Ben Mark Holzberg / ABC

Is Anybody Not Messing With The Designated Survivor?

Blackmail demands, paternity questions, double agents, and the ongoing conspiracy bedevil President Kirkman.

Tom's got his hands full again, because when does he not? The day starts out innocuously enough, as he gives a presidential send-off to a U.S. track team heading to an event in Russia. But things veer out of their lane almost from the starting gun when the Russians arrest the coach the minute he lands. Also, Tom finds out about the death of bombing suspect Majid Nassar, but nothing about it for reasons we'll get to in a minute; and the question of Leo's biological paternity is threatening to become public knowledge. On the FBI side, Wells's and Atwood's investigation gets closer to home -- Atwood's home, that is.

Long story short, there are a lot of crazy goings-on in and around the White House this week, which makes a visit to this much calmer fictional one a nice escape. Let's get to the power rankings, from most to least effective, in order of succession format.

  1. First Family
    It's been a while since we've seen Leo, which is fine. And his appearance this week is brief and not entirely unpleasant. It's not his fault that all his life, his parents haven't bothered to tell him that his biological father may not be Tom at all, but some white-collar felon currently cooling his heels in prison. Said felon is currently blackmailing the Kirkmans with this information, hoping to score himself a pardon. Interestingly, Alex learns this during a face-to-face meeting with the guy (who looks just like Leo, BTW), like FLOTUS can just waltz alone into prisons without anybody taking note. The obvious course of action here would be for the Kirkmans to tell Leo the truth and get out ahead of the story, but agonizing is more their style. That way it's only going to be a matter of time before it blows up in their faces, leaving them looking like political Wile E. Coyotes.
  2. President of the United States
    Dude is getting played. On top of the blackmail situation, he goes to a lot of trouble to arrange a three-way trade for the coach, who is also an American spy, only to find out that the coach is a double agent for the Russians and is going to hang out over there for the duration. Tom also responds to being blackmailed with a lot of moping, and totally misreads the awkward interaction between McLeish and Atwood to peg Atwood as the liar. Swell.
  3. Director of the CIA
    Between not knowing their famous spy was a double agent until the Russians basically told them, sitting on information about Catalan, and employing an agent who doesn't have anything better to do than hang around bars waiting for Hannah Wells to show up and shake him down for info, maybe shortening their initials to CA would be in order.
  4. White House Staff
    Aaron and Emily don't get to do much but "stay on top of" things, get unwillingly embroiled in Kirkman family intrigue, and play out a few condescending moments centered around Emily knowing about basketball. Seth does much better, finding a way to keep that cute reporter off the Leo story without killing the flirtation that's still happening between them. Pretty sure both of Seth's victories will be short-lived, though.
  5. Attorney General
    All Wells and Atwood know is that they're looking for someone known as Catalan, but that's not a lot to go on. It's certainly not enough to bring to the president, especially when Atwood shows up and finds his prime suspect and VP frontrunner Peter McLeish lurking in the Oval Office with Tom. Later, McLeish rolls into Atwood's office, possibly to try to intimidate him, only to get intimidated right back. But it's Atwood who ends up on the losing side when his son is taken hostage by conspirators who seem to want McLeish to become VP. Meanwhile, Wells works a CIA contact she knows and gets a file on Catalan, an American national whose face Wells remembers seeing during her visit to Nassar last week. Good thing she's got total recall or this case would be nowhere.
  6. Vice President
    McLeish is doing everything right, from charming the Kirkmans at dinner to volunteering a dossier on himself to the FBI. And so far it's working; Emily and Aaron want to fast-track his appointment. But Tom would rather hold off until he's sure, which is the one good move he's made this episode. I'm going to date myself now, but I'm old enough to remember when I could have just dropped a lazy joke right here about how Vice Presidents don't do anything anyway. So I guess I'll just leave everyone with an even lazier joke about hoping that McLeish doesn't end up shooting Tom in the face.
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