This week’s episode of Scandal centered, both directly and indirectly, on the roles of the two women in El Prez’s wife. I think this show is at its best when it eschews the over-the-top soapiness in favor of mining the real, complicated emotions surrounding its main conflicts, so I found this episode especially enjoyable—especially since my favorite lost-cause character, Huck, got a bit more screentime. I was also impressed by how the D-story, in the end, turned out to advance the season-long story arc, although very little of the episode was devoted to it.
The episode opens on Olivia lying in bed alone. Her phone rings. It’s El Prez. She does her usual song and dance about how he can’t call her, to which he says that they’re being friends. “How’s your pregnant wife?” she asks him. “Whose fault is that?” he replies. I think the correct answer there is “Fitzgerald Grant Jr.,” but it’s been a while since I learned about the birds and bees. “Tell me to stop calling,” he says, which she doesn’t, because they’re in L-U-V. He says he’ll call her tomorrow and hangs up. A minute later the phone rings again, and we delve into the A-plot of the week, which is the story of Pastor Marvin Drake, civil rights activist, gay marriage crusader, and one of the most respected men in the country. He has a loving wife, several grown children, and a rock-solid reputation. Turns out he’s also got a penchant for light bondage and extramarital sex, as the Dream Team discovers when they find him dead and naked in an Adams Morgan hotel room, sprawled on top of a woman who is handcuffed to the bed. The team at first assumes (reasonably) that the woman is a hooker, but when she refuses an extra few Gs to sign a nondisclosure agreement, they cotton on that she is, in fact, the good pastor’s mistress of 15 years.
Olivia breaks the news to Nancy Drake, who agrees they need to cover up the situation. Olivia asks Huck to “take care of” the pastor’s body and asks what he’ll need, and he rattles off a long and very disturbing list of supplies that includes a roll of plastic sheeting, an industrial bone saw, and two black coffees. But Olivia just wants him to move the body, not make it disappear. “Oh,” Huck whispers. Yeah, she definitely broke him. The Dream Team’s solution is to cart the not-exactly-stick-thin Pastor Drake to his house, dress him in PJs, and then have his wife put on her nightgown and pretend she woke up to find him that way. It’s pretty sick, but she goes along with it. Harrison goes around town paying off the various servers/valets/cleaning ladies who knew about the pastor’s affair, and they think it’ll be buried—until the mistress, whose name is Anna, demands $6 million to keep her mouth shut.
Il Papa goes to see her and explains calmly that while Nancy has the money, Mistress Anna simply doesn’t have the leverage. But—twist—she absolutely does have the leverage, in the form of an adorable little moppet with Coke-bottle glasses who is “the spitting image of his father.” Olivia, looking mildly impressed, agrees to broker a deal between the two women, and things are once again under control—until the US Attorney’s office orders an autopsy of the body, which will show, among other things, that the crime scene was tampered with. Olivia goes to see Jerk Jeremy, who is in no mood to do her any favors, and Harrison’s attempt to charm the lady coroner are unsuccessful (bet they miss Stephen now!). So instead Olivia brings it up to El Prez during their nightly phone conversation and demands he take care of it. He was one of Pastor Drake’s biggest fans, and also a complete pushover when it comes to Il Papa, so he agrees. This is actually a cute scene—she shares the shady truth about the pastor’s death, and they guffaw through the phone like middle schoolers hearing a fart joke. It’s the first time I’ve found it believable that they have a connection outside of sexual attraction. But then he brings up the fact that his pregnant wife is going to see Nancy tomorrow, and Olivia gets upset, and when she gets what she wants and hangs up, he does that thing only people in TV and movies do and sweeps everything off his desk with one arm to show that He’s Mad.
Also mad is JJ, to whom being denied the autopsy is like hearing Christmas is canceled. He barges into his boss’s office and demands to know “how she did it” (she being Olivia, because obvs his boss is a man). His boss counters that it’s been decided JJ will take a leave of absence. JJ looks shell-shocked.
