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WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap, Season Three, Episode 11, “Ride Sally Ride”

The twists and turns are back, but Vermont keeps getting further away.

Sally Langston won’t let a little thing like murdering her husband keep her from the Oval Office. Photograph by ABC/Peter “Hopper” Stone.

Welcome back, Scandal fans! I need to come up with a better name for you, but all I’ve thought of so far is Popesicles (mostly because it’s roughly zero degrees out), so I’ll keep working on it. It’s been a long, tough break since our last episode, and we felt much like Quinn, cast out in the cold and forced to rely on the sweet-but-psycho boyfriend that is House of Cards season two to ease the pain until the show’s return. Everyone was in fine form this week: El Prez was back to drinking and forcefully making out with people’s faces, Olivia wore a fabulous coat, and my two favorite characters got lots to do. To the recap!

We open on FLOTUS scurrying through the White House. Her hair is huge, so you know she’s upset about something. She bursts into Cyrus’s office and says, “She’s running.” Yes, our favorite bible-thumping gay-husband murderer is going ahead with her plan to seize the presidency. El Prez seems more concerned with making out with Olivia in the Oval Office until Sally announces she will not be resigning the vice presidency, which sets El Prez to getting sauced before lunch and chucking glasses at Cyrus’s head. He also insists his new VP will be Andrew Nichols, his former lieutenant and another straight, white male from California. He’s a bit of a womanizer (he knows the difference between runway and catalogue models!), but when Olivia presses him about why he’s never settled down he admits he found “the one” and let her get away, so he decided to marry his work instead. Olivia tells Cyrus he needs to convince El Prez to pick someone different, but Cyrus says he’s “closing ranks” and picking only those loyal to him, which is also why Captain Ballard is now head of B613. Olivia is shocked, both that Jake would accept the job and that El Prez failed to mention it to her—though I suppose his tongue was more occupied examining her molars, so can you really blame him?

Olivia goes to see Papa Pope, who is hanging out by the Marine Corps War Memorial, where he apparently used to take her as a kid. They have a coded conversation about how she knows what happened and how much “the Smithsonian” means to him, but this is Papa Pope, and he is going to preach. “What happened,” he says, “is the married man you can’t seem to stay away from had me abducted and talked to me about the way you taste while he allowed the terrorist who snaked her way into my marriage bed to clear US airspace.” He tells her, as she winces repeatedly, that El Prez has made an enemy of someone he really shouldn’t have—and “the greatest weapon I can use against him calls me Dad.” His plan is to make sure El Prez doesn’t make it to the end of his term, “so start grieving now—but first, run.” Joe Morton is so operatic in his delivery it can sometimes be jarring next to the other performances—but when he’s crunching through lines that great like a cartoon wolf it’s delightful regardless.

Leo is causing trouble left and right for El Prez and Friends, blindsiding Abby in a TV interview by pointing out how risky it is to hire your purported mistress as your campaign manager. So Olivia and El Prez are back in the news, causing FLOTUS to invite her to a very public lunch, with her favorite bottle of vino, because “I know how you love your wine.” FLOTUS hands her a list of eligible DC bachelors and tells her to pick a fake boyfriend as they both laugh through gritted teeth for the flash bulbs.

David Rosen calls in Ira Glass Lite to listen to the tape of Sally freaking out about murdering her husband. David says it’s inadmissable, so IGL says they’re done, and David takes him to task for approaching him with a massive story and then turning tail, just like he did with Defiance. He calls him out for accepting a cushy government job from his husband, to which IGL replies that David did the same thing, thank you very much. Meanwhile, a White House reporter named Vanessa Chandler has been receiving texts from a source calling himself “Publius” urging her to dig into why Daniel Douglas Langston’s body was never autopsied. She brings it up at a press conference, causing IGL to flounder, but when he approaches Cyrus for answers, Cyrus shuts him down as usual. Olivia, sensing a possible weak spot in Sally’s defenses, tells the Dream Team to look into it, causing Leo to visit Cyrus and call him a “corpse-moving obstructor of justice.” Basically, Cyrus helping Sally means they are now both in up to their ears, so Cyrus has the unenviable task of pretending to help discover what he himself did while actually covering it up. Unluckily for him, IGL has bugged a picture frame in his office and is listening to the whole conversation with David Rosen. Yes, he has just been playing the “good soldier” the whole time. “My husband is a monster,” he tells David. “And I will do whatever it takes to take that monster down.” Turns out IGL was Publius all along (which we all should have guessed from the Latin nerdiness of the name, I suppose). Oh, also Leo is now working with Rowan—in what capacity is thus far unclear, but it’s no doubt not in El Prez’s best interests. 

