WashingTelevison: Scandal Recap, Season Three, Episode Three, “Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington”

Olivia Pope’s daddy issues continue to dominate the plot.

By: Tanya Pai

The season-long mysteries are inching forward, but I almost don’t care about the plot in the face of the characters’ increasingly twisted relationships. Bellamy Young as FLOTUS continues to be a vindictive delight, and any scene with Huck and Olivia is electrifying, even if we have to wait until almost the end of the episode to see it. To the recap.

Olivia is sitting in her bedroom, staring at Ballard sleeping in her bed (naked, I am pretty sure—thanks, Shonda!). El Prez calls her and says they need to talk about how Ballard got there; she says she has to go and then hangs up and calls Huck and tells him they need to talk. Huck says he’s “fine” with the knowledge that Olivia’s dad is Command and ruined his entire life—but of course he is not fine, and is currently tailing Papa Pope in his car.

Olivia arrives at HQ just in time to briefly meet their new client, a way-too-chipper woman named Mary Nesbit (hey, it’s Joy from Dead Like Me!), who wants to retain them for a “family matter.” Everyone wants to know where Huck is, to which Il Papa says he’s taking a personal day. Abby: “What, do we get vacation days now, too?” Harrison is stoked that they can actually pay their rent, thanks to the retainer, but Quinn “Because I Can” Perkins snoops in her financial records and finds out Mary’s son was killed in an FBI raid a few months ago, and that the check happens to be everything that was in her bank account. Olivia’s spidey sense starts tingling, so she heads to the Hill to find Mary. And find her she does: Mary is in the office of a congressman wearing a bomb vest and threatening to blow up nine people unless someone helps her find out what happened to her son, Chris, who was shot for being a suspected terrorist.

Meanwhile, insanely, a guy ostensibly taking a tour of the White House breaks away and makes a run for the Oval Office, where he’s tackled by Secret Service agents. He screams that he has to talk to the President about Operation Remington. El Prez and FLOTUS, whom Cyrus is trying to convince to go on a fake romantic getaway to Camp David, are instead shuttled to their favorite bunker; Cyrus, rather than having the guy arrested, lets him go and calls Papa Pope to deal with it. Papa shows up at the guy’s trailer with an envelope of cash, but he’s having none of it. Papa Pope says, “We had a deal,” but the guy says he is the only honorable person in the whole mess. Cut to Papa Pope coming out of the trailer. “You’re rusty, soldier,” he says—to Huck, who raises a gun and points it at his forehead.

Meanwhile in the hostage room, Olivia is acting as negotiator. She manages to get Mary to release most of the hostages, leaving just her and the congressman. Mary wants to see the file that explains why her son was killed, and Olivia tries every angle, from El Prez to David Rosen (who amazingly says Olivia “causes more problems than she solves”) to having Quinn hack into the FBI database. At first they think the FBI killed him by accident and covered it up, but there’s a twist: El Prez calls Olivia and explains that Chris was actually CIA, and if she tells Mary the truth she will endanger the lives of 57 other undercover CIA operatives. The writers try to fake that Olivia is going to spill the beans, but instead she tells Mary her son was a terrorist, and Mary shoves her and the congressman out the door and then blows herself up.

El Prez, released from his bunker, finds FLOTUS drinking “hooch” in the dark. Totally smashed, she slurs in a moderately terrible Southern accent that it was a good day. He is surprised, because he thought Olivia being blown to bits was her dream. She counters that having Olivia die protecting a senator would be her nightmare, because it would turn her into a martyr. “I am spectacular,” she says, “but I can’t compete with religious fervor.” But as long as Olivia is alive, FLOTUS can use her as a weapon against El Prez. “She’s the strings I will pull to make my puppet husband dance.” Then she waltzes drunkenly out of the room and clicks off the lights, leaving El Prez alone in the dark.

Quinn comes to find Olivia and tells her Huck has been Googling her dad (not like that). Olivia gets back to HQ and finds Huck sitting in the dark. She wants to know if he killed her father. “All this time I’ve wondered who Command is, I’ve banged my head trying to get a name, and then I got one. From you,” he says. He tells her a name is something you can look up, you can ask questions about your long-lost family and then “wrap it in plastic and put it in a dumpster so it never bothers you again.” But did he kill Papa Pope? No—instead we flash back to the trailer. Papa, cool as a very scary and evil cucumber, walks out and, totally unfazed by the gun, tells Huck he left him a present all wrapped up in the trailer, then walks away. Huck goes in to find the guy from Operation Remington handcuffed to a table. Guillermo Diaz really brings the crazy in this scene—his eyes get all wide, and you can just see his impulses fighting each other internally. Then he kills the guy and stages it as a suicide. In the present he starts weeping. “I thought I was free, but I’m not,” he says as Olivia holds him. “He still controls me.”

Olivia gets back home, where Ballard is playing house husband, pouring her wine and babbling about Gettysburger delivery. She wants to know how he got out of the hole and why her dad let him out. She thinks he’s there to spy on her. Her dad calls on one phone and El Prez calls on the other, and she throws both to the ground. Ballard, acting way more well-adjusted than he has any right to, tells her he kept picturing her face. “Your face saved me,” he says, but Il Papa is having none of it. “This is not a fairy tale,” she says. “This is not happily ever after. If you’re still alive it’s because you’re still useful to him, and he’s going to find a way to use you against me. But don’t feel bad about it—he still owns me too.” She grabs her glass of wine and chugs it as they sit on the couch silently while her home phone rings. She doesn’t answer, and we see Papa Pope throw down his phone in frustration.

Some thoughts:

FLOTUS wins this episode, hands down. I love how she goes from asking El Prez if he wants to have sex to emasculating him so completely.

The plots of the week were so silly—having someone break into the White House AND threaten to blow up a congressman in two completely separate acts and then shoehorning in a line about how “they might be related” just felt like sloppy writing.

What do we think the deal is with Ballard? He seems so sane, he must be hiding some deep nefarious scheme. He couldn’t really think he was just going to get out of the hole and have a nice, normal relationship with Olivia, could he?

Killer Huck returns! I wouldn’t put it past Shonda to reunite him with his family at some point, only to have him immediately thrown in jail or killed in some terrible way.

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