by L.T. Milroy
Another Thursday, another Scandal, off the rails on a crazy train.
This week’s installment brings up so many questions: How was the vice president, who has been portrayed as a jerk no one likes or respects, able to get the Secret Service and White House staff to betray the POTUS and listen to him? Why would anyone not hire a team of bodyguards after the pleasure of a home invasion visit from the clearly psychotic Huck? Why does the normally sharp Abby appear clueless to virtually everything throughout the entire episode? And the biggest WTF: Are we supposed to believe Fitz would declare war to get Olivia back? And if he does, are we still supposed to respect him in the morning?
So much to clear up. I really don’t find all this kidnapping tripe to be any more interesting than last season’s B613 nonsense. The two plotlines are very similar, actually. And neither has anything to do with what this show was so good at the first two seasons, which was showing Liv as a smart, scheming, stylish, badass Washington fixer. How I did enjoy that.
So, such as it is, here’s a rundown. Let’s hope we’re back in DC soon, slogging through some political mud.
Neutered POTUS. Upon finding out Liv has been kidnapped, Fitz swings into savior mode. He wants everyone in the intelligence community on high alert and generally wants to avail himself of all the services the leader of the free world can utilize in an emergency situation. Instead, he’s visited by a bunch of Secret Service agents and is bluntly informed he’s no longer in charge. They apparently all are working for Andrew, the evil Veep. Their mission is not to protect the president so much as to get in his way.
How did Andy get control of the entire White House staff? I’m not sure how he was able to acquire so much power – behind Fitz’s back – that the entire government basically answers to him, rendering Fitz a mere puppet, but that’s where we are. Fitz is informed he’s being watched everywhere he goes, 24/7. If he tries to get help or tell anyone what’s going on, Olivia will pay the price.
Now is not a good time for true confessions, Mel. This results in Fitz needing to be creative as he tries to put together a plan of action. The first person in whom he confides is Mellie. But not after a false start. She’s trying to talk with him, but he’s sullen and unresponsive. She says she knows something is wrong, and he just says he had a long day. Then she confesses she started sleeping with Andrew again but stopped when she discovered he was also doing Lizzie.
Mel says now that she and Fitz have this great “partnership” she feels she can tell him anything. She says she thought Andrew would make her happy, like Liv makes Fitz happy. But the truth is, she’d rather be with Fitz, because they’re comfortable together. After all, she knows his secrets, like the election…
Fitz shuts her up at that point. He knows he’s being watched and listened to and certainly doesn’t want to give his enemies valuable intel, such as Defiance. Mellie doesn’t know this yet, though, so she just says, “Fine” and leaves.
The next time they talk, things get real. Fitz is brooding on the balcony, and Mellie thinks it’s because of what she told him about Andrew. So he pulls her close, like he wants to make out, which we know never happens, so there must be an alternative agenda. He whispers that in twenty-foour hours, he’s going to kill Olivia. He fills her in on the details and all about how “your boyfriend has orchestrated a bona fide American coup.” The only way to save Liv is to declare war and put thousands of lives at risk, which he says he won’t do.
This seems like a golden opportunity to get rid of Liv, but Mellie doesn’t take it. Instead, she tells Fitz that if he loves Olivia, he knows what he has to do.
It’s hard to believe Fitz would risk an unknown number of lives, and for a cause he didn’t even think worthy, just to save Liv. And it’s clear he didn’t intend to do so until talking to Mellie. But the next day, Fitz is on TV speaking from the White House to tell the nation he’s ordered a first strike on West Angola. Cyrus and Abby watch, stunned.
Of course, after ordering the strike, Fitz meets with Andrew, who tells him he has no intention of releasing Liv. Does this surprise anyone? He says that once he returns Liv, it’s all over and wars take time. He’ll use that time to set the agenda for the rest of Fitz’s term. Once Fitz is out of office, Andrew says Liv will be released. But it’s an obvious lie, and Fitz knows it.
Liv lives. This all came after Fitz was assured Liv was still alive. He demanded proof from Andrew, who sent the order to Ian. Liv, looking bedraggled, is filmed in a dingy room, holding that day’s newspaper There’s a good reason to keep the newspaper industry going. How else are hostages supposed to prove they’re still around? Don’t tell me papers are no longer relevant!
Several takes are required, as Liv keeps veering off-script. At one point she stops and asks for water and is given a glass, from which she guzzles. It seems highly unlikely her captor would hand her a glass instead of plastic, and it would turn out to play a significant role.
Andrew shows Fitz the video, in which Liv says he must declare war against West Angola within forty-eight hours, or she will be killed.
