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WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap, Episode Seven, “Grant: For the People”

In the final episode of season one, our heroes get their hands dirty.

Olivia and Cyrus, the White House’s very own Blair and Serena, discuss saving El Prez’s career. Photograph by Richard Foreman.

Well. Thus ends the first season of Scandal, not with a bang but with … two more dead bodies and a sham pregnancy? I’m still working through how I feel about the big setup for season two, so let’s get to the recap.

We open right where we left off, in Gideon’s apartment. Quinn rushes in babbling about bagels, then FINALLY notices that Boy Wonder is bleeding on the floor with scissors stuck in his neck. But instead of, oh, I don’t know, CALLING AN AMBULANCE, she says “No, no, no, no, no” and runs over, has an internal debate over whether to pull the scissors out of his neck (don’t you dare), and then decides it’s an awesome idea. Which, of course, makes him bleed more. Boo, Quinn. As she’s holding her hand over the hole in his neck and FINALLY trying to reach her BlackBerry, he stops twitching. Oh, no. Adios, Boy Wonder.

So she calls Olivia, who shows up to find her shaking and covered in blood. Quinn hysterically says they need to call the police, but Olivia snaps that they can’t, because then they’ll find out who Quinn really is. Instead, she summons the Dream Team, who stand around poor dead Gideon’s apartment discussing how Quinn is now their client and showing their usual heinous lack of compassion. Olivia says Quinn can’t be photographed, fingerprinted, etc. in any official capacity because she’s not who she says she is. Huck is ready to erase all the signs of Quinn’s presence, but the rest of the team protest that they’re “officers of the court.” Harrison says dramatically, “I’ve been to prison. I’m not going back,” to which Huck once again earns my favorite character award as he snaps, “You were in prison for THREE DAYS.” Olivia just wants to get Quinn out of there, but Stephen says if they do what she’s asking, poor dead Gideon’s murder will never get solved. “Clean it,” Il Papa commands. So the Dream Team grab gloves and go to town, swabbing the apartment, stripping the sheets, bagging Quinn’s post-coital grilled cheese. As they go to leave, Quinn, now dressed in poor dead Gideon’s sweatpants and flannel shirt, says they can’t just leave poor dead Gideon there because he’ll be all alone, so Olivia calls the police and rather than disguising her voice just holds the phone farther away from her face. Huck says they need to grab poor dead Gideon’s BlackBerry, which is in his pocket. Abby grabs it, and they hustle out of there.

Let’s check in on Killer Billy! He’s headed to the White House, looking shaken and sketchy. Chatty security guard says he already signed Killer in two hours ago. As he walks through the White House, his assistant reads off his schedule, but he just goes in his office and shuts the door as slasher-movie-ish music plays.

Meanwhile, Cyrus visits El Prez and monologues about how his husband wants to adopt an Ethiopian baby, which is his very roundabout way of scolding El Prez for his snuggle time with Olivia. “Why did you even run for this job—to get laid? You couldn’t get laid as governor?” he says. Amen, Cyrus. Grant says he’s sick of Cyrus saying he put him in the White House and that he’s sorry Cyrus’s girl fell in love with him. “You don’t deserve this job,” says Cyrus. “And yet here I am,” says El Prez.

Killer Billy walks into Madam Vice President’s prayer breakfast and hands her a letter, which he tells her to read “when you have time,” then starts spouting off about how he has the best job in the world. She jokes they need to give him a raise and a pulpit, but he says, “Working for you has been reward enough, Madam President.” He leaves her looking confused and heads to a press conference dealing with a crisis in Georgia (the state, not the country) involving a cult leader who’s holding hostages and shooting ATF agents. In a separate room, El Prez and MVP are getting briefed about the hostage situation. Rather than listening, MVP starts reading Killer Billy’s letter. “Holy crap!” she exclaims. Cut to the press conference, where Killer Billy, still with the crazy eyes, has hijacked the stage and is dramatically quitting his job while spinning a yarn about how he fell in love with Amanda Tanner and knocked her up. He says El Prez “abused his power” and slept with her too, and then she killed herself weeks later. And there’s a sex tape to prove it. The press goes nuts, and we get reaction shots of FLOTUS (scary!) and the Dream Team, who are delving into Gideon’s research at HQ and realize Billy was the one who sent Amanda in to sleep with El Prez.

