Things to Do

WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap, Episode Six, "The Trail"

In the second-to-last ep of the first season, Olivia has bangs, FLOTUS has some major claws, and things get a little stabby.

Maybe Olivia can’t see Billy’s crazy eyes because those bangs are in the way. Photograph by Carol Kaelson.

Holy lord. While last week’s
Scandal had some genuinely chilling and affecting plot
developments, this week’s installment cannonballs off the high dive
into full-on,
glorious camp. Flashbacks to El Prez’s campaign trail reveal
more backstory about his relationship with Olivia, and in the
present, the Amanda Tanner saga takes an, um, unexpected turn.
Also: lots of sexytime. To the recap!

We open on Olivia and El Prez in her apartment.
She wants to know what he’s doing there. “I didn’t kill Amanda Tanner,”
says. She tells him she knows. “Her baby–it wasn’t yours.” He
tells her that she left him, Amanda was there one time, and
he “made a mistake,” which oddly fails to mollify her. “You
cheated on your mistress with your girlfriend,” she points out.
He snaps that she should never call herself a mistress, since
they “both know better.” Olivia still wants to know why he’s
there. Hilariously he pulls out the sex tape and says he needs
her to hear it. She’s unenthused by the idea of listening to
him and Amanda having sex, but he insists. It’s totally going
to be Olivia on the tape, not Amanda.

Flashback to two years ago. El Prez (now El Gov) is in his
campaign HQ, complaining to his staffers that they’re not getting
the message out about who he is and where he stands. “Anyone
got any brilliant ideas?” he asks. Then Olivia pipes up from
the back of the room. She’s sporting some seriously heavy bangs
and a weird belted jacket, and she announces it looks like
El Prez doesn’t screw his wife, which somehow equates to family
values, which matter to people. She’s super cocky. “And you
are?” he says. “Olivia,” she says. “Pope.” After the meeting,
El Gov tells Cyrus to fire her. Cyrus, because he is a thousand
years old, just laughs and calls her a “pistol.” El Gov repeats
that he wants her fired, and turns around to find her standing
in the doorway. She huffs off, and Cyrus tells El Gov to make
nice with her because they need her. So El Gov literally runs
after her in the hallway. She snaps that she would “eat, sleep,
and breathe Fitzgerald Grant” (phrasing!), and he is ALREADY
creepily staring at her lips. “I loved hearing what you had to
say,” he says. He tells her she was right, and that he would
be lucky to have her. They stand inappropriately close, and
there is some major eye sex. Then he steps back with a heavy sigh.
“This is why you fired me,” Il Papa realizes. They agree to
just go back to the campaign room and work. Apparently we’re supposed
to assume this was love at first sight for El Gov.

El Gov and “Sally,” his future veep, now a senator and
an opposing candidate, are meeting at a campaign event. There are
and veterans and babies. Olivia’s watching El Gov and talking
to Abby, who is in full-on
Desperate Housewives mode at Olivia’s, baking scones
and babbling about how she’s divorced, not deranged (are you sure?).
Olivia says Abby needs
to call Stephen, who’s “funnnn,” and Abby counters that maybe
she’ll buy a gun instead. Yes. Do that. Then shoot me. She hangs
up, and Olivia and Cyrus chat about the state of El Gov’s
marriage. Hey, it’s Amanda Tanner! She hands them an event schedule
and Cyrus says he doesn’t care which campaign she’s
volunteering for, he’s just happy to have her there.

Campaign HQ. Olivia explains to El Gov and Future
FLOTUS that they need to act like a loving couple or they’ll lose the
FFLOTUS is pissed that Bangsy McGee is doling out marriage
advice, but Olivia just says she’ll give them a minute to “discuss,”
a.k.a. scream at each other. El Gov says FFLOTUS is “dying to
get into the White House.” She yells that she’s given up everything
to support him, including her uterus, since they apparently
have kids. El Gov says they better start pretending their marriage
isn’t dead.

Snippets of Olivia working her magic on the campaign
trail. She ties El Gov’s tie. They flirt. He does interviews. FFLOTUS
does interviews. They do interviews together. They act happily
married. Everything seems to be going well (eye sex between
Il Papa and El Gov notwithstanding), until the night before the
New Hampshire primary, when Cyrus tells them a story’s coming
out that FFLOTUS is having an affair with the head of the
literacy council (or something). Sure enough, El Gov loses. Olivia
watches on TV from a bar as Billy Chambers comes up. Basically
he’s Senator Sally’s Olivia Pope. He tells Il Papa that if
El Gov concedes before South Carolina he can have the VP slot.
He hits on her. She turns him down. They’re both cocky bastards.
She says she still has cards left to play.

Turns out the cards are Harrison, in an ankle monitor,
and Huck, with truly amazing ZZ Top-style hair and beard, who find
out Mr. Literacy had a career as a foot fetish porn star (not
making this up) and use it to get him to deny the affair with
FFLOTUS. But the public concerns about El Gov’s marriage
remain, and El Gov is asked directly about them during a debate with
Senator Sally. “The most honest thing I can tell you about
myself right now is that I’m a man in love. With an incredible
woman,” he responds, as he and Olivia make eye contact across
the room and I gag.

