The second episode of the season really picked up the pace, if that’s even possible, serving up some insight into Olivia’s past as well as the return of her flashback bangs. To the recap!
In the past …
It’s five years ago and Olivia, who already had fantastic taste in coats, is getting on the Metro. Bearded homeless Huck asks if she’s going to dinner with her dad. “Every Sunday,” she says, and asks him if he wants her to bring him a doggie bag. “Every Sunday,” he replies. At dinner, Papa Pope is all mild-mannered, wearing a comfy sweater and trying his damndest to engage his daughter in conversation even though she won’t make eye contact with him. Turns out they have a Gilmore Girls-style deal wherein she has dinner with him once a week in exchange for him paying off her law school loans. He fills in that after her mother died he handled it badly by sending her away—but says she can’t “extort payment” from him and not at least try to make conversation. Finally she gives in and tells him she has a boyfriend (Senator Davis, whom she’s living with). “Is he good enough for you?” he asks immediately; she rolls her eyes and changes the subject to his latest fossil at the Smithsonian.
After dinner she’s once again in the Metro station, on the phone with Davis, who reminds her and us that he proposed to her but she hasn’t accepted. She gets off the phone and is accosted by two thugs who grab her purse and knock her down; then Huck comes to the rescue and beats them to a pulp. He throws Olivia’s purse at her and growls, “Run,” which she does, looking freaked.
Later she visits Huck again and asks him where he got his mad karate skillz. After minimal prodding he spills that he was a member of operation B-613, run by a man named Command, and he can “kill a man with very little effort and a lot of joy, but I try not to.” The cover business for the operation was Acme something, and that they used to call it “Wonderland” (not the ballroom). He asks if she and her dad can eat at a place with cheeseburgers so he can have one, and my heart breaks a little. Sadly, no cheeseburgers—Olivia and Pops are eating at her house, and he pours her some wine, which she says she doesn’t like. He urges her to try it, and of course she does (where’s the popcorn?), so he grabs a pen and paper and writes down a recommendation for a wine shop. Their relationship seems to have thawed a bit, and she tells him about Huck. When she mentions B-613 he gets all squirrelly, and tells her obviously Huck is cuckoo bananas. She asks him to check in with his “friend at the FBI” about Huck’s story. Instead, at the next dinner he tells her a guy fitting the profile just got arrested.
So she goes to see David Rosen, who’s sporting a terrible flashback goatee and talking to a prostitute named Licorice, and he tells her the prints he got off her handbag weren’t in the system so whoever said Huck had been arrested lied to her. She realizes something is fishy, then looks at the pen her dad gave her at dinner, which says Acme. It happens to be Sunday, so she shows up at dinner all freaked and asks her dad if he helps train people to kill. Joe Morton is fantastic—his eccentric scientist personality immediately shifts into something very, very scary, and he tells her not to ask questions she can’t handle the answers to. “You don’t know me that way, you don’t ever want to, but if you push, you will know me well,” he says. He tells her to pick up her menu and order like a normal person, but intead she leaves. Is she done? Nope—proving she would manipulate the crap out of people even five years ago, she shows up at Papa Pope’s door with Davis, who says she accepted his proposal. She smiles that he just joined a Senate Intelligence Committee so he can, for example, make sure people can’t have innocent individuals disappeared. When Davis leaves the room, she grits, “Give Huck back.” And he does—Olivia finds him in the Metro with a massive black eye, but then she gets a call from her dad who tells her Davis was in a nasty car accident. “So when you give the ring back, let him down easy,” he says. Yikes. Olivia says that they’re done, and he replies, “We’re family, sweetie—we’re never done.” Later we see her pulling up in front of an Acme building, on Wonderland Boulevard.
In the present . . .
The presidential sex scandal is on day two. El Prez has given Olivia a special cellphone (hope he’s not using taxpayer dollars for that) and calls her to say they can’t come clean now that Janine’s name is out as his mistress. “It’ll make you look like you unzip your pants for anything with a pulse,” she agrees. Say it with me now: Amanda Tanner! El Prez says he misses her, and she says since she now represents Janine she’s going to go after the White House hard. “I want you to,” he says, and it turns into a weird kind of flirting that underscores how deeply twisted their relationship is. They have a brief fantasy about another life in which they live in Vermont and have four children and Olivia makes jam (yeah right!), and then he tells her to go for the jugular.
