that way and tells her to leave. Wells does but notices a rather sketchy guy follow her out of the bank. She gets the upper hand on him, holding him at gunpoint and demands he tell her the name of the man who opened the account.

Aaron and Emily talk to the widow of Sergeant Daniel Goff and she tells them her husband single-handedly held off enemy forces when fighting ISIL. After his death by an IED, she wrote 12 times to Colonel Baines over the last four years and all were returned. Aaron and Emily speak to the Colonel about the issue and he tells them Goff was miles away from where his widow was told he died. The only other person who knows what really happened isCorporal Mankiewicz who, unfortunately, took his own life a while back.

Emily and Aaron meet with Kirkman to bring him up to speed, and he agrees they need to investigate further to find out which story is the truth. The President also tells Emily to go ahead and meet with FBI Director John Forstell (Reed Diamond) who’s been trying to have a meeting with the President.

Emily meets Forstell to talk about the Icarus investigation and he makes it clear he has every intention of pursuing the investigation into the First Lady and the account to the very end.

A few hours later after doing some additional digging, Emily discovers Forstell has political ambitions and looks to be using the investigation to help clear his way to a senator’s seat. Emily and Kendra both suggest Kirkman assign a special prosecutor to the case and that will remove Forstell from the picture.

Meanwhile, Seth and Boone investigate why the beekeeper’s bees are dying. They talk to the FAA to help handle the problem. When they meet with the FAA representative, she tells them she’s very familiar with the couple and that the man’s wife told her the problem had been resolved.

Kendra and Wells visit convicted killer Chandler Dern to inform him they’re going to look into his case. They notice his son, Frank, is very loyal and comes to see him once a week. However, his daughter, Tracy, hasn’t been to visit him in 16 years. Thinking they might learn something from the daughter, Kendra and Wells find her but she refuses to talk to them, claiming she can’t help.

Wells calls Rennett (Ben Lawson) to get an update on the banker they’re looking for and it seems the banker named Lang has dual citizenship and two passports. This information is thanks once again to her colleague, Chuck Russink (Jake Epstein). Wells heads to her car to pursue the banker when she’s almost run down by a speeding car.

Aaron and Emily return to confront the colonel who wrote up a phony report on the death of Daniel Goff because he was having an affair with the colonel’s wife. Caught and angry, the colonel agrees to give the dead soldier his medal but says he’ll also put the entire truth of the matter in the report so that Goff’s widow will know about the affair.

Aaron and Emily disagree on what to do while telling the President about the case. Emily believes it’s bets if the dead soldier gets the medal and the entire truth comes out, while Aaron believes the medal isn’t important enough if it will inflict pain on Goff’s widow once she knows about the affair. Kirkman thanks them for their hard work and after Aaron leaves, Emily takes the opportunity to tell Kirkman about Seth’s arrest and covering for his brother. It turns out Kirkman already knows through a source of his own but wishes Emily had told him when she first found out. “I can’t do my job when I’m kept in the dark,” says Kirkman. He asks her opinion of what he should do about Seth.

Seth and Boone head back to see the couple and the wife’s in the process of getting dressed. She lets them in, saying she’ll be with them in just a moment. Boone snoops around and finds proof the wife has been killing her husband’s bees to get his attention.

Later, Seth and Boone give the beekeeper reassurance that the bees should return and that if it wasn’t for his wife, it may not have turned out that way. The husband feels the need to be truthful to his wife and admits he killed her roses because he feared they were interfering with the bees. The wife, now furious, admits to killing the bees and as the couple fight Boone and Seth leave.

Kirkman meets with Goff’s widow and her young son in the Oval Office and apologizes but tells her he won’t be able to give her husband the medal because the investigation was inconclusive. Kirkman hands her a boxed flag and sits down with her son to assure him his father was a very brave man and a true hero. Iff anyone ever asks him how he knows, he can tell them the President of the United States told him so.

Wells and Rennett finally arrive at the address Chuck found for them but it’s empty. It seems Lang is on the run because someone tipped him off.

Seth approaches Emily telling her he’s tired of walking around on egg shells and is going to give the President his resignation. She explains Kirkman won’t accept it even though when he asked her what he should do, she recommended he fire him. She tells Seth he’s using his one and only “get out of jail free card.”

Kendra calls Wells with more information on the Derns. It appears Tracy was struggling with drugs years ago but Frank is the one who the father’s covering for. A drug deal went bad and Frank killed the man. Chandler took the blame and swore Tracy to secrecy. Kendra confronts Chandler with this, but he refuses to give up his son.

Back at the White House, Kendra informs the President of her findings and Kirkman decides to commute his sentence so that he won’t die but will spend the rest of his life in prison. The only other option is for Dern to tell the truth about who really killed the federal agent years ago.

Chuck comes up with a list of 19 possible vehicles that could have been used to try to run Wells down. She notices one was in an accident three days ago. Wells visits Frank and arrests him for attempted murder.

Alex, fed up with Forstell being out to get her, tells Kirkman to fire him. Kirkman says he’s doing his job and reminds her that her mother did commit a crime and there are consequences they now need to deal with. Alex, upset and angry, tells him he should interfere with the investigation – that’s what a husband would do. Shocked and disappointed in her, Kirkman tells his wife she’s a great defense attorney but a terrible defendant and leaves.

The final scene finds Wells and Rennett being intimate when Wells’ phone rings. She answers and it’s Chuck who’s found the location of the call to Frank Dern that tipped him off. It was made by Rennett.

Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 9 Review:

Slow and cluttered with too many uninteresting storylines, episode nine titled “Three Letter Day” moves the once suspenseful and intriguing political thriller series closer to being a political soap opera. The best of the five…yes, five…storylines in the episode was the investigation into the death of Special Forces Goff and his widow. This is the only story that’s well written. It also provides Sutherland with the best scene in the episode in which President Kirkman meets with the widow and tells her he can’t give her husband the medal while reinforcing to her son just how much of a hero his father was. He protects her from an ugly truth and fulfills her wish that her son understand what being a hero means.

The “death to bees” storyline felt as though it belonged on a sitcom, and the investigation into the death row inmate belongs on a crime detective show. In other words, they felt out of place and inconsequential. The never-ending storyline of the investigation into the First Lady has already overstayed its welcome.

In short, what used to be a smart and exciting political thriller has been turned into a weak and at times boring political drama/soap opera.

GRADE: C-

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 10 Recap
Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 11 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

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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