Got all that? Good, because it’s time to check in at B613, where Ballard as the new Command is evaluating all his agents, including Charlie. Ballard tells him Quinn is not now, nor will ever be a B613 agent—which is bad news for Quinn, who just wants to get back to maiming already. In a scene that feels dropped in from another show, she and Charlie hit the Home Depot together to pick up torture supplies for her first “tool kit.” She frets about having to wait tables to make ends meet, and he calls her his girlfriend—but before I wonder too much if I’ve changed the channel by accident Charlie gets a call from Cyrus to clean up the loose ends around Daniel Douglas’s death. This involves, for some reason, Quinn abducting a child. He’s the son of the medical examiner who looked at Daniel Douglas’s body, and Quinn and Charlie use him as leverage to get the ME to lie to Abby and Huck that Daniel Douglas died of a massive brain bleed after he fell down drunk. Was their whole plan to throw the Dream Team off the scent? How did they know when Abby and Huck were going to show up? This seemed both too convoluted and too convenient for me.

Olivia goes to see El Prez, and they have a super-awkward fight over having the door open or closed because El Prez is a perpetually horny teenager. Then they have a strange conversation that’s about like six different things—she tells him about FLOTUS’s insistence that she find a boyfriend, and says she should resign. His argument is . . . to make out with her? “I refuse to accept your resignation,” he says. “I can’t lose you again.” She also asks him why he put Jake in command of B613, and he’s like, Who else will happily cover up the fact that I killed 329 people and then let your known-terrorist mother leave the country so she could kill three more? “If I have any hope of remaining President, that needs to stay buried.” She says not listening to her about picking a new running mate means he doesn’t trust her, and he says, “I won’t win without you.” Looking totally defeated, she agrees not to resign and leaves. Later, Ballard comes to see her at her apartment, where she is drinking wine. She’s upset he took the position, but he tells her, “I serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States,” to which she’s like, “Don’t we all?” She’s realized “serving the republic” really means letting it eat away at you until “you’re so busy being a patriot you forget to be a person.” And her beautiful fantasy of making jam in Vermont with El Prez by her side keeps getting further and further away. But in the end, she and Ballard are both patriots—so he agrees to be her fake boyfriend, which El Prez is none too pleased about until Olivia points out now she can stay by his side.

I was initially disappointed by this—I thought for a minute that Olivia and Andrew Nichols would start dating, because they seem to have similar life philosophies—but of course, Shonda had something better planned: FLOTUS is the woman Nichols let get away. And if the way he looks at her as he’s being announced as her husband’s new running mate is any indication, he’s not going to let it happen again. The episode ends on a shot of Mellie standing between the two men as they all raise their clasped hands in the air, and this is literally my favorite thing to ever happen on this show. If ever someone were in need of some hot, hot extramarital lovin’ it’s Mellie Grant, and I can’t wait for El Prez to finally get a taste of what he’s been serving her for so long.

Some thoughts:

I didn’t mention Harrison’s plot because a) I have no idea what’s going on, and b) it feels completely disconnected from the rest of the show. Seriously, he only had one scene with another main character in the entire episode; he mostly ran around being all squirrelly about Adnan Salif and raiding Abby’s desk for a gun. On the upside, Nazanin Boniadi showed up to dangle the threat of Salif over him and then have sex with him on a desk (hopefully not Abby’s), so at least he’s getting some.

Was that scene with Nichols and FLOTUS a flashback? The misty lighting seemed to indicate it was, but she was wearing the same suit, so it was difficult to tell.

“I did not murder my husband. The devil did when he snuck inside me.” Even more priceless than Sally’s mutterings about hellfire was Leo’s look of realization that his client is, in fact, insane.

Why does Olivia want Quinn to come back? Because she feels guilty, or because she’s afraid of Quinn being on the loose—or something else entirely?

What do you guys think of the new slow-mo black-and-white effects? More or less distracting than those camera-shutter transitions I still wish they’d get rid of?

Hey, someone remembered Baby Ella exists! I feel like if IGL’s crusade to bring down Cyrus results in him getting popped by Charlie, Baby Ella is going straight back to the orphanage from whence she came, so Ella better hope IGL is as smart as he looks.

What did you think of last night’s Scandal? Sound off in the comments.