Just when we were getting sick of the impeachment runaround, the will-they-or-won’t-they Liv and Fitz wedding, and Mellie monologues (just kidding, I never get sick of Mellie monologues), Scandal gives us an episode to remind us all why we love the show in the first place.
As with last season’s Ferguson-inspired episode (“The Lawn Chair”) and this season’s Princess Diana/Kate Middleton/Amal Clooney mash-up (“Heavy is the Head”), the OPA plot this week revolved around a combination of current events, seamlessly blending together the Bill Cosby rape scandal and the issue of universities covering up campus rape cases.
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It starts off small: Fitz awards a Presidential Medal of Honor to a feminist writer named Frank Holland (yes, men can be feminists, too). He wrote a book that gave Abby the strength to leave her abusive husband, he’s started schools for girls all over the world, and plenty of female writers apparently owe their careers to him. As Quinn says, “It’s like he’s God’s gift to women, but for real.” Sound too good to be true? It is.
As Fitz is giving this dude an award, Liv gets a call that OPA has a client: A young woman named Hannah, who was one of Holland’s students. She claims he raped her and the school did nothing about it. It was two years ago, so it’s hard to prove, and when Liv confronts Holland and his wife, they bring up an issue Hannah had with plagiarism. Liv doesn’t think she’s lying about the rape, but this extra detail doesn’t look good and would be easy for the Hollands to spin.
So OPA starts digging, and they realize that not only has Holland raped nearly two-dozen women, but he did it under the premise of mentorship and drugged them to do it. Sound familiar? It also becomes clear that his wife not only knew about the rapes, but also provided him the drugs to do it — essentially claiming that he’s been such a help to women overall, a few rapes should barely register on his record.
Fitz can’t rescind the medal because they don’t have enough evidence, but they can create a different public scandal: One night as Holland is giving a reading at a university, all 22 women he raped descend the auditorium stairs and stand around him onstage. It’s like the New York magazine cover has come to life: There’s strength in numbers, and these women aren’t going to be invisible any longer. I admit, I got full-chills during this scene — I love to see Liv work her magic!
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On to the White House! Fitz gives a succinct apology speech, and the media agrees it’s one of his best. In a perfect transition, after the line “This is not a day to gloat,” we cut to the White House staffers popping champagne, as they should: It’s not every day you get to dodge impeachment! Abby asks Liv how in the world she dug up enough dirt on the committee members to get the trial dismissed, and Liv says, “I don’t want to lie to you. Don’t make me.” A second later, Fitz, Cyrus, and Abby are discussing Rowan’s (and Tom’s!) “perfect escape” from prison, and Liv, who can be a brilliant liar, pulls her best surprised/freaked-out face. “My father escaped? He’s out?” Everyone falls for it — everyone except Abby.
Oh, and Jake: Liv gets home, and Jake is creepily sitting on her couch, drunk off bad wine (she hasn’t had time to go shopping, okay?). “You let a mass murderer out of prison just because it served you,” he yells and then blames Elise’s death on Liv, which I guess is deserved. (The problem is, Elise wasn’t really around long enough for us to care about her, so…I don’t.) He tells her she’s become exactly what Rowan raised her to be: power-hungry and dangerous. And she tells him to get out. He does but not without giving her an unreciprocated and ill-intentioned kiss goodbye. We’ll see him again shortly, though: Fitz puts Jake in charge of finding Rowan.
The White House has another little problem, something other than Rowan and Holland: Liz North is still a little mad about the whole getting-fired-and-Cyrus-taking-her-job thing, so she just might make an appearance on my favorite TV show within a TV show, The Liberty Report with Sally Langston. What does she want in return for not spilling all the secrets she’s learned? Her job back or something of equal importance. She doesn’t have to be chief of staff, she says: She’d settle for HBIC.
Abby wants to give Liz whatever she wants, while David Rosen is trying to get her not to appear on the show just out of the goodness of her heart. This led to one of the funniest scenes of the episode, by far. Rosen, trying to flex his power muscles, points to his name plate:
Rosen: What does that say?
