Scandal recap: This Isn't Personal
Olivia takes on a new case, and Fitz continues to deal with the hostage crisis and mole situation
So, Captain Jake Ballard is not such a creep after all. He’s just doing the President’s bidding. This is the first good thing to happen to Olivia in a while! Of course she’s still not exactly what we would call “aware” of the fact that Captain Ballard is spying on her. Like everything on Scandal it’s complicated and not ideal, but at least it’s not as bad as we thought? Or, this is nuts and video surveillance is just wrong and creepy and invasive no matter what the circumstance.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
With “Boom Goes the Dynamite” we’re officially in the second half, and second arc of Season 2. Scandal’s new focus is the mole in the White House, and the possible connection to Wendy — the info-for-hire dead woman David Rosen woke up next to last week. It’s not exactly a fresh start, though. The old wounds and consequences of everything that went down in the first 13 are still there to haunt our leads. Overall, it feels like we’re easing back into this new arc nicely, mainly because it’s not too urgent yet (Scandal is not amateurish enough to play all its cards at once). It’s exciting to be back in a new mystery unraveling in real-time. And as a little treat, we’ve got ourselves a new scandal of the week with none other than Sam Page (Joan’s awful ex-husband on Mad Men).
At the White House, things are tense. Fitz is still drinking and staying up nights worrying about the hostages, Mellie is using Cyrus to get closer to Fitz, and Cyrus is anxious and desperate to find a way to get his power back. But Fitz takes a break to check in with his old pal Captain Jake Ballard, who, as mentioned before, he’s tasked with keeping an eye on Olivia. Apparently the surveillance has been elevated too — it used to just be audio, now it’s video — and Jake is just doing as he’s told. When pressed, Fitz is evasive with details and motives, telling Jake that Olivia just can’t be trusted. What do we believe? Is Fitz merely keeping an obsessive eye on his former mistress? Or was his confidence so shaken in Olivia post-Defiance that he’s nervous what she’ll do? Sometimes, Fitz just seems like an incredibly powerful, petulant child, while Olivia has handled everything with grace and decorum.
Meanwhile, David Rosen believes he’s being followed. Dodging conviction or suspicion around a murder is one thing. Living with it is quite another, especially when you steal the flash drive of classified information that said victim was murdered for. So, the unluckiest guy on Scandal is getting a little paranoid about what he’s gotten himself into. Olivia Pope and her team seem to be just as nervous for David, and conclude that it all comes back to Albatross — the mole from whom Wendy took the information. On Olivia’s half date (champagne at the Jefferson Memorial, swoon!) Jake tells her that Albatross is just an intelligence community myth. But what better cover to use than one everyone already assumes isn’t real?
NEXT: Get a fake wife, or come out of the closet?
For our case of week, Olivia’s visited by Indiana Senator Peter Caldwell (played by Ugly Betty’s Eric Mabius). The Caldwells are apparently a corrupt political dynasty, with Senators and Governors spread across generations and the country. Peter’s brother is running to be Governor of North Carolina, but is lagging behind. The rumor is he’s gay, and it’s hurting their donor base. Olivia says that he should come out, but Will insists that he’s not. Regardless, Olivia explains that the main problem is that in the public eye he’s had no relationships or signs of wanting a relationship for a decade.
Scandal doesn’t shy away from how race, personal life, and sexuality are all fair game in politics, and the focus on these liabilities are made even more complex by having Republican candidates deal with them. “Give me 10 years, and I can make a gay President,” Olivia assures the Caldwells. I believe her.
Will and Peter decide it’s best to just get him a fake wife. And so Olivia’s team starts auditioning candidates. She even self-consciously compares it to a reality show, and warns her team that this obviously has to be more believable.
Back at the White House, the hostage situation escalates when the captors send footage of them murdering one of the American intelligence agents. Cyrus confides to Mellie that Fitz needs to strike back violently to show strength. She says she’ll tell Fitz the idea came from Cyrus, but it seems like she kept it as her own. Shrewd move, Mellie, but Cyrus is a tough match. When Cyrus complains to Olivia about what’s going on, she tells him to hold tight. Mellie is her own worst enemy when it comes to Fitz, she says. Mellie will find her own way to screw up. It’s sound advice, but Cyrus is a bulldog that’s been kept on a leash for too long.
And in a very scary moment, David Rosen finds out he is being followed. Thankfully it’s by Wendy’s friend, who fills in a lot of the gaps. Wendy did actually really like David (aww, good!), and she had seen and overheard Wendy being threatened by a man who “wanted what she had on him.” And all it takes is a press conference for this friend to realize who threatened Wendy and who, she assumes, killed her — the head of the CIA…or, Albatross.
NEXT: Cyrus finds a way back in the President’s circle; Olivia has a breakthrough
Fitz’s retaliation against the terrorists is not playing well with the public, though. Mellie tells Cyrus she’ll have a conference call with the families of the hostages, so Cyrus takes the opportunity to use it against her. He tells a reporter about it and she listens in and reports on the conversation. And with this? Fitz is officially back on Cyrus’s side and Mellie is on the outside again. Cyrus is nothing if not territorial and Mellie got a little too comfortable in her de facto advisor role.
The Will Caldwell case is a fun one. Abby sabotages their first fake wife choice, they’re forced to scramble to get a backup 24 hours before an important fundraiser, and they even have to deal with a leak to the press. But that’s nothing Olivia Pope’s employees can’t handle. The interesting thing was finding out that the leak came from within the family, and that’s all Olivia needed to realize what was going on.
Will isn’t gay! Will is in love with his brother’s wife! And suddenly, Olivia’s client becomes a reflection of her own life and she passionately advises him to stop and move on. More and more, when Olivia gives advice to someone else — she’s really talking to herself. It happened last week with Abby and this week with Will. “Stolen moments are not a life,” Olivia says. She also looks particularly awesome in her fundraiser gown while doing it.
In “Boom Goes the Dynamite” everyone keeps telling themselves that nothing is personal, but of course everything is intensely personal in Scandal, and that’s the lie they have to keep telling themselves to live these lives. The last scene of the episode was a particularly juicy one. Fitz saw Olivia at the fundraiser and knew she was on the phone with a man (she was, of course, it was Jake). When he asks Jake — his neutral spy — who she’s seeing, Jake confidently tells him she’s not seeing anyone. Jake either really likes her or he’s playing a different angle that we just aren’t allowed to know about yet. But no matter how you spin it, he just lied to our newly unforgiving President, and his old friend.
There were a few small moments that weren’t given a full arc in this episode, but are important to note and discuss nonetheless. Everyone starts to notice that Huck smells awful. It’s not even just a hint of stink. Abby, Quinn, and Harrison all play it as though it’s completely unbearable and just chalk it up to the fact that Huck is complicated and disturbed. Quinn figures it out, though. Huck’s experiencing post-waterboarding trauma. He fears water. And she’s there for him to talk about it. This is both profoundly upsetting and hopeful at the same time. They’re totally going to get together soon, but only after Huck can heal and recover. In happier news, Abby and David have sex. Twice! I wouldn’t exactly call it a reconciliation, but it’s a start, and it’s passionate.
So, team Scandal, did you see the Jake Ballard revelation coming? Is he hiding anything else? Mainly, are we okay with him dating Olivia? And what about Cyrus and Mellie? Are they better when they’re on the same team or when they’re fighting for Fitz’s attention?