Papa Pope calls Cyrus and points out that the Janine situation is a “gift from the gods” that Cyrus needs to make El Prez take advantage of. Cyrus says the only thing he can make El Prez the giant man-child do is shut him out, and from what he read about Operation Remington, he doesn’t think Papa Pope wants that to happen. Meanwhile, Olivia has staged a press conference in front of the White House gates and is blaming the White House for using anonymous sources to spread slander. She brings up that the day before she herself was the one supposedly having an affair with the President, showing a truly staggering amount of both hypocrisy and sheer balls. El Prez, watching on TV, is amused; Cyrus, not so much.
El Prez says he’s not going to throw Janine under the bus, but FLOTUS gives Cyrus a log of all the times Janine was working in the Oval Office while she was out of town, which they use as further proof of the affair. But Janine tells the Dream Team she has time-stamped IM conversations with her friend Ethan, which proves she wasn’t alone with El Prez. Thanks to Olivia, reporters are starting to speculate that FLOTUS made up the affair; they call her a “woman of a certain age” and say she “could have had a political career,” and after her head spins all the way around on her neck she takes matters into her own hands and goes to see Janine.
Papa Pope visits HQ and is very friendly, especially when he introduces himself to Huck, and then he and Olivia have a hilarious conversation in which they are all smiles but say terrible things to each other. Papa Pope says if she ever wants to see Ballard again she has to stop helping Janine. After he leaves, she finally asks Huck what B-613 does to people who disobey orders. He tells her about using the hole to “reprogram” people and says they made him wish he were dead. Olivia, panicking, tells El Prez to get Ballard out of their clutches, and El Prez delegates it to Cyrus, even though Cyrus says B-613 is not under their control. Olivia has arranged an interview for Janine but has a last-minute crisis of conscience when she thinks her dad will kill Ballard if it goes ahead. You can practically see the little angel and devil on her shoulders. She begs her dad not to kill Ballard, even offering up Sunday dinners again, which he says he’ll consider. Meanwhile, Janine has the IMs destroyed because FLOTUS offers her $2 million to lie about the affair, although Olivia goes into Real Talk Mode and tells her not to because every time she does she’ll lose a little piece of her soul and will look in the mirror and hate herself. Anyway, Janine doesn’t get the chance to decide because El Prez cuts off their planned interview to throw Janine under the bus on TV, which I guess was what he bargained for Ballard’s release. Janine looks deflated, and Abby says they’ll get her a book deal. VP Sally suspects rightly that ginger Janine is not exactly a threat to El Prez’s marriage and he’s trying to get out of the promise he made to help put her in power. El Prez lies that he’s not lying and says nonchalantly that he thinks his constituents will forgive his affair after not too long.
Quinn, meanwhile, has been hacking into Olivia’s e-mail account (“because I can,” she says), and tells Huck about her standing Sunday dinner with Papa Pope. Then she finds that the dinners stopped—right around the time Olivia asked him to look into the life of a homeless guy who lived in Union Station. “Didn’t you live in Union Station?” she asks. Then, in a totally wrenching scene, Huck visits Olivia in the parking lot, looking broken and not very stable. He asks why she lied to him about there not being a deal for his life. “I’ve never lied to you,” she says, and then he grabs her face and pushes her against her parked car, terrifying her. “Is your dad Command?” he screams. He lets go of her face and asks again, and finally she whispers, “Yes.” Huck looks like someone just killed his puppy.
Back at home sipping wine, Olivia gets a call from her dad, who says to open her front door. She runs over and opens it to find Ballard, bloodied and with a little baby beard. He collapses on her welcome mat as Papa Pope says he’ll see her for dinner on Sunday.
I am really digging Papa Pope as the villain. He brings so much menace to the role, and I love the new layers he brings out in Olivia’s tightly wound personality.
So wait, does Janine still get the $2 million? And what’s she going to write a book about, exactly?
I like that El Prez finally seems commanding, but Tony Goldwyn’s ultra-calm, low-key demeanor is weirdly at odds with the chaos constantly exploding all around him, to an almost distracting degree. Also, seriously are they just never going to bring up Amanda Tanner again?
Holy cow, so many things happening. I’m not entirely sure I grasp the whole B-613 thing yet, so if I missed anything, feel free to let me know in the comments.