L. T. Milroy
Have you enjoyed all of the many, many rehashings we’ve gotten this season on what happened on election night and the days leading up to it? Hope so, because it’s not over yet.
After seeing the events of those days played out from the perspective of different characters in episode after episode, this week we get the story as told by Abby Whelan. We haven’t seen much of Red this season, but she has been a part of the narrative, turning up to varying degrees in others’ accounts. After popping up here and there, last week’s episode ended with Abby being shown meeting up with the sinister, shadowy characters responsible for staging the assassination of Frankie Vargas. That scene made it seem as though she was a major player in the conspiracy. This week, it becomes clear to what extent.
Back to the past…again. When the episode opens, there’s once again a flashback to election night. And once again, we’re at Grant election headquarters where everyone is in shock, as Vargas has just staged an upset and beat Mellie to become president-elect. Then everyone is more shocked, as just after giving his acceptance speech, Vargas is shot on live TV.
But Fitz—remember him?—is still president, and he’s in the room, so the Secret Service swings into action. He and chief of staff Abby are quickly rounded up, rushed from the room, and taken to a waiting car. An agent can be heard saying “We have Falcon and Firebrand”. Hee! I wonder who’s who. During this whole exercise, Abby has been in a detached fog; a couple of agents basically have to carry her from the room as she seems unable to walk. She’s still in this state after she and Fitz are loaded into a car bound for the White House. Fitz commands her attention and tells her she can’t be in shock. This is an emergency situation, and she must be ready to function. Abby’s phone keeps buzzing, but she doesn’t answer it.
Back in her office, Abby hyperventilates for a few moments before her phone buzzes again. This time, she answers. We only hear her side of the conversation, as she accuses whoever is on the other end of shooting Vargas. She can’t believe this has happened and says she can’t just leave the White House right now, the president will notice. She pleads to be given something else to do, but that apparently doesn’t appease who’s on the other end who makes their demands then hangs up on a shaken Abby.
Generous donors. Now it’s back to sixty days before the election. Abby is in the Oval Office with Fitz, discussing plans for his presidential library. It was assumed it was going to be located in California, since that’s where his political career started with his eventual rise to governor, but Fitz has other ideas. He’s thinking more along the lines of Vermont. Abby says that’s too laidback and too far from the action, and that Fitz still has so much to accomplish.
Then she goes to a meeting with a couple of prospective donors. As she’s telling them all about the plans for the library, they’re filmed from behind, but it’s no surprise when we finally see their faces that they’re none other than the evil Boris and Natasha. They claim to represent a group called the Fund for American Renewal and casually offer Abby $300 million. The manner in which this ridiculous amount was offered should make Abby immediately suspicious, but it doesn’t, really. Then they tell her the money isn’t for the library; they don’t want to be a part of the president’s ‘team’, but of Abby’s. She says her ‘team’ doesn’t exist, but they say it could, and should. Then Boris, whose name is Peus, and Natasha, who says her name is Marjorie Ruland, start kissing Abby’s ass about how a smart person like her must be so tired of running at Fitz’s heels all of the time. She probably can’t wait until January, when Fitz will be out of office and she’ll be free to pursue her own agenda. But she answers that her service to Fitz will continue, even when there’s a new president. He wants her to run his foundation, and she’s accepted.
They say it’s sad that Abby’s voice won’t be heard qne tell her that the Fund for American Renewal wants to back her and want her to have the 300 mil. She asks what the catch is, and they tell her it’s up to her; if things go well, they’ll set their sights higher. Abby says she’s never run for public office, but they wave that off and ask if she’s ever thought about running for president. She says she’s not a politician, and they tell her to think about, but she says the answer is no.
Advice from Cy. That night, a distracted Abby is at home with Leo. Finally, a Leo sighting, for the first time this season! He’s complaining that her job takes up all of her time. He says that maybe in January they should take a vacation. Apparently Red hasn’t told him that she’ll still have a job come Jan. 20. Abby doesn’t answer; she seems distracted and asks him where that fancy bottle of bourbon is. Then the scene changes. Leo’s gone already? That was quick.
