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Are Designated Survivor's Press Briefings Wackier Than Sean Spicer's?

TVLine logo TVLine 3/23/2017 Matt Webb Mitovich
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When watching this week’s Designated Survivor, as Seth Wright once again braced to face the White House press corp, I couldn’t help but channel Bill Murray a la Tootsie:

This is one nutty administration.

Because no matter how President Kirkman, stepping in to drop the bombshell (#TooSoon?) himself, stoically couched things, he was basically saying this:

“Hey, everyone, it’s me. The former SecHUD who after a recent, cataclysmic attack on the Capitol down the street, became President of the United States. And then that one governor refused to acknowledge me, so I had him arrested or something. Then there was that whole thing with all of the governors. Good thing gunfire broke that tension. I come to you using a cane because, well, I did just get shot by an assassin.

“A few scenes from now, one of you — the Numb3rs guy over there, in need of a razor — is going to stand up and claim that the acting POTUS ordered the cornered assassin to be shot dead on sight. I would chew out MacLeish myself, except, well, that’s why I’m here before you. His wife Beth killed him last night at Arlington, clean shot to the noggin. Before turning the gun on herself. Everyone’s Secret Service detail was busy watching cat videos on their phones.

“So… yeah. As you were. Seth, they’re all yours.”

All Sean Spicer has to do is explain tweets and present alternative facts. That is cake, compared to what Kirkman’s press sec has had to weather.

Rob Morrow’s aforementioned character — disgraced Pulitzer Prize winner Abe Leonard, now freelancing for Teen Mode — was pretty much the main attraction this week, gobsmacking Seth with classified intel that had been leaked to him by Hookstraten via Aaron. Aaron thankfully copped to his lapse in judgement, looping in the calculating congresswoman as he did, so Kirkman gently suggested his chief of staff ride the pine for a bit, while Emily takes care of things in his stead.

Despite Seth’s counsel to await the next news cycle, Kirkman was itching to address the American people in the wake of this latest bit of insanity. By the close of the episode, he got his camera time — where he oddly undid all of Seth’s team’s work to smear Abe Leonard’s rep by hailing the veteran journo’s reporting. Amidst all of this, Tom had to make a great sacrifice, as Alex pulled a Melania and moved herself and the kids out of the White House, to Camp David, where they will be safer and enjoy something closer to a semi-normal childhood.

Elsewhere in the hour:

* Agent Wells briefed Kirkman on the MacLeish/Lozano connection, and it admittedly made my head spin, so I won’t attempt to fully recap it. But basically Lozano was a CIA bag man who, went a payoff went sideways in the Kunar region, wound up having his life saved by MacLeish, whose team had been trapped in an angry warlord’s bloodbath. That is how they met, and why “Catalan” owed the VP an assassination.

* The former Secretary of State that had hinted at wanting to return to the post wound up flaking out on Kirkman, but instead tipped off Emily that for POTUS Cornelius Moss was available for consults. OK.

* Wells swung by the funeral for Atwood’s son, then later paid a visit to her former supervisor, who in short time had lost kid, his badge and gun, and basically his wife. Hannah nudged him to seek “payback” by helping her out, but he sensed he was being “worked” and brushed her off.

* Seth was bumped into by some old friends who urged him to go out for a needed drink — but oddly were just there to berate his current gig. An odd scene that I guess existed just to show that Seth is a company man…?

* At episode’s end, the “twist” was that previous chief of staff Langdon had covertly reached out to Aaron, while Wells and her team eavesdropped. If this show can take any kind of cue from Kiefer’s 24, it’s to go fuller-tilt on the twists. If I am all but expecting the chopper carrying Kirkman’s family to explode in the sky, or for a bullet to zing through the picture window as Tom paces pensively, the show needs to at least meet me halfway.

All told, save for the introduction of Morrow’s character, this episode felt very water-treading, as if the new showrunner (the freshman drama’s third) is still in the midst of rerouting things. MacLeish’s offing was premature, secrets aren’t keeping, Alex and the kids have been ushered off-canvas — all of which suggests tinkering in progress. I reckon Alex at least will be back to D.C., unless Camp David might not be as drama-free as everyone hopes it to be?

What did you think of the episode “Backfire”?

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