You guys, Scandal is back. I’ve been complaining for the past few weeks that the action has been dragging a bit as it focused on Olivia’s barely contained mental/emotional breakdown, and this week the show put her story on the backburner somewhat while delivering what it does best: a full helping of insanely fast moving plots with more twists than a bag of Twizzlers. It also managed to fold in some backstory on FLOTUS and somehow tied it all in with this season’s main arc without feeling at all retcon-y. To the recap.
The framing for this episode is an interview FLOTUS is doing to repair her image as First Lady after outing El Prez’s affair on national television. Since this is America, the woman gets blamed for her husband’s infidelity, and FLOTUS is trying her damndest to convince the reporter how much she loves picking out china patterns and drapes. Flash back to 15 years ago, in Santa Barbara, when FLOTUS was just Mellie and El Prez was just Fitz, and they were very much in love. They’re in bed together, making out, and Fitz says he’s trying to get her pregnant. But his dad, Fitgerald Grant II, a.k.a. Big Jerry, is yelling from downstairs, so they get dressed and head down. BJ introduces them to a political strategist whom he says can get Fitz the governorship: Cyrus, with a hilarious ’70s style flashback beard. Cyrus’s strategy is for Fitz to run on his military record and get his Navy buddies to support him—but Fitz refuses. “My military career is off-limits,” he says, to Mellie’s confusion and BJ’s ire.
Turns out he knows exactly why Fitz doesn’t want to run as a war hero. “You had no business running black-ops missions,” he tells him. Fitz was first in his class in flight school, but his dad had him put on desk duty, so when he was offered a chance to fly a plane he took it—and ended up shooting down the plane carrying Olivia’s mom. “It should have been some poor kid who shot down that plane, not my son,” says BJ. He called in favors to cover up Fitz’s involvement, and now, he says, “I own you. I made you; I could destroy you.” They almost make Olivia and her dad look like the Gilmore girls.
Meanwhile Mellie is trying to keep Cyrus from leaving and destroying Fitz’s chance at the governor’s mansion. He gives her some real talk: If Fitz is going to be a “real politician,” she’s going to have to give up her career and her dreams of charity work and devote her whole life to supporting her husband. After the barest hesitation, she tells him to come back tomorrow, because she’ll make sure Fitz is ready to work. He nods at her determination, and as he drives away her face falls.
Later, after Fitz has gone to bed, Mellie and BJ are drinking some Scotch and discussing him. He drunkenly slurs that he’s not a bad father, despite having slept around a bit, and Fitz has never been grateful a day in his life. Then he says he’s going to tell her a secret, and with little fanfare spills that Fitz shot down the plane. Mellie is horrified, but BJ says there was a dirty bomb onboard—and if it had reached London, it could have started World War III. “Fitz has too many feelings,” BJ says, and that’s why he’ll never be successful. As Mellie tries to absorb the information that her husband is responsible for the death of 329 people, BJ sits down next to her. “Good God, you’re a beautiful woman,” he says, and puts his hand on her knee. She tries to push him away, but he overpowers her, and rapes his son’s wife on the couch. It’s completely horrible, but perhaps worse is what comes next: Mellie sneaks upstairs and heads straight for the shower, but Fitz wakes up and makes her get in bed. He snuggles with her, oblivious to her pain and silent tears, and tells her all he wants is for his dad to apologize just once.
The next morning Mellie goes downstairs and sits at the breakfast table with BJ like normal. He starts to apologize for things “getting out of hand,” but she stops him. Rather than apologize to her, she wants him to apologize to Fitz, and tell him whatever it is he needs to hear to want to run for governor. “You’re an asset,” he says appraisingly, and she grits, “I’m his wife.”
Her tactic works, and Fitz launches his campaign for governor with Cyrus at the helm. At their kickoff party, Mellie gives a Champagne toast to the staffers, who she says are like family, but Fitz notices she’s not drinking and deduces she’s pregnant. He hugs her and says if it’s a boy, his dad is going to make them name it Jerry. He has no idea how right he is. (From my notes: Oh god Mellie is pregnant. Oh god what if it’s the dad’s? OH GOD.)
BUT WAIT, there’s more. In the present, Olivia has decided to become a pilgrim. Not really, but she’s wearing some weird black coat with huge white lapels that is maybe a pregnancy disguise. She’s headed out of the house and hears her presidential phone ring. She ignores it and leaves, but seconds later comes running back in and picks up the phone. El Prez wants to know how she is, but she says he doesn’t get to ask her that. “You’re a stranger to me,” she says. “I’m surrounded by murderers, standing in a graveyard made by people I thought I loved.” He tells her he loves her, and she (finally!) says, “So what?” He tells her to stay away from Jake and Operation Remington. She mentions Rowan (which apparently is Eli’s B613 code name, for the record), and he’s like, How do you know Rowan? She says he doesn’t know everything about her either, and when he insists, “We’re not strangers,” she hangs up.