Abby shows up at Cyrus’s door with the bottle. She wants to congratulate him for being up in the polls and doing so well in the VP debate. Since she’s working for Mellie, Cy’s opponent, it’s an unusual thing to congratulate him for, so he wants to know what’s up. She asks how he knew Frankie Vargas was ‘the one’, the candidate for Cy to stake his political future on. He counters with his own question: has she told Fitz yet she’s thinking of a political career of her own and that she won’t be staying with him? She says she’s not necessarily thinking about that, but she doesn’t sound very convincing. He tells her she’ll make a great candidate but cautions her that if she breaks with Fitz, it will be permanent. He won’t be proud of her for striking out on her own, and he’ll feel abandoned. The break will hurt, because Fitz means something to her and will always be a part of her. She should know that’s how it will be, he says, and adds that he speaks from experience. But if she can handle all of that, she should go for it.
Makin’ that Rutland jam. Back in the Oval, talk has again turned to the Grant Presidential Library, and Fitz is insistent about the whole Vermont thing. He’s looking at 215 acres outside Rutland. Actually, Rutland is a big town, for Vermont, anyway, but it’s still way too far from the action for Abby. That’s where he wants to settle, and it’s where she’ll have to live if she wants to keep working for him. She’s not liking the prospect. When he starts talking about how happy he’ll be to escape the hell hole that is DC to go to Vermont and learn how to make jam, Abby has heard enough and gets up and closes the door.
She lets him know that she thinks Vermont is a bad idea. As a former president, he’ll have a certain amount of power and influence. He’ll be in a position to get things done and shouldn’t be wasting his time making jam. He’s still a vital person and shouldn’t slink away to Vermont, never to be heard from again. But Fitz doesn’t see it that way. He says he’s given eight years to this country. He’s been shot for this country, lost his marriage, and lost his child for this country. If he wants to take some time for himself now, he’s certainly earned it. Abby blurts out that Liv won’t go to Vermont for him. He looks both angry and hurt and tells her that was low. He reiterates that the library will be in Rutland and dismisses her. It was a bit jarring to hear Liv’s name, as the episode is about half over and not only hasn’t she been seen, this is the first time she’s even been mentioned.
Red’s skin is apparently really thin, because that small dressing down from Fitz is enough to push her to the dark side. It’s also enough to get her to abandon common sense, as she goes to her office and calls Mr. Peus to tell him she’s in. Poor wittle Abby’s fee-fees were hurt by big, bad ol’ Fitz, so she loses her mind and accepts an obscene amount of money from a couple of strangers thinking no strings will be attached? Is she really that dim? It seems like it.
And by the way, is that a pair of brass knuckles on Abby’s desk? Or an elaborate keychain or maybe a necklace? Whatever it is, it makes a statement.
Who knew they’d want something big for that 300 mil? For the billionth time this season, we flash back to election night. The mood is still positive at Grant headquarters, as things are still looking up for Mel. Abby congratulates her on her seeming impending win. Then, of course, Mel loses, which we also see again for the billionth time. Abby’s phone buzzes, which is never good in this episode. It’s Natasha/Marjorie, who tells Abby not to panic. In a few minutes she’ll call back, and Abby needs to answer. She’ll give further instructions then. Abby asks about what instructions, but N/M hangs up. Shortly after, Vargas is shot, and as promised, it’s followed by Abby’s phone buzzing. When she finally answers, she’s told to go to the hospital where Vargas is being taken and lock it down. Abby is starting to think that getting involved with a couple of shady strangers maybe wasn’t such a good idea and is hesitant to follow instructions, but of course, N/M was prepared for this. She tells Abby the money they gave her was from BDIC, some bank in Macau, and there are connections to money laundering and North Korea. Of course there are. What did Abby expect? Needless to say, if it all came out, not only would her political career be over, she might spend the rest of her life in prison. So she’d better do as she’s told. Abby says she can’t just leave. N/M says to figure something out.
