Get ready for a dark ride.
This show sure doesn’t hesitate to wander into dark territory when the mood strikes. It struck this week with a vengeance not seen since S3’s “YOLO,” a relentlessly violent and thoroughly unpleasant episode I found it difficult to get through at the time. It’s not an episode I’ve ever wanted to revisit, and I doubt I’ll ever want to revisit “The Belt”. While it’s not as brutal, it’s not a pleasant watch and further, it doesn’t really have much to say. Except for the big reveal in the final scene, the storyline isn’t moved forward in any meaningful way. It’s just the saga of Cyrus’s fall from grace, with a decided thud.
Those who haven’t experienced prison firsthand have become familiar with it through TV versions, most recently Oz and Orange is the New Black. This episode is definitely in the Oz mode, with brutal prisoners and conditions, and crooked guards for sale. It’s all new to a pampered guy like Cy, but he didn’t attain what he has over the years by being naive or stupid. He manages to adjust.
The arrival. At first, though, it’s a shock. Cy is processed after arriving at a federal prison and told to strip. As he does, a guard in the background puts on latex gloves. Yikes. Once that humiliating experience is over, Cy is shown to his new home, a tiny cell with a filthy mattress and a cannibal as a neighbor. Quite a comedown for someone who’d been preparing himself for the White House.
The celebration. The next scene is a total turnaround. Olivia and Mellie are at OPA, toasting each other with what I’m sure is crazily expensive wine. It’s not official, but Mel thinks she’s going to be the next president, and she’s celebrating. Liv reminds her it’s not a sure thing, but Mel is much too swept up in the moment for that kind of talk. She turns up the radio and starts dancing and eventually coaxes Liv to join her.
Quinn and Charlie are passing by and stop to gawk a bit at the spectacle. Liv notices and hastily excuses herself. When she joins the Gladiators, Quinn snarkily says she didn’t know the leader of the free world is supposed to twerk. Hey, Quinn, I wish that’s all we had to worry about here IRL! If the worst the current POTUS did was twerk, I could easily handle that. Then maybe I wouldn’t feel like I had a cattle prod up my ass all the time, like I do now. But I digress… Liv says celebrating is premature, because they haven’t won anything yet.
Quinn tells Huck that she and Charlie are going out for a drink later and Huck should join them. He says he’s busy. We see what he’s looking at on his laptop, and he’s not busy with work. He’s looking at footage of a friend of Jennifer’s from one of the campaign videos. He interviewed her, and it looks like he’s smitten. This can’t be good.
Red brings the hammer down. Marcus is holding a press conference. He’s asked if the death penalty will be pursued against Cy, and he says he doesn’t know. Abby hears this and goes to see David in his office. He’s there with FBI Angela. She does get around, doesn’t she? Are they trying to imply there’s something going on between David and Angela? Because the whole thing just seemed a little off to me. Abby asks about the death penalty, and they both answer that it hasn’t been ruled out. Abby says it has to be, Cy was too close to Fitz for too long for him to face a death sentence. Angela objects, but Abby reminds her that as CoS, she speaks for the president, and this isn’t a death penalty case, so case closed.
Cy’s really long, bad day. It’s time for Cy to start getting used to prison routine. A guard comes to take him from his cell for his few minutes of daily exercise. It turns out to be in a cage, literally, which is indoors and only slightly bigger than his cell. It offers little more than pacing room. That’s all you get when you’re in solitary for killing the president-elect. When ‘exercise’ is done, Cy is being led back to his cell and catches a glimpse of Tom in the hallway. He asks the guard if he could speak with him, but the answer is no. Cy starts to press the issue, and the guard’s reply is to spit in Cy’s face. He says he’s not inclined to do anything to help a murdering scum like Cy, and he better get used to it.
