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WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap Season Two, Episode Two, “The Other Woman”

Camp-heavy situations take a backseat to real, complicated emotions in this week’s episode.

Darby Stanchfield, Kerry Washington, and Columbus Short in “The Other Woman.” Photograph by Richard Foreman/ABC.

This week’s episode of
Scandal centered, both directly and indirectly, on the roles of the two women in El Prez’s
wife. I think this show is at its best when it eschews the over-the-top soapiness
in favor of mining the real, complicated emotions surrounding its main conflicts,
so I found this episode especially enjoyable—especially since my favorite lost-cause
character, Huck, got a bit more screentime. I was also impressed by how the D-story,
in the end, turned out to advance the season-long story arc, although very little
of the episode was devoted to it.

The episode opens on Olivia lying in bed alone. Her phone rings. It’s El Prez. She
does her usual song and dance about how he can’t call her, to which he says that they’re
being friends. “How’s your pregnant wife?” she asks him. “Whose fault is that?” he
replies. I think the correct answer there is “Fitzgerald Grant Jr.,” but it’s been
a while since I learned about the birds and bees. “Tell me to stop calling,” he says,
which she doesn’t, because they’re in L-U-V. He says he’ll call her tomorrow and hangs
up. A minute later the phone rings again, and we delve into the A-plot of the week,
which is the story of Pastor Marvin Drake, civil rights activist, gay marriage crusader,
and one of the most respected men in the country. He has a loving wife, several grown
children, and a rock-solid reputation. Turns out he’s also got a penchant for light
bondage and extramarital sex, as the Dream Team discovers when they find him dead
and naked in an Adams Morgan hotel room, sprawled on top of a woman who is handcuffed
to the bed. The team at first assumes (reasonably) that the woman is a hooker, but
when she refuses an extra few Gs to sign a nondisclosure agreement, they cotton on
that she is, in fact, the good pastor’s mistress of 15 years.

Olivia breaks the news to Nancy Drake, who agrees they need
to cover up the situation.
Olivia asks Huck to “take care of” the pastor’s body and asks
what he’ll need, and
he rattles off a long and very disturbing list of supplies that
includes a roll of
plastic sheeting, an industrial bone saw, and two black
coffees. But Olivia just wants
him to move the body, not make it disappear. “Oh,” Huck
whispers. Yeah, she definitely

The Dream Team’s solution is to cart the not-exactly-stick-thin
Pastor Drake to his
house, dress him in PJs, and then have his wife put on her
nightgown and pretend she
woke up to find him that way. It’s pretty sick, but she goes
along with it. Harrison
goes around town paying off the various servers/valets/cleaning
ladies who knew about
the pastor’s affair, and they think it’ll be buried—until the
mistress, whose name
is Anna, demands $6 million to keep her mouth shut.

Il Papa goes to see her and explains calmly that while Nancy has the money, Mistress
Anna simply doesn’t have the leverage. But—twist—she absolutely does have the leverage,
in the form of an adorable little moppet with Coke-bottle glasses who is “the spitting
image of his father.” Olivia, looking mildly impressed, agrees to broker a deal between
the two women, and things are once again under control—until the US Attorney’s office
orders an autopsy of the body, which will show, among other things, that the crime
scene was tampered with. Olivia goes to see Jerk Jeremy, who is in no mood to do her
any favors, and Harrison’s attempt to charm the lady coroner are unsuccessful (bet
they miss Stephen now!). So instead Olivia brings it up to El Prez during their nightly
phone conversation and demands he take care of it. He was one of Pastor Drake’s biggest
fans, and also a complete pushover when it comes to Il Papa, so he agrees. This is
actually a cute scene—she shares the shady truth about the pastor’s death, and they
guffaw through the phone like middle schoolers hearing a fart joke. It’s the first
time I’ve found it believable that they have a connection outside of sexual attraction.
But then he brings up the fact that his pregnant wife is going to see Nancy tomorrow,
and Olivia gets upset, and when she gets what she wants and hangs up, he does that
thing only people in TV and movies do and sweeps everything off his desk with one
arm to show that He’s Mad.

