Olivia confronts Fitz; Mellie threatens to go public with the separation; The Gladiators investigate Charlie

By Lindsey Bahr
May 03, 2013 at 04:30 AM EDT
Eric McCandless/ABC
S2 E20
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SOMETHING HAPPENED! Something ACTUALLY happened. There was a showdown of wits between Mellie and Fitz over who would cave and who would launch the attack. And Melody “Mellie” Grant, First Lady of the United States, Lady Macbeth of the West Wing, didn’t blink.

It’s a game changer.

Listen, I know things happen on Scandal regularly. Crazy things. But when it comes to Fitz, Olivia, and Mellie, they’ve been dancing around half-decisions and declarations in secret for so long, I was beginning to worry that this was just the new reality of the show. And right up till Mellie’s Krushchev moment, I have to admit I was actively annoyed because we’ve seen it all before! We’ve seen Fitz try to get Olivia back, we’ve seen him get shamed into staying with Mellie, we’ve been surprised when he tries to throw everything away just to be with Olivia. And “A Woman Scorned” felt like the same old score. But Shonda Rhimes and company are too clever for that and they threw us something big. It could be the Amanda Tanner moment of season 2, but we still have two episodes yet, and I’m not ruling out an actual Amanda Tanner moment while Charlie is still in the picture.

So, let’s get to it Scandalites. A scorned woman waits for no recapper.

Last week’s slow burn into Huck’s backstory and Olivia’s hospital stay was a bit divisive. For all those lucky fools who are waiting to binge-watch season 2 on their DVR, “Seven-Fifty Two” will probably come as a necessary break from the sometimes relentless place of the show, but for we weekly watchers it was a bit too slow after such a long break. This week, things picked up. Huck was back in action. The Gladiators got back on the hunt for Albatross. And Olivia, Fitz, and Mellie finally started standing up for themselves and admitting what they wanted.

“A Woman Scorned” opens with Olivia swimming. A scored woman in her own right — we all know that when things get tough, Liv goes swimming. Not like, fun swimming. This is intense, deep, flashback-inducing competitive swimming (in a pretty fabulous suit). But she’s not alone this time. She’s never alone anymore. Captain Jake Ballard is there. His surface reason is that the President asked him to. The secret reason is that Joe Morton’s Mysterious Park Bench Man needs him to stay close. Though Jake is clearly conflicted (he even asked MPBM last week if he could be reassigned), it’s still not completely obvious where his allegiances lie. Is it with B6-13? Is it with Fitz, his old Navy buddy? Or is it with Olivia? For the purposes of this episode, it doesn’t really matter yet. He has a hand and we’re not supposed to see all his cards yet. So even though we’re teased with a few hints of who he ultimately feels beholden to, they’re all conflicting. Captain Ballard might have the best poker face in the Scandalverse. But that just makes me even more suspicious of him.

NEXT: Cyrus’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Olivia is understandably not cool with Jake tracking her every move. She hasn’t forgotten about those security cameras and certainly doesn’t want Fitz dictating who is keeping her safe. What’s unclear to me when Olivia is bickering with Jake and boldly calling the President directly to “call off your puppy” is whether or not she thinks she might actually be in danger. Because, as Jake says, yes he was watching her via security camera but there was an actual person who broke into her house. Whether or not that person intended to kill her is clearly speculation, but he had a mask on. He probably wasn’t breaking and entering just to talk.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is having a rotten time. Mellie moved out of the White House and the Chief of Staff is freaking out, barking orders to his secretary to issue a CYA press release about Teddy having chicken pox. He doesn’t even notice that James is in his office, he and barely stops working even though his husband is clearly so thrilled about something that he’s practically shaking. It turns out James has been offered a high profile on-camera job at BNC. He believes that he’s going to be the next Anderson Cooper. Cyrus is so overwhelmed with the imminent divorce that he says he’s fine with James taking the job. Which is…interesting. Perhaps he believes that an on-camera James will be less likely to go digging for stories. Or maybe Cyrus is just too frazzled to think about the ramifications of his approval, which he’ll come to regret by the end of the episode.

Cyrus’ plea for Mellie to act like a grownup is shot down pretty immediately. Mellie is holding her ground with perfect makeup and a smile. She informs Cyrus that Fitz has 36 hours to apologize to her in person, or she goes on live TV to tell the world that he’s having an affair. Cyrus believes her. It doesn’t seem like him to retreat from Mellie so easily. On one hand, it keeps the story moving along. He has to then present the problem to Fitz, go back to Mellie with a solution, and so on, just like a regular diplomat. On the other hand, we also know that Cyrus really has never liked dealing with their relationship, so perhaps he’s just flustered that the situation has reached this level. Either way, Cyrus is VERY invested in how these 36 hours play out. For all their talk of history and legacy, poor Cyrus might only be known as the Chief of Staff who mediated the quibbles of an on-the-outs couple. Cyrus can’t even get Olivia to care. He’s on his own here. And it is stressing him out.

Back at OPA, the Gladiators are pouring over the security footage from the hospital, but they can’t figure out who the guy in the hat is. But, Scandalites, Huck is back, baby. He knows it’s Charlie immediately because of that chewed ear. And they don’t hesitate to make the connection that we’ve all been fretting over for weeks now: What if Cyrus Beene is the mole? Olivia is floored when they connect the dots for her, but she wants them to do a deep dive into this one. Last time they thought they’d figured Albatross out, an innocent man ended up dead. Even Gladiators learn from their mistakes.

