“They all love you.” So Tom tells Olivia this episode when she goes to interrogate him in prison. He’s talking, of course, about his commanders, Rowan and Jake, and his charge, the President. It’s a theme that’s been very apparent in this fall’s episodes. After the huge conspiracies of last season, this year Scandal has put a tight focus back on Olivia, and specifically on her relationships with the most important men in her life. “The face that launched a thousand ships,” Tom says, making the parallel to Helen of Troy over-explicit. But, unlike Helen, Olivia Pope is so much more than just a pretty face.
Jake remains locked away, but Liv has two charged conversations with the other titanic figures in her life. By giving the President a generalized promise of “hope,” she’s got him back on a routine of calling and texting her, even (reluctantly) giving her information on Jake. But this doesn’t stop her from pushing him for more—specifically to talk about his suicide attempt. “I have people who will sweep you in here and erase your presence in a matter of minutes. I am very powerful, you know,” he tells her, trying to push her to come to him. When that doesn’t work, he makes a different, and much more successful kind of power play: a little bit of dirty talk, letting her know what he’d give her if she came (to the White House). Olivia’s immune to the allure of Fitz’s presidential power, but she can’t deny his ability to rile her up on a personal and physical level. Liv is defenseless against him in any situation where they can step outside their lives and just be Fitz and Olivia.
Meanwhile, Rowan is starting down the warpath. Liv finds him waiting for her in his apartment, but not for some Pope-family whining and wining—he’s furious that she went to see Tom. He’s furious that she’s still wondering after and worrying about Jake’s case. “You do not disrespect me ever,” he commands her. “I have spent a lifetime keeping you safe from harm. A lifetime worrying about your fate. A lifetime making sure that the path in front of you is clear of debris.” Rowan sounds like any other parent (often when talking to a teenager)—do parents ever feel their children understand the totality of what they do, what they give up, for their offspring? But, of course, Rowan is not just a parent who feels unappreciated and misunderstood. He’s also the invisible hand behind the government, a man who loves his control, his power, as much as he loves his daughter. And while Liv in the past hasn’t exactly been the obedient daughter, now she’s in outright rebellion.
“You never ever choose one of them over me, again,” Rowan orders her. So, naturally Olivia chooses both of them! She turns Tom by making him think Command has ordered his death, with a calculated and bloody gambit that proves more than anything else exactly whose daughter she is. Fitz hears the evidence, and before you know it, Liv, Jake, and the president are all in the super-secret safe room, plotting how to take down Rowan.
NEXT: The saga of Abby Whelan