The short recap is: The awesomeness of Abby’s hair is inversely proportionate to the impassioned grey turf that’s been implanted on Cyrus’s head, Mellie is handling her grief with Ugg Boots, and Olivia’s wine habit finally came back to bite her (but not in a way that ruined her wine cardigan, thank God).

Since the season three finale, when she jetted off with Jake in the wake of Fitz’s son’s death, Olivia has been slumming it in a putrid hellhole:

She and Jake apparently took refuge on a mysterious uncharted island that’s equipped with deck chairs and a nice place to live and bang, and a dude who will bring them groceries and fine wine. It’s like the luxury resort version of the Dharma Initiative and its hatch.

Oh, show. You’re so subtle. Although Where’d You Go, Bernadette? might have been more apt given the next shot:

Those sunglasses would look terrible on me and I want them in the worst, neediest way.

Kerry Washington’s hair looks FANTASTIC like that, and I wish she’d leave it. It’s amazing. She looks more badass here than in any of her papal garb. She and Jake are luxuriating on Castaway Island, ignoring whatever that smoky thing is that keeps drifting through, and waiting for the supply boat to bring their snacks. Jake puts the moves on her, and she points out that they only have fifteen minutes before it arrives. But in Shondaland it’s sexy when dudes just do whatever they want with you, so Jake lies down on top of her and essentially gives her a cervical exam and she’s like, “Okay, never mind, let’s do this instead.”

I would never deny you shirtless Scott Foley. Liv also looks great in her beach tunic; I wish she could do the entire season from this island. Maybe Jake should pop down and turn the crank and move it back and forth through time. Anyway, along with no beer for Jake — I guess Olivia gets to be the boss in some ways — and a pricey wine for Olivia, the supply boat brings a letter addressed to Olivia’s pseudonym, Julia Baker (the name of Diahann Carroll’s character on Julia, which is the last TV show before Scandal to have an African-American female lead). Jake doesn’t think she should open Pandora’s Envelope, but silly Jake, there’s no place to recycle paper on this island so it’d be wasteful to do anything else. And sure enough, it’s a clipping telling her that Harrison was found dead. So Olivia tapes a note to her shelter that reads, “Dear Oceanic Flight 815: It’s handled,” and heads back home.

Cut to the two of them back in Washington, her hair sleek once more, the reflection of Capitol coming between them in a shot that’s beautifully done.

She goes straight to the OPA offices in one of her signature coats — B-Prepared must have a great dry-cleaning service set up on Bangbados — and finds them abandoned. So, basically, they look exactly the same except with some tarps over the furniture. Oh, Abby. You ran out of here and didn’t have anyone ship that conference table to your house? You FIND A SPACE for that sucker, even if your apartment dining room is too small to allow for any chairs.

Despite ditching everyone to go live in paradise (I assume the boat brought about three crates of various types of birth control), Olivia is startled and peeved that they didn’t carry on her company, and instead actually did other stuff.

Out of grief for his son, and fresh from winning the election, Fitz apparently hired Emily Thorne to REVENGE his entire cabinet.

Huck is now living as That Super Creepy Guy Named Randy Who Fixes Computers And If He Weren’t Really Good At His Job I Would Never Go In There Because He Only Seems To Breathe Through His Nose.

Abby is the new White House Press Secretary, still not entirely in Fitz’s inner circle, but for sure rocking some fantastic hair.

Mellie wears sweats and a robe and Uggs, and roams the White House tipping generic Froot Loops into her mouth. She delivers some WAY overwritten blah-blah — it’s supposed to be witty exposition — about Fitz’s push to equalize minimum wage for men and women, and then skips out of there in a sassy cloud of I Don’t Give A Shit Anymore.

And Cyrus’s scalp this season is sponsored by Gund. SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS HAPPENING ON JEFF PERRY’S HEAD. Did he fall into a vat of Miracle Gro Silver? Did he decide that Cyrus got some Grief Plugs to cope with James’s death? Did he think no one would NOTICE that he murdered a stuffed walrus and stapled it to his face?

Even Portia de Rossi appears to have noticed, based on that expression, and she wasn’t even on the show last season. (Portia plays some sort of politico — the new head of the RNC, I believe — who is increasingly pissed off that Fitz isn’t toeing the Republican line. She mostly stops by to hiss things at Cyrus while he makes cracks that she’s a bitch, because of course she can’t be powerful and COOL.)

Abby’s hair is so good that I almost don’t care about how terrible this green screen work is.

