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WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap, Season Three, Episode Six, “Icarus”

The show drops the biggest shocker of all: some Harrison backstory.

Abby and Olivia team up to run Josie Marcus’s campaign—but Josie’s not always happy with their techniques. Photograph by Eric McCandless for ABC.

Last week on Scandal, Olivia dug through the trash to answer a phone call from El Prez, and I cringed at how far Il Papa had fallen. This week she’s back to her usual authoritative self—sort of. When she’s in work mode she strides around barking orders and manipulating things to great effect, but outside of work she seems constantly on the verge of total collapse. At the beginning of the episode she’s practically catatonic, and her wine consumption has gone from elegantly quirky to possibly concerning. How long can she continue to compartmentalize herself this way before she melts down? To the recap.

The episode opens with a flashback of 12-year-old Olivia. She’s sitting at the table eating cereal as her mom (the recently cast Khandi Alexander) bustles around getting her bags ready. She tells little Olivia she’s leaving but will be back in a few days. Flash-forward to Olivia sitting silently at her desk at HQ as Jacked Ballard and Huck stare in at her and mutter with each other. Finally she snaps out of it and heads for the elevator, concerned menfolk swishing around her. She tells them their theory that El Prez was the one who shot down her mother’s plane as part of a top-secret military mission sounds insane, and since there are only two people who know the truth and one is her dad, who will probably kill all of them if she asks, she’s going to see El Prez. 

VP Sally is introducing her philandering husband, Daniel, to her smarmy strategist, Leo. After Daniel leaves, Sally and Leo cook up a plan to get the Grant administration have her reach out to church leaders to “pacify” them about El Prez’s “penis problems”—but instead of selling El Prez’s agenda Sally will set herself up as the viable candidate. Meanwhile at the White House, FLOTUS is manic with excitement that Olivia is on her way because it means she’s going to run El Prez’s campaign. Cyrus, meanwhile, calls it a “Greek tragedy in the making” and babbles about horses and wings and flying too close to the sun (hence the title of the episode). He needs a vacation. When Olivia comes in she asks for a moment alone with El Prez, then confronts him about Remington. She asks if he’s lying about where he was during the operation, and he retorts with, “Like you lied about Defiance?” He says they can talk about anything—her new boyfriend, the weather—but when it comes to Remington, his official response is he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. “I can’t work for you,” she says. When she leaves, FLOTUS once again gets the best line of the episode, telling El Prez, “I did everything but roll your whore up in a rug and unfurl it at your feet.” But El Prez has bigger concerns: He tells Cyrus that Olivia knows the truth about Remington, sort of. 

Meanwhile Olivia heads back to HQ and announces they’re going to take on Josephine Marcus’s presidential campaign. Abby is thrilled that they’re for once working for a client she believes in, but is surprised Olivia didn’t choose El Prez. “We have a chance to make history,” Olivia says. “White hat, people!” Sometimes I’m shocked she doesn’t just flatten like a pancake under the weight of her own hypocrisy. 

The Dream Team try to explain their strategies to Josie, but she objects at every turn—she doesn’t want to solicit big companies for donations, she doesn’t want to run negative ads, she won’t address sexism—even though Olivia tells her that’s what will make her a viable candidate. So instead Olivia books an exclusive with Ira Glass Lite. Cyrus, of course, tries to get IGL to drag Josie through the mud, and IGL calls him a shameless monster. 

Since Cyrus has no luck with IGL, he calls Harrison and asks him to get Olivia off Josie’s campaign. “You used to be a car salesman; I’m sure you can be very persuasive,” he says over the phone as Harrison’s face drops for some reason. He also tries to blackmail Harrison by mentioning someone named Adnan Salif, who’s trying to get a visa to enter the US, which Cyrus could make either very easy or very hard. Harrison goes to Huck and, in a nice scene, humbly asks him for a favor. “If Salif sets foot on US soil I’ll be a dead man,” he says, and Huck promises to erase Salif’s visa application from the system, so Harrison goes to Cyrus and says he can’t help. Cyrus twirls his mustache for a second, then gets on the phone and tells someone to put Salif’s visa through. 

