Sally is running for president, and Fitz and Olivia are scrambling for the right answers
Longest two months ever! And not just because of the Polar Vortex — much more harrowing was the absence of Scandal from our lives since December. Now it’s officially back, and so is Olitz. Olivia and Fitz have reunited in the White House as co-workers and lovahs.
But this isn’t a workplace rom-com; this is Shonda Rhimes. Fitz still has VP Sally Langston breathing down his neck, and the midseason premiere begins with Mellie running to tell Cyrus the news: “She’s…running,” the first lady says, breathlessly revealing what we learned back in December. Sally running for president is also a problem for Cyrus’ husband, James, the new White House press secretary, who’s trying to figure out how to spin the news.
The president is hard at work trying to spin the news too — by making out with his campaign manager. Mellie walks in on her husband and Olivia, but she can’t even be bothered by their antics anymore. They’re all on the same team now. (Oh, how we missed the dysfunction.)
As Sally is about to reveal her decision to the American people, campaign manager Leo Bergen (pictured above, left) gives her a pep talk tailor-made for the VP: “Jesus loves you.” Olivia, meanwhile, is giving her team marching orders on how to attack Sally’s credibility, painting her as an extremist and a quitter. Only problem? She’s not a quitter: She’ll run against Fitz, but she won’t resign as VP. Good thing Joe Biden didn’t get any wild ideas in 2012…
Fitz’s technique to cope with the news? Scotch. And throwing a highball glass at Cyrus’ head. But he has big plans to move forward, and they include picking the absolute worst running mate he can come up with: a straight white dude from the same state. Andrew Nichols was Fitz’s lieutenant governor in California, and Fitz just wants someone he can trust at his side. One would think Olivia is that confidant, but the drunk commander in chief dismisses her along with Mellie and Cyrus. “I said that’s all!” he barks at the woman whose tonsils he was inspecting minutes earlier.
NEXT: Will James do the right thing?
There is still one big thing that could stop Sally in her tracks: the recording of her phone call to Cyrus the night she murdered her husband. Of course, James isn’t so gung-ho about pursuing that angle now that he has a cushy White House job and he realizes the call would be detrimental to his husband as well. When will David Rosen stop trusting James? He always chooses Cyrus and opportunity over truth and ethics.
But David must be used to people treating him like crap by now. His phone is ringing, and it’s yet another OPA employee who needs a favor. We were promised more backstory from Harrison this season, and the first half only gave us breadcrumbs. Are those clues about to pay off? Harrison needs David to look into why his old boss, Adnan Salif, is coming back to the U.S. We want to know, too!
Back at B613, Olivia’s dad is out, and Jake is in. (I can’t tell you how happy I am that Shonda figured out a way to keep Scott Foley on the show.) He’s chatting with Charlie (line-of-the-night contender: “Kill two birds … and some people”), and of course conversation turns to Baby Huck. “Quinn Perkins is not B613, never will be,” Jake says, adding that she better stay safe. We’ll see if Charlie’s still feeling romantic.
Olivia puts her team to work vetting Fitz’s VP pick. “The first all-surfer-dude ticket. Historic,” Abby deadpans when Olivia reveals the nominee. All they really uncover is that he’s the George Clooney of politicians: never married, and dates only actresses and models. But there is one difference between Andrew Nichols and Danny Ocean: “He’s an age-appropriate playboy, so props for that,” Abby says.
Once Liv learns that Jake has taken over B613, she goes to find her dad — but he’s not really in the mood to wallow. When Olivia tells him she’s sorry and she knows what happened, Rowan growls, “You have no idea what happened. … You’re skipping around in a field full of bombs mistaking them for daisies.” He tells Olivia about being abducted by Fitz, who then allowed Maya to leave the country and ruined the organization Rowan built. Basically, Fitz is screwed, because Rowan went from not liking him to being his full-on enemy. “And the greatest weapon I can use against him calls me ‘dad.'” Then, her dear old dad tells her to run as far away from Fitz as possible. Yeah, she’s been told that before, and it never seems to work.
