We’re not done with the past just yet…
If you liked all the flashbacks in last week’s episode, well, you’re in for a treat. There are many more trips into the past this week, as more of Scandal‘s gaps are filled in and more storylines explained. It’s a rather Cyrus-centric episode, with the downward spiral of a once promising career being chronicled. It’s time to follow Cyrus Beene all the way into the big house.
Brief domestic bliss. The episode opens at chez Cyrus with a scene of happy domesticity. Cy’s seldom-seen family is on hand, as he and husband Michael do a bit of canoodling while daughter Ella plays nearby. Although this is the first Mikey sighting in quite a while, get used to him, he’s around a lot this week. It looks like the presumable next president is the picture of a content family man, but of course, the idyllic scene is put asunder almost immediately. Cy’s phone rings, interrupting his clinch with Michael. It’s a breathless Abby, who, as usual, is talking while she’s scurrying through the White House hallways. Those halls should have Caution: Yield to Haggard CoS signs posted. She tells Cy to close his blinds, lock the doors and call a lawyer. It seems something heavy is about to go down, and she adds before hanging up that she voted against it.
Turns out “it” is the Vargas case being reopened. Cy watches a press conference Attorney General Rosen has called to say the shooting is now an active case, and anyone is open to being investigated. He confirms that ‘anyone’ includes the presumed president-elect, but when Cy tries to leave his house, the press is already waiting outside.
More spies in love. The Gladiators, which seems to include Charlie again this week, are at OPA going through the video footage on Jennifer Fields’ laptop. Quinn and Charlie are being all flirty, talking about what to do for their honeymoon. Charlie wants to go to Barbados and make a sex tape. Huck seems more envious than grossed out by this kind of talk. After all, now that Quinn is off the market, Huck’s dating prospects are pretty much down to zero. What normal person could, or would, want to, handle someone like Huck or Quinn or Charlie? All they really have is each other, and how many are there like them in the world, never mind just the DC area? To say their dating pool is somewhat incestuous is an understatement.
The sex talk stops long enough for Quinn to say that as she’s looking at the video footage and has put together a timeline, which starts on October 4. That was the day Cyrus and Jake squared off in the vice-presidential debate, of which Cy was deemed the winner. There’s a flashback to that night, with Cy confidently besting a timid Jake, who has a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look. Afterward, Cy is outside when the Vargas campaign bus rolls up. From a distance he sees Frankie get off, followed by a young woman. They have a moment where she straightens his tie and they laugh, and it looks very much like there might be something going on between them. Cy sure notices, and he’s not happy. Frankie introduces the woman as Jennifer Fields, the campaign’s new videographer.
Lizzie is back and as sleazy as ever! Cy is trying to get through to David, but the AG won’t take his calls. By this time a pacing and paranoid Cy tells Michael that it’s a conspiracy. Fitz and his administration are listening to Liv, and she’s trying to frame Cy and steal the presidency from him, but he won’t let her get away with it. And, he adds, no, he’s not guilty of killing Vargas. Michael says he didn’t ask, and Cy, seeming hurt, says he didn’t have to. Oh, puhleeze, Cy, with the way you’ve conducted yourself for so many years, do you really think it would never cross Michael’s mind that you might have killed someone you wanted out of the way? Spare me the indignation, which isn’t even close to being righteous.
The couple is interrupted by noise from outside. Cy opens the door, and there being detained by two Secret Service agents is none other than Lizzie North, finally surfacing for the first time this season. And kudos to the SS for catching her trying to sneak into Cy’s house. They apparently can’t keep the hordes of press off the doorstep, but they can stop opportunistic DC trolls from slithering into Cy’s presence. So I guess there’s hope for them, professionally speaking. After at first denying he knows who she is, Cy relents and lets her in.
Cy tells Liz that whatever it is she wants, the answer is no. But Liz didn’t crawl through Cy’s garden like a reptile just to be blown off. She tells him he needs someone on his side right now, since everyone has abandoned him. She wants to help. Liz is, of course, not known for her altruism, so Cy asks what she wants in return for all of this lovely support. Liz says she wants to be his chief of staff. That’s a bitter pill to swallow after all these two have been through, but Cy is rather desperate and not exactly in a position to negotiate. He agrees.
Liv vs. Cy. There’s another flashback to vice presidential debate night, with a kind of cozy meeting between Liv and Cyrus that turns suddenly contentious and explains much about the current state of their relationship.
This is about a month before the election. It’s after the debate, and Cy is outside. Liv sees him, and even though she’s working for Mellie she walks over and congratulates him on his strong performance, calling it impressive. He thanks her and tells her he misses her. It gave me my own flashback, to the first season when Liv and Cy would hang at Liv’s place and shoot the breeze while drinking wine and eating popcorn. They were fun back then. So much has happened to both of them since that have complicated things, but they were close at one time. Liv seems to be remembering, too, as she smiles and tells Cy that whatever happens, when this is all over, they should get together. Her plan involves a bottle of wine and the Lincoln Memorial, and it’s looking like old times for them again.
