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WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap, Season Two, Episode 22, “White Hat’s Back On”

The season finale sets up some intriguing possibilities for the show’s return.

Quinn is riding high after her first experience torturing someone, and Huck is concerned. Photograph by Richard Cartwright/ABC.

I think my colleague Sophie Gilbert summed up this episode best when she tweeted,
“Nobody does a twist like Shonda.” No matter how implausible, the plot curves she
throws out are thrilling in all their soapy glory.

A few beginning thoughts before we get to the recap. At the risk of angering
Scandal’s many Olitz shippers, I’m going to say the focus on their relationship is one of
the less compelling parts of the series to me. Yes, they have great chemistry, but
their epically self-destructive romance is the molten core of the show, so actually
having them be together and happy would end
Scandal as we know it. Since it’s unlikely for that to happen anytime soon, it robs those
scenes of any real stakes for me. What I do like, though is how well Shonda has shown
how everyone around these two people gets drawn into their orbit, doing things they
never imagined they would in service of a relationship that defies all wisdom or reason.
I also realized that while I’ve criticized
Scandal for flying through plot points faster than you can actually absorb them, that in
itself becomes an important facet of the show: that these characters are constantly
a step away from disaster, and all their desperate actions to get out of whatever
corner they’re backed into take them further from who they were when they began, until
they find themselves sticking a power drill into a man’s thigh—and enjoying it.

After last week’s reveal that Billy Chambers is the mole, Olivia and Co.’s main mission
is to retrieve the Cytron memory card to keep Defiance under wraps. Jerk Jeremy is
holding onto it while Billy ropes in Governor Reston, who was El Prez’s rival in the
rigged election. Reston tells El Prez he will make Defiance go away in exchange for
a spot on the reelection ticket, but Olivia realizes he’s just trying to get El Prez
to say something incriminating on tape. Billy then goes back to JJ and tries to convince
him to hand over the card by blaming the fact that he murdered two people on Olivia.
He points out that Olivia ruined JJ’s life, too—and yes, she’ll superglue it back
together, but only because she was the one who broke it in the first place. By tracking
Billy’s cell phone (or something), Huck and Quinn manage to get ahold of Billy, and
when Huck balks at torturing him, Quinn steps in, drilling into Billy’s leg with relish
as his blood sprays across her face. It’s gross, and Huck is concerned. She gets the
location of the card from him, but when Abby looks at the card they realize it’s blank—a
fake. Billy tells them he got the card from JJ, and in an awesome flashback sequence
we see how JJ planted himself in HQ and used his after-hours time to crack into the
safe—not with any fancy technology but just by trying combination after combination
until he found one that worked.

So he’s still got the real card, and instead of turning in El Prez and the Dream Team,
he gives the memory card to Cyrus and leaves a box for Olivia containing a video of
his conversation with Billy—and an actual white hat (ugh). What does he want in return?
Just public recognition from El Prez that he found the mole, plus a sweet new position
as US Attorney. VP Sally, who was already plotting to run against El Prez, is once
again discredited, and Billy ends up in jail.

Cyrus is in damage-control overdrive this week, desperately trying to get FLOTUS to
stand by El Prez while doing his best to get the lovebirds to see reason. He’s so
stressed, in fact, that he literally gives himself a heart attack and ends up in the
hospital despite his strenuous objections. Poor Ira Glass Lite comes to see him, crying
that Cyrus isn’t allowed to die. Cyrus is still in good enough shape to lie to IGL
about El Prez seeking spiritual counseling from his pastor about the state of his
marriage, which IGL then reports on television. Seriously, divorce him, IGL!

El Prez and Olivia have a beautiful dream that she’s going to be his First Lady,
and she comes up with a pretty smart plan to gradually legitimize their relationship
to the American people after he gets reelected. (Included in the plan—playing up the idea that their relationship will give the Republican party a much-needed fresh angle in terms of race relations.) Not everyone is cool with that, though—namely
Ballard’s creepy boss. He sends a B-613 agent to her apartment to shoot her, but Ballard
gets there first and shoots the agent instead. He takes Olivia to HQ and tells her
as long as she’s in a relationship with the President she’s in danger, and while he
claims sleeping with her was his mission, it’s obvious by his puppy dog eyes that
it meant more to him. She thanks him for saving her life, sort of, and kisses him,
and then he runs out the door to escape the clutches of his scary boss. Sadly, he
ends up in the same pit Huck was imprisoned in for so many months. Wonder what the
monthly rent is on that thing.

Because nearly getting killed isn’t enough to get Olivia to reconsider her relationship,
Cyrus breaks out the big guns (so to speak), telling her that El Prez murdered Verna Thornton and
showing the Olivia/Ballard sex tape to El Prez. Olivia goes to see El Prez, and he
says he can forget about Ballard but knows she probably can’t do the same about murder.
But hey, she can! “Whatever happened in the past, let it go,” she tells him. She says
he has a chance to run a clean campaign, and with FLOTUS by his side he can win. As
for her? “I took my people too far over the wrong cliff,” she says. “I can’t leave
them. They need me. I’m their gladiator.” So she goes home, and he, unbelievably,
goes straight back to FLOTUS and lays his head in her lap. She looks both surprised
and mildly triumphant. Seriously, divorce him, FLOTUS!

The next day Olivia wakes up feeling good. She puts on her running gear (also white,
natch) and heads downstairs. She gets a few looks in the lobby, but smiles back at
them. Then she opens the front door and is confronted by a crush of reporters, who
all want to know one thing: How long has she been El Prez’s mistress? Completely blindsided,
she tries to head back inside, but someone grabs her and muscles her through the crowd
and into a limo. In the limo is none other than Ballard’s boss. “Hello, Olivia,” he
says. Shocked, she says, “Dad?”

Some more thoughts:

So one of the big mysteries for season three, presumably, is what exactly the purpose
of B-613 is, and what Olivia has to do with it. But did anyone else get stuck on how
creepy it is that her dad is orchestrating her sex life?

Jerk Jeremy not turning in Olivia is more than a bit
disturbing. He was the last actual good guy on this show, and while he might be able
to effect positive change as US Attorney, he’s still subverting justice for personal gain. Then again, he’s probably pretty tired of getting screwed over by Olivia.

Hey, Quinn is finally getting interesting! In a scary, homicidal way, sure, but this
turning-into-Huck character arc finally has me invested.

Very important question: Will Ballard still be hot with his prison-sentence long hair
and beard?

What did you think of last night’s
Scandal? Got predictions for season three? Let us know in the comments—and thanks for following
along this season!