Maybe it's just me being sleep-deprived, but I thought this episode was a bit better than the first three--or at least slightly less melodramatic. There are some nasty barbs, we FINALLY get some backstory on the impossibly glossy Dream Team, and El Prez stops acting like he was dosed with Love Potion No. 9 and nuts up. To the recap!
Quinn is sleeping on the HQ couch (why, I'm not sure--please don't tell me there's going to be a subplot about her being secretly homeless), when she's awakened with a start by very loud pounding on the door. As she opens it, we cut to Il Papa opening the door of her apartment to Stephen, who's bearing Shiraz. In the kitchen, Olivia sobs as she attempts to open the wine. Her pjs are silk and awesome. Stephen grabs the bottle and pours some into a Big Carl-size glass, which she chugs, then goes over to the counter and grabs approximately 17 pregnancy tests, which she plunks down in front of him, one by one. (Hope she's planning to wash her hands.) "You should have seen me forcing water down her throat to make her pee," Olivia says of Amanda, who's sleeping in the other room. "It was like something out of Abu Ghraib." Stephen cottons on to the state of Amanda's womb and asks, quite reasonably, if Olivia's sure it's El Prez's spawn. She's sure. Just then Olivia gets a call from Quinn, who tells her she's needed at the office because there is an "actual army" occupying it. The office is, indeed, being occupied by a bunch of army guys. We learn three things: The Organization of American States is happening soon, so a bunch of foreign dignitaries are in town; Olivia speaks perfect Spanish; and waiting in her office is "ruthless, repressive, political-freedom-hating, police-brutality-loving South American leftist dictator" and sworn enemy of the US Benicio Flores, as Abby helpfully fills in. Leftist Dictator Flores tells Olivia his wife and two youngest children were kidnapped from a Dupont restaurant that afternoon, and he thinks the US government is behind it. He wants the Dream Team to help. After he leaves, Abby is upset that they're going to take him on as a client without even discussing it. Olivia just stares at her blankly, then walks away without saying anything. Stephen tells them to cut her some serious slack, because Amanda is pregnant. Jaws hit the floor.
Olivia shows up at a very pretty house in a fabulous coat, and a clean-cut man answers the door. Apparently he's Cyrus's husband. Cyrus is gardening out back, and Olivia goes out to drop the baby bomb on him. She asks if El Prez "took precautions" with Amanda. Cyrus is all, Hmm, did he wear condoms when he was banging his aide? I don't know. "Did he wear one with you?" ZING! Harsh. They discuss giving Amanda $10 million, and Cyrus says he'll see what he can do. Then he tells her they're not friends anymore. "Don't come here again." Looking deeply hurt, she leaves.
Back at Il Papa's apartment, Olivia explains how El Prez wants to make Amanda the world's highest-paid prostitute. Amanda doesn't want the money, so Olivia gets in her face about what she does want. The fairy tale is over, and she has a kid to consider. So does she want an abortion? Adoption? Amanda says she wants to birth the Presidential Fetus, and to tell the world what a lying, lecherous scumbag El Prez is.
White House. El Prez complains to Cyrus that his OAS speech has been done a million times, then asks if there's anything new on the Olivia front. Cyrus says he'll handle it, then heads to a meeting with Billy and a team of pros, including "Sanders Black," played by someone who either is or looks just like the freaky frog guy from X-Men. He's very short. Cyrus swears them all to secrecy about what they're going to discuss, then Thumbelina begins his presentation. They've been digging up dirt on the Dream Team. According to Thumbelina, Huck is ex-CIA--"If you meet this guy in an alley, you're done." Abby was married to the son of the Virginia governor for four years, but left him when he beat her. We see a bunch of pictures of her bruised-up face. Her perspective on relationships makes a lot more sense now. There's nothing on Quinn, because "Quinn Perkins didn't exist until 2008." Secretly homeless, I'm telling you. Harrison went from car salesman (totally believable) to working for some financial bigwig, who was busted for insider trading, but Harrison only served six months in prison thanks to Olivia. Stephen was a high-powered lawyer until he suffered a nervous breakdown and had to quit his job. And Olivia? She's practically Mother Teresa--except that Thumbelina somehow knows she had an affair with someone on the campaign, but they don't know who. Cyrus, always trying to cover El Prez's ass, shoos them away from that line of questioning. This is actually a pretty smart way to fill in the characters' histories without having the Dream Team resort to terrible expository dialogue. Good job, show.
