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TV Recap: Scandal, Season 4, Episode 11, "Where’s the Black Lady?"

It's like high school all over again.

Seriously, where is she? Image via ABC.

I had an epiphany while watching this week’s episode of Scandal. In many ways, the dynamics are just like high school: The action revolves around the inner circle, the members of which have outsize influence on everything that happens, and everyone who isn’t in said inner circle does anything and everything they can to be a part of it. To wit:

Olivia is the queen bee, and Fitz is her prom king

Okay, apologies to all the Olitz shippers out there, but I was sort of hoping to see what happened when the show finally explored what happens when Fitz won’t do absolutely anything for Olivia. And yet—he orders a drone strike on West Angola (and unwittingly agrees to being blackmailed for the three remaining years of his presidency), partially on the advice of Mellie (!), who says she doesn’t want to have their marital problems reduced to a “cheap skirt” but really is probably more than a bit scared about what the world would look like without the gravitational force that is Fitz and Olivia. Meanwhile, Liv is convincing Ian to ditch his kidnapper contract and put her out on the “open market,” as a tool to control the President. It’s pretty badass of her but also just a ridiculous premise, and apparently is going to be a whole story arc going forward. Also Fitz has always sort of been the guy standing onstage in a crown, blinking in the lights and wondering how he got there, so him getting blackmailed into going to war and basically being a puppet commander for the rest of his term actually makes a lot of sense for his character.

Cyrus and David are the dorky wannabes

It all makes sense now—why Cyrus is always so devastated anytime he feels remotely shut out of the inner circle, to the point that he’s a bit pathetically grateful for Fitz’s secret message toward the end of the episode. David used to let Olivia Pope and Associates cheat off his math homework twist his arm all the time, and his incredulous delight at being able to “save Olivia Pope” tonight makes it extra clear he’s just been waiting for the moment he could have something to bargain with.

Huck/Quinn/Jake are the sidekicks

Well, obviously—without Olivia around, the center cannot hold, so our loyal gladiators dedicate themselves, sans rest or food (okay, maybe cold Chinese), to finding the woman who makes their world go around. Any personal character arcs—reuniting with a long-lost family or a psychotic yet loving ex-boyfriend, getting released from prison—have been suspended in service of Olivia.

The mean girls get shit done

By which I mean Lizzie and Mellie, who team up this week to tense but gratifying effect. After Lizzie realizes just how deep she’s in with VP Andrew, courtesy of some very scary Huck visits to her house and some wounds that will take A LOT of Vaseline to cure, she turns to Mellie for help. Playing the part of scorned lover to a T (she has had years of practice, I guess), FLOTUS manages to seduce Andrew to the point that he passes out, and steal his phones to help the dream team locate Olivia—which they would have succeeded in had she not already decided to try to help herself by convincing Ian to sell her to the highest bidder. Also everyone is a mean girl in the sense that they keep Abby totally out of the loop—even David knows Olivia has been kidnapped, and poor Red remains completely in the dark.

Next week, Liv gets put on the (I hope) metaphorical auction block, and we all anxiously anticipate the answer to the question: How far will everyone go to save Olivia Pope?