This episode was better. It could not have gotten WORSE than the last two, but still. We left off with Olivia being sold for an undisclosed cash amount to Iran. Everyone — including me — thought Iran was going to turn out to be somebody covertly bidding for Olivia and then spiriting her out of there and buying her an untainted-by-kidnapping coat.
Nope. It was Iran. Which sent a really posh, well-dressed woman and a couple of cohorts to pick up their BILLION-PLUS-DOLLAR cargo. There is something I appreciate about Scandal having Iran’s representative be a foxy woman, but I wish she had turned out to be a smarter foxy woman.
Because, see, Olivia speaks fluent Farsi. (Of course she does.) So she pulls a scam: She convinces her captors that this woman is saying, into the phone, that this is an ambush and they’re all going to die. Then she says, in Farsi, essentially the same thing to Iran, and that as soon as they take her EVERYONE is going to get extremely murdered. So Iran panics and calls off the deal, and her captors smuggle her out of there — thinking they just skirted an ambush themselves — and toddle back and fire up sheBay.com and send out the word that bidding can resume. No guns are drawn, and presumably, neither side had any actual backup. Hold up there, pals. Do you mean to tell me that IRAN was going to BUY A PERSON WHO CONTROLS THE PRESIDENT for BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, and just send like two people and a pistol to pick her up? Iran must have blown its entire budget on the asset and left nothing for personnel and planning. Oh, Iran. Iran, so far away.
The reset continues: Abby is furious that she doesn’t know anything, and Cyrus won’t tell her, because she lacks clearance. Why does the press secretary lack clearance? Is it so that the less that person knows, the less likely he or she is to blurt out something terrible while at the podium? That sort of makes sense to me actually, so. Objection NULLIFIED.
Quinn was so worked up about Olivia Pope Is Dead that when she finds out — through Jake, who learned through Fitz — that Olivia is alive, and the sale to Iran was called off, she weeps into Jake’s manly chest. Now, THOSE two as a couple kind of make sense. They’re both capable of sawing off someone’s head, they’re both dependent on Olivia in some capacity, and Jake hasn’t performed any surprise dentistry on her… I mean, the latter is high on my list of characteristics one should seek in a partner.
High on Mellie’s list of things to seek in a partner: someone who is not Jon Tenney. He has a signed amnesty agreement absolving him of all his sins. She delivers it to him along with a tirade, in gentle tones, about how he’s always the big loser. He’s basically the Oates to Fitz’s Hall, except if only Hall got inducted into the Hall of Fame. Jon digests this, and then calmly tells Mellie that, okay, yeah, he’ll never be president… but neither will she, because he’ll just keep whispering to everyone he knows that he’s banged her on every surface of his office. I am unclear why this amnesty agreement came with NO CAVEAT AT ALL that he has to keep his mouth shut about the affair, as I believe that was the whole point of letting him off the hook. If he’s stupid enough to have made that promise verbally and then TELL MELLIE he plans to break it, well, Jon, are the weakest link. Goodbye.
This woman remains my absolute favorite human being in the history of Scandal.
For some reason, the show decided to give us a SECOND scene in which this woman, YET AGAIN, tells Fitz that although they could try to extract Olivia, the best course of action is neutralization — so, bomb the shit out of her. She has data behind her this time: only a 30 percent survival chance for Olivia if they go for an extraction, compared with all the evils associated with her falling into the wrong hands. Even England’s, although does anyone REALLY think England is bidding for her? Everyone over there is way too busy placing bets on whether the Royal Baby is a girl or a boy. Anyway, when Fitz processes all this, his response is, “Thirty percent? … I’LL TAKE IT,” and he sweeps out of there on the fumes of his own sexual anticipation. Leaving this woman AND every single advisor in the room TOTALLY AGOG. Three bidders then join the auction: FTZ, THE, and WRST.