But then as Liv starts to go, Cy suddenly shifts his tone. He says when she called him impressive, she sounded surprised. Didn’t she expect him to do well? Did she think his perpetual status being in the background in the Fitz administration meant that he couldn’t step up and be a forceful leader himself? Liv says he’s misinterpreting, and she meant it as a compliment. She goes on to say that he’s no doubt a good politician, and it was a good idea for him to put himself on the ticket with Vargas. Cy was already upset, but that really sets him off. He emphatically denies forcing his way into being chosen VP and bitches bitterly that all through his years of faithful service in the White House, no one really ‘saw’ him. Even friends like Liv continue to constantly underestimate him, and he’s tired of it. He says he was legitimately chosen by Frankie Vargas to be VP, and Liv is never to bring it up again.
Liv isn’t intimidated by Cy’s anger. Instead, she digs in. She steps forward to get in Cy’s face and tells him that something isn’t right with the whole VP situation. She knows how much Cy covets getting back to the White House, and given his history, how far he’ll go to get what he wants. He must have done something underhanded to convince Vargas to choose him as VP, and she’s going to find out what it is. And when she does, she’ll tell the country, because the American people should know exactly who Cy is. Then she strides away, leaving a fuming Cy behind.
Red speaks up. Back in present day, Abby is in the Oval Office with Fitz. She doesn’t say anything, but he knows something is wrong, so she tells him that she disagrees with reopening the Vargas case. It casts suspicion on Cy, who’s basically the president-elect, when Fitz has no solid evidence against him. The unsteady political situation is getting international attention, and the world economy has suffered, all based on a few shaky things the Gladiators have uncovered. Abby says Fitz is being played by Liv. He says that’s out of line, but he doesn’t get too upset, probably because he knows she has a point.
Liv is at OPA, while watching one of Jennifer’s videos, Jennifer is coaching Vargas on how to speak before the camera, and again they’re being giggly and playful, and it seems to lend more legitimacy to the Frankie-and-Jennifer-were-doing-each-other theory. At least Liv and the Gladiators are convinced of it. Liv tells them to talk to Jennifer’s friends to see if they knew about any affair. It would also be helpful if they could determine if Cy knew.
Requiem for Cy’s career. Fitz has been thinking about what Abby said and thinks the country, and the world, needs a resolution to the current crisis. He calls Cy to a meeting, which takes place in the bowels of a White House garage in the back of a limo. It’s a very private meeting, and Fitz wastes no time letting Cy know of his decision. He says things from here on can go one of two ways. In the first scenario, Cy is arrested, tried and convicted of Vargas’s assassination, and is executed. In the second scenario, he decides to step down, for grief or health reasons, whatever, and abdicate the presidency. If he does that, Fitz says he’ll make sure Cy faces no consequences for Vargas’s murder. He can slink away and live the rest of his life in peace.
Cy can’t quite believe what he’s hearing. He asks if Fitz thinks he did it. Fitz says it doesn’t matter, and Cy just has to decide what to do. Cy desperately thinks for a moment and proposes a deal: he’ll withdraw if Mellie does. Let the country forget about this whole sad chapter in its history and pick a brand new president. Cy asks Fitz what he thinks about the plan, then snarkily adds that he probably wants to call Liv first. Fitz icily says he doesn’t have to, but Cy persists, saying Fitz already knows what Liv would say, because she’s been leading him around all along, and she just wants to win. Of course, he’s saying this based on that post-debate conversation, that left him sure Liv was out to destroy him at any cost. Fitz says it’s not about Liv, which makes Cy even angrier. Of course it is, he says. It always is with Fitz, and Fitz denying that fact is just dishonest and insulting. Cy is really going for broke here. Then he wraps up by harkening back to what Fitz said when he told Cy he was giving him the presidency, about how America was a ‘beautiful gift’ he was entrusting him with. Cy says he’s going to fight this. He’s keeping America, because it’s not safe with Fitz. And with that, he defiantly leaves the limo and slams the door behind him.
Welcome back, Tom. At home, Cy is back to pacing and bitching and moaning to Michael, the long-suffering spouse. He’s wondering how Fitz is going to react to being put on the spot. The phone rings, and a whole new wrinkle to this story is introduced. It’s Cy’s ex fixer and lover, Tom. If you remember, Tom is the former B613 agent and violent sociopath who did Cy’s dirty work for him during working hours, and was his bedmate afterward. After all that loyalty, he was treated shabbily by Cy, and he’s not happy about it. This phone call out of the blue is just to taunt Cy and put him off balance. Tom says he’s really angry but takes comfort in the fact that he can end Cy’s career and derail his life any time he wants by spilling what he knows. Cy says to give him a chance, that he’ll make it right, and Tom hangs up.
