Designated Survivor returns for it’s second season with the much more measured, “One Year In.” As its title suggests, this episode picks a year into Tom Kirkman’s time as President, and things are still rocky for him in the White House. While he struggles to rebuild the Capitol, both literally and figuratively, he also has to contend with putting out fires, some in the form of highjackers, others in the form of American journalists.

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Here’s where we find the Kirkman administration, one year in.

At the White House

As President Kirkman begins to feel confident about the reconstruction of Capitol Hill, he is plagued by bad press and low approval ratings. Lloyd is still on the loose, and he’s taking a hit in the press because of it.

Emily brings him a candidate for a new political director, and the applicant, Lyor Boone, doesn’t make the best first impression with the rest of the gang. He’s weirdly direct (albeit brilliant and accomplished) and manages to rub everyone the wrong way on the first day of his probationary hiring. Of course, Emily is rooting for him, but Seth and Aaron don’t like him one bit, citing his lack of social grace and overt attempts at being the “square peg in the round hole.” He wins Kirkman over at the end of the day though, and he’s hired after offering brilliant advice to everyone, including the President.

Boone isn’t the only visitor that day. Author Elias Grandy has been waiting around the White House all day to meet with the President. Grandy is a journalist who is often combative and adversarial of Kirkman, and is on the short list for a very prestigious literary prize. He’s annoyed at getting the run around by the White House staff, and by the time Kirkman does show his face, he outright declines the prize. With a charming chuckle, Kirkman reminds the journalist that he’s not asking him to “stand down,” but instead he wants him to continue to “stand up.”

With the Kirkman White House flagging in the polls, Seth becomes disillusioned about his efforts there. He takes a meeting with a Dax Mentor, a super rich, private sector, car guy, only for the exec to offer him a cushy job as marketing director. Seth mulls it over, and in the meantime, is a super grouch to everyone around, including the very folks with which he’s supposed to intercede with – the press. He winds up apologizing to the press corps, but only after Emily finds out about his interview and forces him into an ultimatum: love this administration or leave it.

On a Russian Plane

Meanwhile, two Ukrainian terrorists have hijacked a Russian plane and are making ridiculous and unreasonable demands. The plane contains hundreds of American citizens, including the President’s longtime friend and fellow Peace Corp worker, Russell. Kirkman feels responsible for the life of his friend, but even more so since they left things on a sour note, many years ago.

Kirkman is motivated by the idea of saving his friend’s life, so he resolves to solve this crisis as easily as possible. He initiates diplomatic talks with both countries, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that neither side are interested in a quick resolution. After a little digging, it comes to light that Russia paid the Ukraine to take the plane in an attempt to justify a catalyst for war.

Kirkman isn’t having any of it, and plays hardball with the countries’ ambassadors. He even raises his voice a little. It’s probably the added tension of trying to save his buddy’s life. He threatens both Russia and Ukraine into backing off, and the hostages deplane immediately. All except his good Samaritan friend who stays back to help a sick man with his oxygen tank. Then, right after the rest of the passengers leave the plane, there is an explosion killing both the President’s friend and the man he was trying to help.

Kirkman has to make a very hard phone call to his friend’s widow, but she bears no hard feelings. In fact, Kirkman is inspired to give a speech to his staffers, thanking them for their service to the American people. He even manages to squeeze in a little mini-eulogy for his dead friend. 

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In Amsterdam

Hannah is hot on the trail of Lloyd, globe-hopping in order to bring him to justice. In Amsterdam, however, she meets a fellow spy, a Brit, and they join forces to further track Lloyd’s movements. They get pretty close, too. They follow a trail of bitcoins to a warehouse in which he had left only moments earlier. They find all sorts of money, passports, and plane tickets. He could be anywhere in the world, and now they are almost back to square one when it comes to apprehending him.

Lloyd’s Location

While Hannah and her new British colleague, Damian Rennet, are digging around Europe hoping to bag the culprit for the terrorist attack on Washington the year prior, Lloyd has escaped again. In fact, Lloyd turns up in DC in the final moments of the episode, thinly disguised in a ball cap and backpack. He’s certain to wreak havoc here, but we’ll just have to wait until the next episode to figure it out.

How do you feel about the season 2 premiere? Do you like the less-intense vibe of this episode?

Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC. Want more news? Like our Designated Survivor Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of ABC)