I feel like I’m saying that every week. Every week I sit down to put my Scandal feelings into words, and all I can think is a mix of “Oh my god,” “What just happened?!” and “WHAT?!” And then I think, “Oh, I can’t write that, so I’ll just say this: ‘Everything has changed.‘ There. That has a nice ring to it.’”
Point being, every week I’m feeling like I’m saying everything has changed. And maybe that’s because, every week, everything is changing on Scandal.
But people? This week?
EVERYTHING HAS SERIOUSLY CHANGED.
We hadn’t even made it to the title card before we saw what happened in that elevator with Hollis and Charlie: Huck jumped in at the last moment to save not only Hollis’ life, but Charlie’s as well… as long as everybody keeps their mouths shut. And with that, we’ve seen the last of Hollis. For now at least. Olivia finally confronts Cyrus about the dark path he was about to go down (still in the dark that he also killed Amanda Tanner), and he promises to never do such a thing ever again. He seems sincere, but is he being honest? It doesn’t take long before we get the answer to that, and the answer is a resounding “no.” And Fitz stands firm on his decision to divorce Mellie, whether or not Olivia chooses to wait for him – something he pleads with her to do. Olivia doesn’t know how to process it all, though it’s clear she wants to give in so badly. She says she’ll “think about it.”
We hadn’t even made it to the first commercial break before we found out who really tried to kill Fitz – and it was one of the last people I would have ever expected: Verna. But why? Why would Verna feel the need to assassinate Fitz after rigging the election to get him in office to get what she wanted? Because she’s dying, and because she’s feeling guilty and wants to “restore trust in America.” It’s a weak argument until Olivia figures out her true motivation behind the assassination attempt: she’s trying to keep her reputation untarnished. Verna knows she’s holding all of the cards in this situation, and she’s smart about it, realizing that by confessing their crimes, they are going to be causing more harm than they will good. And Verna’s dying anyways, so what does it matter? As long as her legacy is untouched and her conscious is cleared, she’s happy. She calls David Rosen… But not before Fitz shows up to visit Verna in the hospital.
When Olivia fills in her team of Gladiators as to who actually tried to kill Fitz (a revelation that leads to an insensitive yet hilarious chuckle from Huck), Huck reveals that the device used to listen in on David as he was investigating the election rigging is still around. “Bobblehead Lives,” Huck declares, and with that, Abby learns that Olivia had been listening in on David’s apartment and that thanks to the assassination attempt, Huck had forgotten to shut it down. All of the recordings are brought in to the offices for the associates to listen to, to see if they can find out what David knows and how he knows it. And so begins one of the best montage sequences Scandal has ever done, as recording after recording, the associates are privy to David and Abby’s now-defunct sex life and she acquires quite the stack of dirty CDs, which ultimately ends with Huck not being able to look at Abby quite the same.
Mellie is determined to get Fitz to stop talking divorce. She isn’t going to take this lying down, informing Cyrus that if they can’t get him to stop and he actually proceeds with trying to divorce her, she will do everything in her power to bury him, by crushing his political career, taking all of his money, and snatching away custody of his children before running for office herself. It’s a powerful speech and only continues to show how far Mellie will go to maintain her power and political standing. And I feel the need to give a special shout-out to the great exchange that took place at the beginning of their conversation, as Cyrus asked Mellie if she knew about Verna’s current state, to which she replies, “Very sad, may she rest in peace,” before moving back to the topic of divorce without even taking a breath. It’s ironic, in light of Verna’s true nature that we know about but Mellie does not.
Back at Olivia Pope & Associates, Huck’s finally found something on one of the recordings. After they all hear David repeatedly refer to someone that is his informant and collaborator, David finally lets slip that this person’s name is James, who is refusing to cooperate with David any longer. But James is David’s only link to the corrupted memory card from Defiance, so David refuses to let James simply stay in the background, informing him that he will be subpoenaed. Abby agrees to go to David’s house to steal the memory card from his safe, and James finally confronts Cyrus about everything he’s been investigating for the past several months.
The time has come, and James wants answers. Now that he’s been subpoenaed, there is no going back, and James knows enough about the election rigging plot that he won’t just drop it, demanding that Cyrus tell him everything. Cyrus, however, is hesitant to tell him everything that happened, worried that James could be setting him up, and forces James to strip to ensure that he is not wearing a wire. In retaliation, James forces the same of Cyrus, and one of the most fascinating scenes of exposition in television history takes place, as Cyrus explains the motives and details behind the election rigging plot to James as they both stand naked in their bedroom. He confesses to stealing the White House, explaining that he always wanted to be President of the United States – but can’t be, because he isn’t tall enough or pretty enough and likes men too much, so he has to settle for being Chief of Staff: the man behind the presidency. It was the highest he could go, and he wasn’t willing to lose his shot at that, so he rigged the election in order to ensure his chance at power and his chance at the White House.
Abby figures out that Olivia is the one who ended her relationship with David, as she finally realizes that he never actually attacked any woman at all, and that he really did love her. She confesses that it was Harrison who helped her accomplish this, and Abby feels completely betrayed, but Harrison won’t take any of her crap.