Self defense 101. The Gladiators are speaking with Jennifer’s friends, and Huck approaches a woman in a parking garage. Nothing good ever happens in parking garages on these shows, and she assumes he’s a serial killer. Before he can say anything, she attacks him, even getting in a hard kick to the crotch, which Huck barely seems to notice. Has he been tortured and beaten up so many times that a crotch kick is basically like a handshake to him at this point? He subdues her and tells her he just wants to talk about Jennifer Fields.
Once she’s calmed down, she tells Huck that she had warned Jennifer about getting involved with Vargas, but Jennifer denied there was anything personal going on; Vargas was a nice guy, she liked him, and they got along well. That was it. Then one day, Jennifer was ‘fired’ from the campaign. That was the official line, but Jenny’s friend knew differently. She takes out a photo and shows it to Huck. It’s a picture of Jennifer, her face covered with bruises. She was badly beaten up and quit the campaign in fear.
Setting the monster loose. That leads to further exposition of what went on between Cy and Tom. In a flashback, the two meet in a diner. Tom is angry that Cy abandoned him, but that anger doesn’t last long. Cy knows just what to do to get to Tom, who may be a morally bankrupt sociopath, but apparently still has a soft spot for his old squeeze. Cy gives him a look and touches his hand, and that’s all it takes. Seriously, a look and touch from Cy disarms this batshit crazypants psycho. That Cy has some serious mojo going on, to have that kind of control. Tom immediately softens and congratulates Cy on the campaign. Cy thanks him, then starts complaining about Frankie and about how much like Fitz he is, all the way down to the inconvenient affair with a staffer. He’s afraid Jennifer will cost Vargas the election. Tom knows an opportunity when he sees one and volunteers to ‘scare’ Jennifer. Cy pretends that wasn’t what he was asking for, when he so was, but eager-to-please Tom won’t take no for an answer. The problem is solved. He’ll take care of Jenny for Cy.
No more domestic bliss. Back at home in the present, Michael is complaining about Ella’s school, but Cy, as usual, isn’t listening, because he’s preoccupied with his own problems. And some problems they are. He interrupts Mike to tell him he’s in trouble. He mentions Tom, which sets Mike off. He says Cy told him it was all over with Tom, and he apologized and begged Mike to come back, and now he’s talking about that homewrecker again. Cy says Tom is nuts, he wants revenge, and he won’t go away quietly. Then Cy says he made a horrible mistake. Mike asks if Cy killed Vargas, and when Cy hesitates, Mike tells him not to answer and that he never wants the answer to that question. Again, the long-suffering spouse. And a good one. Cy is lucky to have him.
OPA closing in. In another flashback, Cy is waiting in a hotel room for Tom, who arrives and tells him that Jennifer won’t be a problem anymore. Cy doesn’t ask for details, he just wants the dirty work done and is glad his worries are over. He pours some drinks to celebrate. As he does, Tom starts talking about how pointless it seems, going to such trouble for Vargas, who’s so normal, while Cy is so exceptional. Again, what hold does Cy have over Tom to inspire such devotion and loyalty? Tom waxes on about how it’s Cy who should be at the top of the ticket, not Frankie. Cy deserves to be president, Tom says, and he can help. He wraps his arms around Cy and asks him if he wants it. Cy looks doubtful at first, but then seems seduced by the idea. He tells Tom he wants to be president.
Back in the present, Huck tells Liv that Tom was picked up by a security camera in Jennifer’s neighborhood the night she was beaten up. Liv says if they can put Tom in Philadelphia the night Vargas was shot, they might be on to something.
Payback. In a flashback that explains the fight video we saw last week between Cy and Vargas, Cy walks into a room where Frankie and Jennifer are waiting. Jennifer’s face is the badly bruised mess we saw earlier in the photograph. Cy seems genuinely shocked upon seeing her, but he hadn’t been interested in how Tom got the job done, only that it got done. Frankie asks Jennifer to leave them alone. Cy tries to explain himself, saying that he was only doing what was best for the campaign. An affair would have been lethal to Vargas. That angers Frankie, who says he’s devoted to his family and loves his wife, and would never have an affair with Jennifer, or anyone else. He seems sincere and turns Cy into a blubbering mess who could only insist he thought getting Jenny out of the way was in the campaign’s best interest. That’s Frankie says he should never have trusted Cy, and as soon as he was president he would see to it that Cy was put in prison.
Cy pays Tom an angry visit and says he was only supposed to scare Jenny, not turn her face into steak tartare. Tom could use some pointers in creative frightening from Jake, who last week reduced a swaggering bigot to a terrified, simpering mess who soiled himself, without ever laying a finger on him. That’s some talent, right there. Tom has no finesse. He’s all brutality.
