Ben Mark Holzberg / ABC

Riveting Television On Designated Survivor?

Yes, but we're not the ones watching it.

You know that feeling when your eyes are glued to a television screen and you can't look away until you know what happens? I was reminded of that feeling during this week's Designated Survivor…as I watched characters on the show who were much more on the edges of their seats than I was. And they were watching C-SPAN.

To back up a bit, the Kirkman administration has been dragged into a fight over gun control. Specifically, a smug shitkicker senator is bringing a crappy background-check bill to the floor that he fully expects to get voted down, which will kill the whole gun-control initiative for the foreseeable future. President Kirkman doesn't love the bill either, but he knows it's better than the nothing he'll get if it dies in the Senate. So he mobilizes his resources to try to convince Republican senators to defect and vote for it. It's as dull as it sounds, even with Speaker Hookstraten volunteering to assist. Worse, the last-minute reversal of the expected outcome is presented as a surprise victory instead of the blatant all-sides political malpractice that it actually is. Even Hookstraten blew it, and we've just been reminded that she's the only elected official in this town who has any political experience at all.

Because while you wouldn't know it from how boring the A-plot is, we mustn't forget that the whole point of this series is that the whole government got blowed up at the beginning. And while Kirkman and his people seem satisfied to pretty much move on from that, Hannah Wells and her disgraced ex-boss are still on the case. Thank God…?

Anyway, time to get on with this week's power rankings, such as they are. As always, we're going from least to most effective, in line of succession format.

  1. President Pro Tempore of the Senate
    Republican Senator Jack Bowman has set himself up in opposition to the President, which is one thing. But he also blows off Kimble Hookstraten, which is political and professional suicide. You know that's going to come back to bite him sooner or later. And in fact it turns out to be sooner, as in almost immediately. Dude treats his razor-thin margin in the Senate like it's a sure thing even as the White House is busting its ass to flip some of his guys. In his defense, the White House is not entirely successful. But it turns out they don't need to be, because the appointed widow of a rabidly pro-gun senator from Tennessee surprises everyone by voting in favor of the bill. Why did she change her mind? Well, it turns out she's always been privately in favor of more gun control, but nobody asked her before the vote. NOBODY ASKED. This is a shocking oversight on the part of everyone involved, including the White House and the Speaker's office. But since Bowman's the one going down in defeat, the L goes into his column.
  2. White House Staff
    Her failure to research the stance of the Tennessee senator aside, Emily runs herself ragged trying to flip enough Republican votes to get the measure passed. This includes everything from promising pork to a Colorado senator (which works) to operating a sophisticated vote-tallying system that consists of flip charts and Post-its with the names and states of senators. Which sort of works. Specifically, far be it from me to question the White House Chief of Staff, but which state is abbreviated as AV?
  3. President of the United States
    Kirkman can't even get an old college friend on board with a personal appeal in the Oval Office. Fortunately for him, Speaker Hookstraten is the one who convinces that Senator to vote in favor by publicly promising to fix the bill in the House. Kirkman reacts to this news with a celebratory fist-pump, rather than embarrassment that it took a Speaker to do a President's job.
  4. First Family
    Alex is learning to step a bit more softly when the cameras are on, but that doesn't prevent her from speaking her mind when it's off the record. A chance encounter with Senator Bowman puts him on notice that she and the White House aren't going to back down. It would be nice if it later turned out that her remarks swayed the senator from Tennessee who was also present, but even that was a wash. On the plus side, Alex does seem to have ditched the kids at Camp David more or less permanently.
  5. Secretary of Homeland Security
    Mike's job right now seems to consist of being the liaison between Hannah Wells's independent investigation and the president. Since Kirkman's not too interested in that right now, this doesn't leave Mike with much to do. But he's still doing it.
  6. Attorney General
    With Jason Atwood in tow, Wells follows a trail of conspiracy-related clues to a set of coordinates somewhere in remotest North Dakota. Alas, visiting the spot reveals that there's nothing there even though they should be right on top of it. Which they in fact are. Intel from Forstell and a second look around reveals that they're on the site of a decommissioned underground missile silo. Executing a disturbingly easy B&E into the place, they discover a stockpile of bombs big enough to blow up the Capitol three more times. So it looks like the conspiracy isn't done yet. In unrelated news, somebody should tell whoever chose the establishing shot of North Dakota that Badlands National Park is in South Dakota.
  7. Speaker of the House
    Seeing that Kirkman is floundering, Hookstraten steps up as previously described. Obviously there's something in it for her, and everyone but Kirkman knows it. Aaron and Emily figure she's got her eye on the recently vacated vice presidency, like she'd ever deign to board the Kirkman Klown Kar, but she's actually got her sights set on something bigger. Which, give it to her right now, I say. I don't even care what it is.
  8. Secretary of State
    A little bit of Cornelius Moss's howdy-fellow-well-met boisterousness goes a long way, but the guy gets the job done. He not only nails down a much-needed vote for the gun control bill, he's already resolved the situation in the F.A.C. (Fictional African Country) off-camera. There's no grass growing on Moss, which is exactly the kind of thing he'd say and expect us to find hilarious.
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