And her wine-colored coat is sublime. But apparently it was Quinn who found Olivia: She did some Huckish detective work to track Olivia’s favorite absurdly expensive bottle of wine, and figured out that “Julia Baker” was her huckleberry. Quinn dragged out Abby for a confrontation with Olivia, and you can see by Abby’s face how happy THAT makes her. The two exchange cold words: Abby is resentful that Olivia is back and blames Harrison’s death on Liv abandoning all of them, and Liv gets all huffy that Abby would DARE blame her for anything, ever, and is NEVER going to talk to Abby again — except to tell her when to come to Harrison’s funeral, which is going to be the BEST FUNERAL IN THE WORLD, and THAT’LL teach all of them to challenge her feelings.

Jake is not best pleased that David Rosen hasn’t taken down B-OverAlready. David has spent the last three months color-coding and filing all the Evil Paperwork because apparently the best offense is a good office-supply store.

Rowan Pope already knew Olivia was back in town, and even ordered her a glass of wine, because he’s a full-service sociopath. He knows Olivia wants to ask if he had anything to do with Harrison’s death, and he lies ably at first before stating what is technically true: that he did not kill Harrison (Fitz’s secret-service dude, the B-Homicidal mole, did it). Then he tells her that he “took care of” her mother, which is ALSO technically not a fib, given that he put her up in the nicest torture hole that side of ground level.

Liv’s apartment has also been beautifully kept up in her absence, as has her wine cardigan. I hope it turns out that Quinn’s only job in B-Thorough was to Swiffer Olivia’s floors and fight her moth problem.

Almost immediately, someone comes to Olivia’s front door with a deathly urgent crisis (I guess she’s SUPER easy to find in D.C.): A female senator played by Jessica Tuck — from everything, but to me, always Megan Buchanan on One Life To Live – was sexually harassed by her male colleague while they sparred about Fitz’s Equal Pay Bill. He ended up falling over a balcony and landing on an upended table, or something, looking really most sincerely dead. Except.

“A grisly murder scene… is something that was not found at Senator Sterling’s house.” Yes, Perd Hapley reports that the senator was only mostly dead, and Miracle Max is working as hard as possible to bring the lech back to life, which is a real bummer because: Senator Jessica Tuck was hoping he’d die so he couldn’t refute her lie. It would seem Jessica’s assistant was the one he was harassing, and worse, it seems Jessica sent the assistant over there knowing she was exactly Senator Handsy’s type. And figuring… I don’t know, either the assistant, Kate, could convince him to vote their way, or he’d assault her and then Jessica Tuck could blackmail his vote out of him. It’s supremely uncool of her, and eventually Liv agrees to represent the woman in her self-defense case. Because, as she tells Jake, Harrison would have wanted it, and would have said, “Are we gladiators or are we bitches?” In other words: more scandals-of-the-week again.

Liv puts on another tremendous coat from her well-tended vault in her abandoned apartment, and drops by Huck. Who won’t talk to Quinn after she brought him to his family — and I gather isn’t talking to his family either? — and won’t talk to Olivia until she agrees to come back forever, because he can’t afford to have hope. Except he expresses this sentiment through a lot of nostril-flaring, eye-bugging, sharp-breathing, halting speech. Yep. Scandal is back.

In case we forgot that they’re grieving the loss of a child we never saw, while also ignoring the two children we also never see (this is a criticism of the show, not of grieving mothers), Mellie pops by Jerry III’s grave and lies down on it and luxuriates in feeling close to her son. Someone in the comments pointed something out about the way I wrote this that I want to clarify: My frustrations here are that TV shows too often give characters kids and then leave them off the canvas, to the point where it becomes weird and almost a distraction. Mellie is allowed to have her grief, but no mention of the REST of the family being affected, or even of where they are and who they’re with, undercuts the whole thing to me. I know it’s inconvenient for Scandal to pay actors for lots of episodes, but I’d have settled for a discussion of how the daughter was doing, or Mellie making a mention of going to check on the toddler. Or even of her being clingy with them, or channeling her grief into being overbearing with them because she’s afraid of losing them too. SOMETHING other than the SHOW acting like there aren’t two other kids. Or if that’s a deliberate choice — that she’s focused on this to the exclusion of them — then MAKE IT and write it in, and go there. Use words if you don’t want to use the actors. I’m sure it’s coming, but in this episode, the silent treatment about them felt more like someone forgot to cross their Ts. Like supremely lazy TV.