IGL and Josie’s big interview is happening at Josie’s house. Right before, Josie sees Olivia and Abby whispering, and asks what they’re hiding, so they show her an attack ad created by her competitor, Governor Reston, calling her out for being an inexperienced female. The ad so incenses Josie that she goes against IGL with all her guns blazing, calling out the latent sexism in the campaign and even in the interview. IGL is flustered and she’s brilliant, and Olivia and Abby give each other a mental high-five. After it’s over, Josie’s campaign manager/illegitimate secret daughter, Candy, figures out Olivia and Abby made the fake ad to light a fire under Josie. 

Sally and Leo’s strategy is working like gangbusters: Cyrus sees a pastor on TV talking negatively about El Prez, and asks Sally and her husband to have dinner with El Prez and FLOTUS to talk about reelection strategy. At the dinner, as El Prez asks Sally to speak to church leaders, she watches her husband very creepily flirt with FLOTUS. She thinks she’s doing everything right, but Cyrus has already bought the pastor, who tells him Sally is planning to run against them. Rather than mention it to El Prez, Cyrus discusses it with FLOTUS, who says Sally’s downfall is her handsy husband. “We should use that,” she says, and you can practically see the wheels turning in her head. 

Olivia has dispatched Jake to find more information about her mother’s death, so he meets with a female intelligence officer (or something) and former lovah and asks her to look up the plane’s flight plan. Olivia, for her part, is sitting at home getting drunk on wine and rewatching news coverage of the crash. She calls Papa Pope and slurrily asks him what the last thing he said to her mother was. “I have so many questions I want to ask you, but I’m afraid you’ll kill my friends if I do, so let’s talk about the weather,” she says. She slides into self-pity as she says she can’t form attachments because her mother’s dead and her father is “that thing that goes bump in the night.” Papa Pope says he’ll answer one question, so she asks whether he gave the order to have her mother’s plane shot down. He says no, but when she tries to ask more questions he tells her to leave the past in the past, and she hangs up. 

Cyrus, of course, has told Papa Pope about Ballard and Olivia’s continuing investigation, and Papa says he’ll “take care” of Ballard. So when Ballard goes to meet with his mysterious contact—in a dark alley, natch—he’s tailed by someone. Except there’s a twist! The tail turns out to be a security detail assigned by El Prez, and shoots Ballard’s contact, who was there to kill Ballard after all. The tail takes Ballard to the Oval Office, where El Prez once again tells him to lay off. Ballard says knowing more about Remington is his one chance to sleep without one eye open, and El Prez retorts that maybe it’s just his one chance to sleep with Olivia, because all El Prez thinks about is sex, apparently. 

Perhaps still with sex on his mind, El Prez shows up at Olivia’s door. She wants him to answer her question about Remington, but instead he says she could come on his campaign trail “so we can be us again.” Then he says, “There’s nothing you could do that I wouldn’t forgive,” as if her rigging an election that made him President is the same as him shooting the woman who gave birth to her out of the sky like a clay pigeon during target practice and also is not true because remember when he just threw Defiance in her face? Anyway, he asks why it’s so important, and she tells him her mother was on the plane. His expression changes, almost imperceptibly, and she says, “Do you still not know what I’m talking about?” He parrots that he doesn’t, and she says, heartbreakingly, “I was 12, and she died.” He stays silent, and as the music gets increasingly insane, she goes to the door and opens it, and he walks out. 

Some thoughts: 

I’m digging Lisa Kudrow’s character so far, but this being Scandal we know nothing good is in store for her. Also interesting is her juxtaposition with the Dream Team—they’re so blasé about their not-always-aboveboard methods, so it’s almost jarring to once again meet someone who is actually bothered by it.

The Plot I Don’t Care About continues, with Quinn encountering her friendly neighborhood hit man Charlie at the shooting range. He gives her pointers on her technique, then calls Papa Pope and tells him the “seed has been planted.” I guess the plan is to make Quinn the next B613 agent, now that Ballard’s contact is dead. But why?

Why does El Prez save Ballard’s life? Wouldn’t things be easier if he were dead?

FLOTUS seducing VP Sally’s husband = major ick. 

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