So, have you been holding your breath since the end of last week’s episode, anxiously awaiting the reveal of who Olivia’s buyer is? I hope not, because that would lead to asphyxiation, and frankly, your death wouldn’t be worth it. After all that buildup, we do indeed see a young Iranian woman. She’s chatting with her team on the phone in Farsi while eyeing Liv’s kidnappers—just the wedge Olivia needed. She tells her kidnappers that the Iranian is mobilizing a plan to double cross them. Then, busting out some suprise Farsi, she tells the Iranian buyer that she’s being setup by Gus and co. The deal’s off, and the auction for Olivia Pope is back on—if you weren’t squicked by the auctioning off of a black woman, combined with Huck’s lovely diatribe about her being not a person but a collection of body parts, well, there’s another opportunity this week.
Our narrative cleaves once again to follow two camps. Thanks to Jake’s newfound coziness with the White House, the faithful of Pope and Associates know the Iranian deal is off and they fire up Marie Wallace’s black market identity. Both Quinn and Jake also take this moment to reach out to Huck about his mental stability. Jake tries the old “you and I are the same” routine, noting that he has locked away the side of him that enjoys a little ultraviolence (particularly the sound of snapping bones—ew), and that Huck has to do that, too. Quinn goes for extracting a promise from Huck that he won’t kill anyone again, and that he needs to maintain his sanity for her sake. So, a lovely cocktail of repression and guilt and dependency. If gladiator-ing doesn’t work out, Quinn and Jake, do not become therapists.
Their entry into the auction is a success. Crazy Gus recognizes Marie Wallace’s name and deduces that she’s making a comeback. Liv recognizes her name and realizes someone’s trying to get her. When the auction ends in an exact tie between Wallace and a group of Russians, Gus asks Liv how to proceed. Crazy Gus who shot a man in the back of the head. Crazy Gus who hates her. So, naturally Liv tells him Marie Wallace. And he promptly sells her to the Russians. Frankly, no one is on their game this episode.
The White House is actually more of a camp divided. They’ve given up on the working with terrorists to outbid other terrorists (thank goodness). Fitz is gung ho about plans to extract Olivia at the first opportunity, regardless of his experts’ 30 percent success rate predictions. Navy Seals are the best! They can totally bring her home, no problem, because in Fitz’s world a Navy Seal apparently isn’t a human so much as an… armored robot? Just last episode we heard a stirring speech about how guilty he felt for sending men to their deaths with an eye to getting his girlfriend back. Sending more men to their probable deaths definitely seems like the best course of action. Despite hearing a lengthy dissertation on the numerous state secrets Olivia knows (and really, how did she get to know all this stuff? Does everyone in the situation room know she’s boning the president and just accept it?) and how dangerous it is for the state if she is captured, he refuses to consider ordering her death.
Is it time to talk about what a bad president Fitzgerald Grant is? Or rather, not a bad president—he’s no Andrew Johnson, though he did just start a war over a woman. Rather, let’s talk about what an empty suit Fitz seems to be. He’s been elected twice by the machinations of those around him. His policy initiatives (the few we’ve seen) make their way through Congress on the strength of his associates conniving behind the scenes. This is not to say, oh, that’s not how politics works, bribery and bitchery and back-door dealing seem to be the norm. It’s Fitz’s serene unawareness of all the muck everyone else is slogging through that is weird. He’s got his priorities (Liv), and the rest of the world can kind of go hang.
NEXT: What Cyrus has to say…[pagebreak]
It’s no wonder Cyrus sits in the Oval Office and fantasizes about unleashing on his boss and slamming his door on the way out. “I made you a leader of men,” he rants in his fantasy. “And this is what you leave me with!” The frustration is understandable—Cyrus has devoted his career to making Fitz president, and keeping him president. He knows that working Fitz’s levers, which he is very good at, is the closest he will get to the presidency. I’m amazed Cyrus hasn’t cracked earlier. Years and years of cleaning up and smoothing out things for a man who’s too self-involved to see what’s going on must weigh on you. It’s also no surprise that Cyrus takes the Olivia Pope affair into his own hands and decides that the plan to kill her, and the many state secrets she holds, is the best approach.
It’s terribly lucky for Liv that Abby works out what’s going on. Cyrus has done his level best to shut her out of everything, but like a paranoid terrier, Abby just keeps worrying away at the problem of Liv’s rescue. She goes to complain to David Rosen, who very reasonably notes that he doesn’t have the full faith of the White House. For any other attorney general, I would say that was a bad thing, but it’s almost a badge of merit that the Grant White House doesn’t trust you. Means you’re doing something right. She confronts Cyrus and he admits without admitting to her that Liv’s death is the national security plan—then threatens to arrest her. She tells the rest of the gladiators that Liv is in trouble, in the hope that this will get them to mobilize. She calls Interpol. Jake ends up on a lakeside in Canada with none other than Rowan Pope, who has taken up the leisurely life of a fisherman. He’s still mad at Liv, and in no mood to help Pope and Associates, giving Jake a minute-plus rant on why fishing is better than dealing with the D.C. circus. “Unbelievable! I’ve been gone how long? Has it been a week and already you’ve lost—no, sorry, not lost. She’s been taken,” he snaps. Pleasure to see you, again, Rowan. I bet he feels vindicated now.
As the tradeoff with the Russians approaches, Cyrus is in a war room, ready to launch a missile to take Liv and her captors out. A tense face-off occurs as Cyrus and the trigger-happy national security agent trade commands to fire/not-fire the weapons. Hold your horses, lady, Cyrus knows the Russian! And holy deus ex machina, former gladiator Stephen Finch (Henry Ian Cusick) gets out of the car on the Russian side. Turns out Abby called in a favor and got him to pick Liv up. There was never any question that Liv was going to come out of this whole kidnapping situation in one piece, but I’ll admit, pulling Stephen out of nowhere to save her was a surprise. Olivia makes it home and adds another lock to her door (bringing the total up to four) and rebuffs Jake’s offer to stay, only to find Fitz at her doorway. But she’s not having any of it. Where Cyrus merely dreamed about giving Fitz a piece of his mind, Liv lets him have it. “I have been riding and dying for you,” she tells him. “I fixed an election for you. Sacrificed everything to keep you in office.” Finally, they’ve come to the fundamental division in their relationship. Fitz believes his overwhelming love for Liv, his mythic obsession and willingness to give up everything for her is what matters. Olivia loves Fitz, but since day one she’s been working and loving more than just Fitz the man—she’s been riding and dying for Fitz as both man and idea, as a person and as the president she believed he could be. That’s all come shattering down pretty hard right now.
Meanwhile, the C-plot running beneath all this is how Mellie’s going to get out from under Andrew’s thumb. He’s walking away from the veep’s office scot-free, but promises Mellie that if he can’t aspire to the presidency, he’s going to make sure she can’t either. Mellie, to her credit, goes stone-cold, pulling Liz North into her corner to help take Andrew down. Earlier in this season Liz North looked like she might be an admirable foil for the White House, a scheming, hard-nosed nemesis from within their own party. Now, she’s little more than a gofer for the White House’s various factions. Liz asks Huck to take care of Andrew, promising him “full creative control” of the task. When the Liv situation appears to be blown, he opts to inject a naked Veep with something that gives him a massive and debilitating stroke—while Liz looks on, fully and pristinely dressed, ready to call the ambulance. That’ll raise some questions. Mellie, as regal as Lady Macbeth and much more effective, visits her now-impaired former-lover. “You brought this on yourself,” she whispers, stroking his cheek. Mellie Grant is taking what she wants. Her husband may have checked out of the political game, but she’s all in and really ready to start playing.