I read somewhere that Shonda Rhimes says she quite likes writing herself into a corner and then giving herself the summer to figure out what the hell to do about it. Of course, last summer she wrote Columbus Short into a corner in case he needed to be fired (which he did); this season, she wrote a couple other people into a box, so we’ll see whether it’s sealed over the summer or if she leaves open the flaps.
Last week, Rowan posed as a billionaire interested in donating to Mellie’s campaign. Which is not that useful in the end because THIS week is the election and it all happens in what feels like twenty-four hours.
Nonetheless, Mellie loves people who flatter her, so she devours his abject praise of her genius and looks quite beautiful doing so. I was surprised for a second that she’d never seen him before, but — even though at this point it feels like B-Overt is the worst-kept secret in the universe — I forgot she doesn’t know anything about anything. You know, it might even surprise me MORE that Fitz didn’t just tell her. I get the vibe from him that he’s a crappy secret-keeper, the kind who would be like, “Oh, no, totally, I will take that to the grave,” and then spill it to whomever is brushing her teeth next to him that night.
Rowan, by the way, picks “Damascus Bainbridge” as his pseudonym — because… he fancies himself the cradle of civilization? — and somehow nobody thought to themselves, “Wow, those syllables in that order are MADE the HELL UP.”
And this is the face of a man who is thinking, “I own you.” He asks Mellie to look at a folder of his primary interests, then feasts on the sight of her opening it and seeing photos of her and Jon Tenney nailing on various pieces of furniture — and a little file called Operation Remington, which means nothing to Mellie except that Rowan tells her it’s about Fitz. In exchange for silence, he asks her for a list, and I don’t think he means “of wine distributors who take American Express.”
Mellie chews on this for a while, which Fitz misinterprets as nerves, and he delivers such a nice, supportive pep talk that she gulps and orders Portia to get the information she needs. So basically, even when Fitz is being the best, he is also inadvertently being a lousy president.
Scared Man In Glasses has gotten his Grand Jury assembled, and Jake is testifying. He’s prepared to downplay Remington, but Olivia tells him to go for it — don’t hold back, tell the full truth, no matter who gets hurt. She wants her father to burn more than she wants Fitz to escape the flames. Which may explain why she is SO STUPID when it comes to Rowan. Somehow, wanting to take him down eclipses her better sense about how to defeat him.
But she is not without conscience:
So, to assuage her guilt about how she’s about to pour lighter fluid all over his life, Liv calls Fitz. He’s on his way to sign the Brandon Bill into law next to Clarence Parker — and this episode would’ve been improved immeasurably if Courtney B. Vance actually had appeared — and so Liv tells him that she’s proud of his return to the Fitz she voted into office. She does NOT say he has returned to the Fitz whose presidency she bought through illegal rigging, because that will really wilt a man’s policy boner.
Huck interrupts with a newsflash:
Scared Man In Glasses is vomiting in the parking lot. (His glasses, despite the heaving, have remained in place. I don’t wear glasses, and yet I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I ever hurled while wearing them, they would drop off my face right into the evidence.)
And the REASON David is vomiting: He decided to board the Grand Jury bus after everyone on it had been executed. David, you don’t have to eyeball the crime scene. It’s okay. Actually, for a second I thought the woman in that seat had been cut in half and her torso was missing, but she’s just slumped in her seat. I’m very sorry for all these people who were just innocently listening to Jake Ballard spinning a yarn about some shitheads he once worked for, and how Fitz once blew a passenger jet out of the air. But like… once again, how did ANYONE think they were going to hide any of this from Rowan and his cronies? It ASTONISHES me. The answer to the question of how to bring down a shadowy and elusive asswad who likes to murder is not usually, “Through a long and protracted legal process which offers the opposition plenty of time to thwart it through gunplay.”
Mellie wants to throw up when she and Portia realize what she’s done — that the list was the names of the jurors — and though Portia agrees to stay quiet, Mellie immediately confesses to Cyrus. He’s thrown and extremely enraged until she says the words “Operation Remington,” at which point Cyrus snaps into action and resolves to make the entire thing go away. “Don’t say a word to Fitz,” he instructs her before slamming the door and hitting the phones.
Scared Man In Glasses brings all his files to Olivia’s conference room table, and tells all the people around said glory table that he is finally OUT. He is donating his white hat to Goodwill. The stenographer was killed by a car while walking her dog — a dog she doesn’t own — meaning that the only survivors of that testimony are the ones standing around Table of Dreams. “And while I live for justice, I don’t want to die for it,” David announces, before sweeping out of there.
