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.”
Rowan isn’t making himself too hidden because he goes to see Liv. “I’m being hunted, Olivia,” he says — and it’s clear that there’s something a bit different in his tone. His usual relaxed confidence is gone, and in its place a disconcerting sincerity. I mean, don’t get me wrong. He still has his Shakespearean airs about him: “You thought getting rid of me would cause lilies to sprout while mankind locked arms in a collective embrace and sang joyously to never-ending world peace… You are wrong,” he says. And he’s right, I did think that. But he also does seem scared and not of Jake, but of his other “sons” who he says have turned against him. Before he leaves, he tells Liv that he’s given her everything she needs to survive, he did his best for her, and that he takes “tremendous pride” in who she’s become. All Liv does is scowl in confusion — hopefully this won’t be their goodbye? I don’t know whose side I’m on anymore! Okay, yes I do. Not Rowan’s.
I’m especially confused when Jake comes back into the picture: Liv and Jake talk in the Oval Office, but the talking quickly devolves into an argument. Liv thinks her dad’s telling the truth (to which we might say, that doesn’t un-kill all the people he’s murdered, directly or indirectly, but okay), but Jake fires back with, “Have you ever looked someone in the eye and made them think you loved them so you could take whatever you needed from them?” Ouch. Then Liv realizes like five episodes too late, “Oh…I was supposed to choose you. You wanted me to say I didn’t love him.” Liv, come on. Fitz walks in just as the fight gets even more heated, and everyone’s all fake smiles, all around.
Liv asks Huck about Lazarus One, and Huck says he’s never heard of it but wishes them luck if they’re against Rowan. It turns out Huck was lying, though (sort of a theme this week). He’s still been working with Jake, but when he sees how badly Jake wants to take Rowan down, Huck realizes he needs to remove himself before his own baser instincts take over.
Meanwhile, the FBI has been investigating Rowan this whole time, and it turns out the trail led right back to our hero, Olivia Pope. She gets arrested for aiding the escape of a prisoner, and Cyrus is so overjoyed he sends up a prayer of thanks.
Fitz storms the cell, promising to figure out how this happened and make it all go away because it can’t possibly be true. Liv gets her cry-face on, and then…we see the whole, tearful discussion but can’t hear anything — well, except the lovely sounds of the song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” As Fitz leaves, completely upset, Liv breaks down, too. Doesn’t look good for the new First Couple.
But then, back at the Oval, a whiskey-drinking Fitz tells Cyrus he wants Liv released, wants the charges dropped, and wants her brought directly to the White House — to live. That’s why we watched that scene without hearing it, so we could be shocked along with Cyrus.
This is news to Olivia, too, who heads to the White House for a shower, only to see the contents of her own closet rolled in on a garment rack. She’s confused and more than a little freaked out. Fitz tells her, “I had all your belongings packed up and brought over.” Liv: “Why?” Fitz: “Why? Because you live here now!” He tells her he’s assigning her a Secret Service detail, this will be her home, and she will be safe and protected.
It’s absolutely no coincidence that this massive closet is where her big scene took place with Mellie a few weeks ago, when Mellie told Liv that being First Lady is a complete prison and that it’s the reason she drinks. We also see Liv’s white hat (which I did not realize she actually owned) get tucked up in the closet — on display but out of reach. There’s a sledgehammer of a metaphor for you! At the end of the scene, Liv and Fitz hug, but her eyes have an awful fear in them. Mellie, for her part, calls Liv ready to spill the whole Rowan thing to Fitz since Liv hasn’t come through with her end of the deal, but Liv just says, “I already told him,” and hangs up. What’s Mellie going to do now if that was her big, blackmail backup plan? Well, given that Cyrus was scorned again…the Terrible Twosome might be getting back together.
Oh, and Jake finds Secret Service/B613 Tom dead, and Rowan’s been taken to some warehouse building with a pool in it, secured to a chair with plastic ties. Huck’s got him (so much for getting out of the fray!), but the question is, what is he going to do with him? Did you guys feel any sympathy for Rowan this week, or is that absolute lunacy? Most importantly — why is David Rosen still sleeping with Liz if he’s flirting with Susan Ross?! Someone get Liz out of here!