In Designated Survivor (2016 - present), President Tom Kirkman makes a deal with the governors to receive support from them in exchange for refusing a plane of refugees from Syria who instead are going to Canada. His wife Alex Kirkman is disappointed in him. Why is that so? Below is the transcript of the conversation (emphasis added):

So, I just got off the phone with Governor Baylin of Missouri. He says the plane can land in Jefferson City and that he will accept all of the refugees, even if Florida won't. What is it?

It's too late. The plane left 10 minutes ago for Toronto. The mother, the father, the baby can stay. Everybody else had to go.

Well, who says?

The governors. Me. I had to make a deal to keep the rest of the governors on board.

Wh... I thought we were on the same page.

We were. We... We are. Look, they threatened to withhold Congress over this. I had to give them something.

Tom, those people gave up everything to come here. This country made them a promise.

Alex, they're going to Canada, not back to Syria. They'll still be free. They'll still be safe.

Yeah, but they could be free and safe here. Governor Baylin is ready for them.

Well, unfortunately, he's not in the majority.

No, he was standing up for an American principle. Who are we without our principles?

Alex, it was an impossible choice. I know, and you had to make it and you will again, a-and the choices will always be impossible. That's not gonna change. But y-you will, and I will, and... this will. It used to be you and me against the world.

I have an obligation to the country. I took the job!

I'm not angry with the president. I am disappointed in my husband.

I'm not quite sure I understand on what's going. As Tom pointed out, it's not like the refugees are going back to Syria: they're going to Canada. I would understand Alex's disappointment if it was governors vs sending refugees back. Please explain the disappointment. Also, what principle?

The answer may involve some background with politics or the US of which I am unaware in which case please enlighten me (I actually don't know much of the background in Homeland (2011 - present)). Or it may be that there is no in-universe explanation (i.e. bad writing?) and that the aforementioned scene was just for drama (hence the tag).

2 Answers 2


Because he caved

His original principles were in alignment with his wife's.

The refugees were promised asylum in the US and that's not what happened.

The refugees could, and should, have been granted asylum/refuge in the United States without reservations.

Instead, he made a deal with the Senators/Congress to divert them to Canada due to political pressure.

Granted they are still "safe" but he's given in and been involved in a deal for political reasons rather than staying true to his humanitarian beliefs / principles.

It's not a question of degree of safety. You make a promise, you stick to it....and he didn't.

  • But what principle/s or belief/s? It would be caving if it was a choice between back to Syria and in the US and then he chose Syria. But US vs Canada? Hey, the Syrians didn't get accepted to Harvard, but they're going to the University of Toronto. Sorry that's not good enough for you?
    – BCLC
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:35
  • 3
    That the US should live up to it's promises.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:36
  • A little excessive on her part myb (or the writers' ?) but eh, these answer my questions I guess. Thanks Paulie_D! ^-^ I'll wait awhile to see if there are other answers
    – BCLC
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:41
  • Wait why did you delete your other comment? I thought it was pretty good though I don't quite remember what it said
    – BCLC
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:42
  • 1
    Because I added it to the answer.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:42

There is a major problem in that the Governors in fact have no standing to make the President do anything in this regard...the people who could do that would be the Senators who the Governors are portrayed as refusing to appoint as a bargaining chip.Completely unrealistic writing,they would have been RACING each other to get their people into the Senate to validly hold Kirkman's feet to the fire,they can't do that themselves.

  • You mean I'm kind of asking the wrong question? Like it may or may not be bad writing for Alex Kirkman to be disappointed in Tom Kirkman, but in the first place the conversation should not have happened because said conversation was based on an unrealistic scenario?
    – BCLC
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 11:04

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