Cyrus agrees. As Fitz sits there droning on and on about he’s made an awesome decision and our Navy SEALs are simply the best, better than ALL the rest, Cyrus puts his emotional kettle on and the water starts to boil.
And then it blows all over the room. Cyrus shouts that he poured the best of his career into making Fitz the greatest man and president the free world has ever seen, and that him blowing it like this is DEEPLY ENRAGING, and then he quits and tells Fitz to to stick his hearts and flowers straight up his urethra (paraphrase).
Except it was a fake-out; Cyrus thought all those things, and fantasized about saying them, but instead nods along with Fitz and then scampers out of the Oval. And while it’s lovely to hear a character finally point out that FITZ and THE WORST are spelled differently but pronounced the same, it is completely coming out of nowhere. One episode ago, Cyrus was supporting Fitz’s plan and denouncing the CIA chief for this exact suggestion, and now all of a sudden he’s Mr. The Needs Of America Are Greater Than The Needs Of One Wang. Perhaps if the show had laid ANY foundation for this outburst it would feel… well, look, it was satisfying for the show to say what I was thinking, but it didn’t feel earned. I think we should have felt that everyone around Fitz was close to losing their shit over his selfish and weak-minded decision-making, but instead, the writers just ignored it and shoved it all in here. I’m sure it was agonizing for them, watching people on the Internet scream and rant and rave about how nobody disagreed with The Worst Leader In The Universe, because they were probably thinking, “Just wait, it’s all next week!” But the beauty of episodic television is that it can build. It’s not all supposed to be crammed into one 42-minute piece. You have the luxury of time to lay a foundation, rather than build the entire house over a grassy knoll and hope it stays put.
Cyrus, then, goes behind Fitz’s back to the CIA chief and plans an operation to try and rescue Olivia — but drop a missile on it if they don’t cleanly extract her. Abby spies them together and gets wind of it and challenges Cyrus, who hisses at her that no one woman is more important than the world at large.
Mellie calls Portia de Rossi to her office and does that wonderful Mellie thing where she veers between Genial and Shallow First Lady Who Is Delighted By Tea Sandwiches whenever there’s an employee around, and Machiamellie Who Also Probably Is Delighted By Tea Sandwiches Because What’s Not To Love who hisses that Portia needs to step up and do her share. Mellie slept with Jon Tenney despite a suffocating disgust for him, help to solve Portia’s problem of Huck skinning her back and threatening to do the same to her child (the info from Jon’s phone led to Huck backing off), so she thinks now Portia should go figure out a way to make Jon Tenney go away. Or shut up. One or the other. Mellie doesn’t care. Portia seems nervous about this, as one would be, because it sure sounds like the First Lady of the United States asked her to find a way to erase Jon Tenney from existence.
Nobody on this show knows how to have a personal conversation that doesn’t begin with a ME ME ME kind of anecdote. Jake’s is about how everything that happened to Huck happened to him. He was programmed into a killing machine, he lived in a torture hole, he gets off on warm blood on his hands and the crisp snap a bone makes when you break it. (I don’t buy any of that for a second, by the way.) But then Jake insists to Huck that he is better than Huck. Well, that’s not exactly what he says, but he does point out that he is capable of caging the beast — even when he has to kill someone — because it’s unacceptable for that beast to get out into the world. He encourages Huck to do the same, before it’s too late. Huck dribbles that Olivia is the one who cages his beast, and Jake says, “Find a way to do it yourself.” Quinn then later tells Huck that while he is Liv’s puppy, she is his, and so she needs him not to kill anyone anymore. Huck is like, “Okay, cool,” and that’s that, apparently. Switch flipped.
Portia is actually quite good in this next scene, where she turns up wanting Huck to kill Jon Tenney for her — or at least, to do whatever it is that he does. And as soon as she lays eyes on him, she kind of shudders, and then she plays the entire scene as if the mere sight of him makes her tremble but she’s determined to get through it without screaming, barfing, or running. There is a lot of nice nuance in it, for a show that doesn’t ever trade in nuance.
