Catch up on Scandal: S4 Ep. 20 First Lady Sings the Blues


L.T. Milroy

 Rumors of Jake Ballard’s death have been greatly exaggerrated.

Well , it wasn’t rumors so much as we actually saw Jake get gutted last week by Russell, Olivia’s B613 boy toy. But since when has a good gutting stood in the way of a TV drama character surviving, against all believable odds?

Case of the Week. Basically, it’s Russell’s filleting of Jake, and all that results from it. Jake may be down–and sliced and diced and bleeding–but he ain’t out. Not yet, at least.

Quinn comes into the OPA offices early in the morning. She putters around, starts making coffee, and pages through a newspaper. It’s nice to see that instead of her staring at her phone like a zombie. I like old-school Quinn.

Then she walks into the conference room, sees the nasty calamity that is Jake lying on the table, and draws her gun. She’s obviously traumatized, because when Huck walks in a second later, she fires off a round. Fortunate for him, she only hits the ceiling, though there are a number of fans who wouldn’t mind seeing Huck get bumped off, considering how crazypants the guy has become. Wouldn’t it have been funny if he had gotten blown away by a jumpy Quinn with a twitchy trigger finger, after finding an eviscerated Jake? It sure would have been unexpected.

Quinn starts freaking out and says that killing Jake and leaving him a big, bloody mess at OPA is a message from Papa Pope that he’s coming for all of them. While Quinn babbles on crazily, Huck checks Jake and finds that he’s still warm. Huck pounds on his chest, and Jake screams in pain.

Olivia and David arrive as Huck and Quinn work on Jake. The ever-practical David wants to call 911 and get Jake to a hospital, but Liv says that will just create a trail for Pa to follow. She adds that Pa will kill them all off just to teach her a lesson. Instead, Quinn calls Charlie, who arranges for some sort of shady Russian doctor to meet them in an abandoned warehouse.

When the doctor arrives, he isn’t concerned about Jake so much as he is about his payment. He wants some cash up front. When Liv can’t deliver, he suggests a favor instead. There’s a retired KGB agent named Black Sable who needs help. If Liv will help his friend, he’ll help hers. After some persuading from the doctor, and some painful moans from Jake, she agrees.

Baking with Black Sable. Liv and Huck go to see Black Sable, who is now living in the DC area. Huck warns Liv that Black Sable was notoriously violent and ruthless during the KGB years, but who answers the door but a grandmotherly type with two little children running around. She invites them in for cookies.

Black Sable tells her story. She grew up poor in Russia but found a way out of poverty with the KGB. She was guaranteed food and shelter. All she had to do was kill when ordered. She was good at it, but never liked it, and was able to get away when the Cold War ended and the KGB fell apart. She managed to blend in when she came to the United States. She got married, had kids, and made friends. Her name is now Mary Peterson, and she’s considered herself an American for over twenty years. Those little ones she’s looking after are her grandkids.

She thought her past was behind her, until the day before, when she found a message left on her car with instructions to carry out a mission to kill someone. If she doesn’t, she’ll be killed. She doesn’t know who left the message, but she knows the consequences of ignoring it and says it looks like Putin is reviving the KGB.

Back at the warehouse, the good doctor has determined that Jake will need surgery. For that, blood is required. Liv tells Quinn. who says she’ll go “get some blood.” David overhears and asks what that means, and it’s just what he likely suspects. When we next see Quinn, she and Charlie have tied up a couple of orderlies and are looting a local hospital’s blood bank.

Huck finds out who Mary’s handler is, and he and Liv go to meet with him. His name is Kostya, a Russian mobster using a butcher store as a cover. Liv tries to get him to release Mary, but he won’t back off. She tells him to name his price, but it appears he’s a true believer and can’t be bought.

Liv goes back to Mary and tells her about it, but Mary says she won’t allow herself to be sucked back into that life. She tells Liv about how her husband and daughter were killed by a drunk driver a few years ago, and ever since, she’s been haunted by the thought of all the people she killed and all the pain she’d caused. She refuses to start the cycle again. Liv understands and says they’ll have to find another way to deal with Kostya.

