WashingTelevison: Scandal Recap, Season Three, Episode Three, “Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington”

Olivia Pope’s daddy issues continue to dominate the plot.
These are not the faces of a happy couple. Photograph by Ron Tom for ABC.
These are not the faces of a happy couple. Photograph by Ron Tom for ABC.

The season-long mysteries are inching forward, but I almost don’t care about the plot
in the face of the characters’ increasingly twisted relationships. Bellamy Young as
FLOTUS continues to be a vindictive delight, and any scene with Huck and Olivia is
electrifying, even if we have to wait until almost the end of the episode to see it.
To the recap.

Olivia is sitting in her bedroom, staring at Ballard sleeping in her bed (naked, I
am pretty sure—thanks, Shonda!). El Prez calls her and says they need to talk about
how Ballard got there; she says she has to go and then hangs up and calls Huck and
him they need to talk. Huck says he’s “fine” with the knowledge that Olivia’s dad is
Command and ruined his entire life—but of course he is not fine, and is currently
tailing Papa Pope in his car.

Olivia arrives at HQ just in time to briefly meet their new client, a way-too-chipper
woman named Mary Nesbit (hey, it’s Joy from
Dead Like Me!
), who wants to retain them for
a “family matter.” Everyone wants to know where Huck is, to which Il Papa says he’s
taking a personal day. Abby: “What, do we get vacation days now, too?” Harrison is
stoked that they can actually pay their rent, thanks to the retainer, but Quinn “Because
I Can” Perkins snoops in her financial records and finds out Mary’s son was killed
in an FBI raid a few months ago, and that the check happens to be everything that
was in her bank account. Olivia’s spidey sense starts tingling, so she heads to the
Hill to find Mary. And find her she does: Mary is in the office of a congressman wearing
a bomb vest and threatening to blow up nine people unless someone helps her find out
what happened to her son, Chris, who was shot for being a suspected terrorist.

Meanwhile, insanely, a guy ostensibly taking a tour of the White House breaks away
and makes a run for the Oval Office, where he’s tackled by Secret Service agents.
He screams that he has to talk to the President about Operation Remington. El Prez
and FLOTUS, whom Cyrus is trying to convince to go on a fake romantic getaway to Camp
David, are instead shuttled to their favorite bunker; Cyrus, rather than having the
guy arrested, lets him go and calls Papa Pope to deal with it. Papa shows up at the
guy’s trailer with an envelope of cash, but he’s having none of it. Papa Pope says,
“We had a deal,” but the guy says he is the only honorable person in the whole mess.
Cut to Papa Pope coming out of the trailer. “You’re rusty, soldier,” he says—to Huck,
who raises a gun and points it at his forehead.

Meanwhile in the hostage room, Olivia is acting as negotiator. She manages to get
Mary to release most of the hostages, leaving just her and the congressman. Mary wants
to see the file that explains why her son was killed, and Olivia tries every angle,
from El Prez to David Rosen (who amazingly says Olivia “causes more problems than
she solves”) to having Quinn hack into the FBI database. At first they think the FBI
killed him by accident and covered it up, but there’s a twist: El Prez calls Olivia
and explains that Chris was actually CIA, and if she tells Mary the truth she will
endanger the lives of 57 other undercover CIA operatives. The writers try to fake
that Olivia is going to spill the beans, but instead she tells Mary her son was a
terrorist, and Mary shoves her and the congressman out the door and then blows herself

El Prez, released from his bunker, finds FLOTUS drinking “hooch” in the dark. Totally
smashed, she slurs in a moderately terrible Southern accent that it was a good day.
He is surprised, because he thought Olivia being blown to bits was her dream. She
counters that having Olivia die protecting a senator would be her nightmare, because
it would turn her into a martyr. “I am spectacular,” she says, “but I can’t compete
with religious fervor.” But as long as Olivia is alive, FLOTUS can use her as a weapon
against El Prez. “She’s the strings I will pull to make my puppet husband dance.”
Then she waltzes drunkenly out of the room and clicks off the lights, leaving El Prez
alone in the dark.

Quinn comes to find Olivia and tells her Huck has been Googling her dad (not like
that). Olivia gets back to HQ and finds Huck sitting in the dark. She wants to know
if he killed her father. “All this time I’ve wondered who Command is, I’ve banged
my head trying to get a name, and then I got one. From you,” he says. He tells her
a name is something you can look up, you can ask questions about your long-lost family
and then “wrap it in plastic and put it in a dumpster so it never bothers you again.”
But did he kill Papa Pope? No—instead we flash back to the trailer. Papa, cool as
a very scary and evil cucumber, walks out and, totally unfazed by the gun, tells Huck
he left him a present all wrapped up in the trailer, then walks away. Huck goes in
to find the guy from Operation Remington handcuffed to a table. Guillermo Diaz really
brings the crazy in this scene—his eyes get all wide, and you can just see his impulses
fighting each other internally. Then he kills the guy and stages it as a suicide.
In the present he starts weeping. “I thought I was free, but I’m not,” he says as
Olivia holds him. “He still controls me.”

Olivia gets back home, where Ballard is playing house husband, pouring her wine and
babbling about Gettysburger delivery. She wants to know how he got out of the hole
and why her dad let him out. She thinks he’s there to spy on her. Her dad calls on
one phone and El Prez calls on the other, and she throws both to the ground. Ballard,
acting way more well-adjusted than he has any right to, tells her he kept picturing
her face. “Your face saved me,” he says, but Il Papa is having none of it. “This is
not a fairy tale,” she says. “This is not happily ever after. If you’re still alive
it’s because you’re still useful to him, and he’s going to find a way to use you against
me. But don’t feel bad about it—he still owns me too.” She grabs her glass of wine
and chugs it as they sit on the couch silently while her home phone rings. She doesn’t
answer, and we see Papa Pope throw down his phone in frustration.

Some thoughts:

FLOTUS wins this episode, hands down. I love how she goes from asking El Prez if he
wants to have sex to emasculating him so completely.

The plots of the week were so silly—having someone break into the White House AND
threaten to blow up a congressman in two completely separate acts and then shoehorning
in a line about how “they might be related” just felt like sloppy writing.

What do we think the deal is with Ballard? He seems so sane, he must be hiding some
deep nefarious scheme. He couldn’t really think he was just going to get out of the
hole and have a nice, normal relationship with Olivia, could he?

Killer Huck returns! I wouldn’t put it past Shonda to reunite him with his family
at some point, only to have him immediately thrown in jail or killed in some terrible

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

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