Huck keeps his eyeballs in his skull when he tells her that he doesn’t murder anymore. So I guess that’s how we know he means it.
But he agrees to truss up a naked Jon Tenney in Saran Wrap, because I guess Fried Green Tomatoes is his favorite movie. “TOWANDA,” he screams, before plunging a needle into Jon’s back. Jon collapses and then Huck cuts off the kitchen accessory and tells Portia de Rossi to call 911 and tell the dispatcher that the Veep collapsed. He doesn’t kill people anymore, but he DOES jack with their skeeze.
The sheBay.com auction IS A TIE. These guys are stupid. Even eBay itself doesn’t let you make a bid that matches someone else’s. The dudes designing the Human Sale Interface should be shot. Somehow they are NOT.
The winners are: Marie Wallace, and Russia. And Olivia completely overplays her hand. Her captor sits down and plaintively asks her what to do in this situation, and she chews her lip and then says that Marie Wallace appearing back on the terrorism scene means that she’s desperate for relevance, so she advises choosing Marie and then demanding more cash at the drop as an extra extortion tactic. The dude thinks, and thinks… and Liv sneaks a nervous peek at him and he claps his hands and says, “That’s what I was looking for,” and picks Russia. He knew Liv would try to trick him by putting the poison close to herself so he can clearly not choose the wine in front of her. But this guy is also a total f’ing moron. When you have two bidders willing to go that high, you pit them against each other. Re-start a final auction between the two of them. Make them compete in a series of physical and mental challenges. Do a Terrorist Jeopardy! board (the categories are: Best Code Names, Brats/Worsts, Acronyms, Popular Spellings of Osama, 24, and Potent Potables). Or, accept money from them both, and then kill one of them. There is nothing worse than a mercenary with no imagination.
Abby and her cranberry coat are really sad to hear that Russia has won the auction. She blurts out that Cyrus plans to bomb Liv at the drop site, and tells everyone to call in their last favors. This leads Jake to Maya Pope, who sends him directly to…
… Papa Pope. And this scene is. Exactly what you would. Imagine it is so. Very the same. As you think it will be. For real, he delivers THE MOST INTERMINABLE PAPA POPEATHON about goddamn FISHING because someone decided that was an awesome allegory. People think fishing is boring but they’re wrong because fishing. Is unpredictable it. Requires so much analysis about the location. Of the fish and the shine. Of the lure and when. To move so much strategy about. The moving. And the fishing. (And the hunching. He cannot speak to people without bending in half.) Dear Papa Pope: Fishing may not be boring, but you speechifying about fishing for five minutes is making me want Huck to chop off my ears. All you pompous speechifying gasbags, PLEASE PUT A CORK IN IT.
Jake finally gets in a word about how Olivia is for sale on the open market, and Papa Pope laughs that he’s been gone from her life for about a week and can’t believe that’s all it took for her to be in mortal peril. And it’s true, and it’s dismaying, because yet again it casts Olivia as a dependent who floats from crutch to crutch. Then Papa Pope refuses to help because “I don’t have a daughter,” and we’re out. THANK GOD. NEVER GO BACK THERE AGAIN JAKE. Not until he learns how to have a human conversation. I DID enjoy when Jake is all, “Well, these [kidnappers] were professionals,” and Papa Pope’s response is to be like, “And aren’t you?” MIC DROP. Except Papa Pope never met a mic he didn’t drop and then pick up and then drop seven more times.
So the Russians swing by to pick up Olivia for their playdate, and Cyrus is just about to drop the bomb when he recognizes someone and calls a frantic halt to the operation because NOT PENNY’S BOAT.