The next day is FLOTUS’s big meeting with Nancy. Exactly one photographer and one reporter are allowed to witness it. Olivia instructs Mrs. Drake beforehand to say “Thank you” and only “Thank you” to whatever FLOTUS might say, but Nancy has taken a sedative, so when Mellie says she’s sorry, Nancy slurs, “He had a mistress.” FLOTUS clears the room, and we get more stellar work from Bellamy Young as she holds the finally weeping widow and explains that she has to be strong for her late husband, cheating bastard though he may have been. FLOTUS reminds her that they were always partners. “He made a mistake,” she says. “Forgive him. Bury the man you married. Be his wife.” Olivia listens from outside the door, looking sad and guilty.
It’s time for the funeral, which is like the royal wedding but with more black and fewer hats. Not that many fewer hats, actually. Mistress Anna still hasn’t signed the nondisclosure agreement. Turns out all she wants is a chance to attend the funeral and say goodbye to the man she loved. She’s relegated to a pew, but as the family walks with the coffin down the aisle, Nancy pauses and invites Mistress Anna and the moppet to join the procession.
In the First Limo on the way back from the funeral, El Prez reads a brief and ignores his pregnant wife. He’s been super mean to her all episode (all this season, actually), but now she takes her words of wisdom to Nancy to heart and tells El Prez he needs to forgive her, because she’s forgiven him. He kisses her on the forehead and holds her for, like, 30 seconds. He tells her he forgives her. Then he goes right back to reading his brief.
Other things that happened this week: The United States is still on the brink of war with East Sudan, and when El Prez gets a photo of hundreds of dead bodies lined up in the streets, he’s about ready to dive in. But then Cyrus says he thinks the intel is bad, which turns out to be true, so instead El Prez fires the director of the CIA. Cyrus, for his part, uses that situation as an excuse to deny his long-suffering Ira-Glass-hot husband the fat, squishy Ethiopian baby he so desires because El Prez is all the baby Cyrus can handle. Luckily Ira Glass finds power sexy, so instead of divorcing Cyrus, he makes out with him. Huck continues his Yellow Wallpaper-style descent into madness. When the episode opens, he’s at an AA meeting but doesn’t speak; by the end of the episode, though, he’s ready. “I like to drink . . . uh, whiskey,” he says. He talks about how he used to get paid to drink it because he was really good at it, and now it’s all he thinks about. “I don’t want to be that person who drinks all the time,” he says. “I hope that by coming here, I can stop drinking . . . whiskey.” You guys, I don’t think he’s talking about whiskey.
And finally there’s Quindsay, who continues to be massively unlikable but for some reason important to the plot. She’s sequestered in Olivia’s apartment because the hype surrounding her case hasn’t yet died down, and she brats that even though Olivia saved her ass not once but twice (counting the time she splashed her DNA all over Poor Dead Gideon’s apartment), she’d rather be in prison because there’s more stuff to do. Il Papa leaves her alone, and she immediately hops on a plane to Oakland to see her dad. He hasn’t seen her in two years and is less than enthused that the prodigal maybe-murderous daughter has returned. So then she goes back to the motel she was kidnapped from, and Huck shows up to take her home, telling her it wasn’t seven people who died in that explosion, but eight. She’s Quinn Perkins now, and she can’t go back.
The episode ends with Il Papa helping a female Supreme Court justice prep for a rare interview as she gets her makeup done. When the makeup girl leaves the room, the justice asks about Quindsay. “Part of me wishes we’d let her hang,” she says. Olivia reiterates that she’s innocent, and the justice counters, “That innocent little girl of ours could bring down this government.” Then we see JJ at home, not watching Judge Judy and inhaling Cheetos but rather assembling a clichéd buddy-cop-movie evidence wall on Olivia and Quinn and is slowly putting together the pieces.
What did you think of last night’s episode of Scandal? Let us know in the comments.