Catch up on Scandal S6 Ep. 14 Head Games


L. T. Milroy


Ha ha. This week’s episode title is quite the pun! See if you can figure it out. This show is just so subtle and cryptic sometimes…

Season 6 is careening toward its culmination. The endless presidency of Fitz is finally coming to a close, as well. The craziness? As always, that’s just beginning.

A bit of fun to kick things off. A little montage starts the episode. Things seem to be going well with the Scandaland characters at the moment. Marcus is all smiles as he addresses the press about the drone crisis. It’s over, the drones have been disarmed, and the Fitzgerald Grant administration is moving on. Fitz has just one week left in office, and he’s concentrating on a smooth transfer of power. He’s also concentrating on his new/old relationship, as shots of Olitz tearing up the sheets are seen. Almost literally tearing up, as in thrashing around, glass-shattering sex. Keep any priceless antiques out of the White House bedrooms when these two are around. Huck watches Quinn model wedding dresses for her and Charlie’s upcoming nuptials. He’s being very patient but tells her she should have told him what a maid of honor has to do. Huck is Quinn’s maid of honor. I don’t know whether to put an exclamation point or question mark at the end of that sentence.

A gift from Pa. David stops by Papa Pope’s lab. Pa is loading his possessions into boxes. He tells David he’s retiring. His work here is finally over, he’s packing it in, and he’s going to lie on a beach somewhere. Unless David is there to bring him some kind of news. David says no, the Vargas case is closed, and this is unofficial business. It’s about Natasha; he’s trying to identify her. He checked out that name she gave him last week that she said was her actual real name, Grace something-or-other, but of course it, too, was phony. Natasha definitely had a weird fetish for fake names. David’s at a dead end and was hoping Pa might have some information to give him. Pa at first says he doesn’t, then reconsiders and says he has something that might help.

Everyone’s picking on Red. Liv is in the Oval Office, discussing Fitz’s final days with him. He mentions that he wants to pardon some prisoners in the next week and has some files on likely candidates. The subject comes around to Abby, and Liv says he has to talk to her about what’s happened. If he doesn’t want to forgive her and let her back in the loop, he should say so and let her go, but he has to have it out with her. She takes the prisoner files with her on her way out.

It appears Liv’s advice fell on deaf ears. Later, Abby goes to the Oval to bring Fitz some papers. He tells her it’s a slow day, and she might as well go work from home. Ouch. Calling that passive-aggressive behavior is somewhat of an understatement. She reminds him that as his chief of staff, she has never worked from home, and she wishes he’d talk to her. She says she confided in him, because she needed a friend, and now he’s turned against her. Liv has forgiven her, so why can’t he? Fitz doesn’t answer.

An actual CotW! At OPA, Quinn and Charlie are discussing honeymoon plans. They have different opinions on what to do, and Charlie doesn’t see why they can’t do all of it. Quinn says she can’t be away from the office that long. Charlie asks why they can’t take a long honeymoon, since Liv is leaving OPA anyway, so there won’t be anything to rush back to. Quinn says Liv isn’t leaving, just as she shows up and puts down the files. She tells them of Fitz’s plan for pardons and tells them to look through the files for candidates. They’ll want to find a high-profile pardon that will make the White House look good, Liv says. Hey, it’s a genuine Case of the Week! How long has it been? Remember when those were a weekly occurrence? As she walks out, Quinn says Liv looks as take-charge as ever and isn’t going anywhere.

Getting ahead. A very upset-looking David shows up at Abby’s door. He’s holding a box and tells her he needs to put it in her refrigerator. She asks what’s in it, but he won’t say. She pulls him inside, takes the box, and tells him to sit. She opens it to find the head of Natasha, whom Pa finally did away with last week. Since she and Boris were always threatening to send him Liv’s head in a box, it looks like he got his own style of revenge by dispatching her and boxing her up. He thought it might help David identify who she really was. Giving up his little trophy just so Davey can get some closure? Pa can be such a softie.

Abby, of course, is freaking out. Why would David accept such a thing? David says Pa terrifies him: “I’m not going to argue. He gives me a head, I take a head!” David says he called Jake, who’s coming over to get some DNA from Natasha’s noggin. Maybe then they can get some answers as to who she really was.

