WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap, Episode Six, "The Trail"

In the second-to-last ep of the first season, Olivia has bangs, FLOTUS has some major claws, and things get a little stabby.

By: Tanya Pai

Holy lord. While last week's Scandal had some genuinely chilling and affecting plot developments, this week's installment cannonballs off the high dive into full-on, glorious camp. Flashbacks to El Prez's campaign trail reveal more backstory about his relationship with Olivia, and in the present, the Amanda Tanner saga takes an, um, unexpected turn. Also: lots of sexytime. To the recap!

We open on Olivia and El Prez in her apartment. She wants to know what he's doing there. "I didn't kill Amanda Tanner," he says. She tells him she knows. "Her baby--it wasn't yours." He tells her that she left him, Amanda was there one time, and he "made a mistake," which oddly fails to mollify her. "You cheated on your mistress with your girlfriend," she points out. He snaps that she should never call herself a mistress, since they "both know better." Olivia still wants to know why he's there. Hilariously he pulls out the sex tape and says he needs her to hear it. She's unenthused by the idea of listening to him and Amanda having sex, but he insists. It's totally going to be Olivia on the tape, not Amanda.

Flashback to two years ago. El Prez (now El Gov) is in his campaign HQ, complaining to his staffers that they're not getting the message out about who he is and where he stands. "Anyone got any brilliant ideas?" he asks. Then Olivia pipes up from the back of the room. She's sporting some seriously heavy bangs and a weird belted jacket, and she announces it looks like El Prez doesn't screw his wife, which somehow equates to family values, which matter to people. She's super cocky. "And you are?" he says. "Olivia," she says. "Pope." After the meeting, El Gov tells Cyrus to fire her. Cyrus, because he is a thousand years old, just laughs and calls her a "pistol." El Gov repeats that he wants her fired, and turns around to find her standing in the doorway. She huffs off, and Cyrus tells El Gov to make nice with her because they need her. So El Gov literally runs after her in the hallway. She snaps that she would "eat, sleep, and breathe Fitzgerald Grant" (phrasing!), and he is ALREADY creepily staring at her lips. "I loved hearing what you had to say," he says. He tells her she was right, and that he would be lucky to have her. They stand inappropriately close, and there is some major eye sex. Then he steps back with a heavy sigh. "This is why you fired me," Il Papa realizes. They agree to just go back to the campaign room and work. Apparently we're supposed to assume this was love at first sight for El Gov.

El Gov and "Sally," his future veep, now a senator and an opposing candidate, are meeting at a campaign event. There are pancakes and veterans and babies. Olivia's watching El Gov and talking to Abby, who is in full-on Desperate Housewives mode at Olivia's, baking scones and babbling about how she's divorced, not deranged (are you sure?). Olivia says Abby needs to call Stephen, who's "funnnn," and Abby counters that maybe she'll buy a gun instead. Yes. Do that. Then shoot me. She hangs up, and Olivia and Cyrus chat about the state of El Gov's marriage. Hey, it's Amanda Tanner! She hands them an event schedule and Cyrus says he doesn't care which campaign she's volunteering for, he's just happy to have her there.

Campaign HQ. Olivia explains to El Gov and Future FLOTUS that they need to act like a loving couple or they'll lose the campaign. FFLOTUS is pissed that Bangsy McGee is doling out marriage advice, but Olivia just says she'll give them a minute to "discuss," a.k.a. scream at each other. El Gov says FFLOTUS is "dying to get into the White House." She yells that she's given up everything to support him, including her uterus, since they apparently have kids. El Gov says they better start pretending their marriage isn't dead.

Snippets of Olivia working her magic on the campaign trail. She ties El Gov's tie. They flirt. He does interviews. FFLOTUS does interviews. They do interviews together. They act happily married. Everything seems to be going well (eye sex between Il Papa and El Gov notwithstanding), until the night before the New Hampshire primary, when Cyrus tells them a story's coming out that FFLOTUS is having an affair with the head of the literacy council (or something). Sure enough, El Gov loses. Olivia watches on TV from a bar as Billy Chambers comes up. Basically he's Senator Sally's Olivia Pope. He tells Il Papa that if El Gov concedes before South Carolina he can have the VP slot. He hits on her. She turns him down. They're both cocky bastards. She says she still has cards left to play.

Turns out the cards are Harrison, in an ankle monitor, and Huck, with truly amazing ZZ Top-style hair and beard, who find out Mr. Literacy had a career as a foot fetish porn star (not making this up) and use it to get him to deny the affair with FFLOTUS. But the public concerns about El Gov's marriage remain, and El Gov is asked directly about them during a debate with Senator Sally. "The most honest thing I can tell you about myself right now is that I'm a man in love. With an incredible woman," he responds, as he and Olivia make eye contact across the room and I gag.

On the campaign bus, Cyrus tells El Gov they don't have the female vote because Senator Sally's in the running. There's some talk of focusing on her college cocaine habit, but El Gov says they're going to win fair and square, no smear tactics. FFLOTUS's wheels start spinning.