On the upside, if there is one, Abby wants Cy to know he won’t face a death sentence. She meets with Liz and asks her to deliver the message to Cy, but it seems Liz has abandoned him, too. Now that he’s cooling his heels in the big house, Liz has no use for him. She goes on to bitch about how much it has cost her, supporting him like she did. It was only for twenty-four hours, as it turned out, and then he was arrested. But word got out, and now it seems Liz is quite unpopular. Senators aren’t accepting her invitations to play squash, for goodness sake! The horror! Liz wants nothing to do with Cy, unless…unless Abby has something good to offer in exchange, like a decent job. You can almost see the venom glistening on her fangs as Liz says this. Ever the player, that gal. Abby says to get Cy the message, and she’ll see what she can do.
Liz behind bars. So Lizzie does. She starts off by heartlessly telling Cy how badly public perception has turned against him. Then she says the Justice Department won’t be asking for the death penalty. Cy seems relieved about that, but only for a moment, before stating he’ll just have to settle in for a life of solitary confinement. Liz says “Sounds like a plan!”, and gets up to leave. Wow, that was soulless and brutal, even for her. Cy stops her and says he needs her help. He wants her to deliver a letter to Tom for him. If he writes Tom a letter telling him how much he still loves him, maybe Tom will recant his confession. Seems like a long shot, but Cy is desperate. Liz shows her total ignorance of how prison, and particularly solitary, works by asking why Cy can’t just go up to Tom and give him a letter himself. Hee.
He gets her to agree to do it. But first, he must write the letter, which means he has to get his hands on a pen. And some paper.
A good question. Huck is with Charlotte, the woman he was watching in the video. What happened to her friend Jennifer has her spooked, so it seems Huck has graciously volunteered to install a security system at her house. It’s clear he’s interested in her, but she doesn’t seem to notice. She’s nervous that whoever killed Jennifer could still be out there. Everyone assumes Tom did it, but there’s no proof. Tom confessed to killing Vargas but never mentioned Jenny. Charlotte complains that everyone has their eyes on this case, but everyone’s forgotten about her friend.
When Huck goes back to OPA, he repeats what Charlotte said. It’s true that in Tom’s confession he didn’t mention killing Jennifer. Tom and Cy were both charged only in the death of Vargas. Liv says if they can prove Tom did it, Cy will be charged in two murders and the cover up. If they can find proof of guilt, Cy will be locked up for the rest of his life, and Mel will be the next president, for certain.
Cy’s really long, bad day, again. While a prisoner is being returned to his cell, Cy sees the spitting guard slip something in the prisoner’s pocket. It looks like the guard can be compromised. When he’s gone, Cy asks the cannibal across the way about prison currency. Cy is still trying to get a pen and paper to write his love note. The cannibal says Cy should get a belt to hang himself with instead of the pen and paper, it’s more practical.
After Cy is done with his day’s exercise, he asks the guard again for a pen and paper and is again turned down. So Cy mentions how he saw the guard slip the prisoner something he assumes was drugs. Cy says he could always out the guard as a drug mule. That seems to give the guy pause. Cy tells him that with his years of political experience, he’s learned how to get what he wants from people. He tells the guard, whose name is Gerald, that he assumes he’s moving drugs for certain prison gangs he’s beholden to. Cy proposes a deal: if Gerald will deliver the writing materials, Cy will tell him how to get these gang members off his back.
Start measuring her for a body bag. Huck is with Charlotte again, this time giving her self defense lessons. Okay, nothing good can come of this. We know Huck’s history with meeting women. If Charlotte isn’t a spy who’s been sent to get some kind of information from him and quite probably put his life in danger, then she’s an unwitting normal person who Huck will probably get killed. Are there any other possibilities? Not judging from his track record.
Huck is trying to teach her to defend herself, which she does okay at. Then he shows her how to throw a punch and starts to spar with her. She seems awkward at first but then lands a punch that knocks him back on his heels and bloodies his nose. She apologizes, but he doesn’t look upset. In fact, he looks turned on. I guess if you’re as damaged as Huck, getting a bloody nose from someone you’re interested in qualifies as foreplay.
Back at the office, Quinn has found that Tom rented a car in Arlington on election day. Huck tells her he’ll track Tom’s movements. Then he asks Quinn how to tell if someone likes you as a friend or only as a client. Quinn says to just ask.