SHE HAD A REASON. I don’t know what it is, I don’t need to know. She asked me to do something, I did it. And you know why I did: There’s a problem, you fix it. You and David Rosen were a problem, you know who we are, you know what this is, don’t pretend you don’t. We do what needs to be done and we don’t question why. We put the personal to the left, it doesn’t matter who gets hurt, it doesn’t matter what gets broke. It’s not the thing that needs fixing, it DOES NOT MATTER. You wanna cry about your feelings? Hmm? Really? Here? You don’t get to have feelings, that’s the job. Gladiators don’t have feelings. We rush into battle, we’re soldiers. We get hurt in the fight, we suck it up and we hold it down, we don’t question. And you know it, Abby. She saved me. She saved Huck, she saved Quinn. She saved you. And it’s her life on the line now. Over a cliff, Abby. OVER. A. CLIFF.
Abby doesn’t respond, but she heads straight to David’s apartment, where they reunite and seem to rekindle their romance. Cyrus and Olivia realize it’s all about to come out, but Cyrus reveals that he has one last card to play, and he calls Charlie, sending him to tail James and kill him before he sets foot in the Supreme Court to testify against anybody. This scene might have honestly been the most intense moment of the entire episode for me, and I honestly believed that James was about to bite the dust as Cyrus struggled with the decision to have his husband killed, resorting to a last-ditch effort to call him and try to persuade him against testifying. Charlie pulls out the gun to shoot when Cyrus won’t make up his mind, and I. Lose. My. Breath. For that split second, I didn’t breath, and then Cyrus changed his mind at the last moment, sparing James’ life.
Quinn tries to hire Huck to kill Hollis Doyle. She wants revenge for the Cytron explosion, her framing, and Jesse’s death, but Huck convinces her otherwise, saying that by having him kill Hollis, she can’t ever return to Olivia Pope & Associates. She will have to leave and go back to being Lindsay Dwyer, because Gladiators don’t do revenge. That’s not what they do, and she can’t keep mixing her old life as Lindsay with her new life as Quinn, leading her to back down off the ledge, agreeing not to kill him.
James lies to the Grand Jury, saying he found nothing in Defiance and screwing David over. Again. This guy just can’t catch a break, and it almost feels like a crime because he seems like the only truly good person on the entire show. Yet, it’s hard to feel completely bad for him, as he’d likely have ended up locking half the cast in jail had James testified. But that’s not it for David, as David discovers the corrupted Cytron card is missing from his safe, so he barges in to the offices of Olivia Pope & Associates, accusing Abby of stealing the card and demanding it back. He doesn’t believe it, however, when she says she doesn’t have it and declares that he is done with Abby and their relationship. When David storms out, Abby reveals that she had the card all along and hands it over to Olivia, proving her loyalty to Olivia and the Gladiators.
Edison reappears, actually using the doorbell this time at Olivia’s apartment, and she officially ends their relationship as she gives him back the engagement ring he had given her (which just so happened to be the same ring he gave he the first time… Really, dude? Really?). He’s upset, and she tries to explain that she could be happy being married to him, but that that isn’t what she wants. It isn’t enough for her. “I want painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love,” Olivia says. “Love is not supposed to be painful or devastating. Love isn’t supposed to hurt,” Edison replies in probably the most poignant thing he’s ever said, before walking out of her life. Hopefully for good.
Olivia finds Fitz at Verna’s funeral, agreeing to wait for him – as long as he needs. But Fitz is cold. Distant. “I changed my mind about that,” Fitz says, refusing to let her wait for him, before revealing that he knows about the election rigging plot and the role she played in it. Because, you see, there’s a whole part to this story we hadn’t seen yet, and that was the conversation that took place between Verna and Fitz at the hospital…
Verna details Fitz about, well, about everything. She confesses to trying to assassinate him before telling him that Hollis rigged the election and everybody knew about it, including Mellie, Cyrus… and Olivia. The admission crushes Fitz, and changes every fiber of his being. And, suddenly, he doesn’t know who Olivia is anymore. And he’s angry that Verna tried to kill him, but he realizes the reason why: she wants to leave her legacy untouched and keep her grip on power. But Verna says she doesn’t care anymore, and she’s going to confess it all before she dies. And then something clicks in my head.
“He’s going to kill her.“
And he does. He almost leaves, and lets Verna confess, before deciding at the last moment to not let that happen, because he doesn’t want to lose his grip on power either. He doesn’t want his legacy tarnished and he doesn’t want to lose his presidency. He promises to keep Verna’s legacy intact before removing her oxygen line and holding her hands down, effectively suffocating her. Verna dies, and it’s at Fitz’s hand, to keep a grip on his power.
The game has changed.
Fitz returns to the White House, confessing to Mellie that he thought it was her who tried to kill him because she tried to call the entire birthday party off the night of the attempt. But she says it was just a feeling, and she would never try to kill him. Fitz says he can’t trust anybody, but Mellie wants him to trust her. He asks if she loves him. Mellie doesn’t respond except with a gasp, and then after processing, she says that she’s always loved him. And with that, Fitz realigns himself with Mellie. Because, you see, he expects anything and everything from Mellie. She faked a miscarriage to win votes, for God’s sake. Mellie is ruthless and wants a grip on power, and Fitz is now ruthless and wants a grip on power. They are aligned.
And Olivia is sitting alone and broken in a church.
The game. It has changed.