NEXT: Charlie, the mercenary who’s killed kings, is in a book club…

The Gladiators go to work on Charlie with the help of David Rosen, who seems to be fitting in nicely! They take a small lead that he likes sweets and it opens up a number of doors, which eventually lead to the fact that he’s in a book club. Quinn really is turning into quite the confident sleuth. Throughout this process Olivia is extremely protective of Cyrus, but makes concessions pretty easily. She doesn’t want to believe that her friend is capable of hurting her, betraying Fitz, or leaking state secrets. I don’t blame her. She knows he’s ruthless, but they are friends. She stops short of telling the Gladiators where their friendship started, though, so I wonder if we’re in for a big reveal in the coming episodes.

Olivia storms into the Oval Office to have it out with Fitz, awesomely explaining that she’s “not the girl the guy gets at the end of the movie” and how she’s “not a fantasy.” Those lines feel both trite and meaningful. Trite because they can easily be dismissed as rom-com-isms, but they do actually mean something in the context of the show. It also is hopefully a hint to viewers that Shonda Rhimes understands that we’re not going to be satisfied to see them just get back together. Olivia tells him, rightly, that he has to earn her. Good girl. Fitz seemed appropriately shaken up by this encounter. There are lots of intense fights on Scandal that don’t ever get heard through the walls, which has always seemed kind of silly. Because these characters, boy can they yell. All of them. So, I was pleasantly surprised that they let Jake acknowledge that he heard something. Do you think he was being coy here or do you think he just heard the tones and no specific words?

Cyrus goes back to negotiate with Mellie and offers her a deal. She gets a big-ticket issue like gun control, and Fitz gets to do what he wants. When she refuses, Cyrus lobbies the threat of a counterattack like only he can: a whisper campaign that she was complicit in the affair, that she was frigid, a lesbian, anything really. But Mellie is continuing to transform into a Cersei Lannister disciple. She’s got her own Spiders in the White House and isn’t backing down.

Finally Olivia gets a dose of reality and things get pretty tense for a while. Huck tells her that Charlie killed Amanda Tanner (he couldn’t before because of “the code”) and that Cyrus ordered it, right before we cut to Cyrus asking Mellie if “getting rid of Olivia Pope” would make a difference. And then we see Cyrus creepily ordering the President’s assistant to call Jake off his post. Like a good puppy, Jake doesn’t go. He only takes orders from the President, much to the disappointment of Cyrus who is rebuffed when he shows up to Olivia’s apartment to find Jake still standing tall.

NEXT: Fixing the Olivia problem…

Olivia’s rattled after Cyrus shows up, and she finally lets Jake in. Over wine they have a cute “I tell you something, you tell me something” conversation and they catch each other up. For the most part it’s brutally honest, right up to the point where Jake asks about the nature of her relationship with the President. Liv knows how to shut a guy up though. Kiss him and lie.

Back at the house of often ignored discontent, James is so happy about his fancy new job (and fancy new suit options) that he forgives Cyrus and invites him back into their bed. They make out. It’s a pretty great scene, and one of the few where we get to see Cyrus’s vulnerability and weakness around the man he loves. Unfortunately, things are only devolving at the White House. Cyrus spots the media vans outside of the Blair house and begs Fitz to make things right with Mellie.

But at the moment of truth, 22 minutes before Mellie’s 36-hour warning runs out, Fitz goes to Olivia’s apartment. This is him earning her. This is Fitz making a choice. Finally. It’s sweet, mellow, and exactly the gesture that he needed to make to Olivia to get her to even consider being back with him. But I wonder if he really considered the possibility of Mellie going through with what she threatened. Because oh boy, does she make good on her promise, with a blind-sighted James leading the interview. And things were just starting to look up for Cyrus and James! While all this is going on, Olivia and Fitz are making up for lost time. In the shower, on the bed…anywhere with a surface. And she looks happy for the first time in a really long time!

Meanwhile, the Gladiators deduce that Cyrus is probably not the mole. He was just trying to make sure that Defiance was erased from history. But I feel like this can’t be the whole story. I believe that in this week’s episode, Cyrus was just trying to get Olivia alone to talk to her about leaving. He probably thought that was a valid option because she’d told him earlier in the episode in no uncertain terms that she was done with Fitz. But he did go about that in a very creepy way, didn’t he? Also, Cyrus and Olivia usually talk on the phone. Why wouldn’t he have just called her? And also, what was Charlie doing in the hospital? Was he just spying for Cyrus? Was it Cyrus he was talking to? So many questions, Scandal!

Finally, Jake, worried about what Cyrus knows about him, asks MPBM if he can “engage” with any threats. MPBM gives him a stern, “don’t kill anyone” warning. And when watching the footage of him and Olivia making out in his apartment, Jake spots another thing on his security feed: Charlie watching that same footage. So Charlie and Cyrus do have hard proof about Olivia and Jake. Who do you think is more at danger here?

Scandalites, let’s talk about this! What do you think James was feeling when Mellie started confessing? Did you think Fitz’s gesture was enough? And then there’s Cyrus. What is going on with him? Was he out to hurt Olivia? Are we getting the full story with him? Any more Albatross speculations? Did anyone laugh when David Rosen seemed adorably clueless about the President’s affair? Who would you all vote MVP for this week? Talk to us!

Shonda Rhimes’ political drama: Sex! Murder! Olivia’s suits!
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