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WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap, Season Three, Episode Five, “More Cattle, Less Bull”

FLOTUS makes Olivia an offer she really should refuse.

Seriously, FLOTUS’s hair is so large in this episode. Photograph by Richard Cartwright for ABC.

One day—maybe not today, but hopefully some day soon— Scandal will start to address how awful Olivia has become. I kind of hate her in this episode, but everyone on the show continues to love her unconditionally and unhealthily, like kidnapping victims with Stockholm Syndrome. Also Quinn is back to being the worst, so the balance has been restored in my world—and we got our first glimpse of Jack Coleman’s character and plenty of shirtless Jake Ballard, who I think from now on will be called Jacked Ballard. To the recap.

Democratic senator/El Prez rival Josephine “Josie” Marcus has hired Olivia to handle her little problem of having had a baby at 15 and given it up. She says only five people know about it and she wants to give the now-grownup baby privacy and so won’t use the story for politial gain. Olivia sends the Dream Team to Montana, where they’re horrified by the cowpoke town but set about bribing those five people with briefcases filled with $10,000. (Where are they getting this money, by the way? Josie must be loaded, because we know Pope & Co. can barely keep the lights on at their building.) Meanwhile Cyrus calls Olivia and asks her to dig up dirt on Josie, so she knows he’s got someone out in Montana as well: his lackey Ethan, who brings a news crew to Josie’s baby daddy’s house. Then the Dream Team discover Baby Daddy solicits hookers and blackmail him, so instead the interview turns into an ode to how great Josie is. Ethan calls Cyrus and says, “We got Poped.” I like Ethan; he can stay.

Anyway, the nurse who delivered Josie’s baby reveals that Josie didn’t give it up for adoption; instead her mother changed the birth certificate and raised the baby as Josie’s sister, Candace, who is now Josie’s campaign manager and has no idea. Josie says she won’t tell Candace, but during her first debate, Governor Reston the murderer (remember him?) calls her out. She says honestly that she wanted the baby to have a better life than she could give it so she gave it up, and the crowd loves it, and at the White House Cyrus silently craps his pants. But Candace figures out the truth in two seconds and runs off, and Josie fires Olivia.

Speaking of Cyrus, he’s trying to get El Prez’s reelection campaign going, so he and FLOTUS meet with strategist Leo Bergen (Paul Adelstein). Leo says El Prez has a few problems, the main one being that he looks like he hasn’t gotten laid in a while (really). He says he doesn’t back losers. FLOTUS’s hair is GIGANTIC in this episode. I guess it is pretty full of secrets.

Olivia is going ahead with Sunday dinners with Papa Pope, who is scarily jocular. He tries to engage her in conversation, but she says that instead of being the brave, outspoken girl her mother taught her to be she’s chewing her food and then is going to go home and pretend the dinner never happened. He tells her she gets all her strong qualities from him. As they’re at dinner, the amusing buddy-cop duo of Ballard and Huck are conspiring to break into Papa’s house and copy some files from his computer. Huck finds out that Papa Pope met with El Prez, but Papa knows Ballard is snooping into Remington, so El Prez sends some goons to pick him up and take him to . . . a basketball court, where they play basketball aggressively but thankfully stop short of pulling down their pants and actually comparing penis sizes. Ballard realizes they’re running out of time, so Huck (still in Montana) tells him to go to his work computer and use a program to look at the information they found on Command (or something). They figure out while El Prez was supposed to be in Iran he was actually in Iceland.

On his way out, Ballard runs into Olivia and lies that he’s there to see her. She keeps staring at her “secret presidential phone,” and Ballard deduces she’s waiting for El Prez to call. She says the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is coming up, and she used to vet all his jokes. Then she chucks the phone in the trash can. But after Josie fires her she goes back to the office and drinks wine in the dark, alone, à la Kirsten Cohen. The phone rings, and she gets on her hands and knees and starts digging it out of the trash. El Prez, who also sounds drunk, starts asking her for help with his jokes, and she tells him to own his “penis problems” and make fun of himself. He says he loves her as FLOTUS listens from the doorway.

Olivia calls Ballard and gets him to take her to the WHC dinner—which this show hilariously thinks is at the Kennedy Center—but while she’s there she only has eyes for El Prez. When Tom the Secret Service guy shows up, Ballard’s like, “Oh, just go already,” so she follows Tom to a back room. But it’s not El Prez waiting for her—it’s FLOTUS. After getting in a dig about whether her new boyfriend is married, FLOTUS asks Olivia to run El Prez’s reelection campaign. “He’s tired and broken, and it isn’t the job—it’s doing the job without you,” she says. She tells Olivia they both want the same thing: to see El Prez be the man they both know he can be. Ugh. Meanwhile VP Sally, who’s upset at being boxed out of the reelection strategy by Cyrus and also worried about her mysteriously problematic husband (Jack Coleman), corners Leo as he’s taking a leak in the men’s restroom and tells him she “hypothetically” wants to run for President. He tells her she’d get clobbered as a Republican, but she says she wants to run as an Independent. His eyes start to gleam.

After the dinner Ballard is mad at Olivia for ditching him like the ugly kid at prom. “I don’t play second fiddle to anyone, even the President,” he says. Then Olivia gets a call and heads to the office, where Josie is waiting to make up and ask her to run her presidential campaign. Harrison’s eyes turn into cartoon dollar signs, but Olivia says she’s not the right person for the job. Josie tells her to sleep on it, and when she leaves, Harrison asks, “What the hell was that?” Olivia just walks away, leaving him there. She’s a terrible boss.

Ballard gets back home to find Huck lurking in the dark. He figured out what El Prez was doing in Iceland: shooting down a commercial aircraft with 329 passengers on it for the US government. And who was on that plane? Olivia’s mother.

Other things that happened/some thoughts:

Quinn travels farther down the path to becoming a serial killer by buying a gun in Montana.

Abby and David get in a fight because he invites her to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and she lies to get out of it. But then he figures out it’s because her ex-husband was going to be there.

Harrison . . . still has nothing to do besides wear suspenders and quietly run everything.

Seriously, what happened to the Olivia Pope from seasons past? She is putting her business, her employees’ lives, EVERYTHING in jeopardy in favor of her relationship with El Prez, who constantly lies to and manipulates her. She dug around in the trash! Who is she?

By the way, why does everyone want to hire Olivia anyway? Just a couple of episodes ago her name was basically a punchline. It strains credibility to pretend reputations bounce back that quickly. I love that FLOTUS’s plan is to hire her husband’s mistress to get him reelected when Olivia is half the problem with his candidacy anyway.

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