More CotW. The Gladiators have found a favorite candidate for a pardon in Shaun Campbell. He was convicted of the murder of Robert Barnes, who was charged in killing several people in the bombing of a Black church. Barnes was tried locally for the bombing and acquitted. One night Barnes and Campbell had an altercation in a bar. Campbell left, but the next morning, Barnes was found hanging from a tree. Despite no physical evidence, Campbell was convicted of murder, based in part on damning testimony from Barnes’ friend Donny, and given a life sentence. He’s already lost two appeals, so a presidential pardon is his last hope.

Quinn lays out the facts of the case to everyone. That includes Liv, who’s there in body only. Her mind is elsewhere, as she’s more interested in looking at her phone. Quinn asks Liv where they should start. Liv tears her  attention from the phone long enough to mumble something about Mellie’s cabinet picks, says the Gladiators seem to have everything under control and they don’t really need her, and leaves.

Picking on Red II. Jake has arrived at Abby’s place. As he gathers DNA from the head, Abby chatters nervously, while David just looks deeply disturbed by the whole thing. When he’s done, Jake wants to store Natasha’s piehole in Abby’s freezer, a desire to which she understably firmly objects. He says he might need the head again, but Abby doesn’t want it in her house. It’s just not right, she says, to have it in her freezer. Jake haughtily says Abby isn’t the arbiter of what’s right and wrong and leaves without the head.

Wow, that took some stones, Jake, to pretend to be morally superior to anyone. Jake killed countless people while working for, and then heading up, B613. Many of those killed were the truly deserving and reprehensible, but among his victims were also the innocent collateral damage, like Cyrus’s husband, James. So, his hands awash with blood, Jake is going to talk trash to someone about his moral superiority? Wow. And I thought Fitz took the crown for lack of self-awareness on this show.

Kicking stereotypical butt. The Gladiators (minus Liv, who’s with Mellie doing chief of staff-type stuff regarding cabinet picks) go over the facts of the Campbell case. They feel strange that they’re doing this stuff on their own, but Quinn says Liv obviously has faith in them, so they can do it. While reviewing what those involved in the case have said about it, Quinn notices that Donny, the chief prosecution witness, has been oddly silent. She thinks he lied.

They decide to speak with Donny and take a road trip deep into redneck territory. Donny tends bar in a backwoods place that’s very much the stereotype, complete with country music and good ol’ boys playin’ pool. Quinn and Huck start talking with him, and he’s all too cooperative. He’s a proud racist who says that if Campbell ‘knew his place.’ he wouldn’t have been in the bar to begin with. Quinn says he’s innocent, and Donny says an innocent Black man is a contradiction in terms. Yeah, Donny’s pretty stereotypical, as well. Huck studies him as he spews this stuff, then says Donny is the guilty one. He and Bobby planned the bombing together, but Bobby got the credit, then unexpectedly got off. He was supposed to go to prison but instead escaped responsibility and was a local racist hero. Donny killed him out of jealousy, Huck says. Donny shrugs that off and basically confesses. “So what if that’s all true?” he says. It all worked out for the best: Bobby’s dead, Donny himself is free, and the Black guy is in prison where he belongs. It’s all good.

The good ol’ boys in the bar see what’s going on and start walking over. Huck and Quinn notice and pull their guns, at the same time everyone else does. Everyone is pointing their pieces at each other, at a stalemate. Breaking the tie is Charlie, who bursts in with his big-ass rifle. The boys are disarmed, allowing the Gladiators to make their getaway. On the way out, Huck takes a moment to reach over and slam Donny’s face on the bar, and Quinn calls them a bunch of racists, just for good measure.

So long Pa? Liv is having a pleasant dinner with Pa. She asks him what he’s going to do in retirement. He says the usual: fishing, reading, traveling. He has to get away, he says, and he can’t hang around now that Liv is going to be Mel’s chief of staff. With Liv in power, him being underfoot would just impede her. He says it’s a DC rule that family and other loved ones just get in the way, and she can’t think she’s above the rules. She’s not. Liv scoffs at that. She’s not him, she says, and lives by her own rules. She tells him to go off and relax, take a break, and recharge, then come back home. Pa says no, this is goodbye. He stands, so Liv says goodbye, a bit shocked, and he walks off.

