After a week off, we return to the Scandal-verse with a fast-paced episode that, interestingly, has Olivia making the first big mistake we’ve seen (outside of, you know, sleeping with her married boss who also happened to be the President). To the recap.
We open on Olivia watching a news talk show, on which a Democratic senator is complaining El Prez was about to take the country to war with East Sudan based on faulty information. He says El Prez is in bed with special interest groups in a big, bad way. As they break for a commercial, Olivia calls him and sasses him for wearing pinstripes. He asks her if he’s finally a client. He is not. He is, however, very flirty. Later, Olivia is getting into her car in the dark parking lot. She realizes there’s someone in the backseat and calmly tells him she’s dialing the police. It’s a mousy little guy named Artie Hornbacher (Patrick Fischler), an NSA data analyst. He babbles that he’s not trying to hurt her, he just needs her help, because he’s being followed. She screams at him to get out of her car, which he does, but as she’s driving away he shouts that “they” know all about the late-night phone calls from the West Wing. She slams on the brakes.
At the White House, FLOTUS is folding baby clothes as El Prez comes in. Doing a passable imitation of a loving husband, he fills in that he’s going on a photo-op-worthy hunting trip and is a terrible shot, though FLOTUS says she’s excellent at it. They banter playfully—he’s charming, and she’s almost painfully hopeful.
Over at HQ, Quindsay is hard at work getting grovel coffees for Harrison, who kisses her on the cheek, and Abby, who bitches that she got her order wrong and calls her “Lindsay” like it’s a four-letter word. They walk into the conference room to see Artie standing ON the table, yammering about government conspiracies. He says he stole a flash drive from the NSA (“You STOLE from the NSA?” says Huck), and says he has evidence the agency is spying on American citizens. He calls it Thorngate. Abby, naturally, thinks he’s certifiable—and to be fair, he is channeling some serious Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory, minus The Catcher in the Rye—but Il Papa says they’re going to investigate anyway. She goes to see a higher-up from the NSA, who smoothly denies any knowledge of Artie or Thorngate—but when she refers to “data analysts,” Olivia knows she’s lying. On her way out, she screams over the phone for Abby to move Artie to a safe house, pronto.
Hey, it’s Jerk Jeremy! He’s at his apartment in his unemployment uniform (no pants and a grizzled beard), when his assistant, Wendy Wu, walks in complaining that he needs to come back to work because his replacement is a horrible human being. JJ’s nervous that she’s going to notice the Big Wall o’ Crazy he’s assembled to try to crack the Olivia Pope mystery, which she does, but then gets over her initial WTF moment and says she’ll help him figure it out.
At the safe house, Huck manages to get past the NSA’s encryption. He asks for the name of someone who should be hard to get access to, and Il Papa suggests Cyrus. He types in the name, and video and audio feed of Mr. Bean (hehe) at the White House pops up. Then the firewall kicks in (or something, I don’t know computer stuff), and Artie flips out. He says the only other person who can help them access Thorngate again is his colleague, a woman who was on the development team. Olivia commands the Dream Team to find her, which they do, but she’s dead—a staged suicide. Olivia also goes to see Senator McFlirty, who is on the Intelligence Committee. “Tell me about Thorngate,” she says. He won’t help her, and tells her not to mess with the NSA. We find out they had a romantic history.
Cyrus goes to see El Prez to apprise him of the Thorngate situation, and shares just who Artie’s representation is. “She’s nosing around senators on the Intelligence Committee,” he says, handing El Prez shots of Olivia and Senator McFlirty, who appear to be canoodling. (Side note: Who took these pictures, exactly? Are people just randomly following Olivia around with cameras now?) El Prez starts sulking—actually sulking—that his lady love is seeing her ex. Cyrus launches into a tortured metaphor about how El Prez is a ticking time bomb, references the “Shakespearian drama” that is the women in his life, and asks what he can do to help. Cut to Il Papa’s apartment. Two very large Secret Service dudes, whom she greets by name, have showed up at her door. Turns out Cyrus has arranged for El Prez to have a little alone time with Olivia in between shooting at defenseless animals in the woods. (This whole sequence is basically them saying everything three times, with the last one screeched as loudly as possible, but that would be very tedious to type out, so just imagine it, okay?) They walk through the woods. He yells at her for dabbling in national security and acting like a traitor. She yells at him for spying on American citizens. She tells him the NSA knows about the late-night phone calls. He brings up the old boyfriend and gets nasty. She tears up and screams at him. Then suddenly they are MAKING OUT in full view of the Secret Service guys, who hilariously look at each other and then look away pointedly like they are Tweedledum and Tweedledeaf. El Prez pushes Olivia up against a tree and starts trying to TAKE OFF HER CLOTHES, like yes, let’s just have some casual sex al fresco in the middle of my official government hunting trip—until Olivia pulls away. “I am not yours,” she says. “I don’t show up places because you want me. This is over.”