Abby gives a red folder to a staffer and tells her to give it to Fitz in fifteen minutes. Jake comes to retrieve her to bring her to the Situation Room, where the staff has gathered. Abby waits anxiously as Jake briefs Fitz. A few minutes later, the staffer comes in and hands Fitz the folder. He looks in it and tells Abby to get to the hospital right away.
What a surprise to see you. Then we see a replay of how Abby handled the Vargas situation. She ran things at the hospital, threatening cops and hospital staff alike to take complete control. We see a rehash of how she kept everyone away from Vargas’s room and how she was there when he died. It’s been a tough few hours, and she’s trying to get some time alone when someone comes up behind her and says she has a package for Abby from “our friends”. Abby turns around to see Meg, Huck’s murderous ‘girlfriend’. She’s hip-deep in all of this, too.
Abby is tired and says she’s done her part, so she wants to be left alone. But, of course, she’s just getting started. Meg says Abby has more to do and has no choice. Meg’s carrying an envelope that she says contains three long-range sniper bullets. Abby’s task is to exchange them for the real bullets. You know, the ones currently inside Frankie Vargas. Abby says no way. Meg takes out her phone and shows Abby live video of Leo, who’s been taken to an undisclosed location and is being worked over. Yikes, poor Leo. He’s absent for half the season, and when he finally shows up, he gets kidnapped and smacked around. Abby asks how she’s supposed to get the real bullets. Meg tells her to figure something out and gives her the envelope.
So she does. Abby tells the doctor in charge that the government needs the bullets as evidence. He says the bullets are still in the body, and an autopsy must be ordered to get them out. Fitz will need to order the autopsy. There’s a flashback of Abby calling Fitz and him not wanting the world to know Vargas was dead just yet and putting off the autopsy. Abby’s frustration, which seemed a bit strange at the time, now makes sense. So she circumvents the POTUS by calling an army surgeon on her own and ordering him to retrieve the bullets. He’s hesitant and says Vargas must be declared officially dead first. She answers that by basically threatening his career and telling him he’ll be shipped off and stationed at some remote outpost if he doesn’t cooperate. She also cloaks it in patriotic anger over Vargas’s shooting and a concern to get evidence against the shooter. He agrees to do the autopsy.
All in a day’s work. Abby watches as the doctor takes the bullets from Vargas’s body. Yes, we get a good look at this, too. Frankie’s sliced open from stem to stern, and we get a front-row seat, so to speak. Last week we got to see him get shot at close range and leak his brains all over, and now this. I’m intimately familiar with Frankie Vargas’s guts at this point. Frankie Vargas’s Guts. Good name for a rock group.
After a few minutes, the autopsy is interrupted. It looks like this was Abby’s doing, though she assures the doctor he won’t be in trouble, and the president will know that he only thought he was serving his country. The doctor is led away, and Abby is alone with the body. That’s when she notices that only two bullets have been recovered. She was watching the autopsy and saw the bullets being removed, so how did she not know that they weren’t all present and accounted for? She panics and looks at the chart the doctor made of the body of where the bullets were located and determines that there’s still one lodged in Vargas’s abdomen. It was obvious what was coming next, but it’s still a shock to see Abby grab a pair of rubber gloves, hesitantly pull them on, and plunge her hand into the corpse. She fishes around a bit until she locates the bullet and pulls it out. She exchanges the fake bullets and takes the real ones before returning the envelope to Meg.
When she gets home after that really rough day, she’s reminded that she wasn’t the only one for whom it was rough. Leo is there badly beaten and barely able to speak. He does manage to tell Abby that he was mugged, but other than that he remembers nothing. Cops found him unconscious in an alley, and there are no leads as to the guilty party. He assumes he was the victim of a random street crime. She holds him and tells him she’s sorry, to which he responds that it’s not her fault. Ouch. That must have really hurt her, unbeknownst to him.
But Abby’s really bad day isn’t over even yet. The damn phone buzzes again. This time, it’s Fitz.
