Are you sick of debates yet? At least two have overlapped with TGIT this election cycle (sorry, politics — recapping comes first!), and now they’ve crossed over to being on Scandal itself.
But for all the promos teasing the “Great Debate,” the Republican match-up only took up a small chuck of this episode. Hollis Doyle was Peak Hollis Doyle, saying Trump-like things about who should and shouldn’t be allowed in our country, while Mellie held her own against questions from Sally Langston and shots from Doyle about Fitz. And Susan…well, Susan wasn’t doing so hot. When asked to add anything after Doyle’s immigration comments, all she manages is, “It’s a big problem. We need to do better.” Her head clearly isn’t in the game.
During a commercial break, she gets a call from Fitz, who tells her she only needs one good moment to turn her debate performance around. And she gets it off of a comment from Mellie about women not being their husbands’ keepers. Sally asks Susan if she agrees, and she starts speaking of her late husband, who was killed by a Taliban sniper while he was in Afghanistan and protecting land for a pipeline being built by the likes of Hollis Doyle. She didn’t tell him that didn’t seem right to her, and then he died — and after that she vowed to never stay silent again.
“We’re not our husbands’ keepers but maybe we should be America’s,” she says. The crowd gives her a standing ovation, and headlines the next day declare her the debate winner. The media also captures David Rosen on stage with her as he promised he’d do, despite her dumping his butt for being a spineless cheater.
Mellie is bruised by her debate loss, but Olivia vows to get her the Oval come hell or high water, sounding just like her father. Let’s not forget, she’s got that envelope with dirt on Susan Ross…which notes that she and the husband she spoke so passionately about at the debate weren’t actually married. It’s intel they can’t go public with until they find out more — if she was just trying to protect their daughter that’s one thing, but if she collected veterans’ benefits she wasn’t entitled to, that’d be another story. Following the money turned up no deposits from the Army into her bank accounts, but it did reveal a payment to a lab for a DNA test, which means that man isn’t Casey’s father.
Liv and Alex Vargas meet to swap another set of dirty scoops — she gives him a second source to back up her intel on Edison Davis’ time in rehab, but she wants to know who fathered Susan Ross’ daughter. That brings them to a prison where a man named Ronnie, who was Susan’s childhood sweetheart, is now serving time for a drug conviction. He denies the affair, but Olivia offers to help him get out of prison early if he takes a paternity test, which he says he’ll think about after she presses him. Huck, meanwhile, is the only person to raise the point that this would destroy Casey’s life. Quinn and Liv aren’t fazed. Politics, right?
On the other side of last week’s dirt swap, Alex Vargas wants to leak the Edison Davis story to the press, which his brother is initially resistant to and Cyrus agrees with. But they go forward after Liv gives Alex the second source, and Frankie gives public comments about it on television, questioning whether this makes his opponent unfit for the presidency.
Not surprisingly, Davis is pissed and knows Olivia was involved. He asks Rowan to stop her before she does anything else, and he gets on the receiving end of a Grade A Papa Pope Speech (trademark pending) about whether or not he wants to be a boss before telling Davis he’ll handle it.
But it seems he doesn’t have to, at least for Meridian Terrace — the nurse goes public and refutes the story, claiming Edison Davis never went there for treatment and it was wrong for Vargas to comment publicly about it. Vargas subsequently pulls his brother from taking the lead on managing his campaign and tells him to answer to Cyrus. (Naturally, this was his and Tom’s handiwork.)
NEXT: Olivia and Fitz “keep it real”[pagebreak]
Ronnie decides he doesn’t want to go through with the paternity test, and Olivia gets mad. Like, threatening to plant contraband in his cell, “you have no idea what I’m capable of”-level mad. She bullies him into doing it, and yes, he’s the father. But Huck won’t leak the story to the press, again refusing to destroy a girl’s life because their candidate is down in the polls.
Even Quinn is startled by this side of her boss and goes to Abby to talk about how Liv’s crossing every line she comes near. They devise a plan that includes surprising Olivia at OPA with a visit from Fitz, who wants to “keep it real” with her and brings up how they fixed his election through dirty tactics. (F: “You think I wanted to win that way?!”; O: “You think anyone did?”) He says they have a chance to do things in a more honorable way this time around: “We don’t have to be these people anymore.”
He makes a similar case to Susan when he tells her about Olivia’s plan. He can make the Ronnie revelation go away, he tells her, but she could also come clean to the American people and admit she’s imperfect and own up to her mistake. He thinks people would respect that and support her. Susan argues she couldn’t do that to her daughter, but Fitz says if she decides against coming clean it would be more for her presidential ambitions than for Casey.
And then he comes clean about his own journey to the White House. “I was not fairly elected to this office. I did not earn it,” he tells her, adding, “I am going to tell you a story, and you’re going to tell me who you want to be. And I hope who you want to be is better than me.”
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Across the country in L.A., Mellie is preparing for a Jimmy Kimmel Live! appearance. Gotta love that ABC synergy. Olivia sent a reluctant Marcus along with the former first lady for the trip, where he convinces her to gamely do a round of Mean Tweets on television after telling her some of the ones sent about him when he ran for mayor (#HighBooty). It’s a chance to show the American people another side of her, he argues. So she goes for it, and the audience loves it.
Back in D.C., Susan goes through the motions of pretending she and David are together for the press, but even though he says he loves her and begs her forgiveness, she still wants nothing to do with him. And we don’t get to find out what she decided about Ronnie because, before she can say anything, we find out he hanged himself in his cell.
And the episode ends with Fitz and Liv back at OPA, sharing a drink and toasting to running a clean race. Think they’ll both stick to it? My vote: a very diplomatic (dare I say political?) “Maybe.”