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Designated Survivor - Outbreak - Review

Designated Survivor “Outbreak” was written by Ashley Gable and was directed by Chris Grismer. Gable joins the writing team with some strong credits: Family Law, The Mentalist, Person of Interest, and Bull. I’m impressed by the number of legal dramas. Bull impressed me with its accuracy in portraying the law, and patent law too, and not surprisingly, this episode has a legal issue ripped from the headlines. In addition, Gable started her career writing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer! The one thing that did surprise me with this episode is that the outbreak didn’t kill off Alex (Natasha McElhone)!

The main storyline in this episode was exceptionally well done. One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed in the show is when they can bring in real world issues and give them a fairly decent, balanced treatment. The story centers on an outbreak of a new strain of Influenza A, which brings the CDC to the White House. I’m already a big fan of Alicia Coppola, so I was really happy to see her guest starring as Dr Tammy Bruner. And did it seem to anyone else that they are laying the groundwork for a history between her and Tom (Kiefer Sutherland)? I thought they had terrific chemistry. We learn that they knew each other at Columbia, and Tammy keeps telling Tom that she’s not brave for going to ground zero – she’s just doing what she knows he would do!

When they discover that there is no vaccine for this strain of flu, Tammy has an idea about using an experimental cancer drug. And here’s where the real world story – and court case – of Martin Shkreli dovetails into the story. Enter Carlton Mackie (Richard de Klerk) CEO of pharmacy company Benifax – he even looks like Shkreli! Mackie agrees to give the government 10,000 doses of the drug, claiming that’s all he has. They end up in court before Judge Robinson (Ray Kahnert), with Kendra (Zoe McLellan) getting her first case as White House Counsel, when Mackie turns around to sell the drugs to the highest bidder. Shkreli raised a lifesaving drug’s price by 5,000 percent! Robinson rules against Mackie who delivers the promised 10,000 doses.

However, it turns out that that is not enough, particularly due to the delay caused by Mackie trying to sell the drugs. Tammy is positive that Mackie would have more – and she’s right. While it’s clear that the side of right here is to save people. I did like the discussion about how pharmaceutical companies operate. The patents that they hold help to pay for the research and development of other drugs. Once a drug is out on the market, it if isn’t protected by a patent, other companies are free to reverse engineer it – that is take a sample, analyze it, and make their own version. It is possible for them to then patent the drug themselves – though they’d also have trouble passing the test for patentability at this point… but I digress.

Kendra is actually having a real trial by fire first day. In addition to going to court because of Mackie, she’s been assigned another task that was also ripped from the headlines. There’s a Confederate statue that has become the subject of an intense debate. Again, I liked the balanced way in which this issue was addressed. Kendra has come up with a compromise: they won’t take the statue down, but they will move it to a less well-trafficked site. Rev Dale (Ron Canada) vehemently opposes the move, saying that the statue is a reminder of the past and the past should not be whitewashed.

In the end, Kendra gets Lyor (Paul Costanzo) to talk to the entire group. He tells them that they’ve all profited from slavery and the “southern legacy.” He nearly causes a riot in the room, but Kendra has used him to unite the room against a common enemy – Leor! Tom meets with Rev Dale, who ends up providing a solution to the Mackie problem.

Because the drugs are going to the highest bidder, they aren’t going to the predominantly black districts. Rev Dale holds a press conference demanding equal treatment for all people and calling Mackie out for letting only the rich benefit from medicine. Tom tells Mackie that he knows he’s ruined his reputation, but he’s willing to get it back for him. Tom then holds a press conference praising Mackie for doing the right thing and providing the medicine to the government at a fair cost.

Lyor also has to deal with another public relations nightmare when the exotic animal being named after the President turns out to be a frog. This is some nice comic relief. It turns out that the very small frog is also a hermaphrodite! Naturally, Tom ends up coming to see it and being really enthusiastic about the frog. Like everything, Tom has his own perspective on the frog – it’s resilient and it stands its ground, and maybe most importantly, it’s fiercely protective of its family. Lyor has to be enthusiastic in light of the President’s own enthusiasm!

The outbreak is contained, but Tammy has gone into renal failure due to trying the drug on herself to be sure of the correct dosage. She refuses to leave, but Tom sends people in to pull her out. There clearly seems to be something between these two.

There’s also a nice final scene between Mike (LaMonica Garrett) and Tom as they walk and talk about Rev Dale, who is a bit of a hero for Mike. Tom wonders what Dale thinks about where they are given all he’s seen over the span of his life in regards to race relations. He asks Mike what he thinks. Mike tells Tom that he’s more interested in where they’re going, and we get some nice insights into Mike’s family and how far they’ve come. Tom says they still have a lot to do, but Mike tells Tom that he’s glad that Tom is at the helm because it means the boat is at least pointing in the right direction.

Once again, I found the storylines at the White House more compelling. I did enjoy how much Chuck (Jake Epstein) and Damian (Ben Lawson) don’t seem to like each other. Hannah (Maggie Q) is curious as to why Lloyd (Terry Serpico) trashed Eva’s (Bonnie Bedelia) house. Eva is now living at the White House while her house is still a crime scene.

Hannah and Damian visit the house and Hannah is lead to a file on Alex’s father’s heart transplant. Hannah has it hidden in a bunch of papers that she shows Alex. Alex thinks it’s odd that her mother kept it, but remembers that her father had been far down on the recipient list but the transplant ended up coming together very quickly. Further investigation – by breaking into a warehouse – implicate Eva in possibly giving inside information to a contractor – Eric Little.

Hannah keeps Aaron (Adan Canto) informed but wants to keep in hush hush because Tom’s family is involved. Aaron is ok with it and can cover for Hannah running afoul of the law in the warehouse, but Damian must return to England. When Chuck and Hannah go to interrogate Little, they find him murdered. Now the big question is, is Damian the bad guy?? It certainly seems likely.

What did you think of the episode? Is Damian a good guy or a bad guy? Did you enjoy the White House storylines as much as I did? Did you like the chemistry between Tammy and Tom? Just me? How are you liking Kendra and Lyor as they settle in to their roles? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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