The thing about Scandal is, if these people were real they would at this point all be mentally and emotionally warped beyond belief. Even the characters are starting to recognize how monumentally effed up their world is—Abby last night told Harrison any normal person would be in the throes of a nervous breakdown were their thought-to-be-dead mother to suddenly reappear after 22 years of radio silence. But this is Scandal, and ain’t nobody got time for nervous breakdowns, because there are government conspiracies to uncover and illicit affairs to be had and millennial catchphrases to be used in incredibly disturbing ways. To the recap.
We open on Huck in full-on wide-eyed bananapants mode, monologuing to Quinn, who is naked and wrapped in duct tape on the floor. He’s going to torture her, and he apologizes because he likes her and she’s family (aww), but he’s going to enjoy it even though he doesn’t want to. Then he lies down next to her and licks her face. It’s weird. He decides he’s going to start by pulling out her teeth, and takes the duct tape off her mouth, allowing her to scream and beg him for mercy. But he tells her she didn’t just betray him, she betrayed Olivia, then sticks pliers in her mouth and is about to yank, when his phone rings. It’s Olivia. “My mother’s alive and in my apartment,” she says, peeking out from behind an almost-closed door at Maya. Huck tells her to hang up, take out her phone battery, and get herself and her mother to a safe house immediately. He hangs up and tells Quinn he has to go, but then decides they have time for just a little torture, because, what’s that thing the kids say? Oh yeah, “YOLO, Quinn.” He shoves the pliers back in her mouth, and she screams us to the credits.
Huck goes to the safe house, where Ballard, Harrison, and Abby are trying to catch up on the situation as Olivia sits in the corner silently, holding her face. Maya says she found out she was married to a monster, so she planned to blow the whistle on his whole operation, but Papa Pope found out and stuck her in a jail cell for 22 years, until she managed to escape. “Nobody escapes Command,” Huck says. He tells her she’s got a tracking chip in her somewhere, and he and Ballard muscle her down onto a table and cut out the chip as she screams. There’s a lot of screaming in this episode. Charlie and co. are already on their trail, but by the time they get there the Dream Team has peaced and are full-throttle on trying to get Maya out of the country. But Huck and Ballard know she can’t escape while Papa Pope is alive, so Ballard goes to El Prez and asks him for help. After absorbing that he might someday have to deal with not one but two crazy in-laws, El Prez says he can’t just kill Olivia’s father at the drop of a hat. Ballard brings up Remington and says El Prez thinks only he and Olivia matter; El Prez counters that Ballard just wants to be Olivia’s hero, and “word to the wise, she doesn’t need one.” So Ballard tries to blow up Papa Pope with another guy who used to be in B613, but of course it’s a trap and he ends up just killing four random dudes. Meanwhile Papa leans on Charlie to activate his “asset,” Quinn, to help him find the Dream Team, so Charlie finds Quinn and un-duct-tapes her. She showers, then starts to cry, as Charlie tells her to suck it up. “Huck was the only person I had,” she says, “and he hurt me. Now I don’t have anybody.” Charlie says, “You have me,” and she stares at him, re-imprinting on him like a baby bird. Then she drops her towel, and they make out, which seems like a great idea for someone who just had her teeth yanked from her skull.
Olivia decides her mom needs to go to Hong Kong, and we find out she speaks Chinese, but then Papa puts Maya on the FBI’s Most Wanted list as a terrorist, meaning she can’t fly. Abby runs to David, who says he can’t help, so Olivia calls El Prez. She tells him he can’t help because if anyone finds out he’ll end up in jail, so really she’s just calling to talk about Vermont, and jam, and kids. He says he’ll take care of her mom—“What is it you say? ‘It’s handled.’” He manages to procure a military plane, and before Maya gets on the plane Abby forces Olivia to give her a hug. Since when is Abby such a hug advocate? Anyway, literally the second the plane takes off Olivia flashes back to the day she last saw her mom. She remembers that after Maya left for the airport, someone called asking for “Maria,” so she calls Huck to ask what name Papa Pope had given to the FBI—which, of course, is Maria. Then Olivia realizes what we have all been suspecting: It’s not her father who’s the monster—it’s her mother. “Then we have a problem,” says Huck. In another flashback we see Quinn bargaining with Huck to keep some of her teeth. Once Charlie takes her to Papa Pope, she demands the tape of her killing the security guard before she helps him, then discreetly pulls some kind of syringe out of her pocket.
Also coming to a head this week is the Daniel Douglas honey trap situation. Sally’s campaign adviser, Leo, makes her promise to turn pro-choice once she starts running in earnest (which she agrees to almost immediately), then gives her the forms declaring her candidacy for President. She thanks her husband for his “discipline,” and gleefully goes to El Prez to dump the forms on his desk. He tells her she can’t win. “You’re making the biggest mistake of your life crossing me,” he says. “You will regret this day forever.” Bring it on, Sally says. Meanwhile, Ira Glass Lite is taking every opportunity to twist the knife deeper into Cyrus, peppering his speech with double entendres about his sexytime with Daniel and going so far as to pretend to invite him to their house while Cyrus is out. Finally Cyrus snaps and calls him disgusting, and IGL replies, “Maybe next time we should make plans about what kind of rent boy I’m supposed to be.” He tells Cyrus he’s ruined their relationship, then shows him his laptop, on which he has been channeling Jack Torrance and typing I WANT A DIVORCE over and over. So Cyrus, naturally, tells him about the photos. “You’re not going anywhere,” he says. “You never do.” COLD.
El Prez is similarly not happy with Cyrus re: the Sally Situation, and FLOTUS wants to know why he didn’t go through with the honey trap plan. Instead of answering her, Cyrus bursts into tears, and FLOTUS, horrified, flees for the nearest exit. But then she turns back and says, empathetically, “It hurts until it doesn’t. You’ll be fine. Numb. But fine and numb are the same.” She tells him to see it through. So Cyrus takes the pictures to Sally, who calls his bluff and then some, pointing out that he wouldn’t ruin his marriage like that (uhmm), and anyway, what will The People think about El Prez’s chief of staff’s husband having an affair with a married man? Cyrus says nothing and retreats to his office, where he calls IGL. Lying even as he apologizes, he says Sally will never see the photos, and asks whether IGL will forgive him. Later Cyrus’s ringing phone wakes him up from his slumber on his office couch. It’s Sally. “I have committed a sin,” she says, as the camera pans out to show Daniel’s lifeless, bleeding body.
Harrison gets help from yet another woman he’s been romantic—except this one is working with Adnan Salif. Remember him?
The pacing of this episode was off for me; everything felt so rushed, and the fact that Olivia had her huge realization the minute her mom’s plane left the tarmac was more than a little too convenient.
Will IGL finally leave Cyrus? My Magic 8 Ball says no. But if he does, we better at least get a few shots of their chubby, adorable baby first.
Maya may be a monster, but she’s got the mom duties—trying to feed Olivia and worrying about her happiness—down pat.
It’s tough to see Olivia continually end up in positions where she’s totally dependent on the men in her life who are just as damaged as she is—that is, all the men in her life. They all regularly do awful things, all the while telling themselves they’re doing it to protect her.
The hilarious Sophie Gilbert will be filling in for me for next week’s episode, “A Door Marked Exit” (by the way, if you haven’t yet read her excellent story on joining Mensa, I suggest you do so immediately)—so I look forward to recapping all the dramz with you when we come back from winter hiatus! In the meantime, let me know what you thought of last night’s Scandal in the comments.