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Designated Survivor - The Traitor - Review

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Designated Survivor “The Traitor” was written by the team of Jennifer Johnson and Michael Russell Gunn and was directed by Frederick EO Toye, whose many other credits include Fringe, Revolution, The Good Wife, and Person of Interest – so he has tons of experience with high tension drama! I liked that this week’s title really resonated throughout the episodes various storylines.

The first scene sees Atwood (Malik Yoba) and Hannah (Maggie Q) discussing the fallout of Nassar’s death. They have no proof now against traitor #1 of the episode – Peter McLeish (Ashley Zukerman). They are the only ones Nassar told, so Atwood is convinced – and afraid – that it’s only a matter of time before they come for them – and he’s spectacularly right.

Tom (Keifer Sutherland) and Alex (Natascha McElhone) have dinner with Peter and Beth (Lara Jean Chorostecki), and they seem like any other couples, swapping stories of how they met. Beth and Peter seem completely at ease. When Aaron (Adan Canto) gets the call that Nassar is dead, he pulls Tom out of the dinner to tell him. Tom goes back in to say he’s going to take longer than he thought, and Peter falls all over himself to offer his services – even if not as VP – if he can ever do anything to ease Tom’s burden.

Hannah urges Atwood to tell Tom everything, and it seems like he’s going to when he enters the Oval office and begins that he has answers. He immediately back pedals when he sees Peter there. Tom has asked him to sit in because he served on the Terrorism subcommittee. As Atwood hedges, he is clearly trying to send Tom a message that he doesn’t want to talk in front of Peter. I really liked how subtly it was done. But Tom doesn’t pick up on it and is simply frustrated that he gave Atwood the chance to get answers and not only does he not have any but Nassar is dead!

Tom does sense something, however, because he tells Alex that he thinks Atwood was lying. Alex points out that as a lawyer, she would never bring up theories or evidence that she couldn’t prove or back up. She urges Tom to give Atwood some time.

Peter shows up at Atwood’s office with all of his records to help with his vetting for Vice President. Atwood tells him that they’ll continue with their own investigation, and he also points out that the true measure of a man is often the impression he leaves behind, not what’s on paper. And that speaks very much to Tom’s entire situation. It’s also why Tom wanted to meet Peter in the first place. Hannah insists that bringing the information proves that Peter has something to hide.

Hannah reaches out to a contact in the CIA – Tim Beck (Matthew MacFadzean). When she drops Catalan’s (George Tchortov) name that gets his attention. He tells her to stay out of it and that he’s a mercenary and a traitor. Hannah picks up that means he’s American. Atwood and Hannah are sure that Catalan is the link between Peter and Nassar.

And then Atwood gets a panicked call from his wife Yvette (Raven Dauda) telling him that their son is missing. Atwood rushes off to help look but calls Hannah – isn’t this what happened to Peter? His wife called to tell him their daughter went missing at the mall the night of the explosion. And when Beth was telling Hannah about that call she got all flustered. Is it possible that Peter isn’t a traitor and that he’s simply being coerced?

Hannah goes back to Beck and tells him she doesn’t care about her own safety but she needs information to help people she cares about. There’s some nice tension built up as Hannah seems to be in danger in a parking garage only to find an envelope on the seat of her car. It contains information on Nestor Lozano Catalan, including a picture. And Hannah recognizes him as the guard who brought Nassar the food that killed him.

Meanwhile, Atwood is accosted by a woman (Mariana Klaveno). She has a video of Luke (Lyric Justice) – his son – in a car eating ice cream. She threatens his family and tells him his son will be safe until he tells. She will instruct him on exactly what he will do!

