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Designated Survivor Just Killed Off a Major Character

Italia Ricci, Designated Survivor | Photo Credits: ABC/Ian Watson

[Spoilers for Wednesday's episode of Designated Survivor follow. Read at your own risk!]

Things were looking pretty good for the Kirkmans at the end of Wednesday's fall finale, but in the blink of an eye, everything changed.

Following Tom Kirkman's (Kiefer Sutherland) successful negotiating with a stubborn religious group who chose to put themselves in the line of fire (like, literally, they refused to move from the path of a raging wildfire) to hold to their values and Alex's (Natascha McElhone) successful thwarting of Forstell's (Reed Diamond) investigation into the bogus allegations of bribery and obstruction against her, a large vehicle sideswiped Alex's escort, totaling the car she was in.

Though it was never clearly stated in the episode that Alex was killed, the final shots of Kirkman crumbling to his knees after receiving a phone call may as well have confirmed our worst fears. The First Lady is dead.

This may not be shocking to some. In the real world, McElhone was known to be leaving the show to join a new series on Hulu, but how she was being written off was never discussed. Alex's death is sure to have a major impact on Designated Survivor, especially for Tom.

To find out why the decision was made to kill Alex and how the show will change in the second half of Season 2, TV Guide got on the phone with showrunner Keith Eisner.

From Kirkman's reaction, it would appear that this is more than just a simple fender bender.

Keith Eisner: That is true. I think we've left little doubt as to what has happened. And given that, what is it like going forward for Kirkman to be home alone, if you will. To be a widower in the White House. To be a bachelor. That will have personal and professional repercussions for the remainder of the season. And it's also terra nova dramatically, we haven't seen this in a television show. A president who is essentially by himself, and the isolation of being a single parent and of having to figure out what to do professionally and personally without his partner. And that is a very interesting and exciting dramatic area for us to go into to. And we'll see how that isolation has ramifications in both the personal and political arenas. Something we're very excited about is sort of a new direction.

What went into the decision to kill Alex off? I know Natascha was going to a Hulu series, was it her decision to leave?

Eisner: Yeah, look, I think there were other opportunities for an actress we love, and we knew she wanted to do the cable series. And look, one always considers are there other ways to temporarily write a character out so a character can return, there are lots of ways to do this. But the more we spoke about it, with Natascha and the network and studio, the more we recognized we had a tremendous opportunity here to create a new world for a show about a president, which is a president by himself, a president dealing with the aftermath with the loss of his wife. And how he deals with that we think provides a great opportunity for great storytelling.

Each time we talked about it in the writers' room, it became a very exciting thing for us because we realized that all the ideas we had were new. And it will be addressed very slowly, because this was a close marriage and they'd been together for a long time. You don't just move past this, it's the sort of thing you live with and you have to adapt to. That's going to be Tom Kirkman's cross to bear for the second half of the season. How does he move forward on his own?

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The saddest part of this is Alex and Tom never got to reconcile, aside from Alex leaving a phone message. How does Tom deal with that?

Eisner: It's difficult, right? But it's real. It's one of the things that I know interested Kiefer, which is there were all these phone messages during 9/11, where people left messages and some of them were "I love you" messages and some were unresolved arguments. The lack of resolution is very true to life. It's very pat to have everything tied up in a bow and have everyone telling each other how much they love each other before going off and something bad happens to one of the parties. That's not life, life is interrupted by death. It's not set up neatly. It's a very difficult thing for the president to realize that he never had the final conversation with his wife that he really wanted to have. And that's something that haunts him.

Can we rule out that this was an accident?

Eisner: That's something I won't reveal. It certainly has the earmarks of that, but we'll wait 'til we get back before figuring out exactly what happened and why, but that's something we're going to tease a little bit.

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Even when Damian was caught by Hannah, he insisted he had something that would explain everything. Is there more to his story?

There is, you're not going to learn that for a while. Damian (Ben Lawson) is a complicated character with a complicated agenda. There's obviously affection for Hannah (Maggie Q) and affection from Hannah, so part of the journey is, can he ever restore trust? It certainly doesn't seem that way, given how the episode ends. [Laughs.] It's a complicated relationship. Hannah, from her standpoint, was pursuing someone she had evidence had betrayed the United States in addition to betraying her. And it's that dual betrayal which fuels her behavior, and causes her behavior to be looked at with very close scrutiny. He was reaching for something, but we will reveal that sometime later in the season.

It seems like Damian may have ties to Russia. Designated Survivor has been ahead of real-world events in the past, like the storyline with the Confederate statues, but here you're bringing Russia into things. Are you trying to bring the show back into our real world given what's going on with Russia now?

I've said this before, we try not to be an express commentary on the Trump White House or on current events. And I think what you're going to learn is that the Russia connection is very different than the connection we see in contemporary events. It's not at all the same thing, and Russia's involvement has quite a twist to it. We are not mirroring current events here. The fact that Russia is involved doesn't suggest how they are involved. And I think that's something interesting for the audience to stay tuned into.

Designated Survivor returns Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 10/9c on ABC.

