Designated Survivor S01E04 Recap: 'The Enemy'

Every week I sit down to write these Designated Survivor and I promise myself that I'm going to offer an unbiased and objective critique of a show that's, quite honestly, not perfect. But then Kiefer Sutherland goes ahead and yells dammit at a general or, in the case of this week's episode, arrests a sitting governor by tricking him onto a flight and starts a war with Algeria and all hope for objectivity flies out the window.

Listen, the show is only four episodes old. It's going to have problems, be it with plot, pacing or whatever else. But regardless of what problems you might have with Designated Survivor, you can't say that over those four episodes, it hasn't kept us on the edge of our seat. It's been a roller coaster ride, focused on entertaining us first and foremost, and that's enough for me to be able to overlook a few flaws.

To make matters even better, this week's episode, "The Enemy", even unshackled itself from the one thing people have been complaining about the most; Tom's annoying children were nowhere to be found in the episode. Even First Lady Alex got more screen time and something relatively interesting to do, all while contributing to the main plot as well.

The episode picks up nearly a week after last week's outing. Nothing's been done about the terrorist group that purportedly took credit for the attack that took out the entirety of government and questions about the legitimacy of Tom's presidency are still floating out there after his admission that he would have stepped down from his cabinet position if it weren't for the attack.

To make matters worse, Governor Royce (Michael Gaston) has decided to use that latter gaffe to start blindly arresting Muslims in his state again. When we pick up the action, he's basically turned Michigan into a police state on the verge of seceding. Tom needs to take swift action so that no other states get the wrong idea, so he sends Emily there as his representative to oversee some protests. When she gets there, however, Royce doesn't let her leave the airport. What's more, the Michigan national guard refuses an order to federalize and sticks with Royce. Emily's plan is to force Royce onto the plane back to Washington by surrounding him and his police and military with those protesters she was going to see; the alternative being some very public arrests.

So Royce agrees, and even has a nice chat with Emily and admits to Tom when they land that he now looks forward to having a discussion with the new president. Tom doesn't see things the same way though, having learned from being too soft from Aaron, so he decides to arrest Royce for treason instead, leading to probably the biggest "oh shit" moment of the show so far. All the while, you know Tom would do something uncharacteristic. He's been pushed and pushed and sticking to his morals hasn't really led to too much of anything positive. My guess was that he was going to launch an attack on Algeria (which he also does, but more on that in a bit), but instead he goes with a much more brazen and unexpected move.

Of course that brings up those pesky problems I should probably have with the show, like how ridiculous it is that a governor that's basically trying to stage a coup is just standing around in the open in the middle of an air field, or why the whole standoff is happening so publicly on TV, or how the protesters get access to them or why Royce was traveling alone and not with guards or advisers. But that's the kind of stuff I can suspend my disbelief for, because it's nevertheless cool and fun.

Just like the situation with Algeria. Tom's people track the leader of the terrorist cell to a compound in Algeria, but their man is still on the inside and Tom is reticent to launch an attack while an American might still be there. Not to mention that isn't really convinced they're behind the attacks either. Still, he agrees that they should attack, but only after the agent's window of communication is over. The general, however, decides to accelerate the timeline, which forces Tom to very publicly fire him, even though he winds up okaying the attack anyway.

The episode shows us how President Tom is starting to grow a pair, and how he's willing to make tough decisions when he needs to, even if they might weigh on his conscience. He's also completely tired of people disobeying him, which is leading to some unexpected maneuvers, which in turn make the show unpredictable. Sure, Designated Survivor is still a little rough around the edges, but you can't deny that you're having fun along the way. "The Enemy" gets 9 summer blockbusters out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Quick roundup of the subplots this week: Alex goes to Kimble for a favor to stop her former client from getting deported, Hannah investigates the surviving senator, thinks she's wrong but then gets a call proving she might have been right that he's involved, and Tom offers Seth the job of press secretary, which he hesitates to take thinking it's a Muslim thing.
  • The preview for next week doesn't give me confidence, but I hope the show stays away from straight up action scenes. The opening scene in Algeria looked pretty cheap.
  • No dammits this week but we did get a "son of a bitch" again.