Our Dream Team, meanwhile, is investigating the kidnapping. LDF's oldest son told them he saw his mother and siblings pulled into a van behind the restaurant, and though Stephen and Abby find a broken window, the alley behind the restaurant is barely wide enough to accommodate the two of them, let alone a Van of Nefarious Purpose. Harrison and Huck learn from one of the waitresses that LDF's son was playing a handheld video game at the time, and Huck uses its built-in wi-fi to track them down. Turns out Mrs. LDF fled to a women's shelter at a church. She tells Stephen and Abby that she just wanted to leave her husband, but seeing as he's a scary dictator, "You don't ask a man like that for a divorce." Over Stephen's protests, Abby books them a hotel room and then lies to Olivia that the women's shelter wouldn't let them see MLDF until the morning. She thinks that'll give them enough time to get asylum for MLDF and the kids.
Quinn meets Gideon the Intrepid Reporter at a bar and tells him, "This is not a date." He tells her not to worry, that he won't use her for his story because he doesn't need to since he has another source. She looks worried. Harrison, at the same bar, catches a glimpse of Quinn. Ruh roh. Later at the office, Harrison tells Quinn in no uncertain terms to break things off with Boy Wonder. Eventually she will have to lie to him to protect a client, he tells her, and the minute she lies to a reporter it destroys her credibility and, by proxy, the credibility of the entire Dream Team.
Abby shows up at the hotel but realizes MLDF has checked out. She's back at HQ with her husband and Olivia, who told LDF the kidnappers "lost their nerve" and dropped off MLDF at the shelter, where they found her. Once the happy couple leave, Abby and Olivia get in a huge fight. Olivia says MLDF wasn't their client, so her problems are not their problems. Abby says Olivia took away a scared woman's one shot at escape. They're arguing over each other the whole time, until Abby says, "That woman needs us." She fills in that the night her own ex beat her, Olivia broke his kneecap with a tire iron and then got her the best divorce lawyer around. No matter what personal stuff Olivia is going through, she still has to be that same Olivia. "I would gladly follow you over a cliff, but you gotta show up. You gotta be the gladiator."
MLDF is watching footage of the OAS in a hotel room as Olivia bursts in and says she can still get them asylum if they still want it. They get ready to leave, but LDF comes in before they make it. Olivia tries to BS, but MLDF says she's leaving him because she doesn't love him anymore. He tells her it's fine--but he's taking the kids.
Amanda, in Olivia's apartment, picks up the phone and calls someone. "It's me," she says. I'm done. "I can't do this anymore, I can't lie anymore. I'm going to tell them the truth." So someone is framing El Prez? Curiouser and curiouser.
El Prez's speech. "Democracy is your destiny," blah blah blah. People applaud wildly. High on idealism, El Prez goes to see Cyrus. He's figured out that their problem is Amanda Tanner. Without her, there's no proof, the sex tape becomes just the sounds of some skeezy guy, and she's not really a problem anyway, because she's a kid. Their real problem is Olivia Pope. El Prez says it's time he acted like a president. Cyrus thanks him as he leaves, and literally sighs in satisfaction.
Olivia catches up with LDF outside the White House and tells him to reconsider taking his kids. He refuses, but she tells him MLDF won't just curl up and go away; she'll strike back, she'll go on the media circuit and become a hero for women's rights here and in his own country. There's ridiculous patriotic music playing through her whole monologue. "What you do today may determine your political survival," she says. "This woman can either be the mother of your children or the face of your opposition." In Amanda's case, she's both. Cut to LDF saying goodbye to his oldest son in front of the hotel. His son salutes him. It's all more touching than it should be.
Cyrus shows up at HQ with the dream team's dossiers, which are now inches thick. Olivia tells him it's a "nice show," and that if he wants to go nuclear, they can, because the shitstorm from El Prez's paternity suit will dwarf anything Cyrus could possibly dig up. Instead, Cyrus says he's just an errand boy, and that El Prez sent him to Olivia's office with all those documents, because he's declared war on Olivia. He leaves Il Papa looking small in her office.
Time for a pep talk! Olivia addresses the Dream Team. She says she's been asking a lot of them, and sometimes she gets things wrong. But they're going forward with Amanda's case. It will be big, and mean, and personal. But they don't have to do it for her; they have to decide for themselves. So she actually puts it to a vote. They all agree. "All right then," Olivia says. "We go to war."
Amanda is watching El Prez's speech on Olivia's couch. Suddenly someone grabs her from behind the couch, hands over her mouth. Ooh, now there's duct tape, and she's lifted over the back of the couch and injected with a sedative. The unseen assailant fireman carries Amanda out of Olivia's apartment.