Lizzie learns the hard way. The Gladiators of OPA are back this week, working with Jake to find Olivia. Huck, in desperation, reverts to old form and shows up in Lizzie’s apartment. After she puts her daughter to bed, he grabs her and asks her where Liv is. She says she doesn’t know, so he threatens her little girl, as graphically as only a whackjob like Huck can. That makes Lizzie say she’ll find out, and he leaves her alone, for now, but says he’ll be back. Believe what he says, Liz, Huck doesn’t issue idle threats. And we all know how much he likes whiskey.
Liz is rattled enough to go to Andrew, who smugly says they’ll get the war they both wanted. She tells him of the late-night visit from Huck, and he says to stop whining. When the dust clears, he’ll be president, and she’ll be right by his side. He makes it clear she needs to stick with the plan, and everything will work out.
That seems to placate Lizzie, thus proving she doesn’t know who she’s dealing with. She appears to think she can take Huck’s threat lightly, but she’s about to learn the hard way how foolish that is. She’s apparently taken no precautions since his creepy visit, and true to his word, he’s back a couple of nights later.
When Liz checks on her daughter, there’s Huck, in her bedroom. Panicked, she tells him that if he hurts the girl, Olivia will be dead. He agrees but says he’ll have to be more creative. Then Liz sees Huck’s brought his torture tool kit. She looks appropriately terrified as the scene fades. So, we’re spared the explicit torture pron this week, kids. There’s just the implication of it.
We do see the results, however. The next day, a significantly less-smug Liz drops in on Mellie. She gets right to the point and says none of this was her idea. Then she tells of her visit from Huck, and Mel is unsympathetic. She says Liz should have expected that Liv’s people would do everything in their power to get her back. To prove Mel’s statement, Liz takes down her blouse and turns around to show Huck’s handiwork.
I’m not sure exactly what tools Huck used, but Lizzie’s back looks something like raw hamburger (and given that, why is she wearing that sheer, white blouse? Seems a strange choice, considering). She says Huck threatened to kill her if Liv isn’t released. Mel looks concerned at this point but says Liv should be released now that Andrew has his war. Liz is afraid Andrew will just keep wanting more and never let her go.
What’s up with Tom? Fitz is in a meeting with his advisors when the subject of Tom comes up. He was the Secret Service agent who killed Fitz’s son, Jerry, last season, on orders from Papa Pope. He’s applied for a pardon, which Cyrus says is ridiculous, and which Fitz should turn down without hesitation. But Fitz says if Tom wants a pardon, he should ask for it directly and visits him in federal prison.
When they meet face-to-face, Tom is grateful Fitz is considering the petition, but Fitz makes it clear he has no intention of granting it. That makes Tom act truly bizarre, as he reels off another of his Helen of Troy analogies concerning Liv and how killing Jerry was “a sacrifice for greatness.”
The way he goes off on this nonsensical tangent makes me wonder if Tom has gone completely crackers. Are they putting meth in his oatmeal? Fitz doesn’t care about all of this. He came to ask Tom two things: who can Fitz trust in the White House, and where can he go to be truly alone? Tom says to trust no one (giving me an X Files flashback), and as far as a place to speak privately, “the same place as always,” meaning Liv’s apartment.
Fitz goes there for a secret meeting with…Jake. These two, who were mortal enemies not long ago, are now teaming up to find their mutual squeeze. Fitz gives him a copy of Liv’s statement and tells him they have two days to find her. Jake passes on the video to Huck and Quinn, who analyze it endlessly. Eventually, Huck zeroes in as Liv gulps the water and can see a reflection on the bottom of the glass, which is revealed to be her captor, Ian.
Lock-up. After Liv’s escape attempt and the killing of two of his goons, Ian is taking no chances. Liv isn’t allowed private grooming visits any more, and she washes in the bathroom sink as he watches. Creepy.
Then he reveals a key part of his motivation when Liv tells him the bribery-to-go-to-war thing will never work, and he says he doesn’t care, since he gets paid either way. He drives home the point that it’s all about money for him when he bets her that Fitz will crumble and declare war. He follows that by saying Fitz will meet their demands. Liv seizes on that as his admission he’s not in charge, and he’s just following orders. She mentally files away all this information.
The black lady. As OPA works to identify Ian, they’re interrupted by an older woman named Rose (Marla Gibbs, best known as Florence on The Jeffersons) who walks in and wants to see Olivia, or as she puts it, “Where’s the black lady?” When Quinn says she’s not here, Rose says she’ll be back the next day.
It’s kind of entertaining, but why does she keep saying “the black lady?” She knew enough to go to OPA to find her but doesn’t know that she’s Olivia Pope? Meh, whatever.
Of course, Rose isn’t just around for seventies sitcom nostalgia. She comes back the next day and tells Quinn that her friend Lois is missing, and she needs Liv to find her. Lois won’t answer her phone or door, and she gave Liv a key to her apartment, since she lives across the hall.
Jake, Quinn, and Huck search the apartment, and Huck finds the ring Liv dropped to prove she was there. They know she was held there for a while, and for a command post to have been set up, an Internet connection was needed. They find a modem, and after hacking into it, learn who last logged in. This leads them to ID Ian.
