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Designated Survivor - Sting in the Tail - Review

Designated Survivor “Sting of the Tail” picks up with the manhunt for Patrick Lloyd (Terry Serpico) on home soil. The episode was written by new showrunner Keith Eisner and was directed by the terrific Frederick E.O. Toye. Zoe McLellan joins the cast in this episode as brilliant attorney, Kendra Daynes and Bonnie Bedelia begins her run as Eva, Alex’s (Natasha McElhone) mother.

There are two centerpieces to this episode: the hunt for Lloyd and the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. One of the things that I continue to really like about the show is its ability to comment on real world events as well as examining an ideal of governance.

The episode begins with the discovery that Lloyd is in Washington. I loved how proud Chuck (Jake Epstein) was about his bio-metric ear scan – and didn’t like how quickly both Hannah (Maggie Q) and Damian (Ben Lawson) dismissed him. The two set off to interrogate Lloyd’s son. Travis (Landon Norris) is clearly not the mastermind his father is and quickly reveals that his father had come to see him. He doesn’t have any useful information for them, but the visit does help Tom (Kiefer Sutherland) figure out what Lloyd is motivated by.

Leor (Paulo Costanzo) and Emily (Italia Ricci) disagree over what Tom should reveal about Lloyd. Tom has promised transparency after all. Aaron (Adan Canto) insists that letting the information out will harm the investigation and put people at risk. Tom decides his promise to keep people safe is more important than transparency, but he does insist on telling the House Security Council. Leor agrees this is politically savvy, but Tom insists that the reason he’s doing it is because this is not a government of one. And isn’t it nice to see the President standing resolutely for the checks and balances of government?

We get our fair share of walk and talks this episode. Leor and Emily discuss whether or not Seth (Kal Penn) – who is writing the President’s speech for the gala – is funny. Leor doesn’t think he is, and Emily is forced to agree after reading the speech. We get some really good examples of just how not funny Seth is and it’s fun to watch him squirm throughout the episode, ultimately dodging the bullet when Tom doesn’t make the speech.

We get our first scene with Zoe McLellan when Emily and Aaron brief two senators - Feller (Zachary Bennett) and Cowling (Rochelle Aytes) – of the HSC. It looks like Feller is going to be the problem, but of course, it turns out to be Cowling. I did like the scene in which Tom takes him to task for leaking the information – more shades of Jack Bauer!

The Eva storyline didn’t seem to really amount to anything, so I have to wonder if a lot of it ended up on the cutting room floor. We do see that she is very independent. She went to Paris for a year to learn how to draw, she doesn’t like having someone else pick her clothing, and she’s really not that impressed that her son-in-law is President. I did love Mike (LaMonica Garrett) asking the President if he wanted to try to get Eva not to take Connecticut Avenue! She knows her own mind.

I’m still trying to figure out the point of having Lloyd break into her house. There is the obvious reason to show Tom that his family is vulnerable, but why just mess things up? And as Hannah and Damian point out, he’s too smart to trip the silent alarm by accident.

I was not impressed by Maggie Q in this interrogation scene, she just had no real emotional connection to the scene for me. Chuck manages to find some property that Lloyd is connected to, and Damian and Hannah go to investigate. Here again, did we really need all of that grunting as Hannah runs after Lloyd? And of course, we also find out that rather than being a calming influence on Hannah, Damian – who seems destined to always be the damsel in distress – is also as reckless as Hannah as the two sneak into Lloyd’s backdoor.

The Correspondents’ Dinner is a nice excuse for everyone to get dressed up. Leor and Emily want Tom to put up a show of normalcy, but he insists he needs to be on top of the situation. Lloyd sends Tom a message threatening to release sarin gas. Forstell (Reed Diamond) is in the ready room with Aaron to help. The rule out bombing the bunker where Lloyd is holed up, but do think that a military drone strike would work. Emily points out that a military attack on a US citizen on US soil would be illegal – and Cowling and Daynes agree.

We end up in court when Dayne and the HSC file a motion to stop them from using the drone. Judge Brickner (Stewart Arnott) sees no reason to broaden Executive powers, and Aaron is forced to admit that he has no direct proof that Lloyd has the gas to prove he is a clear and present danger. The Judge sends them away while he deliberates.

Meanwhile, Tom thinks that he’s found a way in to appeal to Lloyd. I really liked how we circled back to Tom’s having read Lloyd’s manifesto, Pax Americana. Tom tells Forstell that the center of the manifesto is actually family – not political power. This is underscored by Lloyd having gone to see his estranged son. Tom appeals to him as a father and it almost seems to work.

Aaron finds Daynes outside the courtroom. Aaron congratulates her on being right, but I really liked that she pointed out it was the statute that was right. Aaron insists that while he might not be legally right, he is acting for the greater good. Daynes shoots back that for a lawyer, the greater good is always the client. And this is also a smart and nuanced answer. Lawyers are ethically obligated to act in the best interests of their client – based on the premise that everyone is entitled to a fair trial and legal representation.

However, when she gets into the courtroom, Daynes is suddenly heavily stressing the fact that a MILITARY engagement can’t take place on US soil, tipping Aaron off that if the action is performed by the FBI, the same statute and law don’t apply! Tom gives the order and the bunker is destroyed. There’s no gas, but they have found body parts. But is that really Lloyd? If Ben Lawson is a regular, what reason is there for Damian – an MI6 agent – to stick around?

Tom returns to his promise of transparency, but again, Leor and Emily point out that he still needs to spin the operation as a win – the American people need that. Tom addresses the Nation and tells them about the operation, but does spin it as a victory – though he clearly still blames himself for not being able to get through to Lloyd.

Tom calls Daynes into the Oval office, and thanks her for her service. She reminds him that she was opposing counsel – but of course, Tom encourages people to challenge him and his government. He then offers her the job of White House Counsel. She manages to babble her way to yes. I’m still a bit on the fence as to McLellan’s performance. She does the lawyering well, but often seemed a bit awkward moving about the set.

We get a nice moment as Tom stops to watch Penny (Mckenna Grace) sleep – but of course, she’s not asleep. She asks him how his day was, and I loved his answer – he thinks about his answer before summing up the difficult day he’s had by saying he had a day where he had to be President. He tells her one of Seth’s unfunny jokes and she tells him a much funnier knock-knock joke. When he offers her a job, she points out that she already has an important job – being the President’s daughter!

In the final scene, Damian and Hannah learn that Lloyd has uploaded something to the cloud before he was blown to bits – or at least partially uploaded. Is this in itself enough to keep Damian on the case? Perhaps if there is a world-wide threat, MI6 would want him to stay.

This was another fast paced episode, but it did seem to have a number of loose ends for me. I wonder if Daynes will be a new love interest for Aaron? What did you think of this episodes two new editions? Do you think Lloyd is dead? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!