Ian Watson / ABC

Did An NSA Whistleblower Throw The Designated Survivor A Bone?

While Agent Wells chases all over town for a clue, a big guy in a sweater hands one to President Kirkman.

Another layer is peeled away from the onion that is the mystery at the center of this show, if onions made your eyes roll instead of watering. With her boss in jail, Agent Wells is out in the cold with her investigation of Peter McLeish and his connection to the Capitol bombing. Not that this stops her from pursuing it (and likely getting one of her other coworkers arrested, NBD).

Meanwhile, someone seems determined to ruin President Kirkman's day by stealing and releasing all manner of personal and government data. But why did that man betray his country? To save it, of course. If this is giving you a headache, I'm right there with you. So let's just get to the rankings, shall we? As always, we're going in order from least to most effective, in line of succession format.

  1. President Pro Tempore of the Senate
    Some senator retired before the bombing and has returned to fill his old seat. And he's pissed off about a leaked email that Emily wrote years ago about his being a nasty-ass old horndog, so he wants Emily fired. And since he's chairman of the Appropriations committee (that was fast), he's got leverage. Fortunately, the same guy who leaked Emily's email also has records of the senator's indiscretions, which Kirkman uses to encourage him to re-retire. So…yay?
  2. National Security Advisor
    Some guy at the NSA has taken it upon himself to steal all manner of private government-related communications that are now being vomited forth on WikiLeaks. Timely! And that's not even mentioning the fact that the guy looks like Ken Bone after a couple of decades, some personal tragedy, and a sartorial blueshift. But it's hard to see this as a security failure on the NSA's part, unless you want to blame them for not detecting a hard drive that's small enough to fit inside a fake quarter. We can point fingers at them for being so goddamn nosy that they had all that info in the first place, however.
  3. First Family
    All Alex gets to do this week is make some supportive comments to Tom at the beginning and the end of the episode. She must be pretty busy with the kids, wherever the hell they are. Not that I'm complaining about their absence. And I'm sure that Kirkman's daughter and Mandy from The West Wing are very happy together.
  4. Secretary of Homeland Security
    Mike is back on Presidential detail even after shitting the bed with Leo last week. Good thing, too, because in addition to being an elite Secret Service agent, he's got the IT chops to…well, open a computer file. It's a really important one, though. The point is Mike got all this new backstory to justify a little more screen time…most of which he spent revealing his new backstory.
  5. Speaker of the House
    Kimble Hookstraten's position as Speaker is no longer putative but official. That means she gets to preside over all manner of confirmation hearings, starting with that of Peter McLeish. In theory, at least. What she actually does is look sour while McLeish modestly tells his war stories on camera, then put herself out on a limb to delay the hearing while waiting for Wells to show up with vital information. So telegenic.
  6. President of the United States
    It's tough to be the leader of the free world when you have to spend all your time reacting to what other people are doing. Most of Tom's concerns this week are about the data leak; namely, why it happened and how he's going to weasel out of losing Emily amid the blowback. Eventually he does succeed in facing down the angry senator, and later learns that he's earned the trust of the NSA guy. Enough trust to be allowed to see the most important file in the data dump: a years-old animation of what a Capitol bombing might look like, created by the U.S. Government and presumably turned over to the perpetrators at some point. "We have a traitor," Kirkman intones dramatically. This would be a huge breakthrough for Tom if he weren't behind the curve enough to still think Majid Nassar had anything to do with it.
  7. Attorney General
    With Deputy Director Jason Atwood locked up and sticking to his story about killing Nassar, and an investigation underway by FBI higher-ups, Hannah is in a tough spot. Fortunately, she and the FBI tech guy she's drafted figure out that the clue 11:14 PM refers not to a time, but to a date: November 14, 2005, with the PM standing for Peter McLeish. To paraphrase a couple of great poets, there's a very fine line between clever and stupid. Anyway, Wells tracks down McLeish's old squad-mates and hears the same tale of heroism from all of them. But she also finds a photo showing that McLeish was in the same army unit as the dreaded Catalan. Too bad she gets in a car accident rushing her evidence to the McLeish hearing, and never makes it there. Ninety percent of success is showing up, Hannah.
  8. Vice President
    McLeish is still doing everything right to land the VP job, which mostly consists of flashing his Poor-Man's-Jake-Gyllenhaal mug for the C-SPAN cameras. Too bad Wells finds out that eleven years ago, McLeish and the remains of his Taliban-decimated unit went on a vengeance-fueled rampage destroying multiple Afghan villages, and the medal he got was the Pentagon's way of covering it up. McLeish tries to inoculate himself from this revelation by moving to discredit Wells to Kirkman in advance. I guess we'll see how that works out sooner or later. Or not, depending on whether Wells can ever actually deliver her evidence.
  9. White House Staff
    Seth's whole job this week consists of whining about media pressure to find out what happened to Majid Nassar. The real story, as always, is with Aaron and Emily. In the latter case, a formerly retired Senator wants Emily fired for something she wrote about him in a leaked and hacked email years ago. But Aaron's not having that, so he has a face-to-face with the leaker and offers him what he wants in exchange for info that will save Emily's job: a meeting with Kirkman. The guy comes through with corroboration of Emily's old, ill-chosen words, so she gets to stay. And Aaron finally asks her out, so now they can spend even more time trying to pretend to secretly like each other. And this on top of Aaron having to double as the voice of the Venezuelan ambassador on the speaker phone. Where does he find the time?
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