FLOTUS yells at El Prez in the White House, who says he’s “not willing to lie to the American people.” Uh, okay. She says he’s on his own and storms out. Enter Olivia. She and Cyrus kiss and make up as they once again talk about how they put El Prez in the White House and can “do the impossible” again. As part of their damage control, they advise El Prez to go to Georgia and milk the end of the hostage situation for good press until they can figure out how to rein in Killer Billy. There’s a weird sequence of Killer Billy’s press tour where the audio of El Prez saying “Take off your clothes” just plays randomly at odd intervals. It’s kind of hilarious.

At HQ, the Dream Team helpfully exposit that if they can finger Killer Billy for Gideon’s murder it’ll fix El Prez’s problems too. But there’s no physical evidence, thanks to them. Jerk Jeremy shows up looking for Quinn, who was seen going into poor dead Gideon’s apartment the night he was murdered. JJ wants to bring in Quinn for questioning, and Harrison tags along as her lawyer.

Elsewhere, Olivia walks in on Killer Billy washing his hands in the men’s room after an interview. This seems like a bad idea. She calls him a murderer. “I am not proud of that,” he says, confessing the way people only do in TV shows. [Text from my coworker: “Olivia NEEDS to start carrying a tape recorder.” For real.] Billy psychos out that El Prez made promises to the American people and didn’t deliver on any of them, and that MVP is going to be the finest President the country has ever seen.

JJ’s office. Harrison is blocking his every attempt to question Quinn, who’s standing mutely. Enter Il Papa, who tells JJ everything, including the parts about Amanda Tanner getting set up, kidnapped, and murdered. He says he believes her. “Then help me,” she says. Now that she’s destroyed all the real evidence, she wants him to fabricate some so he can arrest Killer Billy. But JJ refuses. “I am the law,” he tells her, and he won’t break it, even for her. He tells her to get out of his office, but to leave Quinn behind.

Oval Office. Olivia says she’ll confess it was her on the tape. El Prez says he’d rather just resign. Cyrus is pissed, mostly because he doesn’t want to go back to being a regular guy because then he’ll have to adopt a baby. Olivia’s sorry for El Prez, but he’s Mr. Silver Lining as he says now they can finally be together. They make out, directly under the Oval Office ceiling cam. The kissing scene goes on for oddly long. As does my eye-rolling. On her way out, Olivia runs into Cyrus in the hall. He tells her a normal life would be wasted on El Prez. “Some men aren’t born to be happy. They’re born to be great.”

Olivia is back at HQ, looking depressed. Stephen breaks it down for her: She can’t have El Prez, even though she wants to. “Normal is overrated,” she says, sadly and unconvincingly. Then she snaps into action mode, barking out the plan of action. As the Dream Team disperses, Huck comes up and says he can “take care of” Killer Billy if she wants. Looking disturbed, she makes him promise not to. I think you broke Huck, Olivia.

White House. FLOTUS is packing to take her mystery kids to Santa Barbara when Olivia walks in. She wants FLOTUS’s help, but instead she gets an earful for “falling down on the job,” breaking El Prez’s heart, and leaving him vulnerable to Amanda. Olivia is speechless. FLOTUS snaps that it’s clear she has to do everything herself.

Huck goes to see Charlie Brown, who chokes on his sandwich at the sight of him. Huck says Killer Billy is talking an awful lot and at some point might start talking about Charlie Brown. He suggests without saying it that Charlie Brown might want to take care of the situation, and he himself can’t do it because he gave his word. He tells Charlie Brown they need a suicide note, something sad that says he’s a liar. Oh, Huck.

Quinn is still at JJ’s office, and he tries to be charming as he offers her Chinese food. She starts shoveling rice into her mouth as he says the only thing Olivia didn’t tell him is why the Dream Team would go to such lengths to protect her. She won’t say, but he grabs her fork with a paper towel and says either she can tell him what’s going on or he’ll take the fingerprints off her fork and find out himself.