Fangela? At the White House, Fitz is lounging in bed with FBI Angela. Wow, that was quick. Grrrl is a fast worker. And she’s wearing one of Fitz’s shirts, just like Liv used to often do when she was hanging in the WH bedroom. Is this some fetish of Fitz’s, for his ladies to wear his clothes?
The luvbirds are making small talk, and Angela brings up Cy and mentions how it’s not going to be a capital punishment case, which surprises Fitz. He’s surprised further when he finds out that it’s at his insistence. Whoops, looks like Abby may have overreached.
Abby is called to the Oval, where Fitz is waiting with David and Angela. When it dawns on her what’s happening, she asks to speak to Fitz alone, but he says whatever she has to say can be said in front of the FBI director and attorney general. She tries to defend herself, but Fitz is pretty pissed off that she spoke for him without his permission. He tells her to stay away from the investigation and reminds her that the chief of staff’s powers are limited. Red has been rather drunk with power lately.
That bad day that just keeps getting worse. Cy is surprised and delighted to get a visit from hubby Michael, but his happiness doesn’t last long. A grim Mikey says he’s leaving him. He produces the letter Cy wrote, which Cy gave to Liz to deliver to Tom. Michael says he made Liz give it to him, and he’s disgusted. Apparently Cy wrote a rather gushy love letter telling Tom how much he missed him. He also got quite graphic reminiscing about all the fun sexytimes they used to have, some of which took place during his marriage. Mike says Cy promised he wasn’t cheating, and now he has proof Cy was lying all along, so he’s had enough. Cy says the letter is just a ruse to get Tom to recant his confession, but Mike isn’t buying that line. He got a lawyer and filed for divorce. He’ll be seeking full custody of Ella, of course.
Michael being so hurt is a little puzzling. It’s no secret theirs was a marriage of political convenience. That was well established last season. Yes, the two have been affectionate with each other at times, but they’re still basically in a sham marriage.
And, Liz? Giving Mike that letter was a new level of heartlessness for you. It’s hard to say who’s the most sociopathic, empathy-challenged character on this show, but it looks like Liz wants some consideration.
And worse. These are dark times, indeed. After being told his marriage is over, Cy goes back to his cell and hears Fitz’s press conference on the radio where he announces that the Justice Department has reversed course and decided to pursue the death penalty against Cy.
As Cy lies on his bunk, numb with what he’s just heard, Gerald the guard comes by. He knows Cy has had a really bad day and offers him a trip outdoors. He’s arranged for Cy to have the yard all to himself for a while, if he wants a little air and exercise. Cy takes the offer and of course, it’s a trap. Once Cy is outside, Gerald leaves him in the yard alone before going back in and locking the door. A bunch of prisoners are let in the yard, and it’s time for an old-fashioned prison beatdown, with Cy as the punching bag.
It’s funny that as they surround Cy, one of the bad guys snarls that his whole family voted for Frankie Vargas, and then they commence pummeling. Don’t piss off them voters. They’ll beat the shit out of you!
Cy’s dream. Cy wakes up bloodied and bruised in the hospital. Michael is there, looking lovingly at him. He tells Cy he’s reconsidered and realizes now that Cy wrote the letter to try to clear himself and there was nothing going on with Tom. He’s called off the divorce.
That little bit was enough to convince me this was a dream sequence. Michael is one of the show’s few consistent characters, so him suddenly doing a 180 on this was unrealistic. I apparently wasn’t supposed to figure this out that quickly, though, because the dream sequence has barely started. As Mike is declaring his love, Liv walks in. She apologizes to Cy for how she treated him. Mike says Tom has recanted, and Cy is getting out of prison. Liv says the Electoral College will be voting, and Cy will be the next president.
And it keeps going. This is the never-ending dream. Cy is shown being sworn in, as Mike and Ella adoringly look on. Then he’s in the Oval Office, standing on the carpet with the presidential seal, looking around at his domain. At this point, he notices the way the room is decorated. The decor is courtesy of Mellie, who is supposed to be his VP but who then walks in the room, and it’s clear she’s the POTUS.
