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Designated Survivor - Brace for Impact - Review - "Ready for Season Two!"

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Designated Survivor returns next week – stay tuned for a preview of the new episode! – so what better time to take a re-cappy look back at the season finale to remind us exactly where we left off. “Brace for Impact” was written by David Guggenheim and directed by Frederick E.O. Toye, and we can thank him for those terrific high speed chases! This was a fast paced episode that happily tied up a few loose ends but left us with one big villain on the run.

The episode started with the FBI surrounding Hannah (Maggie Q) who’d just gotten out of the van with a bomb about to detonate. She thinks quickly and rather than explaining threatens to detonate the bomb unless they put down their guns. She then gets in the van and drives through Washington to miraculously drive the van into the Tidal Basin with a nice shot of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in the foreground. My issues here are not with the action per se, but that the time on the bomb was not enough to get there and there isn’t a road that close. But it was a good special effect – and I’m really impressed with how they can CGI in all the Washington sites!

Mike (LaMonica Garrett) reports to Tom (Kiefer Sutherland) that Hannah is in custody, who wants to see her right away. The FBI are holding her – with overwhelming evidence against her, but Forstell (Reed Diamond) shows up and whisks her off to the White House. Hannah tells him that Jason is dead.

Hannah briefs Tom, Mike, and Moss (Geoff Pierson). Forstell doesn’t think that they have enough evidence against Lloyd (Terry Serpico) to bring him in, but Moss jumps in to say do it anyway. Hannah also wants to bring him in, but Forstall doesn’t want to bring him in if they only have to release him again. He doesn’t want to tip their hand – and Moss is brutal in his criticism of how they handled MacLeish. Given that they still don’t know who the traitor is in the White House, Tom insists they bring Lloyd in.

Hannah takes charge of the unit going in to get Lloyd. The action is nicely intercut with Tom reading and watching the news. Forstell then comes in to brief Tom, who’s read their manifesto, which he’s concluded was just a power grab all along. Tom watches Aaron (Adan Canto) on the Nate Butcher (Bill Smitrovich) Show defending his President. Tom is clearly impressed by Aaron’s loyalty and how easily he puts Butcher in his place.

As Hannah closes in on Lloyd’s farm, he receives word that Lorenzo (George Tchortov) has the package and gives the command to “Execute.” He sends word to Whitaker (Richard Waugh). Lloyd evades Hannah via an escape tunnel. He also has his people create hits all over the country to cover his tracks.

Abe Leonard (Rob Morrow) is waiting for Seth (Kal Penn) when he gets back to his office. Morrow is still gratingly bad. He tells Seth he’s going to publish that Atwood was arrested for the murder of Nassar. Seth goes to Tom who surprises him by asking for a meeting with Leonard.

Meanwhile Emily (Italia Ricci) is looking more the part of Chief of Staff but is acting more unprofessionally than ever by going to Alex (Natascha McElhone) to get her husband to behave! Can you see calling your boss’s spouse to get them to act in a particular way? And what if you dealt in top secret information?

Tom wants to know how Lloyd got away. Forstall suggests that the traitor tipped him off. Tom orders Lloyd’s assets frozen. Moss tells Tom that every President has a defining crisis – it seems like Tom’s entire time in office has been one looooong one! Moss tells Tom that he’s going to get through it and that now he has to brace for impact – bringing us around to the title of the episode.

We get some nice dueling computers as Whitaker connects himself to a secure server and Chuck (Jake Epstein) catches him. Chuck calls Mike and tells him that the traitor was on the Pentagon server and has created an ID for someone. And of course, that someone is Lorenzo – with his package. Mike calls Hannah who heads for the Pentagon.

Tom calls Aaron to the Oval Office and tells him that there’s a traitor who was instrumental in having Tom appointed the designated survivor. He wants to know if Aaron has any insights and asks him to go back over his records to see if anything stands out.

Leonard meets with Tom and is on the defensive, refusing to back down even if Tom sends “his goons” after him! I loved the nice dig at real life as Tom tells him that he fully supports a free press and has even warned the FBI not to suppress them – how refreshing! Tom won’t try to make Leonard do anything. He asks him to hold on to his story because it’s incomplete. Leonard asks Tom to fill in the blanks, and he says he can’t because it’s a matter of National Security – exactly how Aaron was defending him and what Butcher wanted to hear from the President.