Hi, Desmond! I know your name is Steven in the Scandalverse, but still. Now, I had not been under the impression that Henry Ian Cusick left on good terms, or even his own terms, but maybe I was wrong — or maybe he and the writers both recognized a good reveal when they saw it. “These are your men?” Olivia says. They are. So she grabs Desmond’s pistol, whips around, and shoots her captor in the leg. Then she runs over and kicks the hell out of him, until Desmond is like, “Listen, I have to get back to Penny, can we finish this?” It’s never shown what became of her captors, by the way. Or whether Desmond actually forked over the two billion. It turns out he’s very well-connected and someone owed him a favor. For those of you who care: He’s not with whomever he was going to propose to in season one, and he’s not coming back to OPA, either, although Olivia tries. He apologizes for not getting in touch when Harrison died, then tells Olivia that she saved him, and he had hoped he’d never have to return the favor, or something. Then they part ways and he toddles back to The 100.
It turns out ABBY is the one responsible for alerting Desmond. She remembered hearing where he was working, and had Interpol find him for her. Cyrus thanks her, and asks her not to tell Fitz that he was going to explode Olivia. Abby agrees, because she ALSO is with him on the fact that Fitz was wrong and is the worst.
The injection caused Jon Tenney to have a stroke, or at least appear as if he had one (wouldn’t there be traces of it somewhere?), and so Mellie brings him lovely flowers and then pokes at his face and taunts him that he brought this upon himself. If his mind is active and his body is not, that’s a pretty damn juicy and miserable revenge to wreak on someone. MachiaMellie is BACK. Even though technically this was Huck’s idea.
Liv, after a moment’s pause in the elevator and the hallway, goes back home. The wine stain is still on her couch; Quinn says she couldn’t get it out. THEN GET HER A NEW COUCH. Because guess what? You still have $2.4 billion that you didn’t have to spend on Olivia. Go to f’ing Pottery Barn and buy her something as wheat-colored as the old one.
Huck’s eyes come out to play real quick so that he can slobber that he’s SUPER RELIEVED Olivia wasn’t dismembered and sold for parts. No really, that’s actually more or less what he says. Huck has such a touching sense of occasion.
And then Fitz shows up to see her, and his insides curl because he’s so relieved to see her and so desperate for a cuddle. He does, though, ask if she was… hurt, and she interprets this to be about whether she was raped. “No,” she says. “But I learned there are worse things than rape.” And the world’s rape victims are like, “Thanks so much, Scandal, for the comparative ranking of lady traumas, and putting us behind Fictional Kidnapping In Which The Victim Was Given An F’ing FLATIRON AND A DESIGNER COAT.” How about, maybe, “Rape is not the only worst-case-scenario”? Or, “Rape is not the only thing that can make a person feel violated”? Why does it have to be that rape is no big deal compared to being fed quinoa in a bowl? I know I’m oversimplifying Olivia’s ordeal, but I just thought that was awfully presumptuous language.
And then Olivia snaps, just the way we all hoped she would, and essentially tells Fitz that she’s beyond disgusted that he went to war in West Angola over this, and killed tons of Americans just to appease her blackmailers. Olivia points out that she rigged an election for him and got him to the White House twice, all so he could be great, and that he was great until the second he declared that war and pierced every illusion she had about him.Fitz snaps that he STARTED A WAR FOR HER, like she should be so grateful at this show of affection — like the war is a nice gift-wrapped present. When in fact, HE is the dick in the box.
Fitz is horrified that she’s being this way, because Fitz has never understood his own inherent Worstness. Olivia wants him to get out, because she’s so upset and offended that he violated his job just for Vermont, which now they can never have. He insists that he did everything he could to save her. “You didn’t save me,” she spits. “I’m on my OWN.” This is accurate except for how other people totally massively helped out.
And she throws the special Fitz ring at him, which lands on the carpet. Queen Elizabeth II places a call to Olivia to say, “I know, dear, I’ve got an ugly one also, perhaps we can share ideas for burning them?” It may turn out that Olivia cut the cord to neutralize herself — to end her use and influence over Fitz, so that no one else gets any ideas about kidnapping her — but regardless, Fitz leaves, stooped from grief, and she locks the door behind him. SEACREST OUT.