The Dream Team is preparing to go public with Thorngate, setting up exclusives with Kimberly Mitchell and buying Artie a suit. El Prez tells his advisers he wants to unleash a “legal tsunami” on everyone involved, meaning the network gets slapped with an injunction and they could all get arrested for treason if they air the interview. But Huck has managed to crack the code (or whatever), and Olivia convinces the network execs to go ahead with the segment by tapping into the head honcho’s home network and showing his wife talking about how he needs to go to the gym. Then Olivia hears from Abby, who says the Artie’s coworker’s autopsy came back and she was killed with injectable insulin. Since Artie is diabetic, Olivia surmises that he killed his coworker. She calls Huck at the safe house, who tells her Artie is in the bathroom again, and she yells for him to break down the door. Of course, Artie is already gone. Turns out he was only acting like a crazed conspiracy theorist, you guys! And he used Huck to crack into Thorngate and is presumably now going to sell the technology for boatloads of cash.
Back at HQ, Abby is unhelpfully complaining that Olivia screwed up big-time, and that her mythical gut is broken. No loyalty, that Abby. NSA lady shows up to put the screws to Il Papa, who is having none of it. He wagged our dog for two days, but he duped you for 16 years, she points out—and that’s the type of thing that results in mass firings. NSA lady gives her a day to find and return Artie—which Huck does by tracing the radioactive material in a watch Artie stole from him. Yeah, I dunno. He shoots Artie in the leg with a blowdart and is very scary.
At the White House, El Prez is back to freezing out FLOTUS. She goes to see Tweedledum and Tweedledeaf to ask what happened. They won’t talk, but she says she’s going to start listing people El Prez could have seen that put him in a bad mood, and all they have to do is blink. When she figures out Olivia is the cause for her husband’s current snit, her face is almost as scary as Huck’s.
El Prez wants to kick Senator McFlirty off the intel committee. Very mature. He also wants to know how Cyrus knew Olivia wasn’t taking his phone calls, and though Cyrus doesn’t answer, his guilty look tells El Prez everything he needs to know. “At least we know Thorngate really works,” he says. Cyrus leaves, letting in a very pissed off FLOTUS. She yells that she needs to make some plans for her political future because he’s never going to make it to a second term. Showing off her cold and calculating side, she tells him she has a bright political future ahead of her and that the media will eat up her tragic story of giving up her career for her husband. She says she’s a future president, and he’s going to fail because he keeps mooning over Olivia. “Get over her!” she yells. He says nothing. “You see her again, I’ll blow you away. And I’m an excellent shot,” she says. Callback!
Harrison, Abby, and Quindsay are drinking at the bar and celebrating their narrow escape from prison. Abby sasses Quindsay again, who finally snaps and tells her to go screw herself. “I’m not a liar or a murderer, and I’m not going anywhere,” she says. “And I go by one name now, and it’s not Lindsay.” She walks away. Harrison, hilariously, downs his drink and goes, “I’m Quinn, biatch.” He leaves, and is replaced by JJ, who wants Abby to buy him a drink because he’s unemployed. We end on them in bed together, because obviously.
Other things that happen: Olivia’s ex comes to see her because he’s been kicked off the intelligence committee for “ethical” reasons, but really because El Prez is a jealous teenager, and he demands she take him on as a client, pro bono. JJ, with the help of Wendy Wu, is finally coming around to the idea that Quinn is not guilty, since Il Papa doesn’t move heaven and earth and “further disrupt the justice system” unless at the end of the day she can put on her white hat and be in the right. (Or at least think she is.)
What did you think of last night’s Scandal? Let us know in the comments.