Beleaguered Cyrus. No one is more stunned by the war news than Cyrus, even though he had signs it was coming. After being threatened by the Secret Service, Fitz went to Cy to tell him to gather the joint chiefs first thing in the morning. When Cy says he thought the war option had been ruled out, Fitz says it’s back on. All of a sudden Fitz isn’t answering to him for some reason and he’s decided to listen to Andrew.
Cy’s pacing his office as Abby comes in to ask about his input on the Coalition for West Angola. He says Fitz hates the VP, and Abby says we all do (!), so Cy asks, then why Fitz listening to him. Abby says he’s being paranoid and everything is fine, but Cy proves he’s on the outs by telling her he doesn’t know what the Coalition for West Angola is.
Cyrus is out of the loop, and he doesn’t know why, and he’s openly hostile when Fitz calls him into the Oval Office. Fitz wants him to read the long-term prospectus on the West Angola war, but Cy doesn’t see the point. He thinks he should have been consulted before 15,000 troops were deployed, and with thirty-one people already dead, he has no interest in the report.
Fitz shoves a copy into his hands and orders him to read it. The sometimes-slow prez does so because he’s finally remembered that talking isn’t the only way to communicate. When Cyrus opens the report, he sees the message Fitz has scrawled there, ‘They have Olivia’. I’m not sure why Fitz didn’t go into more detail, but at least he figured out how to employ modern methods of communication, like pen and paper.
Playing Andrew. Mellie goes to see Andrew in his office. She knows what’s going on with the West Angola situation, but all he wants to discuss is how he and Liz were a mistake. None of what he’s trying to accomplish will mean anything without Mellie. She’ll be FLOTUS again after he takes office. He kisses her, and she returns the gesture.
Later, Fitz is on the balcony, where all the heavy stuff goes down this ep, and Cyrus appears to say he’s read the report and understands. Then Mellie joins them, embraces Fitz, and whispers, “I took care of everything.” We see a flashback to Andrew’s office, where Mel has apparently banged him into unconsciousness. It’s telling that Andrew underestimates Mellie to the degree that he would assume she was only there for a romp, and it was fine for him to let down his guard around her. Bad decision!.
As Andrew sleeps on the couch, Mel goes into his desk and takes his cell phones. She gives them to Liz, who brings them to OPA. Liz says she’s told all she knows, she’s sorry for everything, and, with a quick glance Huck’s way, she adds to please leave her family alone.
Huck and Quinn scroll through the phones and notice repeated calls to a 717 area code. So Liv is being held not somewhere in the Mideast but in central Pennsylvania. My guess had been that her captors never took her out of the DC area, which they did, but barely. Huck traces a signal to an abandoned airport hangar in Harrisburg. Quinn says the three of them taking on all the firepower the kidnappers certainly is a suicide mission, but Jake has an idea.
David’s back…briefly. Jake seeks the help of Attorney General Rosen, who orders a drug raid on the Harrisburg hangar. The Gladiators will have the help of the DEA in taking on the kidnappers. They descend on the hangar, break down those familiar orange doors, and scatter through the prison. They have the right location, but it’s been abandoned. In her cell, Jake finds Olivia’s clothes, but she’s gone.
This is because Liv came up with a plan of her own, after Ian admitted that he would never release her. She taunted him with how he was obviously not in charge of this plot, he was just a puppet for someone more powerful, just a babysitter. She told him he was sitting on a hugely valuable asset and wasn’t using it.
Given how much Liv obviously means to the POTUS, she should be on the open market. She tells him to just think how much money he could make putting her up for the highest bidder. She could help him, since she knows the market, the players, and how the whole thing works. He’ll get rich, and she won’t have to sit in a cell until the end of Fitz’s term, just to get a bullet in the head. She ends with asking him if he want to be a babysitter or a boss.
Liv has shown she’s very talented in playing people and worming her way into their heads, and that seems to be what she’s done with Ian. As the raid on the hangar occurs, the two of them are on a plane, a very nice, private plane, and Liv is all cleaned up.
Fitz is being briefed on the invasion, when someone brings him a phone and tells him it’s Olivia. He hears her say hello before Ian gets on the line. He informs Fitz of his plan to sell Liv to the highest bidder. Fitz, of course, is free to make an offer, if he’d like.
At episode’s end, Huck is at OPA, listening to all kinds of international chatter as prospective bidders learn of the upcoming auction. Liv is on the plane with Ian. She looks out the window and gives a sort of Mona Lisa smile.
Are we supposed to interpret that as Liv being back in charge? Has she cooked up a plan, and Ian is falling right into her trap?
The network preview for next week’s Full Circle: Olivia remains one-step ahead of her captors, but she won’t be able to keep it up for long.
Here’s hoping Ian and this whole plotline will disappear.