Don’t make Pa mad. Meanwhile, Russell is apparently satisfied that Jake is dead. He stops by to see Pa to confirm the mission has been accomplished, and Jake has been eliminated. Pa listens stoically before he corrects Russell. He claims Jake is not eliminated, because if he were, Liv would be on the phone screaming about revenge. Since Pa got no hate-filled rant from his daughter, and instead there’s radio silence from her quarter, that means Liv has gone underground, because she’s tending to Jake, and Russell failed. Pa orders him to finish the job.

Liv indeed has gone underground. Russell tries to trace her by her cell phone but is unsuccessful. When Pa wants an update on the mission, Russ has to tell him that he’s so far been unable to track either Jake or Liv. That is so not what Pa wants to hear, and Russell should know by now that it’s not wise to disappoint Papa Pope. Pa listens to Russ talk about how he’s trying really hard, but then Pa’s patience wears thin. He shuts Russ up by taking out his gun and shooting him in the arm. Then he asks if maybe now he’ll be able to find Liv.

Russell must be on the D-list of B613 agents, because there’s no way Jake should have survived that vicious stabbing. Even with all those jabs, Russ apparently managed to miss every major artery, because that’s the only explanation for Jake still being around. All of the training that went into Russell, and that’s all B613 gets for its efforts. A spy version of the Keystone Cops? Some professional killer.

And I love how Pa registers his displeasure. If you want to show someone who’s boss, put a slug in them. A little heavy-handed maybe but gets the message across. So to review, who’s in charge? The guy who shoots you in the arm when he thinks you screwed up, that’s who. Don’t ever doubt it.

When Liv and Huck visit Russell in the hospital, he claims he was shot by a mugger. Liv quickly takes his phone and steps on it, while Huck injects him and puts him out. Looks like Liv can see Pa’s fingerprints all over this, but since she doesn’t yet suspect Russell of anything, Huck’s taken to the warehouse for safekeeping. Once there, Huck says this is another message, and they must go on the attack against Pa.

Liv has an idea. She goes back to Kostya with another offer. If he backs off Mary, Liv will give him Pa, the commander of B613, an organization that had undoubtedly killed its share of KGB over the years. It’s a win-win for Liv; she gets Pa out of the way while also managing to get Mary in the clear. She gives Kostya the burner phone Pa gave her, so Kostya can track him down.

The doctor is done working on Jake and has stitched him back together. He says Jake has to lie still in order to start healing. Duh. But Russell has other ideas. As everyone leaves the room to discuss the situation, Russ grabs a scalpel and attacks Jake, but Jake’s thrashing around alerts everyone to come back. Russell claims that Jake just started thrashing, and he tried to help him, as the doctor works frantically.

When Liv returns later, she tells the gang about the plot to have Kostya knock off Pa. For some reason, she does this within earshot of Russell. He also hears her later, as she tells a sleeping Jake that he was right, and they never should have left the island. As she’s talking, Huck walks in and tells her that Kostya can’t be found.

A last word from Pa. Liv hurries to Mary’s house to find Mary slumped on her couch with a bullet in her head. Her two grandchildren are nearby and have suffered the same fate. Wow, the show is really going out of its way to make Pa look like a cold-blooded bastard, having two little kids iced. And that’s not all. As Liv, in shock, goes back to her car, she hears a phone ringing from the trunk. She opens it up and finds Kostya inside, expired but with eyes wide open and with the phone on his chest. Liv picks it up, and of course, it’s Pa on the other end. He reminds her that she will never win if she continues to go against him.

Liv goes back to OPA and tells everyone it’s time to give up. Pa has won, and they should acknowledge that by giving up pursuing the case against B613. The doctor is angry that Mary is dead and leaves. Quinn insists that whether they have to admit him under a fake name or whatever, Jake needs to go to a hospital.

