Catch up on Scandal S6 Ep. 1 Survival of the Fittest

by

L.T. Milroy

 

Hey, Scandal‘s back!

Seems like forever since this show’s been on. It has been quite a while. Season 5 ended last May 12, so that’s a solid nine months, which is much too long a wait to be updated on the goings-on with this motley DC crew. But they’re back, for sixteen weeks at least. It’s a shortened season but one that gets off to a pretty good start. Olivia Pope and the OPA Gladiators are back and up to their normal dicey behavior. It’s a jungle out there…

Election night. It’s the heat of election night at Grant campaign headquarters. You remember, the presidential election between Republican Mellie Grant and Democrat Frankie Vargas? I know, it’s been a long time. Things are very tense, as it’s crunch time, and it’s looking like a winner will be determined soon.

Giving more proof that Scandalverse is a unique place often bearing no resemblance to our own universe, the race has come down to one state, and specifically, one county. Head-scratchingly enough, it’s San Benito County in California. The land of the Golden Gate is as as unswing-statey as it gets, but on this presidential election night, the race will be decided by, of all places, a relatively small west coast county. Oookay.

Everyone is upbeat, as Mellie seems to hold a comfortable lead. Then it’s announced on TV there’s been a shift in Vargas’s favor, and the election is being called for Frankie Vargas. It’s all over. The room is stunned, but Mel refuses to accept what she just heard and starts talking about possible voter tampering and recounts and how it’s not over. Liv leaves the room for a little time alone, and Mel keeps raving to anyone who will listen.

It should be mentioned that Abby walked into the crowded room at one point looking for Jake, Mel’s VP, but he’s nowhere to be found. She asks Jake’s wife Vanessa, who seems a bit tipsy, where her husband is, and she says she doesn’t know. And she doesn’t seem concerned about it.

Out in the hallway, Fitz finds Liv and gives her a shoulder to briefly break down on. Then he tells her she has to pull herself together and go talk Mellie back down to earth.

When Liv returns to the room, a jacked-up Mel immediately starts telling about her plans to demand a recount, but Liv shuts her down. It’s over, she says, and Mel has to call Vargas to concede. The election has been called for her opponent. If she doesn’t call the victor soon, she’ll look like a sore loser. It might be hard, but it’s in Mel’s best interests, as well as the country’s, to call Vargas and concede. Mel looks distraught, but Liv dials and hands her the phone. Mel is still so numb she has no idea what to say, so Liv grabs a pad and scrawls down little bullet points and holds them up for her, which is amusing. Liv is still fun to watch in take-charge mode.

Not president-elect for long… After that exercise in demoralization, Mel and Liv go to lick their wounds in private. They retire to a bathroom, where Mel sits in the empty tub and chugs from what was supposed to be a celebratory bottle of champagne. She hands it to Liv, sprawled on the floor, who listens as Mel vents. She knows Cyrus must be gloating, she says, and it’s particularly depressing that such a monster is going to be the new VP: “It’s like having a vampire a heartbeat from the Oval!” Liv is stewing in her own disappointment. She apologizes for losing the election, but Mel thanks her for her efforts and says it wasn’t her fault.

The stunned depression and champagne chugging continue until there’s a commotion heard from the next room. Mel and Liv get up to investigate and see the report on TV: Vargas has been shot while giving his acceptance speech. He’s being rushed to the hospital, condition unknown.

At the White House. Fitz gathers his staff in the Oval Office. He’s informed that the shooter, whose name is Nelson McClintock, has been caught. Jake walks in and says McClintock was found quickly, and it looks like he was acting alone. Why, hello Jake, where you been? Abby’s been looking for you. As for your new bride, it seems she couldn’t care less, as long as there’s a bottle around.

Fitz asks David Rosen if the president is now Cyrus. David says that legally it’s up to the Electoral College. Yeah, we outside of Scandalverse are all much familiar with that institution by this point, Davey. The question of who the next president will be is wide open, the AG says, and Fitz himself will have a big bearing on the process.

Marcus is press secretary? Wanting to get the truth about Vargas’s condition, Liv drops in on Marcus Walker. You know, the once candidate for DC mayor turned Gladiator? He worked for OPA, then on Mellie’s campaign last I remember, but he was seen briefly earlier in the episode addressing the press about Vargas, and now Liv is stopping by his office to get the lowdown on the PEOTUS. So apparently Marcus is working for the Fitz administration now. It would be nice if they spelled these things out rather than just putting them out there with no explanation, but, in any case, Liv is going to Marcus for information now.

The info she gets is not uplifting. After a bit of stonewalling, Marcus gives the details: Vargas was shot three times, with the third shot hitting him in the head. He took a bullet to the brain. It’s just a matter of time.

