It’s Christmas time at 1600 Penn, and there’s a choir of small children being alternately ignored, disappointed and ever-so-slightly terrorised by Lyor into learning “Only You” by Yazoo. I didn’t think the year would end with Lyor and I agreeing on anything, but we both apparently love that song so, aw shucks, peace and goodwill to all, right?
Wrong. It may be winter outside, but it’s literally burning up in Shenandoah National Park as a seemingly unstoppable wildfire rips through the headlines and rages through the area. Twenty-six days of fighting it not having achieved all that much, PJB decides to let it
snow let it snow let it snow burn itself out, which is fine in theory except that Henry from Ringer, now a radical clergyman of some sort, and a bunch of his “parishioners” are threatening to immolate themselves en masse unless PJB puts their views about medical treatment over the life of a sick baby who can’t exactly choose for herself.
In fairness, Seth and the show do their very best to explain that it’s not that simple but, since we’re not talking about people peaceably explaining their beliefs and trying to do the best they can in a difficult situation – which I would have had a lot more sympathy for – but rather blackmail and the threat of mass suicide, on this particular occasion it really is. As Lyor points out – FFS, that’s twice I agree with the man, what is happening? – “If they’re trying to barbecue themselves, it’s a cult.” And it’s a cult that’s not only endangering themselves but the Fire Service and the National Security Advisor too, since this week’s game of “Spin the Wheel of Jobs for Aaron to do” has landed on, I don’t know, Fire Marshal? National Disaster Advisor? Or maybe just Dude Who’ll Do Anything to Avoid the Office Secret Santa.
Anyway, as usual, Aaron has to try and fail to talk Pastor Henry from Ringer round before PJB can swoop in and do all sorts of slightly mad stuff – Religious Advisor (?) Emily’s sent in to wax Biblical at the baby’s mum, and a Doctor shunned by the entire medical and regulatory community is re-instated (and essentially given a halo) so he can try and save the child without upsetting anybody, while PJB debates theology with Pastor Henry. A solution is found, of course, and somewhat strangely, PJB and the show pretend it’s one that doesn’t compromise anybody’s beliefs, when it absolutely does, but since this is Designated Survivor not Salem, they’re not going to let a bunch of people burn to death on a random mountain at Christmas, so baby’s safe, mum’s safe and Henry from Ringer’s safe too. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good…
Er, not quite. Aaron is pulling double duty this week: back safely at his desk (no thanks to Henry from Ringer), he points out that he knows all about Agent Q’s not-so-secret affair with Mr MI6 and, since Mr MI6 has now been outed by both Chuck and Det Blakey as a Bad Man, he decides, entirely appropriately, to remove her from the investigation. Obviously, this decision lasts all of about twelve seconds, though, and Q is back on the case, having put the increasingly agitated Chuck gently but firmly back in his place. Before this week, I had wondered whether Q actually knows how Chuck feels about her – there’s something about the way she plays this scene that makes it absolutely clear that she does, and it’s never going to happen. Sorry, Chuck.
And sorry, Q, who ends another run of the show crying over a lost loved one – last season, it was poor Jason Atwood, this half-season it’s Mr MI6. Except that this is network tv, so if there’s no body…. yup, Mr MI6 isn’t dead. And neither is this weird conspiracy-within-a-conspiracy storyline, which brings me to the Reed Diamond investigation and the high hopes I had after PJB’s epiphany last week that Designated Survivor was finally going to commit to the idea that the FBI should absolutely investigate when there’s clear evidence of serious crimes potentially committed by the First Family. (I mean, it’s not like that idea has any real-world significance at the moment or anything, right?) Shows what I know: this week, FLOTUS is back on her ridiculous high horse, grandstanding at her deposition till Reed Diamond just… capitulates? Really? Because we’re now pretending FMILOTUS hasn’t actually admitted to felony corruption, and the man who bribed her didn’t set up a secret offshore bank account in her daughter’s name, and hasn’t been murdered since? We’re now pretending it really was all about Reed Diamond running for election?
For the last time this year, let me just ask: are you kidding me with this?
“I’ve beaten it” says a smiling FLOTUS, and I assume we’re supposed to smile too, but anybody who is doesn’t get to enjoy it for very long: FLOTUS goes the way of Rayna Jaymes and countless other tv characters before her – with the only original thing about the scene being that they used a (very pretty) cover version of “Only You” instead of “Hallellujah” at the end of it – and I find myself neither sad at her passing nor glad to see her go. Could they not just have sent her to jail? I disliked the character from the moment we met her, but if this ending means a Beverly-style beatification, the rest of the season is going to try my patience even more than this half has. I loved season one but, with the wretched mishandling of the FLOTUS/FMILOTUS story, the bizarre way Aaron has been treated, and the influx of new characters we didn’t need at the expense of old ones we did, part one of season two has been a real, infuriating disappointment. We’ll see what part two brings, but I have a horrible feeling it may well be more of the same.