It’s at that point that Cy wakes up from dreamland, badly battered and still a prisoner.
Did he just discover those phones? Cy, his battered face barely stitched up, is on the phone. In the shape he’s in, they didn’t keep him in the infirmary? He calls Liv, who hesitantly answers. He tells her that he told Tom not to kill Frankie or to even go near him. Tom went rogue, and it’s not Cy’s fault. He desperately pleads with Liv to believe him. They’ve known each other a long time, so she must know he wouldn’t do this. He asks for her help.
But Liv isn’t feeling magnanimous today. She says this has all gone too far. Cy has gotten away with many bad deeds in his life, but it looks like now, his bill must finally be paid. It’s time to stop being a monster and be a man he can be proud of. Cy desperately says he’s going to die in prison. That doesn’t move Liv, either. She coldly answers that she’ll always be his friend, but she won’t speak with him again, and hangs up. Cy looks broken as he stands holding the phone.
Ouch, Liv. That’s not really how it works. That word ‘friend.’ I do not think it means what you think it means.
It looks like Cy is at the end of his proverbial rope. Back in his cell, he asks guard Gerald how he can get that belt. Gerald is hesitant, but Cy tells him he won’t off himself on Gerald’s watch.
Reunited, and it feels so good. Huck is with Charlotte and decides to take Quinn’s advice. He asks her if she’s a client or a friend. She responds by kissing him. Before we can find out if she’s really an agent of a new brand of B613 and been sent by Papa Pope and Jake to neutralize Huck, their snogging is interrupted by Huck’s phone. It’s Quinn, calling him back to the office. They’ve found something on Tom.
But it’s not time for the episode’s big final reveal quite yet. Back in prison, it turns out Cy wasn’t desperate and wanting to end it , after all. He’s a more resilient creature than that. Gerald has unknowingly provided the belt for himself. Cy has colluded with the cannibal across the hall to incapacitate Gerald, grab his keys, and get out of their cells. It seems Cy has promised the cannibal ‘a kill’ in exchange for his help. But that’s not Gerald. Not right now, anyway. Cy tells Gerald the kill can be him or it can be Tom, his choice. Gerald decides to help them get to Tom’s cell.
Once there, cannibal guy wraps the belt around Tom’s neck and starts to strangle him. Cy asks if Tom’s ready to tell the truth about Vargas. Tom says he is, and Cy tells cannibal guy to back off. That makes cannibal guy mad, as he petulantly says he was promised a kill and wants one, now. So he drops Tom and goes after the nearest target, Gerald.
On the floor, a gasping Tom tells Cy he was paid to confess to the shooting. He didn’t kill Frankie, he just wanted to torture Cy by making him think he did. Cy smiles as cannibal guy starts to make good on his nickname by chowing down on Gerald, and guards burst into the cell to break it all up.
At OPA, Tom’s confession is what the Gladiators have just discovered. Quinn has dug up a surveillance video of Tom from election night, and he was 600 miles away from Philadelphia. It proves he’s innocent of the shooting, and that means Cy is also innocent.
So Cy and the Gladiators all know he didn’t do it. And Liv knows. Liv, who just brutally blew Cy off and seemed unconcerned that he was going to die in a federal prison. I don’t think Cy is going to forget that.
Now he has to go about trying to prove his innocence and get out of Oz. What will his next move be? We’ll have to wait until March 9 to find out with 06.05, “They All Bow Down” –
Jake and Vanessa’s messy relationship poses a threat to the campaign, forcing Olivia to take action; a game-changing revelation about the conspiracy surrounding Frankie Vargas’s assassination is revealed.
It doesn’t appear as though Liv and Vanessa are on real friendly terms in the next ep. Remember those epic battles between Liv and Mellie, when Mel found out about Olitz? It looks like battles of that type are about to be revived, courtesy of Nessie Ballard. Judging from the preview, it seems she’s aware of the steamy history her husband has with Liv. I wonder if she knows that hubby wanted to continue that steaminess, even after marrying her. We have to wait three weeks to find out…