Leonard asks Tom if he was sitting on a story about a government cover up, would he trust a word the President said? Also seems to be ripped from the headlines! Tom laughs and says maybe not. Tom shows Leonard a picture of his favorite President, Franklin Roosevelt, and asks Leonard when he thinks it was taken – during the War? And then tells him that it wasn’t published until Roosevelt passed away. It was more important during the War to protect American strength, so the Press chose not to publish them until after his death. Tom tells Leonard that he’s going to have to make a choice.

Aaron goes to see Cochran (Kevin McNally) who’s under house arrest but no longer blames Tom and thinks he did the right thing. He asks Cochran to help him go through the list – it’s a short one – of those who chose the designated survivor because that person is a traitor. Aaron wants his help because he knows more about security access than anyone else.

Aaron returns to Tom with the list that he put together with Cochran. He speaks up for the General, and Tom agrees with Aaron that Cochran had nothing to do with the attack.

Pentagon security is somewhat frighteningly baffled and paralyzed by their security cameras being scrambled “somehow.” Lozano finishes doing whatever he was up to in the Pentagon servers. Hannah recognizes Lozano as he drives past her and gives chase. The two play a mean game of bumper cars, which Hanna eventually wins.

Lozano takes off on foot with Hannah in hot pursuit. We get a decent fight scene in a house under construction, which ends with Lozano being impaled. Lozano tells Hannah that it’s not over as he dies.

Leonard ambushes Seth in his office again. He tells Seth that he’s going to honor the President’s request – but not indefinitely. Seth thanks him. Kal Penn is always a delight to watch, so I’m hoping that he has more to do in the second season.

Hannah checks in with Chuck, who is concerned that she’s ok. They still haven’t figured out what Lozano was doing at the Pentagon, but she sends him home anyway. He points out that there’s an email from Jason (Malik Yoba) – and of course that’s the footage that Jason died for that identifies the traitor! Mike, Hannah and Forstell nab Whitaker. There’s also a sweet flashback to when Hannah first reported to Jason.

Tom plays the tape for Seth, Emily, and Aaron, apologizing for keeping them in the dark for so long. He tells them that as Homeland Security, Whitaker was perfectly positioned. Tom assumes that it’s just a matter of time before they capture Lloyd and they’ve raided all the strongholds. Tom tells Seth it’s time to inform the American people and he wants to do it in front of Congress.

Before Aaron leaves, Tom calls him back. He asks about Aaron’s plans – he wants him back at the White House. Aaron insists that Emily is doing a good job and there aren’t any other jobs, but Tom insists that they’ll make one up if they have to! And Tom won’t take no for an answer. Aaron finally gives in, saying he serves at the pleasure of the President.

We get another walk and talk with Moss. Tom has written his own speech. Ironically, of course, Tom now has to choose his own designated survivor and asks Moss to be his. Moss reflects that he used to think the position was a joke or a punishment – so did Tom – but now he’s honored to hold the position.

Sutherland does a good job in delivering Tom’s first speech to Congress. No doubt channeling his own family’s political roots. Tom tells the whole truth and names names. I loved that the theme of the speech could also have been pulled from the headlines. Tom brings up the greatness of America – for pushing back Facism – not supporting White Supremacists. Tom tells Congress that this group that thought it needed to re-make America was wrong in every possible way. The fabric of America was never torn.

The speech is nicely intercut with Hannah putting away her files, which is a nice way to re-cap the season. Tom points out that even in the face of their plan, the American people stood together due to love of hope, dreams and family. It’s quite a stirring speech, especially when Tom says that America should extend an open hand to anyone who wants to make lives freer and better – anyone in the world, in fact. Naturally, he gets a standing ovation.

The entire White House turns out to welcome him home with their own standing ovation. This is a really nice parallel to the scene from the first episode when Tom and the family first arrive at the White House. Tom is greeted by Penny (Mckenna Grace) and Leo (Tanner Buchanan) who are back home now the threat is over. Tom has little time for a reunion before he’s called to the situation room.

Hannah tells him that they know what Lozano was doing when he hacked the Pentagon. Every aspect of the Nation’s defenses superstructure is vulnerable. Lloyd can hold them for ransom and sell off the information in pieces. Lloyd is still at large and will be impossible to find! And the season ends on Tom’s concerned face.

This was a solid end to a solid season. I know that I’m hoping for more West Wing intrigue and less from the FBI angle, but what about you? I’m glad they’ve mostly dropped the children storylines, and I hope they don’t further dilute the show by trying to run three storylines. Are you looking forward to season 2? What are you hoping to see more of? Less of? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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