Liv is furious, and rants to Jake about how she refuses to let this pass, because the world owes her a chance to be Command while her father is the scared, trembling kid. So Liv goes for Plan B.
She decides the thing to do is ask Mama Pope how she managed to be a step ahead of Rowan, and hoodwink him into shooting down that plane just for the hell of it. And, deliciously, Maya rolls her eyes and is like, “Ugh, you’re so VAIN.” She delivers a fed-up speech about how she thinks Olivia is self-important and so deep into what she fancies are important problems she creates so that she can solve them and be heroic. But then she reminds Olivia that the reason nobody has ever taken down Rowan before is that nobody knows he exists, which gives Olivia another kernel of a truly lame idea that will never, ever work.
Me, I would just keep on with the thread of giving our Rowan’s name, address, and other personals to various terrorists (fire up the auction, y’all), and let them do their worst. He can’t take out ALL OF THEM AT THE SAME TIME, but if he DID, the world would be a safe place, so it’s win-win. But instead, Liv decides to turn him in to the CIA. Even though she knows that B-Everywhere has tentacles that reach to places that are unknowable. That every organization is compromised. Her unshakable faith that the CIA director is safe is total rotten bananas to me. AND she marches into the CIA with a MASSIVE BOX OF PAPERWORK which doesn’t look obvious AT ALL to prying spies who have access to video cameras and a network of private eyes, watching you (clap-clap).
Blessedly, the CIA director is this woman, who makes the best WTF faces in history. She listens to Olivia’s contentions that all these terrorist acts were actually B-STOP IT operations, or distractions from real evil missions. “That was me,” Jake pipes up about a particularly icky one. How charming that he still takes pride in his resume.
Then Cyrus intervenes.
First, he pops by the Smithsonian, where “Eli Pope” is working away at whatever fossil needs cleaning. Rowan points out that Cyrus owes him, because he left David Rosen alive. “I Didn’t Murder Your Bespectacled Husk Of A Staffer (And Other Grisly Favors)” is the new single off Rowan’s forthcoming album, Pope Floats.
Cyrus then has a meeting with the CIA director IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FOYER — guys, PICK YOUR LOCATIONS; this doesn’t backfire, but it should have — about B-OhWhatever. She growls that she was told it was only four or five agents, max, and only for truly dastardly kills. The scope of its influence now is staggering to her, and she wants to shut it down. Cyrus gets in her face and says, “Honey, and I’m going to call you Honey because I can’t remember your first name,” before casually reminding her of what Olivia has forgotten: that aimlessly poking the sleeping carnivorous lion, who is only pretending to sleep anyway while plotting how he’s going to eat you for dinner, is a catastrophic idea. I am not advocating them all doing nothing while Rowan keeps stabbing people, by the way; it’s just that none of these people have ever met a plan they thought through, or executed swiftly enough and with sufficient containment to beat Rowan’s spies. They are terrible at schemes.
So, the CIA throws Liv in jail for treason alongside Jake. “The du Bellay was only supposed to breathe for two hours,” she is quietly seething. “You Philistines are ruining my grape.” Seriously, for a girl who’s been reliving her recent imprisonment and near-death terrorist experience, in her daydreams and nightmares alike, she seems remarkably composed about being in a cell again.
Cyrus’s next move is to call in David Rosen to play Liv and Jake against each other.
Cyrus tells David that he knows Abby is still his hot button, and that an accident or sudden suicidal impulse might befall her if David does not comply. The mission: to make them sign affidavits that B-GoAwayPleaseGod not only doesn’t exist, but never did. And it turns out Scared Man In Glasses is an expert fiddle player, because that’s how he plays them. I am somewhat surprised that Olivia fell for the old “sign this to save Jake” gambit. The implication in the show, at least as I read it, is that Jake held firm but Olivia cracked — and so when Jake said he’d only sign it if Olivia did, David was able to call his bluff because he did already have her signature (during which we learn that Olivia’s middle name is Carolyn. Did we know that? File that away for when Trivial Pursuit makes a comeback). I hate that they did it that way. Olivia should have held firm. This way, it feels like her whole hero complex is a disappointment to Jake, and like, Jake shouldn’t ever get to be the arbiter of what’s disappointing because he used to slay people for a living.
