Sven Frenzel / ABC

The Designated Survivor Designates Possible Non-Survivors

President Kirkman makes a career out of agonizing over the men he puts in harm's way.

Tom is learning some hard lessons about being Commander-in-Chief. Like, sometimes you can screw things up by waiting too long, and sometimes you'll regret not waiting longer. Unfortunately, all of the sleep he loses over an upcoming military commando mission doesn't make him any more productive. Well, not unless you count the time he spends fencing with Kimble Hookstraten and considering naming a co-conspirator in the Capitol bombing to one of the highest offices in the land. But we'll get to all that in the episode's power rankings -- as always, listed from least to most effective, in line-of-succession format.

  1. First Family
    No Kirkman Kids are shown on screen this week, blessedly. On the other hand, Aaron's oppo research has turned up an ex-boyfriend of Alex's who is in prison. That shouldn't be a big deal, except the dude is also claiming to be Leo's biological father. Which is probably true, because (a) Alex is wrecked by the news, and (b) who the hell would claim to be Leo's dad who wasn't? Leo's absence from the episode almost makes up for such an embarrassingly soapy development. Almost.
  2. Attorney General
    Agent Hannah Wells has made quite a breakthrough in her investigation of Congress's sole survivor, Peter McLeish. Turns out McLeish was holed up in a secret "hideaway" office in the Capitol at the time of the explosion -- a hideaway that had been secretly converted into a bomb shelter, by construction workers who are all mysteriously dead now. Wells finally has her proof that McLeish was in on the plan, and while her boss now believes her, he's scared to tell anyone because there's no way to know who they can trust. So...way to solve the case, then?
  3. President of the United States
    Tom has cleared his schedule for a couple of days to concentrate on the operation to take out the terrorist leader hiding out in Algeria. In this case, "concentrate" appears to mean not sleeping, staring at tactical updates, and spending a total of thirty seconds giving orders, most of which he second-guesses. It's amazing how he finds so much time to gaze pensively into the middle distance.
  4. White House Staff
    Seth is adjusting nicely to his new role as White House Press Secretary, while Aaron's Chief of Staff gig fits him so well it seems like he's been wearing it all along. Unfortunately for Emily, she's fitting just as well into her third-banana role, getting shut out of classified conversations in favor of having to delve into Kirkman family gossip (see above).
  5. Speaker of the House
    Kimble Hookstraten's veiled threats and criticisms are starting to get under Tom's skin, and he seems to be growing weary of veiling his parries and ripostes. Fortunately for Tom, two Congressional survivors means that she isn't automatically the next Speaker, so he offers to back Peter McLeish for the gig instead. Awkwardly, however, McLeish doesn't want it. But Tom continues to treat him as first among equals in the two-member Congress, and even considers appointing McLeish Vice President instead. Because someone who doesn't want to be Speaker of the House is going to be all over the Veep spot. Meanwhile, Hookstraten has given Agent Wells the secret Capitol blueprints that Wells asked for in exchange for a promise that Wells will keep her updated on her investigation. Which is a sign that she's outmaneuvering her opponents on portions of the board that nobody else even knows about. She might not land the speakership either, but only because she's overqualified.
  6. Secretary of Defense
    While it's nice that Tom's new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff isn't someone he has to constantly fight like a wonky shopping cart, that doesn't make his actual decisions any easier. Fortunately for him, the SEAL team tasked with taking out the terrorist leader has the confidence, the training, and ultimately the ability to not only get in and out with the target still alive, but suffer only one casualty and inflict minimal stain on Tom's tortured conscience. Lucky him. Now get to your local recruiting office, everyone.
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