This episode was slow. Sure, it started with a big “VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED” warning—which means Huck and Quinn get their fingernail-pulling, leg-drilling torture on—but overall, kind of a bore. In Shondaland, though, a slow episode is a bad sign. It’s the calm before the storm. And after all that “Is Jake dead or isn’t he?” nonsense from three weeks ago (and all that other nonsense if you watch Grey’s Anatomy), I just don’t feel like I have the stamina for a storm next week. Can’t Papa Pope just have a heart attack from all his pontificating and we can call it a season?
In a continuation of the wish fulfillment we saw in “The Lawn Chair,” (Scandal‘s Washington is somehow both scarier and saner than our real world), this episode saw all the ladies—VP Susan, Mellie, Abby, Olivia, and Quinn—working together to get justice for a female naval officer who was raped by a four-star admiral on her ship. Fitz and Rosen, of course, pulled some favors, too, at the ladies’ beckoning.
Everyone’s hero Susan Ross, notices a suspicious-looking bruise on Ensign Amy Martin’s wrist while visiting a naval ship. She immediately figures out how to get Martin alone to ask her about the assault that caused the bruise, and though Martin doesn’t admit it, Susan understands that she was raped. Cut to a hilarious exchange in the Oval Office, where Cyrus and Fitz bellow, “You stole a United States servicewoman!” Fitz goes on about it “not being our place” to prosecute military crimes—they have their own systems for that. But Susan doesn’t waver. Watch out, Olivia—there’s a new psychic “gut” in town.
Susan asks for Liv’s help, and OPA takes on the case. Liv consults Abby, who’s more in the mood for girl talk. So, Jake’s living with Olivia now? What happened to the suave guy with the abs? (Oh, he’s bleeding in Lois’ apartment, next to Quinn and Huck’s torture toys. Missing a few fingernails. More on that later.) As Abby and David Rosen reluctantly tell Liv what is and is not legal when it comes to trying a military case, Mellie gets involved too, because the only thing people want to ask is about the rape case, not about her Senate run. If Fitz will protect Amy, she’ll come forward. “Can I assume because we’re not monsters that the answer is yes?” Mellie asks. Not monsters? Has Mellie met anyone on this show?
The case goes to the military judicial system, and Liv and Quinn meet with the JAG who’s assigned to Amy’s case—a bumbling, green fool named Virgil Plunkett who’s never tried a rape case before, because obviously if the military wants to win, they’re not going to give their opponent a competent lawyer. Liv tries to step in and question the Admiral, but she has “no standing” in a military proceeding, so she has to pass notes to the kid lawyer to get him to ask the right questions. Eventually, the admiral says he wasn’t even on the ship when the rape allegedly happened, but the military won’t turn over the security records to confirm it. Abby shows up at OPA and wants to help: The band’s back together!
I can never decide if it’s a crutch or a smart power move when she calls Fitz and persuades him to do what she says… but anyway, they get the files. The military can’t really say no to the Commander-in-Chief; it’s kind of in his title.
NEXT: Rowan’s boys bond
Meanwhile, some interesting stuff is happening in the torture chamber across the hall. Russell’s missing a couple pieces of himself and probably a few quarts of blood, but he still won’t talk. He’s not just B613, remember—he’s Rowan’s puppy, so he’s basically a murdering robot who can withstand any torture. “What is Foxtail?” Quinn, Huck, and Liv ask over and over. Of course he doesn’t answer, and when they take the gag out of his mouth for a second, he immediately tries to get at the cyanide caplet in his teeth to end things. But as Olivia told her former flame, “You don’t get to die.”
Very Alive Jake (if he were a Ken doll I would collect them all) is recuperating in Liv’s bed. He’s obviously realized they’re torturing Russell, which he thinks is a completely stupid idea. “He will never talk. He’s not your average B613 agent. He’s like me,” Jake explains to Liv. He lists their similarities and spins a tale of an assembly line, manned by Rowan. “Your father made Russell and he made me,” he says, like Command is a regular old Geppetto. “We both came off the same assembly line. The only difference is that I’m in love with you. Command would call that a defect. Russell does not have that defect.”
This is Scandal‘s writing when it’s back at its best. Jake didn’t have to repeat every phrase six times to ensure we understood, there’s an evocative image, and a sappy-but-not-sappy confession of love. More of this, please, and less of Fitz and Liv breathing heavily into the phone.
Then, Jake goes into Russell’s blood-spattered quarters, ungags him, and the two share a couple beers while talking about Rowan. They toss around lines that seem weirdly wistful—I’m sorry, but I couldn’t get the idea of a pimp and his boys out of my mind. Listen to these lines: “Never met any of Rowan’s others before”; “He talks about you differently. Like he misses you,” “You should feel good about it. He’ll be proud of you.” But when they start imitating Rowan’s pompous speeches and mocking his pretentious obsession with red wine, it’s funny again. Jake explains to Russell that Rowan wanted Olivia to catch Russell—that’s always part of the plan. “She has to know,” he says. “That’s how he lets her know Papa Pope is in charge.” Russell asks if Jake will keep her safe. So he did like her after all? Then he relegates himself back to torture. B613 is weird.
Back to Amy Martin: Liv and co. solve the case (the Admiral was on the ship, just got his minion to swipe his badge elsewhere to make it look like he wasn’t), and then we’re at the press conference with Abby, who explains that the president is confident justice will be served. Fitz tells Mellie, who was understandably nervous to campaign in Springfield because that’s where Jerry died, to throw him under the bus during her speech, so she can further separate herself from his ideology and become her own politician. She calls for an independent judicial body dedicated to fighting sexual assault claims, and the crowd goes wild. Like I said earlier: wish fulfillment. Wouldn’t it be great if government-wide change were so easy for everyone to get behind?
So now, about five minutes from the end of the episode, all the metaphorical little bugs crawl out from under the nice, safe rocks. The moronic, young JAG lawyer shows up at Lois’ place and jabs a needle into Huck, just as Quinn notices, back on the naval base, that the photo above the name “Virgil Plunkett” does not match their guy. Guess what? He wasn’t who he said he was—he’s B613. (Is Olivia going to end up being B613? Is Shonda B613? Who isn’t these days?!) The real Virgil Plunkett was murdered. The imposter unties Russell and makes sure he didn’t spill the beans on Foxtail.
After Mellie’s speech, she’s walking through the halls to meet some important person. I thought she was about to get assassinated or something huge, but fortunately, we were spared any blood. We see a guard say into his radio, “Foxtail secured,” and Mellie comes face to face with… Rowan Pope. MELLIE IS FOXTAIL? Agh!
What does Rowan want with Mellie? Of course this is some sort of ploy to get at Olivia, but how, exactly? Let’s hear your theories, team…