So is Pa really going to disappear for good? And did he just leave Liv with the dinner bill? Considering how much this father/daughter pair enjoys the finer things, I’m sure that’s a mighty expensive restaurant. The wine bill alone is probably a couple of hundred bucks. Way to make a dramatic, and cheap, exit, Pa.

A heart-to-heart back at headquarters. There are different concerns over at chez Abby. She’s lying in bed, wide awake, when she hears footsteps outside the door and tells David to come in. He says he wanted to take a walk but couldn’t go downstairs because, well, “It’s” down there. She says he can go if he wants, but he says he won’t leave her alone in her house with a head in the freezer. He’s a nicer guy than that. She appreciates the company and tells him to get into bed.

Abby puts a pillow wall between them for modesty’s sake. David starts talking about how Washington has changed him and how he came to town as a ‘white hat,’ a true believer. That idealism is gone, he says, and worse, he gave it away. It culminated in the relationship with Natasha, and he wonders how he could have been sucker enough to fall for someone as nasty as the current resident of Abby’s freezer. Abby tells him not to feel bad, because she fell for Natasha, too. She says Natasha fed her ego, just like she did with him, and made her feel important. It’s not a nice realization for Abby. She says she never thought of herself as a good person, but she didn’t believe she was an evil one.

Office politics. At OPA, Quinn is waiting for Liv in her office, which seems to irritate Liv. She asks Quinn what she’s doing there. Quinn says Campbell is innocent, and they know who the real killer is. She can’t prove it yet, but she knows it. Fitz has to pardon him. Liv is unimpressed. She curtly says that Fitz won’t sign off on anything without proof, so to come back when they have some. Quinn is frustrated. Liv may be preoccupied these days, she says, but her name is still on the door, and doesn’t she care about helping people and fulfilling OPA’s mission anymore? That also annoys Liv. She tells Quinn she’s not risking the firm’s reputation without hard proof; just Quinn’s gut feeling isn’t enough. Actually, there’s also the fact that Donny basically confessed, something Huck also heard and could confirm, but Quinn doesn’t bring it up, for unknown reasons. Liv asks again why Quinn is in her office in the first place, then throws her out.

Charlie drives Quinn to the prison to visit with Campbell. She wonders what she’s going to say to him. She got his hopes up so high for a pardon, and now she just got shut down by Liv. It’s all over. Charlie, as always, is philosophical about the whole thing, typical for his go-with-the-flow personality. He says if Liv does leave, and OPA is no more, there will always be new horizons to move on to. Look at him. All of those years in B613 and after it shut down, and now he’s at OPA, still working cases. Then he gives the quote of the episode: “Just because Olivia traded in her white hat for the White House, that doesn’t mean we stop being Gladiators.” That gets through to Quinn. She decides to put off the visit to the prison for an alternate plan.

Our Lindsay, so grown up. When we next see Quinn, she’s all cleaned up in a nice outfit, walking through the White House corridors with Marcus. She arranged a favor from her former colleague and current press secretary, a meeting with the president. She wants to plead the Campbell case face to face. At first she’s flustered by being with the president in the Oval Office and has trouble articulating herself, but eventually gets the words out. Again, it’s frustrating, because she sticks with what she told Liv, about her gut basically being the barometer in this case, with no mention of the de facto confession. Fitz says she sounds like Liv, with this whole trusting her gut thing. Quinn says Liv doesn’t agree with pardoning Campbell, because it’s a sensitive case, and stepping in could get messy for Fitz. Regardless of that, Quinn says, it would be the right thing to do. Fitz smiles a bit condescendingly and thanks her for coming.

Quinn reluctantly turns to go, then stops. She says she’s not leaving until he signs the pardon. He gets annoyed and says that Liv, her boss, opposes the idea, so why should he go along with it? Quinn says this Liv isn’t her boss. This Liv is getting ready for the White House and doesn’t want to take chances. She wants to play it safe and not stir things up. The old Liv would be here fighting for Campbell, but since that Liv isn’t around anymore, Quinn says, she is. She showed up here to fight in Liv’s place. Fitz, who as we well know likes confident women, seems impressed by Quinn’s plea. He tells her to have a seat.

So long, Marcus? Mel stops by Marcus’s office to find him packing. Earlier, during her meeting with Liv to discuss cabinet picks, Mel suggested Marcus as the new communications director. Now she offers the position to him, wanting him to stay on in her administration. He thanks her but turns her down. Fitz made him an offer to run his foundation, and Marcus accepted. Mel says he won’t be happy doing that after working in the White House. He’ll be so far from the action. She asks again for him to stay and make a difference with her, but he again says nol “I’m not Olivia,” he says and tells her goodbye.