On the campaign bus, Cyrus tells El Gov they don’t
have the female vote because Senator Sally’s in the running. There’s
talk of focusing on her college cocaine habit, but El Gov says
they’re going to win fair and square, no smear tactics. FFLOTUS’s
wheels start spinning.

At a campaign event in Georgia, El Gov babbles about
pie to a town hall full of women. Suddenly FFLOTUS starts to cry. She
says she can’t hold it in any more. Oh my God, she MAKES UP a
story about a campaign-stress-induced miscarriage. Cold, FFLOTUS.
She blames their distanced marriage on her fake miscarriage and
apologizes to El Gov. He gapes like a goldfish, then just
hugs her wordlessly. She whispers in his ear, “I think that
ought to take care of it, don’t you?” She just became my favorite

Campaign bus. Olivia goes to sit by El Gov and says
she’s sorry for his loss. He explains FFLOTUS made it up. “She’s a real
catch, my wife.” He says complaining to Olivia about his wife
is sleazy and low (THAT’s what’s sleazy and low?). “What kind
of a coward was I to marry her and not wait for you to show
up?” he says. They hold hands in the darkness of the bus. People
would have to be freaking blind not to realize there’s
something going on.

They get to the hotel. El Gov walks Olivia to her
room. He tells her to go in and close the door and they’ll pretend
never happened. Instead she turns around and heads to his room.
With her luggage. WTF. They break a lamp and make out on the
desk, then El Gov says “Take off your clothes.” Okay, it’s kind
of hot, but the sex scene goes on for SO LONG and is wildly
uncomfortable. Also El Gov has way too much of a six-pack for a
nice family man. The important part is not what kind of lingerie
Il Papa wears but rather that someone’s bugged the room. A dude
in a van outside listens, then picks up his phone. “I think
I got something. There’s some woman; you can’t tell who it is,”
he says. He puts the USB drive with the audio file in a blue
pouch. Which gets delivered to Amanda Tanner, and the person
delivering it says it should go to her boss. Who is . . . Billy
Chambers! He takes the tape to Senator Sally, but doesn’t get a
chance to tell her what’s on it before she explains she accepted
El Gov’s offer to be his running mate. Quoting the Bible, she
tells him someday they’ll get the position of power, but for
now they’ve got to take what they can get.

In the present day, Olivia plays the tape in her
apartment. When she hears “Take off your clothes,” she turns to El Prez
a HORRIFIED face. “Someone’s had this for two years,” she says.
“Why now?” El Prez says all they had was his voice on the
tape, and they needed to fill in the female side. “They needed
Amanda Tanner,” Olivia says.

Jerk Jeremy and his assistant, Alissa (Brenda Song,
aka Wendy Wu, Homecoming Warrior),
investigate Amanda Tanner’s murder. They’ve got records from
the White House that show her clocking in and out of the West
Wing in the wee hours, so they deduce she was sleeping with one
of the 57 male West Wing employees. Using a highly scientific
method (Alissa plays “hot or not” with their photos) they
decide that her secret boyfriend was some random hot guy, and that
he probably killed her. That’s about as far as they get.

Having better luck is Gideon, Boy Wonder. First he and
Quinn have sex (in a mercifully brief scene), then he tells her to
stay in his bed while he does some work. He’s still
investigating Amanda, and starts by asking who’s taking care of her
golden retriever. Apparently her “boyfriend” is. Eighty-five
calls later (with the help of those same White House logs JJ
used) he figures out Billy was Amanda’s secret boyfriend. So he
calls him for a quote as Quinn runs out for bagels. Billy
shows up at his apartment, and Boy Wonder lays out his story.
Billy’s reaction? He laughs in Gideon’s face. “I’m surrounded
by morons,” he says.

Gideon, insulted, insists he has a story. “Yeah,
genius, only it’s the wrong one!” Billy yells. He tells Gideon El Prez
the one sleeping with Amanda. Billy was the one who sent Gideon
the photos of Amanda and El Prez and the “stupid dog,” along
with the White House logs. “Dear God, man, I did everything but
draw you a picture of their stick figures doing it!” he says.
Veins are popping out of his head. It is amazing.

Gideon realizes Billy sent Amanda in to sleep with El
Prez. Billy is unimpressed with Boy Wonder’s deductive reasoning skills.
Then Gideon, not smartly, tells Billy that Amanda was preggo,
and that a quick DNA test would land Billy in a world of shit.
At Billy’s expression, Gideon smells blood in the water. He
turns around to get the coroner’s report, and Billy grabs a pair
spurts on Boy Wonder’s lamp as he falls down. He bleeds on the
floor as Billy looks on with crazy eyes.

A couple of thoughts:

• First: WOW. Did not think this show was going to be
so bloody and violent. But if Shonda can blow up Coach
I guess stabbing someone with scissors isn’t too much of a

• This week in “Hey! This is set in DC!”: Alissa would rather be getting laid by the “hot bartender at the Black Cat.” Because
you totally wear six-inch stilettos and a bandage dress to an indie club.

• I have problems with the Olivia/El Prez love story,
mainly that while I think it’s supposed to come across as sweet I never
dislike their characters more than when they’re making googly
eyes at each other. Give me Olivia Pope, Unrepentant Badass
over Olivia Pope, Couch Snuggler any day. I’m also finding it
hard to have sympathy for their Twu Wuv now that we know El
Prez has two kids.

• More FLOTUS, please!