Abby is at the hospital and gets to Vargas’s room just in time to see him flatline. The brand new president-elect is dead.

Where there’s mayhem, Pa is never far behind. Liv doesn’t believe for a second the shooter acted alone, so she turns to her default suspect for any situation. She pays a visit to Papa Pope, with whom she has her usual conversation. She accuses him of some nefarious deed, in this case shooting the president-elect, and he denies it. As usual, she tells him she doesn’t believe him, and as usual, he calmly couldn’t care less. He does add that he has nothing to gain by killing Vargas, so Liv should ask herself who does. He thinks it’s Cy, who’s shown repeatedly that he’s not above murder if it will give him what he wants. And he very much wants the presidency. That’s the angle Liv should be pursuing and not harassing him. Liv says that Cy loves Vargas, but Pa says Cy loves only himself. He needed Vargas out of the way, and now Cy has the shot at the White House he’s always coveted.

Pa makes sure to add, however, that it’s not a done deal. Mellie still has a realistic chance of becoming president. Anything could happen, and Liv could still end up in the president’s inner circle.

Pa’s little talk inspires Liv into action. Back at OPA, she lets the Gladiators loose with the Cy conspiracy theory. It seems the Gladiators now includes Charlie, who’s hanging around the office. Does he work there now? Has he replaced the mysteriously departed Marcus, perhaps? They discuss Cy’s possible guilt, and Liv tells them to search for a Cyrus/McClintock connection.

Mel is done. Then Liv goes to see Mel, who’s playing with Teddy, the child who gets trotted out whenever some kind of heavy-handed point has to be made about family. Usually, that occurs when Mel and Fitz are fighting and being horrible to each other, but this time it’s a different situation. The reality of what’s happened is sinking in for Mel, who’s just glad she’s still around. Liv tells her of her Cy suspicions, but Mel isn’t interested. Vargas might die, and Mel doesn’t want to exploit that for her own gain. It could have been her that was shot, and she wouldn’t be here to play with her plot-device son right now. At this point, she’s done with the whole thing. She doesn’t want the White House, to which she lost her first son, Jerry, and her marriage. The place is cursed. She’s washing her hands of the whole thing.

This isn’t what Liv wants to hear. She tries to give Mel a pep talk and tells her she’s still in shock and she’ll change her mind, but Mel is adamant. It’s over for her. “I’m done running for president,” she says. Going for complete honesty, Liv counters with “I’m not.”It seems they’re at an impasse.

These things must be handled properly. Vargas is dead, but only a few people know about it. Abby doesn’t want his wife making any calls and maybe someone finding out, so she secretly takes her phone. Then she calls Fitz who says she did the right thing. He needs some time to think and Vargas “isn’t dead until I say he is.”

Liv visits Fitz, who’s deep in thought in the Oval. She advises him to push for Mellie as the next president, despite their previous conversation. She’s apparently confident Mel will come around. Then she tells Fitz of her Cy suspicions. He asks for proof. Liv says her staff is working furiously to find some and she asks him to hold off on a statement until they do. She wants a couple of days to dig up some proof of Cy’s guilt, but he only gives her until the next morning.

Back on the balcony… Mel is lounging on a White House balcony when Fitz wanders by. It’s just like back when they were married and would have their rows out on the balcony. But they’re divorced, so why is Mel still using the WH as a flop house? They’re getting along better now than when they were married, so that’s different.

Fitz laments that after eight years of the presidency, his legacy will largely be decided by what he does in the next few days. Then he tests the veracity of what Liv told him by telling Mellie that if she really doesn’t want the presidency, she can tell him that in confidence, and she’ll be out of the running. If all that’s happened has made her lose her drive for politics, she can be honest with him. Mel considers that and says nothing until Fitz starts to leave. Then she tells him she still wants it. Apparently she’s reconsidered. So Liv was right…again.

Who knew the monster had some humanity? At OPA, that dirt-digging thing on Cyrus isn’t going well. A link between him and McClintock can’t be found, but what has been found is that McClintock is on the record as hating Frankie Vargas. He wasn’t shy about it. He’s also a master marksman, so it’s not surprising that all three shots he got off hit their target. After all their searching, everything the Gladaitors have unearthed points to McClintock being a lone wolf.

But Liv is frustrated and still not convinced. She goes to the hospital and tells Abby, who’s standing guard over the Vargas wing, that she wants to speak with Cy. Lots of people would, Abby says, but it seems he hasn’t spoken to anyone. Cy retreated to a hospital room by himself since arriving with the mortally wounded Vargas, and he remains there. Liv sees him through the glass, standing and staring out the window, alone in the room, still wearing his bloodstained clothes. Abby says he’s been doing that for hours, just staring out the window, talking to no one and responding to no one. He seems to genuinely be in shock.

