Welcome back to our weekly coverage of Thursday night’s craziest show (though the Shonda Rhimes-produced How to Get Away With Murder that follows it might actually take that crown eventually). Last night’s season four premiere packed in plenty of drama, plus some unexpected delights—chief among them Olivia’ au naturel beach hair and the triumphantly messy Mellie. Let’s get to the recap. This season I’ll also be declaring an episode winner and loser; find out my premiere picks at the bottom of the post.
Olivia and Jake are hanging on a gorgeous, uninhabited island, apparently having lots of crazy sex and getting rare wines delivered by boat. This particular delivery also comes with an envelope addressed to “Julia Baker,” Olivia’s island alter-ego, containing a newspaper clipping about Harrison’s murder. She immediately wants to go back to Washington, to Jake’s dismay (also he calls her “Jules,” which, really? He uses their fake names even when they’re totally alone?), but of course she overrules him because Olivia is basically the air he breathes. She goes back to HQ to find all the furniture under dust covers and a stack of Union magazines that all have El Prez’s face on the cover. Then she notices the maps on the wall. Turns out Quinn has been trying to pinpoint her location, and she shows up to tell Olivia how she figured it out. “Everyone has a tell,” she says. “Yours is wine—rare, complex red wine.” I am so into the fact that Olivia’s wine-aholism is now a major plot point.
Olivia wants to know what happened to the surviving members of her team, so Quinn takes her on a tour: Huck is now “Randy,” working in IT and dispensing life advice on the side (one poor guy who comes in to get his computer fixed gets an earful about how his wife is cheating on him). Olivia wants to know what happened when he went to see his family, but he tells her not to come back until she’s back for good. Abby is working as the White House press secretary and generally killing it, even though for some reason nobody can remember her name. As for the First Couple? Without the distraction of Olivia, El Prez is actually a competent and highly functioning president (the press nicknames him Fitz 2.0), channeling his grief over Gerry’s death into awesome legislation like trying to get equal pay for men and women. Mellie, on the other hand, has morphed into some kind of cereal-chomping, bathrobe-wearing, depressed insane person. Luckily, her hair is still huge. Although I have serious doubts that someone as fiery as Mellie would let herself sink this low, DGAF FLOTUS is hilarious, and I wouldn’t mind her and her sweatpants sticking around for a while.
Quinn takes Olivia to the White House to see Abby (Quinn is the “superfreak” of the title, in case anyone was wondering), and Abby is none too pleased. She blames Olivia for abandoning her team, and for Harrison ending up dead, and Olivia comes back with a weak argument about how she’s always forgiven Abby, blah blah blah. She also lets Abby know she’s planning Harrison’s funeral. Olivia also goes to see her dad, who continues to lie straight to her face: He says he had nothing to do with Harrison’s death, and that he “took care of” Mama Pope per El Prez’s orders. He frames it as doing her a favor, since now “nobody believes Gerry died at the hands of the President’s mistress’s mother.”
Meanwhile, Jake has gone over to David Rosen’s office to check in on how his special delivery of B613 files has been used. Turns out it hasn’t: David looked through the “very scary” files, decided he didn’t actually want to die in a gruesome way, and shoved them all into a storage locker. “Pull the trigger or give them back,” Jake says. But David has other things on his mind, namely that Cyrus wants him to be the new attorney general. David at first turns him down, but Abby, as always, tells it like it is: “If you wanna fix the world, then get on the inside. Get yourself some power, and use it.”
Cyrus finally tells El Prez that Olivia’s back in town, and El Prez breaks the news to Mellie. “I’m not going to see her,” he tries, and she laughs in his face. “There are things I’m not going to do anymore,” she tells him, “and monitoring you is one of those things.” She says some more things about how she’s not going to take kindly to him trying to mount her while thinking of Olivia (I’m paraphrasing), and throws in a truly hilarious line about how their not having sex means she no longer has to get bikini waxes. Her bottom line: When, not if, he sees Olivia, she wants to know. She also alludes to El Prez trying to kill himself at one point, though we don’t get the full details.
There’s a whole B-plot about a woman senator (played by True Blood’s Jessica Tuck) who shoves a male senator over a balcony for trying to sexually assault her, and Olivia takes her case only to find out it was actually the female senator’s aide who was assaulted. The extra wrinkle is that Senator Tuck knew the creep had a reputation for assault—and a type—so she used her poor aide as bait as a roundabout way of getting El Prez’s equal-pay act passed. I won’t go into further detail because while the sexual assault plot feels pretty timely, it’s giving me major deja vu. The whole point of it, anyway, is to remind Olivia what a soulless place Washington can be—but also to get her in the same place as El Prez. They walk by each other, poker faces firmly on, but almost touch pinkies in what might be the most charged almost-touching of fingers since “The Creation of Adam.”
At the end of the episode, Olivia’s back for good, aided by Huck and Quinn; David is the attorney general, to the displeasure of some high-level Republicans; and Harrison is in the ground, likely to never be mentioned again. It’s going to be a long week until next Thursday night.
Best Lines/Random Thoughts
The cereal Mellie is eating is called “Fruit Colored O’s.” Props to the prop master for taking generic product names to new heights.
“You lose people. Whatever.” Man, Olivia has really gotten jaded these days.
Portia de Rossi makes a brief appearance as the sassy RNC chair and pain in Cyrus’s side. She doesn’t get much to do in this episode, but I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of wrenches she throws into the gears in the future.
“It’s 1976 down there.” Bellamy Young wrings an unprecedented amount of humor from a joke about bikini waxes.
The emotional impact of Harrison’s funeral scene was somewhat blunted by his completely offscreen death and the knowledge that he was fired from the show for the allegations of domestic abuse. Weirdly enough, he apparently hosted a Scandal premiere party despite not even being on the show anymore.
How creepy was Jake in this episode? Between telling Olivia to shut up and his jealous monologue to her about sleeping with him while being in love with El Prez (including lots of lines I didn’t think you could say on network TV), he gave me all kinds of ick.
So for the record: Randy = Huck, Red = Abby, Superfreak = Quinn, Julia = Olivia.
WINNER: Mellie, for being hilarious and awesome even while in the depths of despair.
LOSER: Harrison. Farewell, Columbus Short, and your logic-defying shirt-and-tie combos. Olivia’s right-hand man really needs to be a woman, anyway.
What did you think of the season premiere? Share your thoughts/favorite lines in the comments, and tune in next week for another recap.
Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.