Also mad is JJ, to whom being denied the autopsy is like hearing Christmas is canceled.
He barges into his boss’s office and demands to know “how she did it” (she being Olivia,
because obvs his boss is a man). His boss counters that it’s been decided JJ will
take a leave of absence. JJ looks shell-shocked.

The next day is FLOTUS’s big meeting with Nancy. Exactly one photographer and one
reporter are allowed to witness it. Olivia instructs Mrs. Drake beforehand to say
“Thank you” and only “Thank you” to whatever FLOTUS might say, but Nancy has taken
a sedative, so when Mellie says she’s sorry, Nancy slurs, “He had a mistress.” FLOTUS
clears the room, and we get more stellar work from Bellamy Young as she holds the
finally weeping widow and explains that she has to be strong for her late husband,
cheating bastard though he may have been. FLOTUS reminds her that they were always
partners. “He made a mistake,” she says. “Forgive him. Bury the man you married. Be
his wife.” Olivia listens from outside the door, looking sad and guilty.

It’s time for the funeral, which is like the royal wedding but with more black and
fewer hats. Not that many fewer hats, actually. Mistress Anna still hasn’t signed
the nondisclosure agreement. Turns out all she wants is a chance to attend the funeral
and say goodbye to the man she loved. She’s relegated to a pew, but as the family
walks with the coffin down the aisle, Nancy pauses and invites Mistress Anna and the
moppet to join the procession.

In the First Limo on the way back from the funeral, El Prez reads a brief and ignores
his pregnant wife. He’s been super mean to her all episode (all this season, actually),
but now she takes her words of wisdom to Nancy to heart and tells El Prez he needs
to forgive her, because she’s forgiven him. He kisses her on the forehead and holds
her for, like, 30 seconds. He tells her he forgives her. Then he goes right back to
reading his brief.

Other things that happened this week: The United States is still on the brink of war
with East Sudan, and when El Prez gets a photo of hundreds of dead bodies lined up
in the streets, he’s about ready to dive in. But then Cyrus says he thinks the intel
is bad, which turns out to be true, so instead El Prez fires the director of the CIA.
Cyrus, for his part, uses that situation as an excuse to deny his long-suffering Ira-Glass-hot
husband the fat, squishy Ethiopian baby he so desires because El Prez is all the baby
Cyrus can handle. Luckily Ira Glass finds power sexy, so instead of divorcing Cyrus,
he makes out with him. Huck continues his
Yellow Wallpaper-style descent into madness. When the episode opens, he’s at an AA meeting but doesn’t
speak; by the end of the episode, though, he’s ready. “I like to drink . . . uh, whiskey,”
he says. He talks about how he used to get paid to drink it because he was really
good at it, and now it’s all he thinks about. “I don’t want to be that person who
drinks all the time,” he says. “I hope that by coming here, I can stop drinking .
. . whiskey.” You guys, I don’t think he’s talking about whiskey.

And finally there’s Quindsay, who continues to be massively unlikable but for some
reason important to the plot. She’s sequestered in Olivia’s apartment because the
hype surrounding her case hasn’t yet died down, and she brats that even though Olivia
saved her ass not once but twice (counting the time she splashed her DNA all over
Poor Dead Gideon’s apartment), she’d rather be in prison because there’s more stuff
to do. Il Papa leaves her alone, and she immediately hops on a plane to Oakland to
see her dad. He hasn’t seen her in two years and is less than enthused that the prodigal
maybe-murderous daughter has returned. So then she goes back to the motel she was
kidnapped from, and Huck shows up to take her home, telling her it wasn’t seven people
who died in that explosion, but eight. She’s Quinn Perkins now, and she can’t go back.

The episode ends with Il Papa helping a female Supreme Court justice prep for a rare
interview as she gets her makeup done. When the makeup girl leaves the room, the justice
asks about Quindsay. “Part of me wishes we’d let her hang,” she says. Olivia reiterates
that she’s innocent, and the justice counters, “That innocent little girl of ours
could bring down this government.” Then we see JJ at home, not watching
Judge Judy and inhaling Cheetos but rather assembling a clichéd buddy-cop-movie evidence wall
on Olivia and Quinn and is slowly putting together the pieces.

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