What Liv sees, combined with the lack of evidence of guilt, finally has her convinced. She goes to Fitz and tells him she was wrong about Cy. There’s no link between him and Vargas’s killer. Fitz says if she’d been right it would have made his choice for him, but now he has to choose.

He decides to follow the natural line of succession and honor the election of the Vargas ticket. Fitz meets with Cy, still bloodstained and shocked but at least away from the window and acknowledging someone else’s presence. Fitz basically tells him, in some flowery language, about America being a ‘precious thing’ he’s being gifted, and that the presidency is his. Did Fitz know all along he was going to do this? If so, it was kind of cruel to get Mel’s hopes up. The POTUS and the now PEOTUS shake on it.

Spies in love. The episode’s side plot leads to this week’s big shocking ending. Charlie has not only been hanging around OPA a lot and maybe working there, but he’s been talking a lot about taking Quinn on a vacation. She tries to tell him she’s a workaholic who doesn’t ‘do’ vacations, when Huck pipes up that it’s obvious Charlie wants to whisk Quinn away to propose to her. Or maybe to kill her. Which is it? Charlie pauses for a moment then goes ahead and asks Robin, as he still calls her, to marry him. He’s sorry he doesn’t have a ring to give her, because he’s been too busy going through the 832 calls that came into the FBI tipline about Vargas. Huck tells Charlie his ‘tip’ count is off, and that’s how a missing voicemail is discovered.

The voicemail is from Jennifer Fields, a volunteer for the` Vargas campaign. She fingers Cy as being behind Vargas’s murder, in no uncertain terms. Fields’ phone is traced to a cabin in the woods, but just as Huck and Quinn approach the cabin to have a word with her, the place blows up. Timing is everything, guys.

Later, back at OPA, Huck and Quinn return from their jaunt in the woods, looking a little bedraggled but otherwise no worse for wear, considering they were only a few feet from a cabin that burst into smithereens. Unfortunately, they won’t get to talk to Ms. Fields about what she knew, and they’re certain it was her in the cabin. Quinn produces a baggie containing a charred forearm and hand, and on the finger is a ring known to have belonged to Jennifer.

And incidentally, it was during this scene, while holding the charred arm, that Quinn decided to tell Charlie she accepted his proposal. Of course she did! I wonder what these crazy kids will do for a honeymoon. So many traditional destinations must seem crashingly boring to them. Maybe they’ll just stay home and tag team Huck with a couple of rusty barbecue forks and an old weed whacker. He’s earned it.

Game, on. It’s looking an awful lot to Liv like Cyrus had Vargas murdered, then committed another murder to cover it up. At the Vargas memorial, Cy is still looking contrite and a bit in shock. Liv goes to him, and he greets her graciously, but as she hugs him she whispers in his ear that she’s impressed with his acting skills, managing to still look so shocked and bereaved. She knows he’s guilty of killing Vargas, and she’s going to prove it. Then she strides away, looking smug, while Cy looks shocked.

Yes, Cy looked shocked as Liv left, and there was no reason to if he’s guilty. No one heard what she said to him, so no one would know the difference. He really looked hurt and confused by what she said, as if he had nothing to do with the awful thing he was accused of. And let’s talk about the logic of Cy having Vargas murdered in cold blood on live TV, on election night no less. It makes no sense. If he really coveted the presidency that much, it would have been far more logical, and less messy to wait a couple of months to make his power play, after the Electoral College voted and he and Vargas were safely ensconced in office. That way he would automatically ascend to the presidency upon Vargas’s death, no question, no assist needed from Fitz. It’s a cumbersome way for a seasoned pro like Cy to go about getting what he wants.

That’s my take on it, anyway. But Liv seems convinced of Cy’s guilt and is about to go after him, no holds barred. Here’s a preview of 06.02, “Hardball” –

Flashbacks reveal what happened on the campaign trail and just how far Olivia was willing to go to win; Fitz and Abby are faced with an unprecedented national crisis; the Gladiators are determined to find answers.

In all, this was a good start to S6. Nice to have this show, and all its dirty dealings, back on a regular basis. I liked seeing everyone again. And what’s going on with Liz and Susan and Sally and Michael? Will they be back? What about Tom? I’m sure someone like him won’t just slink off to never be heard from again. He was insulted and abused by Cy, after serving him so faithfully, both in and out of bed. He has a score to settle with the man who will soon move into the Oval Office, and he’s been shown to be a violent sociopath with no scruples.

Let the games begin!

 

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