This week, quite a lot of Designated Survivor is given over to the hunt for Majid Nassar, the man who wasn’t behind the attack on the Capitol. He’s been tracked to a compound in Algeria. But just as it, and he, are about to be flattened by the US Air Force he leaves – dammit! – and hits the road, ending up hiding in a hospital. Which – if he’s going to be taken dead or alive or dead – means Navy SEAL boots on the ground. President Kirkman visits a military base to talk to the men who’re going to be deployed – as soon as they get names and vestigial backstories you know that at least one of them won’t make it back – and when they get to Algeria there are the usual military operation tropes: the green-hued live feed which goes offline at the crucial moment, that sort of thing.
But there’s something else going on: when we get politicians and military personnel making a point of how much effort they’re putting into avoiding civilian casualties, and soldiers flinging themselves in front of children to save their lives… To be sure, Designated Survivor isn’t, thus far, quite as slack-jawed in its drooling reverence for the military as, say, Hawaii Five-0. And I do get it, sort of; I understand that the American nation has a different sort of relationship with its armed forces, and that the courage and nobility of the American soldier are generally to be taken as read. But I can’t help but feel that a point is being made and, while I’m not remotely qualified to offer an opinion on whether it’s a valid one, I do wonder whether it’s one that network dramas should be making at all. If, indeed, that’s what is happening. (Equally I should say that, to a British viewer, it’s at least odd that, weeks before a national election, a US network can broadcast a show in which an evidently decent Democratic president is grappling with an apparently duplicitous Republican congresswoman.)
Anyway, Nassar is taken alive. I wonder whether Kirkman, who has shown a degree of disdain for some of the trappings of White House protocol, will be able to resist questioning him himself, perhaps in the style of a character from another TV show?
Meantime, the investigation of Congressman MacLeish continues to edge closer and closer to the main storyline: the cryptic phonecall Agent Wells received at the end of the last episode has revealed the existence of a hidden room in the Capitol building, although since we don’t know who made the call it’s not yet clear why the caller didn’t just say that. Anyway, it turns out that during renovations the room was significantly reinforced – a top secret bomb shelter in the Capitol! I love this show! – and that, not by coincidence, is where MacLeish fetched up when the bomb went off. Kirkman and his staffers don’t know this yet, though, so that explains why MacLeish is given the chance to become Speaker of the House. What’s more difficult to explain is why, when he modestly declines, they leap to the conclusion that they should instead consider offering him the Vice-Presidency. Still, even though Wells isn’t above going to Kimble Hookstraten to trade favours for information, we are at least now being afforded tantalising glimpses of the possibility of Nikita teaming up with Jack Bauer.
And in what might be the best news for some time for the beleaguered President, Aaron’s oppo research has thrown up the possibility that his appalling son Leo might in fact be the biological son of an old boyfriend of Alex’s named Jeffrey Myers, a man now doing federal time. Nature over nurture there, I’d say. Not my favourite episode so far, I’d have to say, but still superior entertainment.