Also, not for nothing, this is clearly the face of a man acting under duress. Scared Man In Glasses indeed.
So, Olivia sucks down her fishbowl full of red wine, when she receives a call from Rowan. He informs her that she got everything she wanted. B-GoAway is no longer. Rowan has killed all the remaining operatives with critical knowledge — including Dan Byrd, aka Faux Virgil from last week, who took a bullet to the brain after torching all the secret incriminating files — and he is no longer Command. He is just Eli Pope, humble Smithsonian employee. Olivia has won, and yet the victory still belongs to her father, who gets to walk away.
Oh, as does Maya, because I gather she was considered knowledgeable enough that Cyrus actually let her sign an affidavit of ignorance as WELL. And she was like, “For my freedom? HELL TO THE F-YEAH.” How exactly is the White House Chief of Staff able to free a Top 10 Most Wanted terrorist — and one who was presumed to have murdered the president’s son –without anybody noticing or caring or getting their political knickers in a knot?
Fitz, meanwhile, is busy giving a very touching speech to Mellie’s team about how she is his best friend, and he loves and respects her more than ever after learning about her yen to serve and watching her fight to make history. It’s the kind of speech that you know will get mashed up and served to him steaming on a plate, because it comes too early in the episode to stand.
And sure enough, while Fitz watches Mellie’s victory speech — we blinked and missed the election — Portia de Rossi casually says to Fitz that she is certain everything is behind them. Fitz takes the bait, and I’m fairly certain it IS bait even if she doesn’t understand all the details, and so Portia tells him all about the man who came and asked Mellie for The List. She even, helpfully, has a visual aid.
I’m sorry, but at what point in Rowan Pope’s scheme to impersonate a billionaire so he could get an audience with Mellie, and then blackmail her, do we think he would have consented to a PHOTO OP? His whole PURPOSE is to remain unknown. He needs to be Eli Pope, nondescript museum worker. There is no way in hell he would’ve been like, “Oh, sure, snap a photo that you could put on her social media.” This is such a contrivance that even Contrivance, as a concept, just threw up on Portia’s shoes.
Then, Huck finally does something useful, and of course it’s purely by accident.
He and Quinn tell Olivia — who somehow never heard about this during the “How We Tried To Buy You On The Black Market” recap that you know SOMEBODY gave her at some point — that the two billion dollars of B-Wealthy money is still kicking around in Huck’s bank account. But Huck points out it’s not proof of anything, because it’s been routed through so many foreign accounts that it could’ve come from anywhere. Now, I can’t vouch for whether they could feasibly pull off the following, but:
They get “Eli Pope” arrested for a decades-long scam of stealing money from the Smithsonian. I am POSITIVE that if anyone did the math they would realize he never could’ve taken that much from them without it ringing any alarms, but regardless, they basically get Al Capone on tax evasion. And Liv savors telling him that while he might’ve been right that she’d never bring down Rowan, she is delighted to lock Eli away for a hearty sentence. He screams at her as she leaves, but he should be applauding her…
… because she did all this while wearing a CAPE. A grey cape, indicating a not-entirely-clean victory, but a cape nonetheless. I hope she spun around in that sucker ten times.
And then something really weird happens:
Quinn pulls a gun on Huck and tells him that she’s onto him — that she knows he did the Grand Jury job for Rowan, because she recognized his handiwork. Excuse me while I laugh with the derision of a thousand smug Cyruses. His “handiwork”? If Huck has any “handiwork,” it involves power tools and severed limbs, which we’ve been unfortunate enough to witness on numerous occasions. The jurors were all basically shot the exact same way Rowan, or whatever random lackey, murdered the former KGB spy and her grandchildren. Which is to say, quickly, unimaginatively, effectively. As in the kind of work any rando assassin would do and which bears no hallmarks of Huck’s bloodlust and yen for dismemberment. None at all. And Quinn of all people KNOWS THIS because she studied at Huck’s right hand and the two of them just spent a bunch of time drilling into Russell’s warm body (did we ever see him die, by the way, in the Rowan Kills His Underlings montage?). I don’t know. Oh, and also, when we see Huck doing the killing in flashback, his face is covered in blood spray, and there’s some on his clothes. But when he runs to get Liv to alert her to the crime, all innocent-like, he is completely clean. When did he have time for laundry and a shower? This was just the most absurd, tacked-on piece of nonsense.
