WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap, Season Two, Episode 11, “A Criminal, a Whore, an Idiot, and a Liar”

In which we meet El Prez’s father, and Huck’s ZZ-Top flashback hair returns.

By: Tanya Pai

This week’s flashback-heavy episode delved into the circumstances leading up to Doyle, Cyrus, FLOTUS, Vera, and Olivia deciding to rig the presidential election. It’s split between scenes of El Prez’s return to office after the shooting and those showing him as a struggling candidate, and the whole thing is oddly lacking in tension. But—we get to see Huck’s insane homeless man hair and beard again, which makes this ep a winner in my book. To the recap!

Senator Davis is waiting in Olivia’s apartment as she enters. He asks if the President was her boyfriend. He says he’s been wracking his brain to try to figure out why she’d “willingly defraud the American people,” and the only thing he could come up with is that they must have been doin’ the dirty. Il Papa, cool as a cucumber, looks him in the eye and lies her ass off. She awesomely begins counting down the five worst things about what he just said, calling it sexist and insulting to imply she cares about El Prez because they were sleeping together. “In the past few minutes you’ve called me a criminal, a whore, an idiot, and a liar,” she says (hey! That’s the title of the episode!). “We’re done.” Davis tells her he knows her well enough to know that she only gets that angry when she’s hiding something. VP Sally is going to tell the entire Cabinet that El Prez’s letter of reinstatement is a forgery, and if Olivia is involved, she should tell him while he can still help her. Instead, she uses nonverbal cues to tell him to GTFO; as soon as the door closes, she calls Cyrus, and says, “We have a problem.”

First flashback. El Prez (currently El Gov) is debating the murderous Governor Reston, and floundering. Reston keeps calling him a daddy’s boy, and Olivia and her bangs can barely watch. Later, a numbers cruncher tells the group—including Vera, Hollis Doyle, and Cyrus—that they’re losing. “Numbers don’t lie,” she says. Cut to a plane, where Doyle is complaining that he expected his investment to have a bit more payoff. He suggests they “stack the deck,” and says he found a computer nerd who’ll rig the election for a grand, an idea both Il Papa and Cyrus scoff at. FLOTUS comes over and suggests helping by bringing in El Prez’s father, who’s had a long political career and is extremely well liked.

El Gov ain’t happy with that idea. He yells at Mellie that she should know better, to which she responds he has political capital and should be spending it to, you know, avoid losing, while Olivia scurries up to tell them to keep their voices down. FLOTUS scowls that Olivia should talk to him because then he might actually listen, and leaves. After she’s gone, El Gov grabs Olivia and takes her to the boom-boom room for some sex. As he tries to tug off her pants she tells him his father is a “national treasure” and he needs that help. He asks whether if he agrees, she’ll stop talking about his dad for 20 minutes. She will. Gross.

In the present, El Prez is getting the rundown from the doctor, who says there could be damage to his frontal lobe and he could experience aphasia, personality changes, etc., and should take at least three weeks before he goes back to work. Enter Cyrus, who says they have a “Sally Langston problem.” Cut to the VP herself, who’s in the process of telling the Cabinet members El Prez’s letter of reinstatement was premature (teehee) and that they need to challenge it. But then! Enter El Prez, who looks pale. “Sorry I’m late,” he says. After the meeting, Cyrus and Il Papa walk in ebullient and tell him to head back to the hospital, but El Prez, who’s sweating and weak, refuses. “I can’t show weakness,” he says, insisting he can’t go back to bed until Sally accepts his reinstatement.

Flashback numero dos. El Gov is rehearsing for his next debate, when his dad (hey, it’s Mayor Randall from Spin City!) comes in. Immediately it’s clear he’s a nightmare, critiquing El Gov’s answers and demeanor and calling all the females “sweetheart.” Finally, he actually says, “Let me show you how it’s done,” and forces El Gov to get up from the table so he can take a crack at answering questions. At dinner that evening, El Gov’s crew suggests Papa Bear stump in Florida, which El Prez, getting drunk, sulkily declines, pointing out that his dad actually has no experience running for President. Sleeping with prostitutes on the other hand? You betcha—in particular one named Hope, leading to this gem of a line: “Hope’s alive. Mom’s dead, though.”

After dinner, Il Papa is in the elevator when El Gov comes in. He comes on to her, she rebuffs him because he’s “drunk and sad,” and then he gets a little rapey, forcing Olivia to fight him off until the doors open—on Mellie. El Gov slinks out and Mellie gets in, looking horrified. “I want to apologize,” she says. “He respects you, he needs you, and I’m so sorry.” Olivia, looking equal parts wary, guilty, and sad, says it’s okay. Mellie says she doesn’t know what they’d do without her, and hugs Olivia.