Emily (Italia Ricci) and Aaron continue to try to push Tom into confirming Peter as VP, but he tells them that he’s decided to wait for the FBI report – and Peter is mysteriously unreachable on personal business…

The second traitor in the episode is introduced in the first scene with Tom who is congratulating and sending off the International Track and Field team to a meet in Russia. Tom compares their trip to the Yankees playing after 9/11 – that it will give hope to the nation. It happens that the coach, Brad Weston (Jeff Teravainen) is something of a hero for Tom. It’s hilarious to watch Sutherland fanboy him! Weston gives Tom a little advice – and a sort of pep talk: leaders are made, they aren’t born – something that Tom has stewed about.

Naturally, the whole thing goes south… very south. Weston is arrested for possessing banned performance enhancing drugs when they land in Russia. Emily needlessly points out that it’s an International embarrassment. It gets worse when Carrera (Paulino Nunes) and Secretary of State Paulson (Maria Ricossa) show up and tell Tom that Weston is a CIA operative! The drugs were planted and would mean a life sentence but if they get Weston for espionage that’s a death sentence.

Tom meets with Ambassoador Petrov (Vladimir Jon Cubrt) who makes the outrageous demand that the US remove all their nuclear weapons from Turkey. I liked that Emily found a solution and that she used a sports metaphor to do it! Please break stereotypes! She suggests a three way trade – they have something the Saudis want and the Saudis have something the Russians want.

The scenes in which Tom brokers the deals with the Saudi Ambassador (Hrant Alianak) and Petrov are beautifully shot and intercut. I loved watching him get them both to agree! Unfortunately, the deal doesn’t go off without a hitch. The Saudi and Russian assets are exchanged without a hitch, but Weston fails to get off the Russian plane in London – and then the next bomb lands. He’s a traitor! He’s a double agent and has been working for the Russians!

Tom has a final meeting with Petrov. He tells him flat out he knows he’s been played, but he gives Petrov food for thought by telling Petrov that he’s a quick study – the implication is he won’t catch Tom out again...

And finally, the last traitor might be Tom and Alex to Leo (Tanner Buchanan). Seth (Kal Penn) has to try really hard to get a moment with the President for a “private” matter. I thought it was a bit funny that Aaron thought it was something persona about Seth. Seth briefs Tom on Lisa’s (Melanie Scrofano) story about Jeffrey Meyers (Erik Palladino) claiming to be Leo’s father. Tom confirms he had a relationship with Alex. Aaron drops the bomb that Alex already knows Myers is sniffing around.

Tom talks to Alex and she suggests that she could go and talk to Myers. Alex thinks it was a mistake for them to have kept it from Leo. Alex does go to see Myers in prison – he’s there for tax evasion – and he tells her he’ll shut up if Tom gets him released with time served.

Tom doesn’t want to set the precedent of giving in to blackmail – so there’s a nice through line in the plots about protecting your kids and kids being used against their parents. I really liked the scene between Tom and Alex when he tells her that he always assumed Leo was his because he loved him so much. Alex insists that Leo IS his. Alex had wanted Tom to get the paternity test so he wouldn’t think he was being forced to marry her, but he refused. He admits that he was scared that he’d lose her. But Tom decides that Leo has a right to know who his real father is, even if it isn’t him.

Seth convinces Lisa not to run the Myers story mainly by offering her an exclusive on Weston, but he also insists that the President is a good man. Furthermore, Leo is only 17 and he asks her if she thinks he deserves to have his life blown up.

There’s a really great scene between Tom and Leo as Tom stops by Leo’s room to say goodnight. Leo is a bit confused, but Tom tells him he just wanted to tell him he loved him. Leo smiles indulgently and tells Tom he loves him too. It’s a nice father/son moment. I’m hoping they’ve gotten over presenting Leo as the stereotypical petulant teen – haven’t we got enough of these on television already? I’m also hoping that when Leo finds out – as it’s inevitable he will – that he’ll simply back Alex up and insist that Tom has been and always will be his father.

I liked the through line of things not being what they seem, especially in the world of traitors. It certainly helped to integrate the different plot threads, which frankly haven’t gelled together too well up to now. What did you think of the episode? Is Peter the traitor we’ve been lead to believe he is? Let me know your thoughts on the episode in the comments below!

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