Warning: Spoiler Alert
Mere hours after being sworn in, President Kirkman finds himself speaking to the American people. Trying to put their concerns at ease. The snipit from the speech sounds like every other we’ve heard (short of maybe Bill Pullman’s Independence Day speech). The media reaction is not what he would have hoped for. Meanwhile the FBI continue to comb through the rubble that once was the US Capital building.
President Kirkman’s Secret Service Code name: PHOENIX. Not bad actually. I’ve heard many that are much worse.
Kirkman takes the slow march down to the West Wing and it is not the majestic trek one might think. Everyone is reacting to the event’s of the night before. He is warned of the chaos he is about to experience but Kirkman foolishly underestimated said chaos. He attempts to gain intel on a number of topics from economic to defensive. The free wielding fear motivated actions discussed are extreme. Before 2 minutes has past, the Oval Office more closely resembles an elementary school cafeteria. Amidst the chaos, Kirkman excuses himself from his own office to think clearly.
In the cabinet room, Kirkman takes a moment to see how far he’s come in one short day standing behind and eventually sitting in his old Secretary of HUD chair. The acting Chief of Staff and Kirkman’s former Chief of Staff almost go at it when the notion of choosing his Chief of Staff comes into the equation. Kirkman quickly squashes that discussion, but an organized approach to rebuilding the government is necessary. He gives very direct orders to his two potential Chief’s of Staff. Close the banks, monitor reported violent activity in Michigan, and start putting together a Cabinet. Then later, President Kirkman will visit what’s left of the Captial Building.
Seth departs (what looks like) his Georgetown residence on foot. A neighbor that he seems to be familiar with gives him the judgemental treatment. As if Seth’s (played by Kal Penn) appearance somehow indicts him as a suspect. If that wasn’t enough, DC police pull up and give him grief about what’s in his backpack. He cooperates with their misguided inquiry, if only to minimize drama.
Kirkman stumbles into Seth’s office. It will take some getting used to. The idea that everyone stands the moment Kirkman enters a room. If I may steal a line from the great President Josiah Bartlet (The West Wing), “In this building…when the President stands, nobody sits”. Kirkman apologizes for not giving the performance Seth’s speech deserved when the ‘Chiefs’ enter the room. Something’s happened in Michigan.
In Dearborn Michigan, local authorities begin rounding up Muslim citizens or people who ‘look a certain way’. Shades of what happened to the Japanese Americans following Pearl Harbor. One might have hoped these were the actions of rogue, misguided officers. However, upon a call to the Michigan Governor, we learn the officers are only doing as they were ordered. The Governor makes no bones about his disregard for President Kirkman and the title he’s inherited.
A powerful player within Congress makes her way through the West Wing corridor. As it turns out, the Republicans also set aside a Designated Survivor. And one with much better political chops than the sitting President. Any previous notions about her motives (at least for now) are squashed. She seems sincere in her advice about making the White House his own. She gives a lovely speech about shedding the partisan approach and uniting under the umbrella of just being Americans. Kirkman invites her to join him at the Capital Bombing site later.
The General barges into the Oval Office interrupting what was supposed to be a candid moment between Mr. and Mrs. Kirkman (devoid of the responsibilities of the room they stand in). They believe they know who blew up the Capital. The FBI is only 75% sure and the General is content to go out and kill someone who isn’t us, presumably to make us feel better. President Kirkman is having none of it though.
General Cochran: America is demanding action and I am giving you an enemy we can kill.
President Kirkman (rips off his glasses): You think I don’t want to strike back against those that did this? I lost colleagues, friends, I lost people I love. I want to find every single person involved in this attack from planning to execution and rip them limb from limb. Which is why I need to know EXACTLY who did this. Come back to me with more than 75% and I’ll launch the damn missiles myself.
General Cochran: How much more?
President Kirkman: Twenty-Five dammit!
The trip to the bomb site is proving to be more difficult that our characters originally lead us to believe. Donning a kevlar vest the President makes his way through. FBI acting director briefs the President on what they have. At no point does the director even hint to Hannah’s theory that the undetonated bomb found on site was probably a red herring.
Kirkman decides to lose the vest despite Mike’s insistence as it does not project confidence. Outside, Kirkman grabs a bull horn and stand atop a pile of rock. Kirkman delivers an impromptu address to the first responders and it seems to go better than his speech the night before. That is until the brutality in Michigan goes viral. Cops beating citizens based on nothing more than how those citizens appear. The crowd becomes restless and demands Kirkman respond to the transgression in Michigan. Aaron and the secret service jump in to remove Kirkman from the situation and one in the crowd is taken down as he approached the group with his hand in his jacket.
Alone in the Oval Office, the First Lady has an idea to force the Governor of Michigan to fall in line. As was done during the racial integration of public schools, federalize he National Guard and made the state of Michigan obey the law. Before Kirkman can make any headway in that area, the call some of us knew was coming, came. The 17-year-old Muslim citizen of Michigan that was savagely beaten by police, was pronounced dead.
Emily connected a couple of dots and found common ground with the Governor of Michigan and Kirkman’s new friend the other Designated Survivor, Congresswoman Hookstraten. They are able to get him via video conference. This is where Kirkman lays down the law so to speak. Demands the Michigan police stand down. Orders the Governor to release anyone detained on this day as three of those are Homeland Security operatives working on a long lead investigation. Refusal to do so would be tampering with a Federal investigation and I guarantee the Governor wants no part of that. After the Governor agrees and ends the call, Kirkman admits that Homeland piece was a well executed bluff. The President asks Seth to take a walk with him after dismissing everyone else.
Kirkman: DC Police called the White House switchboard, they wanted to confirm that you worked here. What happened this morning?
Seth: What happened in Michigan. What always happens. When people don’t know who the enemy is, they start with people who look like me.
Kirkman further explains the situation with the FBI, Cochran and blaming Iran without sufficient evidence. For to do that would render Kirkman no better than Governor Royce. The need to get this one right is paramount. A notion that Seth visually can appreciate. Then after Seth leaves the room, Kirkman asks Wyatt (who I believe is his body man-boy) to get him the number to Danny Fied’s parents, the kid who died moments ago. Seth leaves the White House to find many citizens leaving flowers and praying for those lost in this attack. Including but not limited to the cop that had harassed Seth earlier in the episode.
Kirkman asks Mike if he has a ‘baseball cap lying around anywhere’, code for the President would like to sneak out of the White House minus the cameras and exposure. All he wanted to do was to thank those working the bomb site without political motivation.
Hannah finally gets up the strength to look through the pictures of those confirmed dead. Hoping against hope not to find her loved one presumed missing. It doesn’t take long to find his picture. Right about the time it begins to set in that he’s lost, someone in the distance yells out, “WE FOUND ONE, WE FOUND A SURVIVOR”.