Present day. El Prez is in the Situation Room discussing tactics for East Sudan. He blanks on the name of the country’s leader, and there’s a loooong moment of uncomfortable silence before VP Sally steps in and supplies it with a worried look on her face.

Another flashback. Papa Bear is berating El Gov about his performance, then comes in and tells Cyrus and Olivia they’re going to ditch the clean campaign strategy in favor of digging up dirt on Reston. Cyrus and Olivia are all “We don’t work for you, dude,” but El Gov, not making eye contact, tells them to do what he says. Enter Harrison, Abby, and Huck (with his amazing ZZ-Top hair and beard), who are tasked with finding the dirt on Reston—which turns out to be that he takes Prozac.

Meanwhile, Hollis is still on about rigging the election because they’ve put all the lipstick they can on this particular pig. Cyrus thinks El Gov deserves to win because he’s “the real deal, a patriot, a believer.” Mellie approaches the table, and Hollis tells her to pull up a chair.

El Gov is once again prepping for his debate, but is clearly agitated. He starts yelling at all his staffers, so Il Papa sends them home and starts in on him. “Do you even want to be President?” she asks. He does, but when she asks him why, he says, “I don’t know what you want me to say.” Which, she points out, is the problem—he’s always thinking about what other people want him to say or do, and she would have caught it earlier if . . . she trails off, but the implication is clear (and pretty damning). “I know you because you let me know you,” she says—but he doesn’t show that same side to other people. In a cool sequence, we cut between the past and present, with Olivia prepping Fitz for his debate and his first press conference since being shot, respectively. At the debate, he has the chance to drop the bomb of Reston’s Prozac use—but instead he gets real with the audience and shows the softer side of Fitz. Papa Bear is pissed, but Fitz calls him a small man and says he’d never want to be him. “I’m a winner,” his dad counters. Later on the plane, Fitz’s advisers are once again discussing rigging the election. They all want something for themselves: Cyrus will be chief of staff, Vera gets on the Supreme Court, Mellie will be First Lady, and Doyle will be . . . it’s unclear, but surely nefarious. Cyrus says they can only do it if the decision is unanimous, because otherwise they won’t trust one another. So what do you want? Doyle asks Olivia. She refuses to answer, and instead walks to the back of the plane to talk to El Gov. He tells her his father just had a heart attack and died. After the funeral, El Gov chops wood as Olivia stands by. He tells her her’s not sad—he feels free, and he wants to win the election. “Do you think I’ll make a good President?” he asks her endearingly. She says she thinks he’ll be great, then holds him as he cries. Presumably this is when she changes her mind about fixing the election.

In the present, post-press conference Sally goes to see El Prez and is very gracious. She gives him her letter accepting his reinstatement as President and says she’d just been thinking about the welfare of the American people, and that she hadn’t slept a night since she became President, because it’s a hard job to have.

Olivia arrives at her apartment to once again find Davis waiting for her. “I’m changing my locks,” she says. Davis, who from henceforth will be known as Doormat Davis, apologizes profusely to Olivia, then tells her he doesn’t care who she’s been with in the past because he’s in love with her now. Then he asks her to marry him. Over in the White House, FLOTUS is fussing over El Prez and babbling about how his press conference was flawless and she’s glad he’s fully functional so she doesn’t have to change his diapers and his approval rating is through the roof so he can basically get anything he wants. “So what do you want?” she asks him. Finally he looks at her. “I want a divorce,” he says.

Some thoughts:

This show does a good job adding complexity to (some of) its characters. Sally is a power-hungry religious fanatic, but she seems to genuinely care about what’s best for the country. Fitz is an adulterer and kind of a whiny baby, but he shows flashes of integrity and passion that are apparently enough to make multiple people commit felonies for him. And Cyrus, who had a pregnant woman killed in season one, is so endearing in his scenes with Olivia it’s sometimes hard to remember. But Abby is still incredibly one-note (although I did like her curly flashback hair).

So . . . what exactly was that in the elevator with El Gov? Are we supposed to believe Olivia is just okay with it, because he was drunk?

Was that a real proposal from Davis? Or is he working the long con in terms of trying to find out what Olivia is up to?

Poor Stephen. He was so unnecessary to the show you barely even notice he’s not in the flashbacks.

What did you think of last night’s Scandal? Let us know in the comments.