Tom blows Cy off and says Jenny had to be gotten rid of, because she was too much of a threat. Now all they need to do is get Vargas to election night, and then it’s on to President Beene. Seems he’s decided what the agenda is going to be. Cy tells him to back off Vargas. Tom plays dumb, so Cy tells him again, in no uncertain terms, that Vargas is off-limits. Tom seems to think that Cy doesn’t mean it, that he’s saying, Don’t hurt Frankie, wink wink, when he’s, in fact, serious. Cy gets frustrated, repeats his admonition that Tom do nothing further, then says they’re over, Tom is dead to him, and walks away. I don’t know what makes Cy think he can just walk away from a psycho like Tom who feels he’s being driven to carry out a mission, but that’s what he attempts to do.
Park meeting. So it turns out Cy has snubbed Tom twice now, but Tom has this secret, and this makes him dangerous. Back at home in the present, Michael fights his way through the throngs outside the house to bring in the groceries. As he unpacks, Cy takes a box of rice, opens it up and removes a gun. So now Mike is apparently smuggling weapons for Cy. The noble husband.
Cy takes the gun with him to a park that night and tapes it underneath a picnic table. Tom shows up, for an apparently prearranged meeting. Again, where exactly is the Secret Service? How can Cy, who at this point is still the president-elect, manage to shake his SS detail to run off for a clandestine meeting in a deserted park in the middle of the night? Sometimes this show requires some heavy lifting to suspend disbelief.
They both sit. Cy says he needs Tom to stay quiet about everything. He still loves him and everything will be okay. Tom doesn’t buy it. He’s in no mood to be sweet-talked and says he’s through being Cy’s bitch. Cy senses the whole thing going south and reaches for the gun stashed under the table, but of course Tom, the trained assassin, draws his gun first. He puts it in Cy’s face and tells him he deserves to die more than anyone he’s ever killed, which I imagine is quite an extensive list. Instead of groveling or trying to rationalize, Cy asks if Tom thought he was helping Cy by killing Frankie, because he wasn’t. Cy says he genuinely loved Frankie, but he never really loved Tom. I’m not sure if this is a reverse psychology thing or what, but it moves Tom to stick the gun in Cy’s mouth. Cy then looks sufficiently terrified, but Tom removes it after a moment and says Cy will soon find out, there are fates worse than death.
The end. Cy is back at home, looking miserable. Michael tells him whatever happens, he’s not leaving. Again with the nobility. Cy starts waxing poetic about all the plans he had for the presidency. He knows, somehow, it’s over.
Liz goes to see Fitz. She says if the offer of Cy stepping down in exchange for clemency is still good, he’ll take it. But the offer is no longer on the table. Cut to Fitz, Abby and FBI Angela looking through the glass at Tom, who’s in custody. He’s turned himself in for the shooting of Frankie Vargas, which he says he did on orders from Cyrus.
Liv visits Mellie with the news. Cy has been implicated in Vargas’s murder and will be arrested. The Electoral College will have to vote for Mel, which puts her in line to be the next president. Mel can’t quite believe what she’s hearing.
It’s a somber scene at Cy and Mike’s, as Cy awaits his fate. Mike brings Ella to say goodbye to daddy, and it’s truly sad to watch. There’s a knock at the door and it’s David, coming to arrest Cy.
He wasn’t lying, at least not about this. In the episode’s final flashback, at Vargas campaign headquarters, Cy and Frankie are trying to decide on a VP. They’ve been having some trouble with the process. Cy thinks Frankie should go with David Rosen. He’s a good choice with a solid resume. But Frankie is hesitant, because he knows nothing about David. He won’t be comfortable putting a total stranger on the ticket. Cy says there’s no time to vet anyone else, and that gives Frankie an idea. He says there’s no need to vet anyone else, not when the answer is right in front of them. Then he says he wants Cy to be his VP. Cy seems genuinely surprised, but Frankie won’t be dissuaded. Cy is his choice.
So it looks like Cy was telling the truth about not stealing the VP. It was offered freely by Frankie. And it looks like he truly did love Frankie, as he claimed. And he didn’t order Frankie’s death. That was done independently by Tom. But of course, things still look bad for Cy, who’s now in federal custody, charged with murder. We find out what his next move will be in 06.04, “The Belt” –
Cyrus faces his ultimate challenge, but continues to stop at nothing to prove his innocence; Olivia and the Gladiators uncover shocking new evidence about the night Frankie Vargas was shot.
Shocking new evidence! That stuff will trip you up every time. I’m wondering about this episode title, The Belt. Is that meant literally, like last season’s “Thwack!”, which basically described Liv smashing former VP Nichols to death with a chair? Is there an actual ‘belt’ that will play a prominent role? Can’t wait to find out…