Liv tells David to cancel the Grand Jury that’s scheduled to hear the evidence against B613. David says no, but Liv says he’ll have to go forward without the testimony of Jake, because he’s not well enough to testify. David says he still has Charlie, Huck, and Quinn, but Charlie pipes up to say that he’s changed his mind, and he’s not going to talk. He adds that Quinn isn’t a great witness either, because she was in B613 such a short time. David refuses to back down, since he still has Huck. But Liv says it’s clear that if he doesn’t give up, Pa will kill them all. And once he’s done that, B613 will go on, stronger than ever.

Liv tells everyone that they’re done. They’ll call Pa and tell him that it’s over, but they all have to agree to back down, because if one of them makes any kind of move, he’ll respond by killing them all. They all agree. Liv says they have to get Jake to a hospital.

Candidate Grant. This episode also marked Mellie’s first as a Virginia senate candidate. She’s started campaigning, and Lizzie coaches her before she speaks to a group of people. She tells Mellie that the question of why a sitting FLOTUS is running for senate is one that’s going to be asked early, so she has to be prepared.

That issue is already being tossed around by Sally Langston, the ex-veep who now has her own right wing TV noise machine, The Liberty Report. She plays some footage of Mellie at a campaign stop, explaining to the crowd how she’s seeking a job in the senate, and that being FLOTUS is not a job. Sally takes offense at this. What about all the staff and budget the First Lady has? Is all that for nothing? She insists that if Mellie isn’t doing a job in the White House, then maybe those resources should be taken away. The news media picks up on it, and reports critical of Mel start cropping up.

That leaves Mellie to huddle with Lizzie, Abby, and Fitz in the Oval Office to strategize. Mellie says she wants to go on The Liberty Report and face Sally directly. Liz says Mel will have to address the concerns about her as a senator being too close to the president, and Abby adds that Mellie has to reassure voters she’s her own woman and won’t be influenced by the Grant administration. Sally had also questioned the legality of a sitting FLOTUS running for office, and Fitz asks if anyone has looked into that. Seems nobody has.

Abby calls David and asks about the matter. Davey is at the warehouse and is distracted by the Jake situation when she calls, but he manages to tell Abby that as far as he knows, a FLOTUS running for senate may be questionable ethically, but it’s not illegal. The reason is that no one ever considered it before, so it was never addressed. Apparently, no one ever thought it realistic that a First Lady would run for anything. Abby asks if it’s legal because of misogyny. David basically agrees.

Cy to the rescue. Mellie’s poll numbers are still stagnant, and Abby says something must be done. Sally is leading the chorus of criticism, hammering away on the issue of how a sitting FLOTUS shouldn’t be running for office. Abby says somebody should go on Sally’s show and call her out. Fitz suggests Lizzie, but Abby thinks the argument against Sally’s misogynistic statements would be more persuasive coming from a man. Since it can’t be Fitz, the next logical choice would be Cyrus.

It would make sense, having the gay chief of staff come to the defense of the first lady who married him to his husband in the White House. There is the inconvenient fact that Cy and Mellie can’t stand one another, but since when has that ever gotten in the way of politics?

Cy is predictably reluctant, but he’s pretty much ordered by Fitz to debate Sally. If nothing else, Cy is always loyal to the POTUS, and he does as instructed. He goes on Sally’s show, and the two professional pols have a verbal sparring session. He says that anyone telling a woman in this day and age what jobs she can and cannot do is just sexism, plain and simple. Sally can dress it up all she wants, but that’s all it is.

Sally moves to the issue of trust and that having the FLOTUS in the senate is a conflict of interest. Cy insists there will be no influence. That Mellie and Fitz’s relationship will stay the same.

Every argument Sally sets up, Cy knocks down, and though Sally keeps up with him, it’s clear she’s on the defensive. These two know each other pretty well, and it’s only a matter of time before one of them gets personal, and it’s Sally. She says that Cy must have trouble making the case for a Senator Mellie when he most likely thinks, deep down, that he’d make a better candidate. He tries to brush that off, but Cy’s ambition is always a touchy subject, and it’s clear he’s rattled by it. Sally sees that she’s scored a hit and hammers away at the point.