And of course, Huck pants something about Kim and Javi — the son who watched him murder a man with a shard of glass, but seems to have rebounded with neither therapy nor explanation. Quinn screams that he’s a traitorous dog who isn’t worthy of them, and Huck begs her to kill him. We leave them for the season as Quinn’s hand trembles, the gun pressed against Huck’s head at Huck’s urging. I think this is the point where Shonda is trying to write things into a place where they could go either way, so Team Scandal could pause and step back and figure out if Huck needs to leave the show. Which… he totally does. He just does. This entire thing might need a facelift.
Fitz waits until Mellie and Cyrus have popped the celebratory champers, and then uncorks: He throws Mellie out of the house and fires Cyrus for their roles in the dead Grand Jury and then letting Maya Pope go free (for which he is also punishing Mellie, even though she doesn’t know about that wrinkle — which reminds me that I can’t myself recall if Fitz knows Rowan killed his son and not Maya; he may NOT, right?). So Mellie’s Victory Lap is going to be around the Internet as she tries to find a place to live, and Cyrus’s career devoted to Fitz’s advancement will end in the quietest of whimpers.
Also, Fitz, remember that time you killed an old lady in her hospital bed, or blew up a plane? Or STARTED A WAR just to get your girlfriend back home, in which lots of Americans died? All of which you, like Mellie, believed you were doing for the right reasons? Yeah. How quickly hypocritical douchebags forget.
When Liv comes home, she arrogantly assumes she can snap her fingers and get Jake to come in and drink beer and wine and do whatever else she’s in the mood for, but fortunately for him he does not buy it. It’s hollow and he knows it. So he stays outside and says that he has completed his mission: Both Rowan and Fitz hired him to protect her, and he’s done it, and now he can go. “I am in love with you,” he says. “And you are in love with him.” And Olivia, at last, no longer tries to pretend it’s even a question. So Jake toddles off, possibly not to return next season, yet still very much alive for when they need him to make a dramatic guest appearance. It’s an exit of convenience, and if he really is gone for a while, I applaud the show for recognizing when his expiration date as a romantic option had passed.
Mellie packs up and skulks out of the White House, with nary a sign of that baby in her possession. Nobody even discussed the baby. Hey, Fitz? Mellie? Remember that time you had a baby? That baby still exists. Where will that baby live? Should we put out an APB on that baby? Does either of you know its name?
Portia preens as she unpacks her stuff into Cyrus’s old office just as he’s being escorted off the premises. This is why I think she knew exactly what she was doing when she leaked the truth to Fitz; her facial expression certainly conveys that she is the cat who ate the canary and then dancing on the grace of Cyrus’s career, which is buried next to his humanity, which is buried next to James.
Fitz goes to Liv’s place, but she’s not there, so he returns to his patio to brood. And who should be waiting there…
… but Olivia herself, wearing a new twist on a wine cardigan. It’s… a wine cardigan that buttons at the shoulder. One might call that a sweater, but it honestly does look more like she’s just trying to turn the wine cardigan industry on its ear. She is so far ahead of the world in terms of drinking fashion that we can only sit back and panic about how the hell to wear that.
The show also goes to great pains to frame them with the glowing phallus of Washington standing erect between them.
And then Fitz takes her in his arms and they make out, after he wonders, “What happens now?” And she basically says, “Whatever we want.” Edited to add because I forgot to mention it: They strike up “Here Comes The Sun” at this part, which… y’all, you’re mixing your references here. The sun was Olivia and Jake. But I guess there isn’t a song called “Here Comes My Vermont Jam Empire.”
And the thing is, there are a hundred reasons in the past why I have hated this relationship and the power dynamic between them, which always seemed to be Fitz pushing and pushing until she let him take, and then being a whiny baby and a poor world leader. But the actors have good enough chemistry, and enough other dominoes fell in this hour, that seeing the two of them celebrate their temporary happy ending actually felt like heaving a sigh of relief. Diet Homeland With Alias is over, one hopes, with Eli’s imprisonment. Maya is on the loose, but is too expensive for regular use. Jake is out of the romantic picture. Huck might be gone. Mellie is a senator, but no longer on Team Grant, which means she’ll be a little bit desperate again and a lot more Machiamellie. Cyrus is God knows where — possibly about to become Mellie’s new strategist — and Portia de Rossi and Abby might make for a lovely if unholy union. For the first time, there is potential for this show to actually, really, sincerely, turn a page.