WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap: Season Two, Episode One, “White Hat’s Off”

In which we discover El Prez is a misogynist, and I spend 42 minutes wondering whether the title is grammatically correct.

By: Tanya Pai

Need a refresher on season one? Check out our quick-and-dirty primer.

This week in the White House: FLOTUS is very pregnant with their Sham Baby that’s now a Real Baby (and which she refers to as “America’s Baby”). She’s leveraging the hell out of her pregnancy, which has put her approval ratings through the roof—she’s even arranged for TV personality Kimberly Mitchell to come to the White House and announce the sex of America’s Baby on live television. El Prez is unimpressed with her power plays and still lusting after Olivia, who won’t see him but will still pass along advice via Cyrus, with whom she has lunch occasionally. There’s talk of genocide in East Sudan, and both FLOTUS and Cyrus are pushing for El Prez to declare war, but he’s dragging his feet because he is a terrible and ineffective leader who can’t do anything without Olivia’s advice. At the Kimberly Mitchell interview, we find out they’re having a boy, and FLOTUS uses the opportunity to say El Prez is willing to do “whatever it takes” to protect the mothers and children in East Sudan. After the interview, El Prez is PISSED that she tried to force his hand. “You’re ornamental,” he tells her. Her job as First Lady is to garden and go to luncheons and let fashion bloggers write about her clothes. “Don’t try to use your brain, because no one cares,” he says. WOW. So glad this is the man who’s running the country. FLOTUS is quickly becoming one of the more interesting characters—as cartoonishly villainous as her actions might seem sometimes, Bellamy Young plays her with enough nuance that she comes across as a sympathetic character—especially now, when she reminds her husband that she is, in fact, an intelligent person and gave up her law career to help him get elected. She then asks if he wants to feel America’s Baby kick. I feel sorry for this kid already.

Because it wouldn’t be an episode of Scandal without Il Papa and El Prez mooning over each other from a distance, we see Olivia chilling on the couch with wine and popcorn and watching the Kimberly Mitchell interview when she gets a phone call. It’s El Prez. “You can’t call me,” she says. “I have déjà vu,” I say. “Hang up,” she says. “You hang up,” he says. “I’m going to throw up,” I say. Olivia asks if he wants to know what she’d do about East Sudan. He says no. “I don’t need you.” Because she’s a woman and her brain is tiny? She goes ahead and tells him anyway. “I hate you,” he says. But really, you guys, he means he loves her!

In the Oval Office, El Prez parrots Olivia, telling Cyrus to leak a story to the New York Times that says FLOTUS’s statement was actually part of a PR campaign orchestrated by El Prez. He wants to make it clear that he’s willing to spend every cent of her political capital to protect their interests in Sudan. Then he complains that he’s not sure why he’s having to clean up Cyrus’s mess and throws a fit about how only HE has the power to decide that the country is going to war. Cyrus gets passive aggressive, and says El Prez’s brilliant plan isn’t even his, it’s Olivia’s—and keeping FLOTUS “on her leash” is El Prez’s job. These people are the actual worst.

Meanwhile, the Dream Team tackles two cases. The first is boring and predictable: A Democratic congressman from Rhode Island finds a camera in his desk—a bit too late as, because he is single and hot and a congressman, he naturally had sex on said desk earlier that evening and is about to become a national joke when the footage is released to right-wing blogs. After failing to secure an injunction for the tape, Il Papa decides to leak the tape to friendly sources, allowing Congressman McHottie to control the message and focus the media’s attention on his policies rather than his package. It’s the fluffiest filler plot ever.

More interesting, at least toward the end of the episode, is the Dream Team’s attempt to help Quinn. Turns out her name is actually Lindsay Dwyer, and two years ago in California she went on the lam after police suspected her of mailing a package containing a bomb to the office of her cheating boyfriend, killing him and six of his coworkers. Assistant US Attorney David Rosen, a.k.a. Jerk Jeremy, has her on tape flipping out at her boyfriend, and is pushing for the death penalty, but Quindsay says she can’t even work a cappuccino machine, let alone build a bomb. Her highly unbelievable story is that she fled because she was scared, then someone knocked her out and she woke up days later in a DC hotel with documentation for a new identity by her bedside.

The entire Dream Team is convinced Quindsay is guilty, save Huck, who trusts Olivia more than gravity, and Olivia herself, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. Even Quindsay is confused why Olivia is helping her. “You haven’t been straight with me for six months,” she yells at Il Papa, who continues to evade the question and simply says she doesn’t take on cases she can’t win. Huck searches through security camera footage to try to get a glimpse of whoever schlepped Quinn to the “Grand District Hotel” (not a real hotel) but says he’s unsuccessful. Olivia knows they’re going to lose, so late at night, alone in the office, she makes a call. “It’s been a while,” she says, “but we’re going to lose this thing.” The next day in the courtroom the defense lawyer moves to acquit on the grounds that the evidence is circumstancial. Harrison mutters to Quinn that that tactic never works—but then the judge agrees. Jerk Jeremy literally stands up and yells, “What the hell!” as the Dream Team hug one another. JJ turns around to stare at Olivia, who looks like she just made a deal with the devil and can’t quite meet anyone’s eye. Later, JJ rips her a new one, telling her that he had the case in the bag. “I don’t know how you did it, but I’m going to find out,” he says.

I thought the episode was going to end there, but there were still eight minutes left. So we get a flashback: As Huck once again goes over security camera footage, we see scenes from two years ago. Quindsay sits in a motel watching the story of her boyfriend’s death on the news, when someone sneaks up and sticks a needle in her neck. She wakes up in a gorgeous hotel and looks out the window to see the Washington monument hilariously centered in her line of view. Laid out neatly on the bedside table are a passport, social security card, and various other forms of ID, along with some cash. We then see Quindsay leaving the hotel to begin her new life, looking only mildly suspicious. But THEN we notice Huck lurking outside. In the present, Huck erases himself from the security footage. Past Huck watches Quindsay head away from the hotel, then crosses the street and gets into a car driven by . . . Il Papa. “She took it—everything we left for her,” Huck says. “She’s good to go.” Olivia, expression unreadable, drives off.

Well, that was an interesting twist ending on an otherwise boring episode. There was no mention of Killer Billy, so I’m going to assume he is, in fact, dead. Also we get the news that Stephen is gone—he “moved to Boston, married Georgia,” and is going to be a normal person, according to Il Papa. I’m still annoyed by everything having to do with the Olivia/El Prez relationship. True love or no, I find it hard to have sympathy for a man who spends all his time obsessing over a woman even though he has a pregnant wife and, presumably, way better things to occupy his time. So: more Huck and Olivia, less puppy love. Are you listening, Shonda?

What do you think Olivia is up to with Quindsay? Let us know in the comments.