At a campaign event in Georgia, El Gov babbles about pie to a town hall full of women. Suddenly FFLOTUS starts to cry. She says she can't hold it in any more. Oh my God, she MAKES UP a story about a campaign-stress-induced miscarriage. Cold, FFLOTUS. She blames their distanced marriage on her fake miscarriage and apologizes to El Gov. He gapes like a goldfish, then just hugs her wordlessly. She whispers in his ear, "I think that ought to take care of it, don't you?" She just became my favorite character.

Campaign bus. Olivia goes to sit by El Gov and says she's sorry for his loss. He explains FFLOTUS made it up. "She's a real catch, my wife." He says complaining to Olivia about his wife is sleazy and low (THAT's what's sleazy and low?). "What kind of a coward was I to marry her and not wait for you to show up?" he says. They hold hands in the darkness of the bus. People would have to be freaking blind not to realize there's something going on.

They get to the hotel. El Gov walks Olivia to her room. He tells her to go in and close the door and they'll pretend nothing never happened. Instead she turns around and heads to his room. With her luggage. WTF. They break a lamp and make out on the desk, then El Gov says "Take off your clothes." Okay, it's kind of hot, but the sex scene goes on for SO LONG and is wildly uncomfortable. Also El Gov has way too much of a six-pack for a nice family man. The important part is not what kind of lingerie Il Papa wears but rather that someone's bugged the room. A dude in a van outside listens, then picks up his phone. "I think I got something. There's some woman; you can't tell who it is," he says. He puts the USB drive with the audio file in a blue pouch. Which gets delivered to Amanda Tanner, and the person delivering it says it should go to her boss. Who is . . . Billy Chambers! He takes the tape to Senator Sally, but doesn't get a chance to tell her what's on it before she explains she accepted El Gov's offer to be his running mate. Quoting the Bible, she tells him someday they'll get the position of power, but for now they've got to take what they can get.

In the present day, Olivia plays the tape in her apartment. When she hears "Take off your clothes," she turns to El Prez with a HORRIFIED face. "Someone's had this for two years," she says. "Why now?" El Prez says all they had was his voice on the tape, and they needed to fill in the female side. "They needed Amanda Tanner," Olivia says.

Jerk Jeremy and his assistant, Alissa (Brenda Song, aka Wendy Wu, Homecoming Warrior), investigate Amanda Tanner's murder. They've got records from the White House that show her clocking in and out of the West Wing in the wee hours, so they deduce she was sleeping with one of the 57 male West Wing employees. Using a highly scientific method (Alissa plays "hot or not" with their photos) they decide that her secret boyfriend was some random hot guy, and that he probably killed her. That's about as far as they get.

Having better luck is Gideon, Boy Wonder. First he and Quinn have sex (in a mercifully brief scene), then he tells her to stay in his bed while he does some work. He's still investigating Amanda, and starts by asking who's taking care of her adorable golden retriever. Apparently her "boyfriend" is. Eighty-five calls later (with the help of those same White House logs JJ used) he figures out Billy was Amanda's secret boyfriend. So he calls him for a quote as Quinn runs out for bagels. Billy shows up at his apartment, and Boy Wonder lays out his story. Billy's reaction? He laughs in Gideon's face. "I'm surrounded by morons," he says.

Gideon, insulted, insists he has a story. "Yeah, genius, only it's the wrong one!" Billy yells. He tells Gideon El Prez was the one sleeping with Amanda. Billy was the one who sent Gideon the photos of Amanda and El Prez and the "stupid dog," along with the White House logs. "Dear God, man, I did everything but draw you a picture of their stick figures doing it!" he says. Veins are popping out of his head. It is amazing.

Gideon realizes Billy sent Amanda in to sleep with El Prez. Billy is unimpressed with Boy Wonder's deductive reasoning skills. Then Gideon, not smartly, tells Billy that Amanda was preggo, and that a quick DNA test would land Billy in a world of shit. At Billy's expression, Gideon smells blood in the water. He turns around to get the coroner's report, and Billy grabs a pair of scissors and STABS HIM IN THE NECK. ARE YOU SERIOUS? Blood spurts on Boy Wonder's lamp as he falls down. He bleeds on the floor as Billy looks on with crazy eyes.

A couple of thoughts:

• First: WOW. Did not think this show was going to be so bloody and violent. But if Shonda can blow up Coach Taylor, I guess stabbing someone with scissors isn't too much of a leap.

• This week in "Hey! This is set in DC!": Alissa would rather be getting laid by the "hot bartender at the Black Cat." Because you totally wear six-inch stilettos and a bandage dress to an indie club.

• I have problems with the Olivia/El Prez love story, mainly that while I think it's supposed to come across as sweet I never dislike their characters more than when they're making googly eyes at each other. Give me Olivia Pope, Unrepentant Badass over Olivia Pope, Couch Snuggler any day. I'm also finding it hard to have sympathy for their Twu Wuv now that we know El Prez has two kids.

• More FLOTUS, please!