Ben Mark Holtzberg / ABC

Will The Designated Survivor Survive?

Two trails of clues lead to the White House Chief of Staff, but will it be in time to prevent another assassination at the Capitol?

Since Agent Wells never showed up with her evidence to derail the confirmation of Peter McLeish, Speaker Hookstraten had no choice but to let the House name him the next Vice President. McLeish is scheduled to be sworn in the very next day, because it doesn't do to put these things off. After all, someone could assassinate President Kirkman at any second! Actually, someone already has a specific second in mind, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

So Hannah Wells survived her car crash, only to be nearly strangled by the guy who T-boned her. Barely managing to escape, she overcomes her injuries long enough to make it to the home of her work buddy Chuck, who lives in a pretty spectacular loft for a government employee. He patches her up and, despite the fact that she's a fugitive and he's suspended, they manage to trace the burner phone that the mystery woman has been calling her on. But since that leads her to Charles Langdon -- the previous White House Chief of Staff presumed dead these last few months -- more questions are raised than answered. Unfortunately, someone takes a shot at Wells and Langdon gets away. Fortunately, Wells and Chuck figure out from a key card taken off Hannah's would-be killer that a plot to kill the President is afoot! Probably the second after McLeish has been sworn in!

As for Kirkman himself, he's desperately trying to figure out what's going on with that secret Capitol-blowing-up file (hereinafter known as The File) without telling one more person about it than he has to. Of course, given how bad his White House is at keeping secrets, you can imagine how well that's likely to play out. Before long, members of his senior staff are lying to each other and maybe possibly not even about to start dating any more. But that denouement will have to wait until after the fallout of the shooting that takes place at the end of the episode.

Oh, did I not mention the shooting? Sorry about that. But this intro is starting to run long, so let's get going on this week's power rankings, in order from least to most effective, in line of succession format.

  1. First Family
    Alex's main accomplishment this week is wearing a striking overcoat. As for the kids, Tom suggests she take them somewhere safe. Alex disagrees because a) nobody knows where would be safe, and b) that would require her to find them.
  2. Secretary of Defense
    One of the few people who was supposedly given access to The File when it was first created a few years ago was Harris Cochrane, the very general who got his marching papers from Kirkman lo these few weeks ago. Retirement seems to agree with the ex-Chairman, because he's real helpful about how the file was sent to him years ago but then withdrawn by the then-Secretary of Defense, by what could have only been the direct order of the then-President. So is he saying this conspiracy goes all the way to the top? Doesn't it always?
  3. Secretary of Homeland Security
    As one of the very few people Kirkman can trust, Mike is drafted into running Kirkman's secret investigation into who saw The File. Which mostly seems to entail having people brought in to the White House so Kirkman can grill them, until it shifts to the hunt for Agent Wells. With all this on his plate, it's a wonder Mike is able to prevent the shooting at the Capitol. Oh, wait.
  4. Speaker of the House
    Now that Kimble Hookstraten has some real power, it's odd that she's not really driving the action anymore. First she has to yield to the pressure to confirm McLeish as VP, and then she's summoned to the Oval Office to give over what precious little she knows about Wells's investigation without getting anything from Kirkman in return. Could it be that she's resting on her laurels already?
  5. President of the United States
    After spending most of the day playing amateur detective, Kirkman's got a bad feeling about going ahead with McLeish's confirmation. But he's got no choice, has he? What's the most powerful man in the world to do, cancel something? But I suppose he figures oh well, what's the worst that could happen.
  6. Vice President
    Well, well, well, it turns out that Peter McLeish might have a conscience after all. But when he gives voice to it, his wife turns out to be the one with the deadly ambition. I guess one is more susceptible to finding a Lady Macbeth at one's side when one's last name is already a Scottish patronym.
  7. White House Staff
    Chronicle reporter Lisa Jordan acts all hurt that Seth won't call on her in briefings, and then when he relents she blindsides him again, publicly asking about the suspect in custody for the murder of Majid Nassar. Kirkman decides to promise her an exclusive, I guess because he's a fan of people who beat up on Seth. Meanwhile, Kirkman asks for Emily's -- but not Aaron's -- help looking into people who were at the White House when the file was created, including the Deputy Chief of Staff at the time...Aaron. Who doesn't fail to notice that both the Prez and his possible new girlfriend have started freezing him out. By the close of the episode, signs point to him as the traitor within the fold. I should have known; nobody wears their hair like that who isn't evil.
  8. Attorney General
    The official FBI is no help at all; in fact, they confirm Jason Atwood's confession of killing Majid Nassar and are actively looking to apprehend their one agent who has a clue what's going on. But despite her wounds and her current rogue status, Hannah Wells is able to track down ex-Chief of Staff Langdon out in the woods and get almost nothing from him. But then she does win a shootout that leads her to the knowledge that someone's going to take a shot at President Kirkman on the Capitol steps from a nearby office building at McLeish's swearing-in ceremony. Why she then tries to rush to the security-mobbed President instead of to where she knows the lone shooter is going to be is a mystery. But props to her for making a thousand-yard shot with a government-issued sidearm, I guess. Catalan almost certainly misses his shot at Kirkman, but who did the bullet hit instead? Presumably we'll find out when the show returns in March for the second half of its season. Because there's nothing this show can do that The West Wing never did twice as well.
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