Things to Do

WashingTelevision: Scandal Recap, Season Three, Episode 16, “The Fluffer”

Olivia tries to take a day off, and everything falls apart.

Abby does her best Olivia impression, but it doesn’t quite work. Photograph by Ron Tom for ABC.

This week, Olivia dispatches Abby to be her “proxy” at the White House, ostensibly because she’s busy trying to take down B613 but mostly because El Prez hurt her feelings. Everyone at the White House has a hard time grasping the concept of a proxy, even though Abby is wearing a fabulous white coat, and keep referring to her as “Gabby.” El Prez, FLOTUS, and Uncle Andrew all act like sullen kindergartners in this episode, and Abby makes no headway with them. Olivia’s using her time off to meet with her dad, and makes him promise not to harm El Prez. “You said he wouldn’t see his second term,” she says, and he’s like, Well, have you seen the poll numbers lately? Then he explains that B613’s funding was set up by a cyber attack in the late ’80s that siphons off tiny amounts of money from every government organization to a secret account, which only Command controls. She takes her findings back to HQ, and Huck immediately wants to know where she got her information. When she tells him, he says Papa Pope is treating her like a mark: “He promised you something, and that means he’s going to take something from you.” She tells him to find the algorithm that hides the secret B613 account (or something), and he refuses, but she lays down the law. “We all do things we don’t want to do,” she says.

Uncle Andrew is chasing FLOTUS around the White House asking why she won’t return his calls, but she just tells him to stop calling. He says she deserves someone who really loves her, not someone who’s just acting. And Abby makes her first of several calls to Olivia—because our old friend Janine has resurfaced to promote a book with a hilarious cover of her in a slinky dress sitting on a presidential-looking desk, detailing her (totally fake) affair with El Prez. She goes on live TV to answer the important question of whether the leader of the free world is a “breadstick or baguette” (EWW), and Olivia rushes to the White House to clean up the latest spill. Cyrus, of course, immediately wants to leak the story about Sally’s teenage daughter getting an abortion (remember that plot?), which Olivia shoots down. El Prez, for his part, wants Uncle Andrew off the ticket, which she also refuses. He gets huffy that she sent “Gabby” as her proxy, and Olivia reaches the end of her rope. “What service can I render to you today?” she asks. “Am I your nanny, your bodyguard, your dealer? Am I here to make you feel hot and manly so you’re not jealous of your wife’s boyfriend? Am I your fluffer?” He tells her she’s being disgusting, and she reminds him all he offers her are a house in Vermont she can’t live in and promises he can’t keep. “I’m not the bad guy,” he tells her (debatable!). “I didn’t happen to you.” I love how their affair is equally Olivia’s doing and also something that Mellie drove him to with her being dead inside and all. Olivia tells him if he kicks Uncle Andrew off the ticket or if FLOTUS leaves him, he’ll lose, and that’s “not an option.”

Jake tasks Quinn and Charlie with tracking Mama Pope but not approaching her. Quinn gets all squirrelly but acts like it’s not a problem she might have to kill her former boss’s terrorist mom. Meanwhile, Maya meets with a British guy who’s going to procure some weapons for her in exchange for a suitcase full of money (and some nooky, because terrorists are the only ones who are allowed to enjoy sex on this show). Harrison meets up with an old associate named Claire who’s now working with Maya, but she basically considers Maya a role model and she’s “leaning in” so she won’t help him. Back at home, Olivia gets a call from Jake, who’s drunk outside her apartment door. She refuses to let him in, to which he says, “I could come in if I wanted to come in, we both know that.” She says they can’t be together because he kills her friends, and his justification is: “James wasn’t your friend; I would never kill your friends.” They both realize how monumentally messed up that sentence is, and she tells him to leave again, and he says sadly, “I asked you to save me, and you said no.”

Huck finds the algorithm to get into the B613 account, but it’s empty, so he tells Olivia her dad played them. She goes back to Papa Pope, and he tells her, logically, that Jake must have moved the funds. “You may not trust me, but be smart enough to know my priorities,” he says. Olivia gets another call from Abby and heads to the White House to find everyone doing exactly what she told them not to. Cyrus has leaked the story of Sally’s daughter, which is helping her with women voters since she’d already reversed her position on abortion, and El Prez is meeting with a Hispanic woman senator to vet her for the VP slot. Olivia kicks out the senator, then makes El Prez tell her what he really needs. “I need Andrew to stop screwing my wife,” he says, which is not a surprise to anyone. So she goes to Uncle Andrew and tells him he can either be with FLOTUS or be VP—and she’s doubtful that Mellie will stick around once he’s not in a position of power anymore. He says he loves Mellie, and she laughs in his face. “Men like you will always choose power,” she says.