Abby’s called to the Oval Office where Fitz plays the voice mail message Jennifer left for the police, implicating Cy in Vargas’s shooting. Of course, she knows Cy is innocent and something is up. She calls Peus and asks if they’re framing Cy. She didn’t know this was part of the plan, and she’s not happy. Then we get more flashbacks, of Abby advising Fitz not to go ahead with Cy’s prosecution and not to seek the death penalty. Now we know why.
Can anyone have a normal GF on this show? Abby has seen enough. She decides to pull the plug on the whole thing, personal consequences be damned. She’s outside David Rosen’s house. She’s prepared to spill the beans to the attorney general, who’s surprised she’s there to see him on a Sunday, but he says he’ll be right down. Before David can come to the door, Natasha/Marjorie shows up. Abby tells her she’s shutting their operation down, but N/M smarmily answers that any move Abby can make has been anticipated. Abby’s basically owned by Natasha/Marjorie and Boris/Peus and the Fund for American Renewal now, so she might as well get used to it. This is said with a huge dollop of snark and smugness, which is N/M’s default demeanor. On a show with many sketchy characters, she has the most obnoxious personality and smackable face, and that’s saying a lot.
Abby counters all this with self-righteous anger and is stating her intentions to bring down the entire criminal enterprise, when David appears. He sees N/M and smiles, calls her Samantha, and says he wasn’t expecting Abby, but she can join them for brunch, if she wants to. He and N/M/S kiss, and it’s evident that they’re an item. So Ms. Satan is dating the AG, that’s how she’s headed off Abby. Red knows when she’s been bested and when David asks why she came over, she says it can wait and leaves.
So that this insufferable beeotch has used Sarah, Marjorie, and now Samantha as monikers, I’m just going to keep calling her Natasha.
One last thing. The episode wraps with a montage reminding us why Abby has been so insistent on clearing Cy. She visits him in prison after his beatdown and tells him she believes him when he says he’s innocent, and that she’ll go to war for him, if necessary. She assures him she won’t give up then goes to Boris and Natasha and tells them she wants to make a deal. She has valuable information she knows they can use, and she’ll give it to them in exchange for their getting Cy out of prison. They say they’ll deal if her info is any good. She tells them Jennifer is alive.
Cut to the same scene that ended last week’s episode. Huck and Meg walk into Jenny’s motel room, where Meg shoots Jenny, then turns and does likewise to Huck. We again see the subsequent meeting between Natasha, Meg and Abby, the one that made it look like Red was the evil mastermind of this operation, which we now know she’s not. Natasha says that Jenny is dead. Abby asks about Huck. It’s not clear whether she expected that he might end up as collateral damage in all of this. Meg gives a cryptic answer, merely telling Abby that Huck “will have no idea you were part of this.” I took this to mean that Meg shot to wound, not to kill, and Huck was left alive intentionally. In the shooting scene, it looked like Meg aimed for Jenny’s head, so as to take her out immediately, but she shot Huck in the side and chest, not the heart. She wanted him to suffer and bleed a lot, but to survive, for whatever reason. Otherwise, he would have gotten a head shot, too. Just a guess, as we don’t yet know Huck’s fate. Like last week, at episode’s end, he’s lying on the floor, losing blood at a rapid pace.
And if Huck does survive, what do you suppose the chances are he’ll never find out that Abby was “part of this”? My guess is zero.
Did Abby know that Huck would likely end up as collateral damage, or was that a surprise to her? Is Meg as evil as Boris and Natasha or, like Abby, did she end up beholden to them against her will? Was Jenny in on the whole thing? And again, what’s the end game for Boris and Natasha and this Fund for American Renewal? We’re not privy to such information as yet. Maybe next week in 06.09, “Dead in the Water”. A preview:
It’s a race against the clock when Olivia and OPA’s investigation into the conspiracy puts one of their own in grave danger.
So Liv will return next week, after being MIA for this entire episode. Hard to believe, but S6 is now half over. I hope TPTB use their remaining time wisely.