There has been so much hype and anticipation for the premiere of “Scandal” that it seemed impossible that the episode would live up to expectations.
But it did. It was a thrilling hour full of quotable quips, twists, turns, backstabbing, and the white trenchcoat to end all white trenchcoats. “Scandal” is back, bigger and badder than ever.
Father of the Year
The Olitz affair is the talk of cable news. After some arty black-and-white footage of all of our leads reacting to it, we go to Olivia (Kerry Washington) in the limo with Rowan (Joe Morton). He takes her to an airport hangar.
He tells her he was trying to kill Jake, not her. He tells her, “You raised your skirt and opened your knees and gave it away to a man with too much power.”
No wonder Olivia isn’t close to her dear old dad. He warns her the White House will go after her. She scoffs that Fitz would never hurt her.
Rowan retorts, “He is not in charge. Power is in charge.” He makes her recite his childhood mantra: “You have to be twice as good to get half of what they have.”
In the midst of a show that’s not aiming for realism, that’s a phrase that any woman or member of a minority group has heard at some point in her life.
It also could be the motto for Pope & Associates, where the solution to problems is usually some sort of Machiavellian compromise.
He mocks her desire to be First Lady as too lowly. “Do you have to be so mediocre?”
In his opinion, she should be aiming for Secretary of State. Apparently he’s not familiar with Hillary Clinton. He tells her that the plane contains papers for a new identity. It’s a chilling callback to what Olivia did to Quinn.
On the plane, Olivia borrows a flight attendant’s phone to call Cyrus (Jeff Perry). He tells her that she can’t leave because Fitz will assume he had her killed. She gets off the plane over Rowan’s objections and tells the driver to take her back to her office. He says “The White House will destroy you.” She retorts that’s what her mom used to say about him.
Scooped by the Style Section
James (Dan Bucatinsky) tells Cyrus about a bar named Malloy’s where the Secret Service drinks. Melli questions a Secret Service agent who admits he told a society reporter the president was cheating but not with whom. It’s fun to imagine the reaction of all the “serious” journalists when she brought in this scoop.
All About Olivia
At the office, Olivia tells the Gladiators it’s business as usual. Abby (Darby Stansfield) reveals that their clients are firing them.
Who wants to a crisis manager that’s in the midst of a crisis? Olivia’s plausible deniability disappears when a cable channel gets video footage of Fitz leaving Olivia’s building.
Cyrus orders an underling to start a kill folder on Olivia. Harrison tells the team they need to handle this crisis even if Olivia won’t.
Harrison (Columbus Short) calls Cyrus to tells him what a mess this will be politically and says, “It can’t be Liv.”
Cyrus hangs up on him. We learn from the kill folder that Olivia’s mother died in a plane crash when Olivia was 12, which means she is alive and well and living with a fake identity and will be played by Angela Bassett.
Rowan’s cover identity is as a Smithsonian employee. Olivia was a party girl after college and dated a lot of powerful older men. That undercuts the meant-to-be aspects of the Olitz relationship. It wasn’t just an attraction neither of them could fight. It was her pattern.
Rowan summons Olivia again. She demands to know what he did with Jake. Rowan says he refused an order, which is unforgivable in his business. He tells her she’s out of options. She retorts that she never is. Olivia places a call, recites a password and goes to a secret bunker where Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) is waiting.
She wears an awesome white trenchcoat that probably has its own Twitter account by now. He is pissed that she “pulled the fire alarm,” which she was only supposed to use for her own protection in the event of a war or disaster. I think this counts.
Olivia wants to make a plan to fix this, because that’s what she does. She also invited Melli (Bellamy Young). Fitz wants to tell the truth. Olivia lays out a plan for dealing with the media that involves Fitz and Melli doing interviews in which he says the affair was a mistake and Melli stands by him.
Then Olivia will issue a statement expressing remorse. Olivia agrees that the truth works. Melli points out why it won’t. The special prosecutor will want details. She is not going to hold his hand while he details that the affair lasted for years. Melli warns him: If he tries to paint this as a love story, she’ll air all their dirty laundry. Olivia wonders how many times would Melli be OK with them claiming they slept together. Melli says two. She spins a tale: After the inauguration then again after he got shot.
Melli leaves and we get the episode’s big Olitz shipper moment. Fitz asks her how she is. Olivia insists she is fine when she is anything but. He takes off his jacket and hugs her while she says, “Don’t,” and keeps her arms at her sides.
Eventually she hugs him back and cries in his arms. Then she pulls away and leaves, because she has to be twice as good and settle for half as much.
The Gladiators Go Rogue
Melli tells Cyrus she has a plan to stop the affair from going public. Meanwhile the gladiators have a mysterious DVD. They are uncertain about going behind Olivia’s back to save her. Harrison asks, “Are we gladiators or are we bitches?”
They hand the DVD to James. The footage is of Janine, Fitz’s communications aide drunkenly calling him hot. There are emails she sent to a friend confiding her attraction to the president. So much for a harmless, innocent crush. Cyrus tells Janine the White House will help her, but it’s clear she is screwed. Olivia’s name is cleared, as the media seizes on the story, though it seems like at least some reporters would suspect a cover up. Olivia is shocked. She asks her employees, “What did you do?”
Melli says she will not stand by Fitz if he doesn’t go along with the plan to frame Janine, who is devastated by the accusations. Melli says she knows that Fitz was the one who leaked Olivia’s name! She has a great speech about how boring it is to be First Lady and how she used her free time to figure out Fitz is the one who benefits the most from Olivia’s name leaking.
He told the Secret Service member to talk to the reporter. Fitz says she got his motivation wrong. This wasn’t about proclaiming his love. He leaked Olivia’s name so she wouldn’t be at Melli’s mercy. Now she’s free. I wonder if Olivia would agree that it was worth it.
Harrison tells Olivia there’s nothing wrong with self preservation. But in a great twist, Janine has wised up and hired Olivia to clear her name.
Fitz Has More Secrets
Cyrus goes home to find creepy Charlie pointing a gun at him. He’s drugged James. He takes Cyrus to Rowan who asks him about Operation Remington, Fitz’s naval mission where he met Jake. He shows Cyrus information about what really happened.
Whatever it is, it’s enough to make Cyrus say, “Oh my God.” Cover up of a massacre? Discovery of an alien space ship? What could it be?!