At HQ, she’s finally decided to fill in the Dream Team about what’s going on. She wants to find out whether her mother was the target of the attack on the plane or just collateral damage, and says they don’t have to help her, but of course they all want to. She tells them El Prez was the one who shot down the plane, and Abby hilariously hugs her as gently as if she’s a wild animal. The Dream Team find out that the plane was delayed on the tarmac and that one passenger was missing: one “Omar Dresden,” whose family thinks he died on the plane but who was actually removed from the flight by an air marshal before it took off. They try to find someone who would have seen the marshal and Dresden, and manage to track down the guy who operated the stairs. Jacked Ballard sets up a meeting with him.
Quinn is still continuing her target practice with Charlie. He tells her he’s now a PI and is going to a stakeout later that night, so she tails him there and spies on him. But he sees her so comes over, then inexplicably pushes her against a wall and makes out with her. “Let me know if you want to hang out tomorrow,” he says as he walks away. And of course she does, so he brings her along on a stakeout and they make out in the car as I cover my eyes. He tells her he needs to sneak into a building to get a file and asks her to help, but then is like, “Oh no, Huck would kill me.” She dreamily tells him Huck let her torture someone once, and she “got what he needed.” So he hands her a syringe filled with tranquilizer, and she goes inside and injects the security guard with it. But she figures out when he starts foaming, then bleeding from the mouth that it wasn’t a tranquilizer, and runs away like an idiot. She hides behind a dumpster and tries to call Huck, who is still freezing her out—but then Charlie comes up and shows her security camera footage of her killing the guard. “You’re in B613 now,” he tells her. “Welcome to wonderland.” And who was this security guard she killed? Oh, just the guy Ballard was planning to meet with, who was the only person to have seen Omar Dresden’s face.
FLOTUS is still trying desperately to make a go of her big interview, but El Prez isn’t making it easy—when she shows up with the camera crew and baby Teddy (hi, baby Teddy!) to the Oval Office he’s nowhere to be found. Later when he’s back he finds her drinking, barefoot, pacing the presidential seal on the carpet. He asks her what’s wrong, and she heartbrokenly says, “This is my life!” She says he didn’t show up when he was supposed to, and she’s tired of doing everything alone. “If you knew the sacrifices I have made, the pieces of myself I’ve given up—you shame me and make me beg for scraps when I’ve done nothing but fight for you.” She tells him he doesn’t have to love her but he could at least be her friend. “Show up for me, instead of being like some stranger.”
And it works: He shows up for their sit-down with the reporter, and when she starts asking FLOTUS to defend herself, he steps in and takes responsibility for his affair. She looks touched. Later they’re preparing for a gala and she congratulates him on his strategy, but he says he meant every word. Seems maybe they’ve reached a truce. Cyrus and FLOTUS, in an effort to orchestrate VP Sally’s downfall via her handsy husband, have—no joke—invited an escort to hit on him at the gala, but he doesn’t take the bait. Then they see him talking to Ira Glass Lite and realize the escort is “not his type.” Yep, extreme right-wing, religious VP Sally is married to a gay man.
El Prez is still having Olivia tailed, and his PI says she doesn’t seem to be in immediate danger. But he’s also been looking into her father, who he says is a “hard guy to get a picture of.” But he managed to track down an old ID badge photo, and El Prez realizes Command is Olivia’s father. And what is ol’ Papa Pope up to? Oh, just visiting Omar Dresden in jail. He pulls up a chair to the sad little cell cot, and says to the sheet-covered lump it contains, “Our daughter has been asking about you.” The lump rolls over and sits up, revealing itself to be Olivia’s mother.
FLOTUS knows El Prez shot down a plane full of American citizens. Also his oldest son is maybe (probably?) his half-brother. (Whoa, weird.) How good was Bellamy Young in this episode? She plays so many emotions simultaneously, and it’s kind of gut-wrenching to see all the things that transformed her from that fresh-faced, hopeful young woman to the bitter person she is today.
Quinn is in B613 now. Props to the show for not dragging that out longer—but what’s her purpose now?
IGL got fired! Poor IGL. I did like his giant lavender bow tie, though. Also Cyrus used to be married to a woman.
Who’s got the best flashback hair? My money’s on Papa Pope, but Cyrus runs a close second.
What did you think of last night’s Scandal? Let us know in the comments.