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Designated Survivor Season 3 Premiere Recap: The Running Man

Designated Survivor Recap Season 3

Making its Netflix debut this Friday, Designated Survivor opened Season 3 with President Kirkman navigating a disastrous State of the Union with the help of a slightly revamped staff. Does the re-re-re-re-rejiggered political drama get your vote?

One month after announcing that he would be seeking a second term — as an Independent — Kirkman found himself dealing with the fallout of a SOTU in which he got a bit hot, after someone in the crowd crowed that he was “illegitimate.”  Kirkman’s sharply voiced message was simply one about draining the swamp, but opponent Moss and the media turned it into a question of his composure.

Still on Kirkman’s team are Seth Wright (as press sec) and Aaron Shore (NSA advisor), while D.C. journeyman Mars Harper (ER‘s Anthony Edwards) has succeeded Emily as chief of staff and Aaron’s girlfriend Isobel (Elena Tovar) has come on board as the director of social innovation. (Clumsily) on her way out is VP Eleanor Darby, who voices displeasure with both the president’s decision to run and the absence of her ideas from his SOTU speech. Worse, Darby won’t even stick around to help get the key votes needed for an infrastructure bill! The Royal Pains guy is also gone.

Since resigning, Emily has been in Florida tending to her ovarian cancer-battling mother. As such, she is quite surprised to come home one night and find Hannah lurking in the shadows. Hannah cues up the video of Emily surreptitiously meeting with Valeria, but Emily explains that she was simply back-channeling some information to Russia on behalf of POTUS. Hannah heads back to D.C. to be grilled by FBI brass about her Season 2 activities, including the tapping of calls without warrants and killing someone on foreign soil. Shortly after she is asked to turn in her G-man badge, Hannah makes the acquaintance of CIA bigwig Diane Lewis, who invites her to join the agency and look into a bioweapon threat that, among other things we soon shall see, has left a field filled with dead cardinals.

Ready to brave his first campaign trail, Tom calls in veteran campaign manager, Lorraine Zimmer (Julie White), for a meeting, and is quickly impressed by what he sees. Alas, Lorraine says she has no idea who Tom Kirkman is and she cant sell a brand she doesn’t understand. So she goes to work for Moss again. Tom and Seth (and social media guru Dontae) head to Iowa to take some of the oxygen away from Moss, only to find that their event has been sabotaged by their rival. As they look to instead glom onto any other, well-attended event, Dontae points out the trending #TheSystemIsBroken hashtag he started, named for POTUS’ infamous SOTU outburst. That leads them to a protest at a nearby abandoned mall, where Tom doffs his jacket and tie and speaks/listens to this crowd of disenfranchised Americans. That “man of the people” moment goes viral and impresses Lorraine enough to bring her to Team Kirkman. Now about her salary….

Elsewhere in the Season 3 premiere:

* After they collaborated nicely on an addendum to the infrastructure bill that would help Puerto Rico, Aaron asked Isobel to move in with him. Relieved (?) that he wasn’t proposing marriage, she said she will think about it.

* Tom spoke with daughter Penny about the fact that he didn’t check with her before announcing his running for election, and how he will need to travel more for the campaign. All told, the father/daughter scenes served to note that “Little P” isn’t so little a girl anymore (a point that will be driven home in an imminent episode).

* Seth begged Emily to come to D.C. and serve as the “Kirkman whisperer,” given POTUS’ recent rough patch. Later, after consulting Emily, Aaron and Seth on his chances of winning, and having sensed something was “off” without her around, Tom asked Emily to stick around. Seth meanwhile got promoted by Mars to communications director, and Dontae will now report to Seth.

* Mars one night came home to find his wife Lynn (Lauren Holly) passed out in the bedroom, after she took too many opioids.

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