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Designated Survivor - Three Letter Day - Review



Designated Survivor “Three-Letter Day” was written by the team of Bill Chais and Ashley Gable and was directed by Jeannot Szwarc, whose credits are really too numerous to mention, but most recently include Grey’s Anatomy, Bones, Castle, Scandal, and Supernatural. I adored the central premise of this episode as it references a practice that President Obama followed. Every day that he was in the White House, he would have 10 letters from everyday citizens placed in his briefing binder to read at night. Many of these he responded to personally, and one became the impetus for the Affordable Care Act. That letter was framed and hung outside the Oval Office after the Act passed. For more on letters at the White House, check out this terrific article.

The core of the episode revolves around the three letters that Tom (Kiefer Sutherland) has chosen to address. That montage at the beginning is really what happens in the “hard-mail room.” Tom assigns Aaron (Adan Canto) and Emily (Italia Ricci) to Allison Goff (Joanna Douglas) whose husband failed to get a medal of honor when he was killed in Kandahar. Seth (Kal Penn) and Lyor (Paulo Costanzo) are assigned to find out why a man’s bees are dying (there’s an interesting link to this story in the article I referenced above). Kendra (Zoe McLellan) and Hannah (Maggie Q) investigate Chandler Dern’s (David Ferry) case. He’s scheduled to be executed for killing a drug dealer. I really liked how none of these letters played out as you might expect.

Aaron and Emily fairly quickly discover that Goff’s commanding officer, Colonel Baines (Thomas Mitchell) has falsified records to prevent Goff from being recognized for his bravery. The only other witness has since committed suicide but he did tell Allison about what really happened. I loved the scene in which Aaron and Emily report to Tom, and Tom notices Mike (LaMonica Garrett) making a face – he’s not going to butt in as he’s there to protect the President and see but not be seen. Tom insists that he tell them what he’s thinking, recalling for us, Mike’s time in Special Forces. Mike insists that Goff would never have been away from his men at such an action.

Emily and Aaron eventually get the truth from Baines. He falsified the record because Goff was having an affair with his wife. He says he’ll set the record straight – but he’ll tell the entire story. Emily and Aaron meet with Tom. Aaron thinks that they shouldn’t push for the medal. It should be a comfort for the widow, but the knowledge of the affair will only hurt her more. Emily insists that the greatest gift for a family is the truth. And this spurs Emily to come clean with her own “family.”

Emily goes to Tom and finally tells him about Seth. Seth has asked her if she’s talked to the President – he already thinks he knows because he saddled him with Lyor and the bee assignment. It turns out that Tom does know already. The DA is a friend of Tom’s and told him. Tom is glad they are finally having the conversation, but also disappointed that she waited so long. He reminds her that he relies on her even while he knows it’s a hard line for her to walk. He asks her what he should do about Seth.

We find out her answer in one of the episodes best scenes. Seth finally can’t take it anymore and goes to Emily to resign. Emily tells him that she told Tom to fire him, and Tom refused – so he won’t accept the resignation either. Seth tells her that he wouldn’t change what he did – family comes first for him. Emily tells Seth that that’s why Tom won’t fire him. And that has an interesting dovetail into Tom’s own quandary over Alex (Natascha McElhone). Emily tells Seth he only gets on get out of jail free card – but she also kisses him. Seth is totally ok with Emily’s trying to have him fired because he trusted her to do the right thing – she hasn’t let their relationship cloud her judgement. Now, let’s hope that we can simply get on with the two of them having a relationship and it doesn’t have to always be a source of conflict – one of my personal bugbears!

Tom solves the problem of what to do about the medal. He hosts Allison and her son, Danny Jr (Gage Graham-Arbuthnot) at the White House. He tells Allison that he can’t award the medal, but he does present her with a ceremonial flag. Better than that, however, is that he tells Danny that his father was very brave and a hero, and that Danny can tell anyone who doesn’t believe it that the President said it was so. I just love Sutherland with kids!

Not surprisingly, the bee storyline is played for laughs – which is a little disappointing as the decline in bee populations is actually a very serious issue. However, it’s fun seeing Lyor obsessed about bees. In the end it turns out that Mrs Adamson (Beth Littleford) is behind the death of the bees because she was sick of how obsessed her husband was about them. In a nice parallel to the first story, Seth and Lyor differ on how to handle the information they’ve uncovered. Lyor is prepared to ruin their marriage in order to save the bees, but Seth has – what he thinks – is a better plan.

Seth and Lyor tell Mr Adamson (Phil Abrams) that his bees are safe because Mrs Adamson has brought the FAA – Karen Slater (Amanda Barker) to heel. Mr Adamson is so thrilled that he admits he feels badly now that he killed her roses because they were interfering with the bees. And then Mrs Adamson loses it and tells the truth anyway. Seems it just wasn’t a great marriage anyway.

Finally, Kendra and Hannah investigate Dern’s case. He’s never wanted to appeal his conviction – just his sentence. They suspect that he’s covering for someone and suspect it’s his drug addict daughter Tracy (Kathleen Pollard) who never comes to visit him. In the end, they realize that she’s the one who actually sent the letter to the President.

Hannah meets with Damian (Ben Lawson) for lunch to discuss the Lang case. It seems he’s working on it because Lang has dual citizenship. Chuck (Jake Epstein) calls to tell them he has a lead on Lang’s location, and Hannah is almost hit by a car as she leaves the diner while Damian is in the washroom. They go to Lang’s house, only to discover that he’s been tipped off. They suspect that it was Lang who tried to kill Hannah.

In the end, it turns out to be Dern’s son, Frank (Benjamin Blais) who owns a car repair shop. The evidence clearly points to Frank, but Chandler refuses to give him up. In the end, Frank ends up in prison anyway for trying to kill Hannah, but Tom does commute Chandler’s sentence to life in prison.

Chuck also traces the call that tipped Lang off. It was made on a burner phone at the diner! Hannah is about to get in bed with Damian. Even though she now suspects him, she can’t tip him off and continues like there’s nothing wrong. Of course, it could still have been someone else at the diner…

Forstell (Reed Diamond) reaches out to Emily for a meeting about the “Cincinnati police problem.” It’s code of course that he wants to talk about the case against the First Lady. Tom realizes it’s a front and a meeting “off the record” and sends Emily. Forstell is sure that there is some serious wrong doing, but if the subjects are innocent, no harm will be done to them. I loved how they spoke in code throughout the meeting. This scene was quite well done. Forstell is really concerned that Emily be sure to tell the President that his interest is purely professional, there’s nothing personal about his actions. But, very much like Tom, he feels that he owes it to the American people to conduct a thorough investigation and see it through.

Finally, Alex demands that Tom fire Forstell (Reed Diamond) because she thinks that he’s just using her case to jump start his own political career. Tom refuses, telling her that Forstell is just doing his job. Tom points out that her mother did commit a crime 30 years ago. Tom asks her who he’d be if he didn’t let the investigation continue and she tells him, “My husband!” Which is ridiculous. Blind loyalty or the truth? The President especially can’t be seen to disobey the law. Tom is very upset that she’d question his loyalty to their family, however.

This week’s episode looks like it’s going to be explosive on many fronts. I really liked how the themes were once again woven throughout the episode. And of course, I really loved that they drew on that real life tradition from the Obama administration. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Weigh in on what should happen to Alex! Is Damian the big bad this season?

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