‘Designated Survivor’ Recap: Season 1, Episode 6, ‘The Interrogation’

President Kirkman is in the hot seat. (Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg)
President Kirkman is in the hot seat. (Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg)

By Guest Contributor: Lakshmi Gandhi (@LakshmiGandhi)

“I think that I can affect change and promote unity… We need to move forward together.”

Those were the words of President Tom Kirkman during a pivotal moment of last night’s episode of Designated Survivor.

Because I spent most of Wednesday is a state of shock and despair, getting ready to recap a show about an idealistic president currently working to rebuild Washington was a surreal experience. But that storyline was exactly the center of this week’s episode. When we last left President Tom Kirkman’s White House, he was still working on selecting a vice president and was resolved to call the governors from around the country so that they could start appointing senators and congresspeople.

While Kirkman thought he was going to have an open discussion about what the lawmakers they would appoint, the Governors had something quite different in mind: They wanted to interrogate their new president. And so Kirkman was subjected to the harshest questioning of his presidency to date. The governors wanted to know why he overhauled the Department of Housing and Urban Development while he was secretary, why he jailed the governor of Michigan and why he ousted that war mongering general a few weeks ago.

Needless to say, it didn’t go as planned. While this would have been the perfect time for Kirkman to assert his authority, he takes a different route. I’ve noted before that Kirkman can often seem wishy washy in key moments, but he really took the cake last night.

The super conservative governor of Georgia immediately decides to go after Kirkman and asks why he should be president. Most of us probably imagined Kirkman saying something like “These are troubled times, we’ve suffered a tragic loss and I will work to help this country through its grief” (I imagine someone like Aaron Sorkin would jazz those lines up a little, but you get the idea).

Instead, Kirkman begins panicking and says simply “I don’t know if I should be president” and essentially walks out of the room. To say this isn’t particularly presidential behavior is an understatement.

Here’s what else stood out about this episode.

Let’s talk about interrogation in Kirkman’s America: As I mentioned in my intro, there were many strange things about watching this episode during this particular moment in history. One of them was the interrogation of Al Nazar, the accused perpetrator of the Capitol attack. Anyone who has read about how accused terrorists have been treated in places like Guantanamo Bay (along our new president-elect’s thoughts on the topic) knows that in real life terrorism suspects are tortured, waterboarded and denied legal represenation.

So when Maggie Q’s Hannah Wells goes to the federal prison to visit Al Nazar, it was a pleasant surprise to hear Hannah instantly inform Al Nazar of his rights (it was also pretty amazing Al Nazar was alive for the interrogation at all.)

Hannah’s interview with the prisoner was extremely professional and I to the point. Hopefully all prisoners (fictional or otherwise) will get the same treatment in the future.

An update on Hannah’s investigation into MacLeish: As we know from last time, Kirkman is seriously considering making bombing survivor (and Congressman) MacLeish his next Vice President. When Hannah learns of this, she is appalled. MacLeish, after all, has been a suspect in the crime since almost the moment he was discovered in the rubble.

Hannah and her boss start to wonder if they can postpone MacLeish’s appointment as they continue looking into his movements that day. (For what I assume are security reasons, the White House is unaware that MacLeish is under investigation.) But someone is clearly on Hannah’s trail because computer files and other records on MacLeish has gone missing. Hannah has no idea who would erase that data. Meanwhile, the Kirkmans invite the MacLeishs for dinner at the White House so that they can all get to know each other better.

The refugee question: One main dispute the governors had with Kirkman was his attitude towards Syrian refugees. The Hispanic governor of Florida (the child of immigrants himself) decided to refuse to allow a plane filled with refugees to disembark at Miami’s airport. Kirkman (as is his wont) agonizes over this and gives an impassioned mini-speech on why refugees are always welcome.

But there was an unexpected twist here. Because the governors had Kirkman pinned into a corner (they refused to appoint senators unless he rejected the refugees) he decides to send them to …. Canada. At least they are guaranteed a pleasant welcome there.


Will Seth finally have some romance in his life? Since Seth became press secretary two weeks ago he’s been both extremely busy and one of DC’s most visible and eligible bachelors. While at a cocktail party for the various governors, a young reporter keeps catching his eye. She’s the new Washington correspondent for one of the big papers and Seth asks her out for a drink. But first she has one big (work related) question. She says she’s heard that Leo Kirkman (you know, the drug-dealing First Son) might not be the president’s biological child.

Seth is floored.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Did you find it as hard to immerse yourself in a fictional presidency as I did?

Lakshmi Gandhi
Lakshmi Gandhi

Lakshmi Gandhi is a journalist and pop culture writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Metro New York, NBC Asian America and NPR’s Code Switch blog, among other sites. She likes it when readers tweet her @LakshmiGandhi with their thoughts on Asian American issues and romance novels.

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