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Home Articles TV Recaps DESIGNATED SURVIVOR Recap “Backfire”


BY Jennifer Griffin

Published 5 years ago


By Kirsty Pearce



The consequences of last week’s events continue to play out in a big way throughout this week’s episode of Designated Survivor as Tom attempts to deal with the backlash.

Emily and Aaron are woken up by news of McLeish’s death, while Tom demands answers as to how the Vice-President gets killed on Hannah, John, and Mike’s watch. They urge him to keep as many details from the press as possible. From there, Tom has a meeting with Seth, Aaron, and Emily to try and work out a game-plan, telling them the working theory is marital problems, which Aaron doesn’t believe for a second, because he’s smart. They also bring up the reality that Hookstraten is now next in line for the Vice-Presidency. Tom makes an appearance at a press meeting to deliver the news that Peter and Beth were killed in a murder-suicide, while Hannah is seen attending the funeral of Atwood’s son Luke.

Emily goes through the day’s agenda with Tom, stressing they need to keep doing business as usual, also relaying the news they have a strong candidate for Secretary of State in a guy named Dwyer, who had previously filled the position, and has a meeting scheduled with Aaron. She questions whether she should be the one talking with Dwyer due to recent suspicions, but Tom reiterates his stance he made clear last episode, that unless they have solid proof, as Emily pointed out earlier, it’s business as usual.

At yet another press conference, Seth is fielding questions when a particular journalist, Abe Leonard, who apparently hasn’t been at the White House in some time, and is played by the awesome Rob Morrow (one of the original cast members of Numb3rs, a favourite show of mine) stands up and delivers a bombshell. He says a source has informed him MacLeish gave the kill-order for Catalan, insinuating that the Vice-President had something to hide, which leaves Tom’s inner circle scrambling to find the leak. Tom tells Seth he wants to address the nation, saying the country deserves the truth, but Seth convinces him to wait until the current news-cycle has died down.

Aaron meets with Hookstraten, and accuses her of telling the reporter. Kimble doesn’t deny it, and places the blame for jeopardizing National Security solely on Aaron’s shoulders. In a moment that really makes me like Aaron even more, he goes straight to Tom and confesses that he did tell Hookstraten about the order. Tom strongly suggests Aaron takes a week to rest and recharge, saying his exhaustion played a part in his lapse of judgement, which places Emily as the acting chief of staff.

Seth has a meeting with his press staff, and pulls one aside to give her the task of spreading a ‘backfire’ onto Abe Leonard, who turns out to be a disgraced Pulitzer Prize winner, in an effort to get the heat off Tom. However, predictably, this then backfires on Seth, as Abe sees right through his attempts to bury him, and gives Seth a warning in a scene filled with appropriately-played tension. He later meets with Hookstraten and makes his intention crystal clear that he is not letting the story go.

As Aaron is packing up to leave, he goes through some of the people and details Emily will need to remember as chief of staff, handling this turn-over, however brief it might be, so graciously. I think he also genuinely believes the President did this because he is looking out for Aaron, which he is, just maybe not quite in the way Aaron thinks.

Hannah goes to visit Joiner to try and get a handle on what happened during the mission in Afghanistan, saying MacLeish will go down as a war criminal, something Joiner vehemently disagrees with. Hannah later briefs Tom on what went down; Catalan, who it turns out was CIA, gave MacLeish’s unit orders to meet with a war lord he was buying off to fight against the Taliban, but the war lord took the money and ordered his men to open fire, MacLeish the only thing keeping his unit together and out of the compound alive, though they ended up firing at anyone and anything in their way to survive, even women and children. And then when his men would have killed Catalan, MacLeish saved his life. Tom points out with irony that the mission that made MacLeish a hero also turned him into a traitor.

Alex wants to send their children away to Camp David to try and protect them and give them at least a semblance of a normal life. Tom does not want this, saying their family is the only thing holding him together. He goes for a drive however to see his daughter get dropped off at school with an army of security. This pushes him to accept his wife’s request, saying they’ll trial it for a month.

Some of Seth’s college friends show up to take him out for drinks, and while he resists at first, he eventually capitulates. At the bar, they attempt to tell him to quit, casting aspersions on the President for not being up to the task, and asking Seth if he wants to be brought down by a drowning administration. Seth however, try to form, remains loyal and cuts the evening short, heading back to the White House.

Emily’s meeting with Dwyer does not go well, as he respectfully pulls his name out of the running for Secretary of State, but also says he’s spoken with former President Moss, who is willing to come and share his recommendations for all the positions in Cabinet that still need to be filled. Hannah drops by the Atwood’s house to check on them and try and get some more information on the woman who kidnapped Jason’s son, but Jason asks her to leave, knowing she’s working him and nothing will bring his son back. Malik Yoba plays the role of a heart-broken man with convincing and emotion-slaying grief. As is customary with this show, it ends on a twist, with Charles Langdon, Aaron’s former boss, making contact with him while Hannah and a team of FBI agents are recording Aaron’s every move.

The best moments of the hour came from the more subtle and emotional beats from Seth, Aaron, Atwood, and Joiner. It also showed the strain that this new role has taken on Tom’s family, and how lonely and isolated a role it can be. It will be interesting to see what Leonard is up to, and if Aaron will be back at the White House any time soon.

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