Well, folks — I think the biggest takeaway this week is neither the Rowan stuff (which we’ll get to in a sec) nor the Liv and Fitz drama (ditto), but the fact that we can add another fictional country to our Scandal world map. The Republic of Bandar, which Twitter seems to agree is a thinly veiled version of Iran, joins Caledonia and West Angola as countries we think we recognize but don’t. It makes Scandal feel a little bit close to The Twilight Zone — which would actually explain a lot of the weird stuff that happens here, wouldn’t it?
Here’s the deal with Bandar: The U.S. has been trying to sign a disarmament deal with the country for years (Parks and Rec’s Jay Jackson, who also plays a news anchor on Scandal, tells us the exact number down to the day, but I couldn’t type fast enough because I always forget to take him seriously). It seems like it’s finally happening, until a sharp young translator named Navid gets Liv’s attention at dinner and asks for asylum, offering the location of a secret nuclear facility in return.
Liv’s gut — I’ve missed that faithful ol’ thing! — tells her he’s being honest, but Fitz doesn’t want the White House involved in any investigation. “That’s why my people should do it,” Liv says. Fitz replies: “Find it before noon.” To buy time, he has Susan Ross cause a diversion, and in her perfect way, she tells the press she’d like the treaty “a whole lot better if those 12 million girls in Bandar were allowed to go to school…but what do I know? I’m just a woman…a heartbeat away from the presidency.” Can I hang a Susan Ross poster on my wall?
In a pretty slick move that reminded me of early Scandal, we see the translator choke and collapse at a meeting, and I thought, “Oh great, he’s already dead.” But then it turns out Liv gave him some sort of pill in order to get him to the hospital — i.e. to get him alone and find out the location of the nuclear facility. Brilliant!
Unfortunately, the building, OPA finds, turns out to be your average soda factory, so Liv goes back to the hospital and chews Navid out, calling him a liar and promising that he’ll be shipped back to Bandar as soon as possible. Of course, that’s about the time that Huck realizes there is something going on at the facility: It’s just not a nuclear plant. It’s actually massive computer lab dedicated to launching cyberattacks on the west. Whoa! Liv rushes back to the hospital to find Navid bloodied and almost dead after slicing his wrists with a scalpel. He’d rather die than go back to Bandar because, as Liv realizes, he’s gay — so going back would mean being killed anyway or worse.
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Meanwhile, Fitz is millimeters away from signing the treaty in front of a gazillion flashing cameras when Liv calls Abby and tells her to stop Fitz. In a rare sighting of Fitz doing something remotely presidential, he makes a grand show of picking up the pen and putting its cap back on. You go, guy. Later, just after they sign the treaty for real, he whispers to Bandar’s leader that he’s about to blow up their cyber facility. And he gives Navid asylum: Happy endings for all!
Now onto the tough stuff. Cyrus wants the FBI, CIA, and all the big guns to go after Rowan, but Fitz shuts him up with Liv’s own catchphrase: “It’s being handled.” Still, Cyrus is a shifty dude, and he figures out how to convince David Rosen that he (Rosen) needs to get the FBI on the case. It’s like Cyrus harnessed the powers of Inception without even using a nap!
Mellie, largely absent this episode save for a phone call, isn’t going to let Liv out of their deal. “Do you really think I let my son’s murderer out of jail for nothing?” Mellie asks. “I’m not insane.” She tells Liv that if she goes back on the deal, she’ll tell Fitz about Rowan. Liv looks sick with fear every time she thinks about it — even Abby tells her she needs to confess to Fitz.
NEXT: “I’m being hunted, Olivia.”