Wow, Marcus telling Mel that he’s not Liv. He has no intention of hanging around the White House for the next four to eight years, being the plaything of the Grant that occupies the Oval Office. And another interesting thing about that scene. Apparently Marcus is now going to run Fitz’s foundation, which was formerly going to be Abby’s job. Fitz just can’t stop dumping all over Red. I guess it’s just as well, considering how much she was bitching about going to Vermont.

Jake states the obvious. Jake calls Abby and David to tell them he has an ID on Natasha. They go to his place, where he shows them video he made of her apartment. Her name was Gertrude. So Sarah/Marjorie/Samantha/Grace was actually Gertrude? Okay, fine. Jake found some sort of device at her place and was able to retrieve her last text message. It’s clear the message is from someone controlling Natasha. Jake says, like he’s making some sort of revelation that Boris and Natasha were working for someone. Well, DUH, Jake. Doesn’t he remember her telling him that no matter where she went her boss would find her, leading him to dig a tracking chip out of her neck? Has he already forgotten that little act of savagery? She TOLD him she was working for someone. Why is he acting like it’s a surprise?

The keys to the kingdom. Fitz is giving his last interview as president. The interviewer cites his successes, such as the Brandon Bill, but Fitz says he wishes he’d gone further. Then he brings up the pardons and talks about the Campbell case in particular.

Later, when Liv walks into OPA, Quinn knows she must have seen the interview and confronts her right away. She had no choice, and says she handled the case just like Liv would have. Liv listens, expressionless, then walks into her office. Quinn follows, angrily thinking she’s being blown off. She’s not. Liv walks over to her office wall safe and opens it. She tells Quinn what’s in it: bank books, statements, and even secret Washington contacts. Quinn asks why Liv is telling her all this. Liv says that heading up this firm means going up against the White House sometimes, and soon, that will mean going up against Liv herself. She needed to know that Quinn could handle that. This whole thing was a test. Fortunately for her, not to mention Mr. Campbell’s future, Quinn passed.

Quinn seems sincere as she thanks Liv, who thanks her back. Quinn says she’ll go back to her office now, but Liv tells her she’s already in her office and leaves. Quinn looks around at her new digs. She appears somewhat overwhelmed as she fondles the desk a bit.

A not really much of a surprise ending. Abby and David are packing up Natasha’s head for its final resting place. At last. I thought that thing would never leave. Jake is at the door. He says he found out who Boris and Natasha’s boss is.

Pa is just about to get away from all of this. He’s walking up to a private plane, which is waiting to whisk him to his retirement paradise. But alas, it’s not to be. At the last moment, a car screeches up. Liv and another woman get out and tell Pa to come with them.

Pa is taken to a White House bunker where Fitz and Jake are waiting. They tell him Boris and Natasha were working for someone and show him some papers. He looks at them and says no, he’s retiring and not getting involved. They say he’s their only hope, since he knows her better than anyone. He says she’s not his problem, but Liv asks who’s going to protect Liv from her when he’s gone. “Her” turns out to be none other than Maya, aka the long lost Mama Pope. That’s who was pulling Boris and Natasha’s strings. She’s still out there and is shown sitting at a bar somewhere, sipping a drink and watching the news.

That wasn’t such a big surprise. Given the way this show works, she was bound to reappear at some point, most probably in an evil capacity, so this fits right in. The return of Ma sets the stage for the last two episodes of the season, 06.15 “Tick, Tock” and 06.16 “Transfer of Power”. A preview:

As the clock ticks down to the inauguration of the first female president of the United States, Olivia takes a big risk to ensure Mellie’s safety; in the final days of his presidency, Fitz uses his power to make some unexpected changes.

The episodes will be shown back to back next week, wrapping up a short, sixteen-episode S6. Yes, it’s almost over, already! Couldn’t find out exactly when S7 starts (maybe the network doesn’t know yet itself?), but it was recently confirmed that it’s going to be the show’s final season. After an admirably lengthy run, Scandal will be going out, aware of its impending demise and basically on its own terms. How crazy does that have the potential to be?


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