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WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap, Season Two, Episode 14, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

We jump ten months into the future and the show does its best “Homeland” impression.

Flash-forward Olivia rocks straight hair—what a difference ten months can make. Photograph by Ron Tom/ABC.

After last week’s bananas episode, I wasn’t sure how Shonda was going to get her characters out of that melee. Her solution: Jump nearly a year ahead, skipping over that period almost entirely and picking up with a sulky El Prez and an Olivia who’s trying to move on with her life (plus the ongoing campaign to make Quinn a less useless character). To the recap!

We open on a pool, in which Olivia is swimming laps. A chyron helpfully informs we are now ten months in the future, and Olivia has apparently developed the ability to see into the future, because scenes of her swimming are intercut with scenes of sex with El Prez that happens at the end of the episode. Elsewhere in watery activities, El Prez is in the shower. FLOTUS comes in wearing a super flowery kimono and mules. Her charming husband has apparently dispatched her to bring him some whiskey, even though it’s 7 AM, because ten months is enough to turn him into a (hopefully) highly functioning alcoholic. FLOTUS gets in the shower with him, and he’s all, What are you doing? and she says, “I thought you could use a morning pick-me-up. You don’t have to do anything. I’ll do all the work.” ICK. She dips below the frame as he shakes his head and drinks his watery whiskey. Then Cyrus knocks. There’s awkwardness from FLOTUS, as she squeaks out a question about whether the christening for his adopted daughter is all set, and then he tells El Prez that four Americans have been kidnapped abroad.

Turns out those four Americans are deep undercover CIA assets, and they’ve somehow been captured by a low-rent liberation front associated with al Qaeda. El Prez, still angry from the realization that he’s been just a pawn in his entire political career, is shutting out everyone—including his chief of staff, Cyrus, which seems like a bad idea for the American people. It leads to a hilarious conversation between Cyrus and FLOTUS, in which Cyrus tells her El Prez knows about Defiance, Ohio, and then is like, “He’s trying to run the country for real, on his own,” like he’s still being potty-trained or something. He says El Prez needs somewhere to lean and someone to trust, because otherwise he’s going to start trusting someone else—“and once that happens, someone else is going to ride our horse across the finish line.”

El Prez wants to rush into sending a SEAL team to rescue the kidnapped Americans, but Cyrus tells him he needs to consult with him—or anyone—before making decisions. He says he knows El Prez is shutting him out, but it’s bad for the country. El Prez finally agrees to wait on the SEAL team, but things are still not all sunshine and roses. Later, in the limo on the way to Cyrus’s daughter’s christening, FLOTUS opens up to him. She says she knows he knows about Defiance, and that he’s hurt, and then she pins it all on Cyrus. “You’re right not to trust him,” she says. “But you have me.” He explains the hostage situation, and she says he should trust his instincts. “I need to know I’m making the right call,” he says, and she says, “You’re the President—any call you make is the right call.” Umm, FALSE. He takes her hand and kisses it, and she looks out the window, smiling triumphantly.

At the christening El Prez tells Cyrus to order the SEAL team after all. Then he sees Il Papa, who is the baby’s godmother (Cyrus’s baby, by the way, is now like two years old, even though America’s Baby is still an actual baby). She and El Prez make all kinds of intense eye contact, and it’s awkward, and then she leaves right after the speeches. He follows her down the hall, pulls her into a control room (or something), and makes out with her. She slaps him, cries, and then goes right back to making out with him, and we’re treated to the full angry sex scene from the opening sequence flashbacks. After, out in the hall, she says, “I made a mistake.” She’s talking about Defiance, but he says, “That wasn’t a mistake—that was betrayal. I may not be able to control my erections around you [ew], but that doesn’t mean I want you around me.”

After, he and Cyrus are watching the raid go down. The SEALS break down the door of the room where the hostages are being held and find … nothing. El Prez is all, WTF? and one of the other men asks to clear the room. “We have a mole,” he says. Cyrus wants to investigate immediately, but El Prez tells him to hold off. “I need to figure out who I can trust,” he says.

Back at the White House he’s back to drinking in the shower, and FLOTUS comes in and wants to pick up where they left off earlier. El Prez freaks and yells at her, then immediately apologizes. Then they have sex (I think?) as he looks into the camera with dead eyes.

Meanwhile, in the running joke that is ruining Jerk Jeremy’s life, he wakes up in bed with a bloody knife in his hand and a dead girl in her bra next to him. Because this is Scandal he lies to the cops, then immediately calls the Dream Team. Turns out the girl is his new sex buddy, Wendy (at which Abby looks stricken), and JJ has been roofied and set up for her murder. The Dream Team moves the body back to her apartment, where Huck and Quinn go about making it look like the crime happened there. Quinn, still trying to be useful, has decided she wants to learn to be a “cleaner,” so Huck tells her to stab the body to create realistic blood spatter (I’m not making this up). She stabs, and he breathes, “You’re a natural” as I cringe in disgust. As the Dream Team is investigating, they find out poor JJ hasn’t been able to get a job after they ruined case after case of his, with the result that he’s teaching high school government and letting his grandmother pay his rent. Who would set him up for murder? He initially blames Olivia, suggesting she was trying to tie up the loose ends of Defiance, but she goes to see Cyrus and he says it’s not the case. They then find out Wendy made somewhat of a habit of sleeping with dudes with secrets, then selling said secrets to newspapers and the Pentagon—so someone who didn’t want that information out is the one who killed her.

Enter: SCOTT FOLEYYYYYYYY! He and Olivia have a meet-cute early in the episode at a coffee shop. There’s banter about doughnuts, and they both make up fake jobs they know are fake. Turns out he is Captain Jacob Ballard, which Il Papa finds out when she goes to the Pentagon to ask him whether he bought any of Wendy’s intel. He’s like, “Are you a detective?” and they ask each other a bunch of questions neither answers, until he asks her out to dinner, to which she says no, although she’s clearly interested.

JJ finds Wendy’s flash drive on his computer—she’d started downloading his files about Defiance. Il Papa realizes there’s a ton of classified information on the drive—nuclear missile sites, coordinates for the President’s wartime bunkers, things no private citizen should have access to. There’s talk of dusting off the white hat and putting it back where it belongs.

Olivia gets home and pulls out her phone. She calls Captain Jacob, who’s at home drinking a beer and who is cockily charming. As they banter about what restaurant to go to—she likes quiet, he says he “likes people watching”—he sits down on his couch. We see a video monitor with surveillance cameras observing Olivia in her house as she talks to him on the phone. People watching, indeed!

Some thoughts:

Ten months seems too long to jump forward. All the conflict still seems extremely immediate, so it makes it hard to believe almost a year has gone by. Why not four months? Or six?

To echo Sophie’s Homeland recaps, who’s the mole?

Scott Foley is surprisingly good at playing an ominously, ambiguously creepy dude. Is he investigating Olivia because of Defiance, or does he just want to eventually make a suit out of her skin?

What’s your favorite Il Papa hair: curly, flashback bangs, or flash-forward straight?

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

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