NEXT: The Olitz “rumors” resurface
Abby, meanwhile, is making her debut on the morning shows opposite Leo. Everything is going fine, until Leo exhumes “rumors” of Olivia Pope’s affair with the president. Abby tries to shut it down, but Pandora’s Box has been reopened. Now James has to field questions about Olivia in the midst of the Sally issue. Oh, but there are questions about that too: A columnist, Vanessa Chandler, got an anonymous tip wondering why Daniel Douglas’ medical records were sealed and there wasn’t an autopsy. Olivia wants to run with this new angle, but for some reason, Cyrus isn’t interested. Hmmm…
While Leo is pumped about the direction the news cycle is heading (“You’re trending on Twitter and the radio is playing ‘Mustang Sally’!”), the VP isn’t so sure. “The lies are unspooling,” Sally says in the biblical tone only she can muster. Why does she think all these bad things are happening? Because she agreed to run pro-choice. Yes, that’s her biggest sin; not stabbing her husband. Oh, but she didn’t do that. The devil did. I … can’t.
When Leo pays Cyrus a visit to check out his future office (“The art’s a little old-manny for me, but I can have them hip it up”), Cy isn’t concerned. He compares Sally to failed third-party candidates like Ralph Nader and Ross Perot, but Leo chooses to compare her to Teddy Roosevelt. He lost his third-party run, but, as Leo points out, his “face is on a mountain.”
Despite what Charlie told Jake, he has every intention of getting Quinn back in B613’s good graces. How best to do that? Pick up some side gigs from Cyrus (Cyde gigs?). For their first assignment, Quinn gets to KIDNAP A CHILD. Baby Huck has gone off the rails.
Over at OPA — you know, where Quinn used to work and NOT torture and kidnap for a living — Olivia asks Abby and Huck to dig deeper into Daniel Douglas’ death. Also, Harrison hears back from David, and the news isn’t good: Deportation isn’t an option, because Adnan Salif’s visa was issued very high up the ranks. (Also, David is clearly in on the joke, as he introduces himself as Harrison’s “butler” and offers up full concierge service.)
NEXT: The Daniel Douglas cover-up
Abby and Huck go chat with the woman who prepared Daniel Douglas’ coroner’s report, and she’s confident he died of cardiac arrest. (Worst. Coroner. EVER.) Of course, OPA always comes prepared, blackmailing her with information about her past drug arrest. But they’re not the only ones with ammo: It was her son that Charlie and Quinn kidnapped, and they’re hiding out in the very house where Abby and Huck are interviewing her. She feeds them a story about Daniel Douglas drinking too much, falling, hitting his head on the toilet, and dying of massive bleeding in his brain. If I didn’t know the truth, I’d believe that! And after she successfully lies to OPA, they’re out of her hair and her son is safe.
Mellie, in a shrewd move, calls Olivia and invites her to a very public lunch. The first lady wouldn’t do lunch with the woman sleeping with her husband, right? But this lunch isn’t without its perks: Mellie orders a bottle of red. “I know how you love your wine,” she says to Olivia. BURN…but also totally, irrefutably true. And Mellie has one more plan to ensure the Olitz rumors stop: She presents Olivia with a list — on White House letterhead, no less — of eligible D.C. bachelors. Mellie is not just playing the political edition of “F, marry, kill” here (but let’s pretend that’s what Michelle Obama and Jill Biden do during their lunches). “Pick one,” Mellie says, insisting that Olivia date someone other than her husband. Yeah, not a great way of setting people up.
Olivia wasn’t built to be one of the ladies who lunch (any excuse to link to an Elaine Stritch video), so she’s back to work, grilling Andrew Nichols about his playboy reputation. Turns out he’d rather be with one specific woman than a string of actresses or models, but he lost out on his one true love. Who is this mystery woman?