This does not speak super highly of Jake’s bedroom skills.

In actual fact, Olivia and Jake are kissing while she tries to discuss what’s preying on her mind about the Senator Jessica Tuck case. Jake wants her to shut up and have sex with him, because he doesn’t want to stay in Washington; he just wants to go back to the Devirgin Islands so that he can nail her all the time and not have to worry about how inconvenient it is that she has a brain she likes to use. So he tells her that it’s his turn right now, and his turn doesn’t involve her doing any talking. Fortunately, the one time, Liv ignores him, and keeps talking, and Jake acts awfully put-upon as she lists all the reasons she needs to take this case and take a stand as a woman for her gender’s rights. Jake is like, “Siiiiigh,” and I know it’s because he senses returning to Washington means he’ll lose her again to the wilds of Fitz’s nether region, but it’s also obnoxious. BE ATTRACTED TO HER MIND AND HER MORAL STANCE.

This is legit what would have happened if Steve Sanders had combed out his hair on season two of 90210. Poor dead James would be like, “NO, CYRUS.”

David Rosen is being offered the attorney general job by Cyrus. Probably for control reasons. David hems and haws about taking it, until Abby delivers a hammer of a lecture about how he should stop wimping out and just TAKE SOME POWER ALREADY and then use it. Her hair means business. His pant legs do not.


But her speech works.

And then, Harrison’s funeral:

We get a nice sliver of backstory that he had no family — he was raised in a group home — and then they all sniffle and throw roses on his coffin. Also, this funeral — which Liv said was going to be so great — had no personality at all, and indeed, nothing about it that felt unique or indicated any kind of special relationship between her and her onetime Gladiator. I would have liked it much better if they chucked in all his pocket squares and dapper ties. Y’all missed an opportunity there, Scandal writers. Harrison’s clothes were the only trait he had.

Jake hugs Olivia afterward, and spies Rowan Pope watching from his limo, and gets a very unhappy expression indeed on his face. Jake can smell murder.

Mellie starts the day with a cocktail and a lean off the balcony, at which point she casually reveals that Fitz apparently almost threw himself off it in the wake of his son’s death. Fitz does not want to talk about this ever again, and Mellie blithely agrees to add it to the list of topics they’re pretending aren’t real, including Jerry’s death and Olivia’s existence and disappearance, and her own rape. Because Fitz is the worst.

Mellie’s despair hair is great, though (I’d call it “desphair,” but that just reads like what you do when you just want to listen to Liz Phair and burn things). She delivers a TMI monologue about their broken relationship and his feeble attempts at sexual bonding. It’s a very unsettling speech because she makes it sound like he takes advantage of her, and yet also that she is complicit in it, and I’m even confused about WHEN exactly she’s alleging he does this. I thought at first maybe they were having sex to try and move on — I still might think that? — but then she talks at length about how one of the many things she’s stopped doing now that she doesn’t care is waxing, so “it’s 1976 down there,” and she doesn’t think he’d be into that, so THAT makes it sound like he hasn’t been by for a visit in ages. The whole thing is… odd, like I said. I feel like I am missing a couple connectors here.

She then orders Fitz to tell her when he sees Olivia again, now that she’s back in town. He denies that he’s going to see her at all, and Mellie repeats that he will tell her when he sees Olivia, and I believe she means, sees Olivia naked. She won’t stand for the pretense that it won’t happen all over again, and I’m back to wondering if they’ve tried to have grief sex and Mellie doesn’t want to be doing that in the future without knowing where else he’s been.

Liv comes out in full Avenging Angel garb and announces that she’s going to defend Kate because she was taken advantage of by a gross old dude, and that’s not okay even if you shove him over a railing. (True.)

And then Fitz and Liv pass each other in the hallway and cover the gut-punch by passing each other calmly, with only the slightest twitch of their pinky fingers in each other’s directions.

As Liv walks toward the camera, she gives it a satisfied smile, like she’s whole again and can breathe after three months of holding it in, and the death knell rings for poor old Jake Ballard, no matter how many times he insists — as he did earlier in the hour — that he’s the man Olivia likes to “ride” and that he can touch her where no one else can. And he’s speaking of her erogenous zones, and it just so completely figures that YET AGAIN he turns it into an entirely sexual, physical competition, reducing her to a body and them to an act. I’m a little bored of it. Olivia, you go straddle anyone you want to, on your own terms.

Tags: Scandal