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ABC Yanks Great American Baking Show Amid Johnny Iuzzini Sexual Harassment Claims

Johnny Iuzzini, The Great American Baking Show | Photo Credits: Mark Bourdillion, ABC

ABC is pulling The Great American Baking Show amid claims that celebrity chef Johnny Iuzzini has sexually harassed at least eight women, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The network will not put this season back on air, and will reveal the season's winner at a later date.

Iuzzini is a judge on the baking competition show, which is America's version of the extremely popular Great British Bake Off. The third season of the series premiered last week with the second episode slated to air Thursday. Now episodes of The Great Christmas Light Fightand CMA Country Christmaswill take its place.

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"In light of allegations that recently came to our attention, ABC has ended its relationship with Johnny Iuzzini and will not be airing the remainder of The Great American Baking Show episodes," a spokesperson for the network said Wednesday. "ABC takes matters such as those described in the allegations very seriously and has come to the conclusion that they violate our standards of conduct. This season's winner will be announced at a later date."

Four previous employees of Iuzzini came forward last month with claims that the chef sexually harassed them, including sticking his tongue in their ears and using cooking utensils to touch them in suggestive ways, according to The Mic. Another four women came forward on Tuesday, bringing the total to eight.

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Riverdale Unmasked the Black Hood... Or Did It?

KJ Apa, Riverdale | Photo Credits: Katie Yu, Katie Yu/The CW

Hooray! The Black Hood finally died on Riverdale... we think.

Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Archie (KJ Apa) went chasing down another lead on the Black Hood only to find themselves back at Joseph Conrad -- the only surviving member of the Conrad family massacre that occurred decades ago in Riverdale. They thought he was going to be the Hood's latest victim, but after being led to a fake grave by the serial killer himself, Betty and Archie managed to chase the masked man down. He was about to jump off the bridge into Sweetwater River, but Sheriff Keller showed up just in time to put a fatal bullet in the Black Hood. It was Joseph Conrad under the hood the entire time.

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Now, Joseph Conrad fits the description. He has green eyes and he's someone that Betty would recognize because he's been a janitor at Riverdale High for years, but doesn't it feel a bit convenient? Everyone is taking the news at face value, though. That leaves time for Betty and Archie to think about the forbidden kiss they shared in the middle of the chase, Veronica (Camila Mendes) to dive deeper into her role at Lodge Industries and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) to fear the return of Penny Peabody after he mutilated her and sent her packing.

TV Guide talked to Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa about the Black Hood reveal (should we trust it?), Betty and Archie's kiss and whether Jughead can ever come back from what he's done.

Have we really seen the last of the Black Hood? Part of me doesn't believe it.
Aguirre-Sacasa: I think as Jughead's closing ode says and with Betty looking into the flames, everyone wants to believe the Black Hood is over, but it's Riverdale. I always say that no one stays dead forever. You'll have to watch the second half of the season.

Speaking of Betty, are we going to see a much fuller version of Dark Betty in the second half of the season?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Part of Betty's story throughout the series is this wrestling with the darkness inside of her. That's a darkness that's drawn towards violence and sexuality. We saw it last season, especially in Episode 3. Then we kind of saw it a little bit when Chuck came back. We've hinted at it bubbling throughout the season and then it came roaring back in the last episode when Betty, in a very misguided way to get close to Jughead, tapped into that part of herself again. That tension between Betty's light and dark and what Dark Betty really means is something that we will continue to explore as the season continues.

Jughead also went darker than we've ever seen before in this episode. Is what goes down with him and Penny Peabody a point of no return for Jughead?
Aguirre-Sacasa: That's what FP says. That's what Jughead fears has happened. It feels like it. He does feel like he's lost something. It's exactly like you said, he's crossed a point of no return. Luckily, for Jughead, he's got very good friends that will try to enter the wilderness and drag him back from it. It's pretty intense. Again, we'll be feeling the repercussions from that throughout the rest of the season.

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When it comes to trying to save Jughead, is it possible that Jellybean and his mom could be part of that?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Anything is possible! Certainly, Jellybean and his mom Gladys are out there somewhere. It could be!

Betty and Archie also kissed this episode, but then Archie and Veronica made up. How is that kiss going to complicate things? Now we have a love square.
Aguirre-Sacasa: It's a secret, right? The worst person in the history of the universe saw the secret, which was Cheryl. That kiss -- we don't know what it means yet. It happened in a really intense situation. They were packed like sardines in that car. It may have meant more to one person than the other. It may have been something that they both immediately regret. It may be something that they both wanted to try and now they tried it and now it's out of their system. We don't know yet what that kiss means but it's the beginning of a story, not the end of a story.

Veronica takes a huge step towards joining the family business in this episode. What is that going to mean for her going forward?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Ever since last year, she's wanted her family reunited and that's what she's been working towards. There's a lot of ways to reunite with the family. She's been trying to drag her family into the light and be the good girl, be legitimate and be honest. It hasn't worked. They've been keeping secrets from her and it's sort of like, "Well, if that doesn't work maybe this will work." But it comes out of her deep desire to be close with her family.

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Are FP and Alice ever going to be a thing? Will there be more tension between them in the second half of the season?
Aguirre-Sacasa: There will always be tension between FP and Alice, for many reasons...It is safe to ship it, for sure.

One looming mystery we have from Season 1 is Betty's brother that Alice gave up for adoption. Can you tease how he will play into the second half of the season?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Stay tuned.

Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies)

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