North: David Rosen?
Rosen: It doesn’t say attorney general? I thought it said attorney general.
Such a slick, self-aware joke, Scandal! I guess the writers do know they go a little heavy on the title-dropping (though this surely doesn’t mean they’ll stop). Anyway, Cyrus wants Fitz to detain Liz for the sake of national security, but Liv thinks Fitz should just let her go on the show.
NEXT: What will Liz do?
The Oval Office scenes in this episode were awesome: Liv and Fitz really seem like a team (I guess, technically not cool since she wasn’t elected, but we viewers like it). He takes all of her suggestions, and there’s even a cute part where they both say the same thing at the same time in response to Cyrus. The only person who isn’t into this, obviously, is Cyrus — the way his face twitches every time Liv answers a question instead of Fitz is hilarious. But he’s clearly a ticking time bomb.
Liz does go on the show, and to everyone’s surprise, she says she is mad — mad that everyone went on a fruitless quest to drag Fitz’s name through the mud. “I know for a fact that President Grant is a good man, a great man, who just happened to fall in love,” she says, and Sally’s jaw almost falls off of her face. But Liz is no saint: Fitz (and Liv) decided to give her a job as Susan Ross’ Chief of Staff. Which is going to be a problem because…
Earlier in the episode, Rosen and Susan Ross continued their adorable bonding from last week and made plans to hang out later. It really looked like this was going to be love union between two earthbound angels with moral compasses of gold — BUT THEN, Liz North goes into Rosen’s office after The Liberty Report to get her laptop back, and Rosen gives a huge speech about how much she hates her. But it turns out a little bit more like Julia Stiles’ poem in 10 Things I Hate About You: He doesn’t hate her… In fact, he might have a crush, and by the way North straddles him and whispers in his ear (and obviously the making out), it looks like she does, too.
But here’s the heartbreaking part: Ross practically skips down to Rosen’s office, wine coolers in hand (awww!!!) for them to hang, but his secretary says he’s in a meeting. “I don’t want to interrupt,” she says, cheerfully. “I’ll wait… It’s weird to wait, isn’t it? I’m not going to wait.” After a few tragic back-and-forth moments (does she know what they’re doing in there?), she leaves the wine coolers for Rosen and goes.
Since there was a huge, Mellie-shaped hole in this episode, the best scene was left for someone else to steal. This week, that honor goes to Cyrus, who pulls Liv into a stern discussion about her oversized role in the Oval Office. “Here’s why you’re so good,” Cyrus says. “You didn’t have to give up your career… You’re not saddled with any of the prisoner duties that come with being the First Lady. Fitz isn’t even in the picture. He’s happy. He’s content. He was never meant to be happy — happy, content men don’t run the world. He does whatever you say without question. You have pulled off a clean, bloodless coup in the United States of America and no one is the wiser.”
Liv counters: “You seem to be unfamiliar with how humans behave. This is what a couple looks like.”
“You have the Oval,” Cyrus says. “This is what power looks like. He’s not the president anymore, Olivia. You are.” Oh, I got goosebumps! How long have we been waiting to hear that line? Sure, I’d love Mellie in the White House, but Liv? As long as we kill Rowan first, I’d love to see her there for real, too. Although maybe behind-the-scenes puppeteering is the best way for her to do this. In the very last scene, it seems like maybe Liv is going to step back and let Fitz do his thang, but nope. After he tells her it seems like her father has disappeared for good — Is he lying? Does he know more than he’s letting on? — Liv throws back some whiskey and continues her presidenting, by way of Fitzgerald Grant.
I am loving this! But here’s the question: Now that Olivia is “president,” how on earth is she going to help Mellie win? Will she change her mind? Will she want to run herself once Fitz’s term is up? And if she doesn’t help Mellie, how will this whole “releasing Rowan” business play out?