WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap, Season Two, Episode 17, “Snake in the Garden”

The characters consider the meaning of family and the possibility of do-overs.

By: Tanya Pai

This was, in my opinion, one of the best episodes of Scandal thus far. It had the dizzyingly fast dialogue and plot development, but it also had real emotional heft and a theme that resonated throughout all the storylines with more depth than usual. There was also some unusual character interaction—Quinn and Doyle, Abby and Harrison, FLOTUS and El Prez—that draws on the complicated relationships the show has been building over the course of both seasons. To the recap!

“Why is the devil our client?”

The case of the week involves none other than Hollis Doyle, who shows up at HQ with his fourth ex-wife and a tape of his only daughter saying she’s been kidnapped for a ransom of $20 million. I immediately think she’s scamming him for money, and hey! Doyle agrees with me. “That there is nothing more than the fruits of six years of film school, acting class, scene study, and whatever the hell else Maybelle wanted to take,” he tells Olivia. His ex is horrified, but Maybelle has been in and out of rehab multiple times and Doyle wants some proof she’s not just extorting him. Which they eventually get in the form of an ear delivered to HQ. Doyle immediately agrees to pay, and we finally see some humanity under the deep-fried batter of his personality in a nice scene with Quinn. She’s upset Olivia took on the man who ruined her life as a client, but Olivia says, “Even the devil loves his kids.” Quinn buries her ire under her gladiator suit, but when she comes upon Doyle crying by the window, she seems to gain some sympathy.

The Dream Team manages to retrieve Maybelle and take her to the hospital, and she tells them her ex-boyfriend kidnapped her. But then Huck figures out by the “frayed edge” of the ear they left just chilling on the conference table that Maybelle cut off her own ear (grosss) and is preparing to flee the country with her haul. They intercept her and sit her down for a talking-to. Il Papa is in fine form. “Poor little rich girl,” she tells Maybelle. “Whatever sad cliché you’re holding on to, it doesn’t matter—nobody feels sorry for you. You’re being offered a do-over. No one gets that. If you don’t take it, you’re not just spoiled and selfish, you’re stupid.” Doyle offers Maybelle a choice: the $20 million or a relationship with her family. She takes the money.

“You’re not Fitz anymore.”

Quinn and Huck are still trailing CIA director Osborne, until Huck points out he hasn’t made a drop in weeks and is in fact headed to Olivia’s apartment. Quinn immediately texts her, so Olivia hides the Albatross flash drive in a vase as Ballard watches on his monitors. Osborne barges in and asks who hired her and continues to threaten her as the camera feed cuts off. Olivia manages to get him to leave, but he says, “This isn’t over.”

Meanwhile, Ballard himself is being watched—by Cyrus’s favorite hitman/private dick, Charlie. “It would help to know why I’m doing this,” says Charlie. “He sleeping with your husband?” “In a manner of speaking,” Cyrus replies. At the White House, El Prez, drink in hand, asks Ballard whether he thinks his mysterious source has more intel to give. The list of people El Prez can trust is very short these days, and he dangles the carrot of a White House position. So Ballard, after ascertaining Olivia isn’t home on the pretense of asking her on a date, breaks into her apartment and retrieves both the info on the flash drive and her notes. He takes it immediately to El Prez and tells him all signs point to Osborne being the mole and while it’s a big gamble, he trusts his source.

Also trying to get El Prez’s ear (which is, thankfully, still attached to his head) are Cyrus and FLOTUS. Cyrus goes to El Prez with the file Charlie gave him, which contains some kind of information about a military operation El Prez was involved in with Ballard in 1991. “You did things,” Cyrus says. “Things you can’t talk about. Heroic things you can’t put in your memoir because it could endanger the foundation of the republic.” He tells El Prez that just because his battleground was Defiance, Ohio, and not Iran, it doesn’t make him any less of a patriot. “The right side and the wrong side aren’t determined by us, they’re determined by history. We’re just players.” El Prez seems to relent, calling him “Cy” and telling him about the planned raid on Osborne as FLOTUS spies from the doorway. She’s extra sneaky this week, ordering his long-suffering secretary to refill the weekend calendar El Prez had cleared for a weekend with his older children, who are apparently at boarding school. At first it appears she’s being her usual cold, unmaternal self, and El Prez accuses her of as much. But then the truth comes out: “They didn’t want to come,” she tells him. He scoffs, but she tells him they called her every day begging to get out of the trip. “You are different,” she says. “You stink like Scotch, you are lubricated all the time, and it makes you mean.” She tells him it’s not her who’s changed—“You’re not their father anymore, and it’s not because you found out about Defiance, it’s because you found out your precious Olivia doesn’t have the secrets of the universe tucked between her magical thighs” and instead is just a person who is capable of using him, just like everyone else. She points out he’s turned into his father and should “put another glass of Scotch on top of it and just deal with it.”

“You deserve a do-over.”

Second chances are a running theme of this episode. Quinn wants to help Huck shop for a new family to watch, since the last one was brutally murdered by his ex-girlfriend. But after hearing her leave her dad yet another voicemail—this time to say happy birthday—he takes her to the home of a dad and daughter who are recovering after the wife died of cancer and says they could be her “family.”

And then there’s Il Papa, who is still trying her best to move on from El Prez. Cyrus calls her to schedule a wine and popcorn session, but she tells him she’s got a date. “There’s something not quite right there,” she says of Ballard, but she’s trying to jump in. Cyrus tells her El Prez is “cheating” on him, also with Ballard, and she tells him to “go for the jugular.” Irony! She asks how El Prez is doing, to which he gently reminds her she’s getting ready for a date with a new guy. But when Ballard shows up, she’s in her favorite silk PJs. She tells him she has a lot of work to do, and he counters that she’s just afraid. “I like you a lot,” he tells her. “I like how you say, ‘What?’ when you answer the phone, and how you always seem to be wearing white, and how wine seems to be a food group for you.” He tells her whatever happened to her already happened and he could be her do-over. “You deserve a do-over.” He asks her to close her eyes, then kisses her and says goodnight. She finally looks like she might be letting herself feel some feelings.

Jerk Jeremy is camping out at HQ since his apartment was ransacked, which in this episode is mostly an excuse to put him in the vicinity of Abby. Despite exchanging flirty banter with Harrison during their investigation, she and JJ make googly eyes at each other over Chinese takeout while Harrison scowls from across the table. Then they see on the news that Osborne was found in his car in Rock Creek Park, dead of an apparent suicide. A consequence of his recent professional disgrace? Apparently not. Because next we see Ballard drinking coffee on a park bench as an older black man sits next to him. “So it’s done?” he asks. Ballard says yes, the police think it’s a suicide and everyone believes Osborne was the mole. “Or was.” The man, seemingly satisfied, gets up to leave, telling Ballard to stay warm.

Some thoughts: In an episode so much about family, it made me think about how we never hear about Olivia’s. When do we get the flashback where we see how she came to be who she is?

I never really stopped to consider how sad Quinn’s life is—so much so that her main source of satisfaction comes from being apprenticed to a deeply psychologically scarred ex-hitman with a penchant for stalking.

If Osborne wasn’t actually the mole, who is? And does that mean the Dream Team has been getting played this whole time?

What did you think about last night’s Scandal? Sound off in the comments.