All these scandals are helping Governor Reston immensely, so Abby and Cyrus team up with Leo to take him down. Abby gives Leo the case file on Reston that explains how he murdered his wife’s lover, then pretended it was an accident, and he takes it to the prison where Mrs. Reston is serving out her sentence for falsely admitting to the crime. When Reston comes to visit her next, she confronts him, and he immediately spills all the dastardly details (as people do on TV shows). Abby gets the whole thing on tape and puts it on YouTube, so it looks like we’ve seen the last of Reston for a while.

Back at HQ, Huck says to find B613’s money they need to upload a program to Ballard’s phone. Olivia’s all, “How would we—oh.” He reminds her they all have to do things they don’t want to do, so she sneaks into Ballard’s house, which seems like a monumentally bad idea since he obviously sleeps with a gun. Instead of shooting her, he hooks up with her, then afterward says, “I missed you.” She lies that she missed him too, then waits for him to fall asleep and grabs his phone to upload the program.

At the White House, FLOTUS is dressing for an event as El Prez comes in, and babbles about how he needs to make the bed in their kids’ room so the staff doesn’t know they don’t sleep in the same bed anymore. She then says she picked out some ties that coordinate to her dress, but he throws them on the floor and huffs into the bathroom. She looks at the ties like she wants to hang herself with them, then carefully puts them back on the bed and goes to track down Uncle Andrew and asks him if he knows any techniques that women voters might respond to, if you know what I mean. He says he doesn’t think it’s a good idea since El Prez and she have just been “such good friends” to him. Realizing exactly what’s going on, she marches into the Oval Office, where El Prez is meeting with, like, six people, and slaps him in the face, then yells, “You take everything from me!” She has a point.

Claire, who was tasked with procuring passports for Mama Pope and her associates, instead calls Harrison and spills the details. In the meantime, Olivia has dinner with Papa Pope, and asks him how to know when to walk away when there’s always more darkness than light. Before he can answer, Maya shows up, and everyone grabs their steak knife, but she just tells Olivia to find another line of work since hers is too dangerous. Then Olivia’s phone blows up with Harrison calling to say he found Claire dead in the park. She calls her mom a monster, and Papa Pope says he’s a “patient man, but a vengeful one.” Can we please have a Spy vs. Spy-style spinoff starring Joe Morton and Khandi Alexander?

Back at HQ, Abby confesses to Olivia that she used to want her job but now doesn’t because it’s so hard. Olivia, in a rare moment of openness with Abby, says she had an out and chose not to take it—and doesn’t entirely understand why. “You don’t get to run,” Abby tells her. “You’re a gladiator.” Her pep talk works enough to have Olivia ask Huck again to hack into B613. Unbeknownst to the Dream Team, Things Are Happening right at that moment: The British guy from earlier delivers a super-scary-looking bomb to Maya, whose room is being watched by Huck, Quinn, and Ballard, who keeps telling them to stand down until they figure out where she’s actually going to plant it. Quinn wants to rush in and save her friends, which sends Charlie into predictable fits of pique, but before anyone can do anything, Huck types something into his computer that somehow causes B613’s phones, computers, and everything else to cut off. Quinn immediately rushes into the (now-empty) room, gun drawn; Ballard strides into Pope and Associates, where the Dream Team is having a celebratory drink, and grabs Olivia by the throat. “You just killed the President,” he says.

Some thoughts:

“I’m the awesome client. From Awesometown.” More Leo, please!

After being so close to the main action for a couple of weeks, David Rosen is relegated to one-liner machine. At least they’re funny one-liners.

Why are there only like four people in B613? Newbie agent Quinn gets an awful lot of assignments for a supposedly all-encompassing shadow government organization.

As ridiculous as these plot twists sometimes get, I’m impressed at how the writers are able to incorporate previous plot twists (Reston murdering his wife’s lover, Sally’s iffy abortion stance) into these later episodes.

No Huck/Quinn spit-swapping this week, thank goodness.

Only two episodes left until the season finale! Tune in next week to find out when and where the bomb goes off.