I’ve been watching Scandal since its pilot, and the fascinating thing to me is that every week when I tune in, I never have any idea what to expect. Some of that has to do with the crazy plot twists, sure—but it’s even more about the characters’ constantly spinning moral compasses. Every character believes so strongly, feels so passionately, cares so deeply; it’s just that what they believe and feel and care about changes from week to week. So when Rowan gives Olivia a speech about how he always puts her first, he might think it’s true; Olivia’s distressed expression says she might agree; but it seems more to be something he believes than something there’s actual evidence of. There’s a lot of telling, rather than showing, to put it in writer-speak. Despite that, this episode did some smart things to tie in OPA’s current case with the action at the White House—and had some genuinely surprising twists. Let’s recap.
Yes, the long-forgotten VP Nichols is back—and gets considerably more screen time than baby Ella, who at least finally gets a name check. After leaving a speech condemning the “West Angolan liberation front,” Nichols lingers outside the hotel to greet the staff, delaying getting into his car just long enough for it to blow up without taking him along with it. A panicked Mellie rushes into his office, where he’s being checked out, then asks for the room and immediately jumps on his face. Later, he comes to see her and reminds her that he hasn’t existed for her (or for the audience) for months, and she gives him a sad little speech about how he gave her up for the vice presidency, and so she erased him—and then erased herself after Gerry’s death. She begs for another chance, and he kisses her tenderly. But this being Scandal, everyone has a dark secret, and Andrew’s happens to be that he’s having an affair with Lizzie Bear and her power mullet—and both are somehow in cahoots with the teenage-girl-murdering Kubiak.
Quinn spends most of the episode watching Kubiak give himself diabetes in his apartment and contemplate how nice her eyeshadow looks. Huck is a bit busier: In between investigating who bugged Lizzie’s phone (it was Cyrus) and questioning Olivia’s ethical choices after she asks Huck to find out what dirt Lizzie has and then lies about the bug, he hangs out with his son at OPA, who wants to know all about his life as a private detective, which is “like a cop,” as Javi thinks. When Olivia runs into them, Huck tells Javi to leave, but after bugging Lizzie’s secret apartment, he extremely ill-advisedly invites Javi along on the stakeout.
Lizzie arrives with a man, and Huck sends Javi for ice cream, but then Quinn shows up, because their stakeouts have unexpectedly converged, as the man is Kubiak. As they watch the video feed, Lizzie asks Kubiak about Catherine’s husband shooting himself; but things get really interesting when a knock at the door turns out to be Nichols. He sends Kubiak away so he and Lizzie can make out, which gives Kubiak the chance to discover the spies outside. Huck struggles with him and manages to stab him, right in front of Javi, who’s just returned with an ice cream cone drizzled with disillusionment. Maybe don’t bring this up at the parent-teacher conference, Huck.
On top of remembering he has a daughter, Cyrus this week is focused on finding out what dirt Lizzie has on him and Michael. And she has a lot—but Huck also digs up that Michael only fed her relatively inconsequential intel, though he could have given her much more. A hooker with a heart of gold? Maybe, but was anyone else a little concerned that Huck was maybe going to actually murder him rather than just subject him to angry sex?
OLIVIA/FITZ & JAKE
Il Papa’s two paramours spend the entire episode swinging their you-know-whats around El Prez’s secret bunker as they try to figure out the best strategy to take down Rowan. Each wants to plan the operation his own way, mostly so Olivia will look at whoever’s successful as the conquering hero, which is gross on a lot of levels. Jake tells them about the storage locker of B613 files, and they rope in David Rosen to plan a military tribunal so they can try Rowan in secret, using the files as evidence. (Both Jake and David pretend David knew nothing about the files prior.) Fitz manages to corner Olivia in the hallway and mansplains to her that she doesn’t know how she feels, whether she’s being disloyal to him for wanting Jake or vice versa. Then he convinces her to make out with him, and after she leaves he smiles in—triumph? lust?—I don’t know, but it was terrifying.
Jake, meanwhile, just wants to get out of the damn bunker, although he still assumes Olivia is definitely going to choose Fitz. That is, until she tells him, “Don’t ever talk about me standing in the sun with another man again.” Kerry Washington’s performance is so opaque, I honestly have no idea how she feels about either Fitz or Jake at this point, or whether she’s just thinking about whether she’s going to make it to the Wine Emporium in time to stock up before it closes.
After their big blowout, Rowan is back to pretending he is the Emily to Olivia’s Lorelai, calling to ask why she skipped their weekly dinner. He reminds her that they’re family, and that even those “these boys” may love her, eventually they’ll move on to other conquests. Olivia later uses this to manipulate him, phoning him tearfully to say he was right and luring him to dinner, where a SWAT team will apprehend him.
But Rowan being Rowan, he’s seven steps ahead of everyone; as they sit in the restaurant and he monologues about how everything he’s ever done has been for her, someone shoots all the agents outside, and David and his team flip through the B613 files to discover they’re all blank. “Those people you’ve chosen over me—you don’t see what they want, or how they see you,” Rowan says. “If you think this world is so bad with me in it, imagine what it’s like without me.”
A FEW THOUGHTS:
“That’s one of our catchphrases.” Jake trying to needle Fitz was both childish and funny, though apparently Fitz isn’t down with referring to him as Captain Ballard.
When Mellie first started making out with Andrew, for a second I wondered if the episode was being aired out of the original order. What could he be up to with Lizzie, and how is it tied to Kubiak? And does this finally mean someone other than Quinn will take an interest in the case?
Either Olivia is an Oscar-worthy actress, or she recognized at least a kernel of truth in Rowan’s claims about Jake and Fitz. Still, how should one react to one’s father saying, “I damaged you”?
This show has included plenty of disturbing things, but Huck trying to explain the birds and the bees might be toward the top of the list.
WINNER: Andrew, who managed to both score an actual plot and, you know, score. Twice.
LOSER: Huck, why would you bring your son on a stakeout, why? Especially just to make him watch the boring parts?