NEXT: Harrison’s got a gun
Abby walks in on Harrison “borrowing” her gun, and instead of getting upset about the violation, she’s just mad that the only other “sane” person (relatively) at OPA is going crazy. But he’s concerned for his life now that Adnan Salif is back in the country — and sending threatening picture texts to boot. The three other people in that photo? All dead. On a separate note: Was Harrison in the cast of Miami Vice in his previous life? Check out that white suit!
Olivia heads to the Oval Office, but this is no sexy rendezvous. First she tells Fitz flat-out that he’s wrong for choosing Andrew as his running mate, and then she says she should resign because of the affair “rumors.” He insists she can’t resign, and as she fights back, he shuts the door and kisses her. OK, I guess this is a sexy rendezvous. But Liv isn’t done airing her grievances. She wants to know why Fitz made Jake head of B613. And while she thinks it’s because he wants to put Jake in harm’s way, he says it’s because he trusts him to fix things. She still wants to resign, so Fitz makes a last-ditch appeal: “I won’t win without you.”
As Harrison works late at the office, he hears a noise and reaches for Abby’s gun. Let’s first get on the record that this is a HARRISON BACKSTORY ALERT and a MAJOR TWIST ALERT: Adnan Salif is a woman! And not just any woman, Homeland and How I Met Your Mother actress Nazanin Boniadi. This whole time we were worried for Harrison’s safety, and now he’s getting busy with Adnan on his desk. You tricked us, Shonda!
Leo pays Cyrus a visit to discuss their issue with columnist Vanessa Chandler and the Deep Throat who’s feeding her information about Daniel Douglas. Well, their whole conversation is being recorded by that Deep Throat — James. Hmm, guess the cushy job didn’t sway him after all! He takes the tape to David Rosen and says he’ll pretend to be Cy’s happy husband for as long as it takes to bring “that monster” down. “He thinks he doesn’t have a weakness, but he does: me.”
NEXT: More Jake!
Just when I was worried there wasn’t enough Jake in this episode, he’s knocking at Liv’s door late-night. She wants Quinn back (he honestly says he doesn’t have her) and wonders why he took the B613 job. “I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States,” Jake says. “Don’t we all!” Olivia quips in response. She’s not buying the whole “serving your republic” line. “You’re so busy being a patriot you forget to be a person,” she says, clearly referring to herself and to Jake. She just wants to get back to simpler times: “Vermont keeps getting further and further away.” OK, I know Olitz is the likely endgame, but do you need to rub your Vermont jam-making in Jake’s face?
Well, it looks like Jake gets a consolation prize: Instead of picking from Mellie’s list, Olivia takes Command out into the streets of D.C. for a very public make-out sesh. Fitz trusts Jake, right? Well, the rehearsal for that lip-lock didn’t seem so innocent. (Also, Shonda definitely made up for the mostly Jake-free episode with that scene alone.)
Speaking of trust, as Fitz introduces his running mate to the country, Olivia’s dad is taking a very interesting meeting: with Sally’s campaign manager. And Mellie? Well, it turns out she’s the one who got away that Andrew Nichols was talking about. I have to say, this lady deserves a saucy storyline after everything she’s gone through over the show’s three seasons. Sweep her off her feet, Andrew!
Before I sign off, let’s talk about the fashion, now that the woman behind Miss Pope, Kerry Washington, is expecting. A combination of flared blazers, flowy capes, a long white coat, and a billowing silk blouse hid Kerry’s growing baby bump, and she still looked perfectly in keeping with Olivia’s trademark style. Can’t wait to see some more creative cover-ups!
So what was the biggest surprise of the night, Gladiators? That Adnan Salif is a woman and Harrison’s lover? That Fitz’s running mate holds a torch for Mellie? Or that Jake will conveniently be Olivia’s “fake” boyfriend? Share all your thoughts in the comments! (It’s so good to be back!)
Follow Katie on Twitter: @ktatkinson