But getting personal with Cy is playing dirty, and no one wallows in the mud quite like he does. When Sally keeps insisting that he knows he’d make a better senator than Mel, Cy changes the subject back to sexism. He says Sally is just uncomfortable with a FLOTUS working. Sally had presidential aspirations at one point, and if that had come to pass, he asks if she would have had a problem with Daniel Douglas working outside the home.

This was quite a weapon to drag out, considering that it was Cy who helped Sally cover it up after she killed her husband in a fit of rage. Cy is one of very few people who knows her secret, so his bringing up Daniel Douglas was a not-so-gentle reminder of what he has on her.

It works. Sally briefly gets a deer in the headlights look, before she smiles sweetly and abruptly brings the interview to a close.

Despite how well Cy did defending Mellie, the next day Abby says a majority of those polled still say they don’t think Mel should be allowed to run for senate. The issue is also starting to affect Fitz, as his popularity rating is slipping. Lizzie suggests a plan, though it’s risky. To quiet the conflict of interest claims, they could say that Mel and Fitz’s marriage is in trouble. They have differing political philosophies and aren’t really on speaking terms, so there’s no danger of a conflict. Mellie shoots down that plan immediately, because she and Fitz are a team, and she won’t lie about that.

Liv to the rescue…again. That night, Fitz does what he always does when he has to talk about something: he calls Liv and tells her that Mellie is going to lose, and he can’t do anything about it. After at first being uncooperative and refusing to give any opinion on the subject, Liv tells him that Mellie shouldn’t be running away from the issue of being FLOTUS, she should embrace it. She should use the fact that she sleeps next to the president every night as an asset.

And, as always, Fitz takes Liv’s advice to heart. The next time we see Mellie on the campaign trail, she’s talking about how strong her marriage is and how she and Fitz are a team. Like a normal husband and wife, they talk every night about how their days went, and that won’t change when she’s a senator. The people of Virginia will benefit from that relationship.

Watching on TV, Abby recognizes Mellie’s words as Liv’s handiwork, and says so to Cy. She’s amused by the whole thing, but he isn’t. He thinks it spells the end of Fitz’s influence, because if she’s elected, all anyone will remember about Fitz’s role in the whole thing is that he capitulated to his wife. All he’ll be remembered for is being whipped.

That seems overly fatalistic and unreasonable. Such a statement also puts those feminist bona fides  Cy displayed on Sally’s show in question. That Cy. Such a mercurial monster.

What is Foxtail? At episode’s end, Russell calls Pa to tell him that Liv and friends have ended their pursuit of B613. Pa already knows and is satisfied with that outcome, except for how Jake is still alive. He’s still pissed with Russ about that. Russell says he can finish the job, but Pa says that job is over and a new one is starting. Russ asks if he’s talking about Operation Foxtail, and Pa confirms it He tells Russell to keep an eye on Liv and report back to him.

Russ has been doing more than keeping an eye on Liv and expects that to continue. Later he’s at her place, half-dressed while she’s in a little negligee. There’s some sexytalk, and it looks like she’s about to slip into Alex mode. She straddles him and tells him to close his eyes. But Alex doesn’t make an appearance. Instead, Liv takes out a gun and puts it to his head. She figured out that it was he who told Pa about Mary and Kostya. Now, she says, he’s going to tell her all about Operation Foxtail.

In desperation, Russ tries to distract her with talk of sex and Alex, but she corrects and threatens him: “It’s Olivia. And this is definitely going to hurt.”

Game over, rent boy.

So, what will the next move be? How will Liv and the Gladiators use Russ against Pa? The answer for that must wait two weeks for the next episode, “A Few Good Women.” A preview:

Vice President Ross continues to defy the Grant administration when she hires Olivia Pope to defend a woman in the Navy. Meanwhile, Quinn and Huck must do what they do best to get answers about B613, and Mellie’s campaign for Senate continues to be a struggle.

Quinn and Huck doing what they do best? Either they’re going to unleash some mayhem, clean up after some mayhem, or have some crazy mayhem-related sex. Or some combination thereof.

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