Kirkman deals with his first challenges as Commander in Chief when civil rights abuses in Michigan reach a fever pitch and the designated survivor for the Republican Party comes forward; Wells continues to believe that the FBI is being pointed in the wrong direction; A survivor of the Capitol bombing is found.
With the FBI team combing the Capitol Building site of destruction, discussion between Agent Hannah Wells and Deputy Director Jason Atwood is focused on the lack of supporting evidence common in other known terrorist attacks.
Meantime, Tom Kirkman slowly settles into the White House. Initially, with the competing areas of government and priorities being voiced in the Oval Office, Tom escapes to find a breather from the chaos. Amongst all the policy areas and decisions is one key one involving White House personnel and the position of Chief-of-Staff, where Aaron Shore (former White House Deputy Chief-of-Staff in the President Richmond administration) was vying alongside Emily Rhodes, who had stood by Tom Kirkman throughout his previous role as HUD Secretary.
As Seth Wright makes his way to work, the local police stop and briefly question him, making him feel somewhat intimidated. With his ID cleared, Seth resumes his walk to work.
Reports of the civil unrest in Michigan and the curfew action ordered by the Dearborn police are brought to President Kirkman's attention but the resulting phone conversation between Governor Royce and him clearly show the lack of respect Royce has for Kirkman. In the absence of a working Federal Government, Royce feels his course of action is the best way forward to restoring law and order, and ignores the protocols and the Constitutional structure which led to the installment of Kirkman as President.
As Kirkman continues to acclimatise to the magnitude of the job, prioritising the Heads of State who he has to return phone calls to, the other new revelation for the day is that the Republicans had also a designated survivor in congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten. Her meeting with Kirkman helps imbue him with confidence that they could and would get through this crisis. Kirkman's gesture that they both attend the Capitol site together helps to back up his view that today they were all Americans:
Republican, Democrat, Independent It doesn't matter anymore.Back at the Capitol site, the FBI find an unexploded munition. Whilst the markings and handiwork helps to identify Al-Sakar, Agent Wells' suspects the evidence may have been planted and designed to throw the FBI off the true identity of the real culprits.
In the Oval Office, President Kirkman confers with his wife Alex to bring her up-to-date. They discuss how the kids Penny and Leo are handling the transition into the White House. When General Cochrane comes to update the President on the FBI investigation, the discrepancy in security (code-word) clearance levels is brought to Kirkman's attention. General Cochrane attempts to pressure the President into naming Al-Sakar as the perpetrator of the crime but when questioned on the level of accuracy on this intelligence, the General's 75% response provides Kirkman with opportunity to emphasize the need to get 100% accuracy on such information.
As the President and First Lady prepare to visit the Capitol site, Alex gives instruction to Leo that Penny should be kept away from the TV and shelter her from the full reality of the situation. At the Capitol site, Kirkman is introduced to Jason Atwood as the FBI Deputy Director who then provides a briefing on the FBI findings. Back at the White House, a phone call distracts Leo and prevents him from being able to stop Penny from innocently turning on the TV, direct to the live coverage of her parents at the disaster site.
President Kirkman begins his speech to the gathered crowd, but simultaneous coverage being broadcast of a Muslim teenager being beaten by the Dearborn police in Michigan gains media attention, prompting one reporter to ask what the President was going to do about that developing situation. Whilst the President approaches the crowd to better hear the question, other members within the crowd come forward and act suspiciously, prompting the Secret Service to retrieve and extract the President out of the increasingly hostile environment. As the President and First Lady return to the White House, Alex reminds Tom that the Michigan teenager - Danny Fayad - could have easily been their own 17-year-old son Leo.
First Lady Alex goes upstairs to deal with Penny's traumatisation while Tom considers his options:
- Executive Order via the Supremacy Clause, considered too hostile
- Presidental Proclamation, too weak
- Martial Law, potentially very smart or incredibly self-destructive
Upstairs, Alex has to counsel Leo that they are all doing jobs they weren't doing previously. Their new situation as the First Family, living at the White House will force Leo to grow up faster and for Alex to rely on him to be more mature.
Discussions between General Cochrane and Aaron reveal that while Mr Shore is still awaiting the decision on Chief-of-Staff he is starting to develop respect for his boss, the President. Meantime, General Cochrane appears very eager to get Al-Sakar named as the bombing culprits.
Inside the Oval Office, Tom and Alex have another moment together. This time, when considering the situation in Michigan, Alex reminds Tom of previous President JFK federalizing the National Guard as part of his then action to deal with an insubordinate George Wallace in Alabama. This option is considered a nuclear approach compared to the previous three. Alex then provides the latest news - Danny Fayad is dead.
To help get the attention of renegade Michigan Governor Royce, Emily suggests using the connection of Congresswoman Hookstraten since both individuals served on the board of the American Enterprise Institute. With Governor Royce finally on the phone (video conference), Tom Kirkman adds his own ingenuity to the negotiating table. As part of the order to have the state police stand down and stop harassing the Muslim community in Dearborn, all incarcerated individuals were to be released because undercover Homeland Security operatives had been picked up. In this way, the threat of obstructing a Federal investigation helped Kirkman to bluff and win.
In the aftermath which included a brief chat with Seth, Kirkman reflected on the common threat and fears that were prevalent across the country. Tom realised that he had to remain quiet on naming a perpetrator whilst the facts were not overwhelmingly conclusive to avoid being just as bad as Governor Royce in pursuing his own version of justice.
The final acts for the day was for President Kirkman to telephone the parents of Danny Fayad and offer his sincerest apologies and condolence for their loss, and to then visit the Capitol site incognito, with his Secret Serviceman Mike Ritter. The closing scene provides the cliff-hanger moment where a survivor was found among the rubble of the Capitol Building.
- Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman
- Natascha McElhone as Alex Kirkman
- Adan Canto as Aaron Shore
- Italia Ricci as Emily Rhodes
- LaMonica Garrett as Mike Ritter
- Tanner Buchanan as Leo Kirkman
- Kal Penn as Seth Wright
- Maggie Q as Hannah Wells