El Prez walks in on FLOTUS and Olivia to find that the two ladies in his life have made a deal. FLOTUS will tell the press it’s her on the tape—which, HELLO obvious solution—and that she’s newly pregnant, which is not true, so they’ll have to start trying right away. Ooh, cold. Stop using your womb for power plays, FLOTUS. Olivia can’t look El Prez in the eye. After FLOTUS leaves, El Prez grabs Olivia and says, “Who are you right now?” “The woman who got you elected,” she says. “So go be the man I voted for.”

The last end to tie up is destroying Killer Billy’s credibility, which El Prez does by once again blackmailing MVP. This time it’s with info Olivia uncovered, about MVP’s 14-year-old daughter having an abortion, which would no doubt not sit well with her über-religious followers. He misquotes the Bible at her, and it’s icky for everyone. She goes on TV to announce Killer Billy is a huge disappointment and basically insane, and he sees it on the TV in his hotel lobby. As he gets on the elevator to go back up to his room, Charlie Brown gets on with him.

In the next scene, Cyrus is gardening, when his husband says his “work colleague” is at the door. It’s Charlie Brown. He tells Cyrus he’s leaving town and needs the rest of the money Cyrus owes him for killing Amanda. Cyrus agrees, then calmly goes back to pruning his roses.

HQ. JJ shows up, dragging Quinn as the Dream Team assemble in the hallway. He says he ran Quinn’s prints but for some reason decided not to tell anyone who she is (WHO IS SHE?) and brought her back to Olivia. “Do you want to tell them who you are, or should I?” Olivia asks Quinn. The episode ends with a shot of Quinn’s blank face.

Some thoughts:

• This show is burning through plot points too fast. Every conflict introduced gets resolved so quickly that there’s no chance for tension to build. Olivia’s in trouble! Olivia manipulates people! Olivia’s out of trouble! There are no stakes because she manages to wiggle her way out of every bind. And it erodes my sympathy for her a bit more every time.

• Have we actually seen evidence that El Prez is a good leader? Or an effective one?

• On the subject of Quinn as the big reveal for next season: When the season started, she was the audience surrogate, our window into Olivia’s lightning-quick, pant-suited world. So far all she’s done is be inept at everything—her job, pickup lines, not accidentally killing her boyfriend—so it’s hard to imagine where the show is going to go with her mystery identity. But if she turns out to be royalty from some obscure country, I swear I will break my TV.

What did you think of last night’s ep? Will you be tuning in for season two? Let us know in the comments.

  • slumbeen

    wow great i have read many articles about this topic and every time i learn something new so i appreciate your work...
    Thanks for all of your hard work!
    Signs Chicago

  • e jerry powell

    I think that the first observation you make is probably attributable to a couple of things:
    1. Shonda Rhimes.
    2. Shonda Rhimes.

    Using her typical formula (see: Anatomy, Grey's, or Practice, Private), she is obliged to follow the "illness o' the week" paradigm, which requires resolution within the episode for the most immediate problem/guest star.

    The overarching storyline would also seem truncated, since the initial order was only for seven episodes. I don't know if she had a guaranteed pick-up from ABC for a second season at the time (or maybe she's just damn lucky that ABC is trying to keep her Dick Wolf/Jerry Bruckheimer happy), but things needed to be dealt with that much quicker. The Kesslers seem to have it a little bit easier with Damages with F/X giving them 13 episodes a season, or even with Direct TV giving them 10 episodes each for the final two seasons (longer episodes than on most broadcast television).

    But seriously, things got wrapped up, both per episode and for the initial run, a bit too simply. I guess that's why I prefer to leave shows such as this to the Kesslers, actually.

  • Tanya Pai

    I agree with you that things wrapped up too simply, and that's a good point about the short season. Maybe season two will be paced a bit more reasonably. But I'm not even sure where you go from a potential presidential love child and multiple murders, so...I guess we'll see.

  • e jerry powell

    I didn't think the Kesslers (sorry to keep harping on about them, but I adore Damages) would be able to come back from Patty trying to kill Ellen in season one, or Patty nearly dying in season two, or really coming up with story lines in general from season to season, but somehow they manage. Rhimes will pull something out of her ass, good or bad, without fail. Whether it will be plausible or at all interesting is another matter altogether.

    But Kerry Washington is made of awesome, and she's probably what tipped me into seeing the only Tyler Perry film I've ever watched, so I'll be there with bells on in any case.

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