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TV Recap: Scandal Season 4, Episode 3, “Inside the Bubble”

Everybody’s lonely, but at least there’s Scotch.

Just a casual father-daughter visit. Photograph via ABC.

In the realm of places to tell your mercenary male escort friend to meet you so he can update you about his seduction of the chief of staff, is there any more hilariously inappropriate than your daughter’s expensive private elementary school? Maybe Lizzie’s power mullet has the ability to cloud my brain as well as hers, but I really didn’t understand the point of using Colchester Academy as a rendezvous point. Thankfully, plenty of other nonsensical things happened this week, too. Let’s recap.

Yes, the Cyruseduction continues to be a plot point: Michael the escort begins showing up wherever Cyrus goes, and Mr. Bean is too blinded by Michael’s teeth—and possibly his own ego—to realize he’s being played. So he breaks his own rule and pays for sex, and though Cyrus has done many much worse things, apparently Lizzie plans to use this against him in some way.

Elsewhere, Olivia feels so out of place in this version of DC that doesn’t revolve completely around her that she voluntarily goes to see her dad, who is as confused as we are. He tells her it’s natural to need to readjust after being in “deep cover,” and she tells him everything feels colder in her new world. Papa Pope’s solution? Come over for dinner, and bring that boyfriend of yours whom I kept in a torture hole for months. Olivia’s like, “Sounds great, thanks, Daddy!” To everyone’s relief, her phone rings, and she heads off to take the case of the week. She, Huck, and Quinn head to the palatial home of Catherine, Olivia and Abby’s friend from law school (did I forget that Abby and Olivia went to school together?). Olivia fills us in, with no small amount of disdain, that Catherine “never even took the bar”; instead, she married a rich guy and has been a happy housewife ever since. Her current problem is that her annoyingly perfect daughter, Caitlin, has gone missing, and Katherine doesn’t want to alarm her husband or go to the police. Olivia immediately tasks Huck with hacking into Caitlin’s cell phone history while she calls Jake and tries to cajole him into going to dinner. Jakey, unsurprisingly, isn’t thrilled: “You are not my girlfriend,” he reminds her. “If you were my girlfriend, I’d come and meet your dad—even your dad who threw me in ah ole and tortured me.” He ends the call with “Call me later if you want me to do that thing to you,” and I never thought I would say this, but their whole emotionless power sex game thing has me wishing Olivia would just reunite with El Prez already.

Jake has tracked down our favorite hitman Charlie to find out more details about Harrison’s death. He starts with the whole plastic wrap and duct tape thing, but Charlie reminds him that won’t work. Instead, he says he needs just one thing in order to talk.

Cue Quinn, who has already done her work of tracking Kaitlin to a DC hotel and thus has the rest of the night off. Jake calls her over to where he’s holding Charlie, who wants to talk to her. Jake has traded Quinn’s time for the promise of information, so he shuts her in a storage locker with her ex-boyfriend and leaves for the night. Charlie, icky to the core, immediately starts up with calling Quinn “Robin” and says he misses her. Quinn is kind of awesome in this scene, calling Charlie on his lameness and tackling him viciously. But because she cannot resist a man who treats her horribly, once Charlie tells her he’s the only one who wants her, it’s only a matter of time before they’re making out on the floor of the storage locker. Props to Ballard for coming back before things could go any further.

Quinn shows up to HQ, where neither Olivia nor Huck has noticed she’s been gone for 24 hours. “That is unacceptable. That is how Harrison died,” Quinn spits. Olivia spends a lot of time looking at people like they’re aliens this episode. Before she and Huck can think too much about Quinn, Huck finds something else: a sex tape Catherine made (and then deleted) with her daughter’s boyfriend. Olivia deduces maybe Catherine had a different reason for wanting to find her daughter and calls the hotel, but she’s too late; Caitlin is dead. Catherine swears she didn’t do it but gets arrested anyway. Olivia and Huck find a video of Caitlin struggling with a man in an elevator at her dad’s law firm. Looks like this is going to be a multi-episode case.

Over at the White House, El Prez is trying to get his gun-control bill passed, and David has to convince the judges—specifically swing vote Judge Sparks—to agree. On the other end of the spectrum is Jake Kane, who’s taking a break from running his software company to lobby for gun control and harass Lizzie about losing influence in the White House while both are dropping off their kids at school. David initially fails and has to go tell El Prez, who’s back to drinking in the Oval Office. “I need this all to mean something,” El Prez says. “If I’m not going to be a soccer dad in Vermont, I need this all to mean something.” Not to make light of Little Gerry’s recent death, but El Prez does have two more children he could totally play soccer with. Baby Teddy must be walking by now, right? So David goes to his magical treasure trove of B613 files and digs up that Judge Sparks killed two people in a drunken hit-and-run years back. Judge Sparks changes his opinion, the bill passes, and David is officially “in the bubble,” as Cyrus refers to the President’s inner circle. But David is about to discover the down side to hanging with the cool kids: His blackmail drives Judge Sparks to suicide—with a shotgun, the irony of which his assistant helpfully points out.

Not in the bubble? Abby, who still can’t get anyone to call her by her real name and spends the episode trying to deal with Madam First Crazy. Mellie becomes obsessed with the case of a woman accused of pushing her new husband over a cliff, going so far as to skip her visit to the graveyard, which El Prez thinks is improvement but is actually further proof of her mania. She calls an excruciating cabinet meeting where she lays out her theories as to the case, which has actually already been solved; Abby shuffles her out as gracefully as possible with a quick excuse, which earns her a Scotch with El Prez. He commends her compassion with FLOTUS, she tells him her actual name, and then he asks about Olivia, which seems unprofessional to me.

At Rowan’s house, the most awkward dinner of all time happens. Jake gives monosyllabic answers until Olivia leaves to take a phone call, and then Jake spills that he knows Papa Pope was responsible for not just Harrison’s death but Little Gerry’s, as well. He tells Rowan to get out of town and Rowan congratulates him for trying to feel like a real man, and they talk about wanting to watch each other die while I fight off deja vu. I feel like their power struggle has been beaten into the ground at this point, so I’m not sure where the show is going to go with it from here.


“You owe me $1.25 for the candy bar.” I appreciate that Charlie understands the importance of chocolate.

“You don’t have a job.”/“I’m done.” Olivia’s expression when people don’t respond to her manipulation the way she expects is a true delight.

Olivia and Abby’s feud continues, and I have to say, Olivia comes off looking a lot worse. Although I’m not sure why Abby wouldn’t just call Katherine in the first place.

“I’ll look for you.” That’s Huck-speak for “I’m sorry I pulled out your tooth and then refused to speak to you for months,” right?

There’s a lot going on so far this season, but none of it seems to fit together. I hope Shonda’s figured out a way to tie all these disparate plot threads together.

WINNER: Abby. She finally earns El Prez’s respect—and some nice Scotch—and had the good sense to look horrified when for a minute it seemed like he was going to kiss her.

LOSER: Mellie. At this point she’s like Brad Pitt’s character in Ocean’s Eleven; constantly eating, for some reason. She ends the episode with her brief sense of purpose crushed, so I imagine we haven’t seen the last of the Sweatpants of Grief.

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