Olivia's involvement in rigging the election gets an origin story, and Fitz struggles to resume his Presidency post-coma

By Lindsey Bahr
January 18, 2013 at 08:37 AM EST
Richard Cartwright/ABC
S2 E11
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Scandal left us with a delightful cliffhanger last week. Quinn Perkins/Lindsey Dwyer finally got up the courage to confront Olivia about Hollis Doyle. You know, the guy who killed her boyfriend (and some other people), framed her for it, and forced her to live the rest of her life in hiding? But of course they were interrupted by a phone call. Fitz woke up. Sorry Quinn/Lindsey. So, will they address the Hollis Doyle problem this week, or are they building up to that for the season finale?

We begin with another Olivia and Edison showdown. (So…they didn’t break up? Last week was just a fight? Political relationships are weird.) He’s figured out that she must be the President’s mistress. Olivia is aghast. “In the past three minutes you’ve called me a criminal, a whore, an idiot, and a liar.” (Oh heyy, that’s the title of the episode!) And she tells him she never wants to see him again. “You’d never suggest that Scooter Libby was screwing Dick Cheney,” Olivia says in her defense. Of all the political pairings to put in our head, you choose Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney? No Ted Sorenson and JFK? No Valerie Jarrett and Barack Obama? Or is the Scandal-verse a world where Obama was never President? Wait, so did Fitzgerald Grant precede George W. Bush? This is going to bug me.

Over the course of the second season they’ve been relying more and more on flashbacks to Fitz’s campaign to fill in the gaps and inform what’s happening in the present. In “A Criminal, a Whore, an Idiot, and a Liar” we see the moment of truth. The moment where The Hollis Doyle Collective decided, as a team, to rig the election. We know it’s flashback mode when Olivia has full-on bangs. When they’re side-swept, we’re in present day. Got that?

In the campaign, we find out that Fitzgerald Grant is trailing behind Governor Reston in the polls. His staff is in panic mode, and everyone thinks they should call in his father to help. Fitz resists and Mellie suggests that Olivia talk to him, which obviously means that we have to cut to what is essentially soft core porn right down to the cheesy soundtrack. But it’s not just sexytime for Olivia and Fitz; she also manages to convince him that his father would actually help his chances of winning the election. Then they get back to what they were doing.

Back in present day, the doctor is explaining that Fitz’s recovery should take at least three weeks. That he might experience a change in personality. That walking across the room will feel like a marathon to him. Basically,  Fitz needs to chill. But there’s no rest for the weary when Sally Langston has taken control of the country. So, Fitz puts on a suit and storms into the Oval Office just as Langston is convincing her cabinet to support her acting Presidency while Fitz is in recovery. Good timing, Fitz.

NEXT: The Cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon…

Back at the campaign, 27 days before the election, Fitz’s father steamrolls his debate practice and tells his son how it’s done. Not with math! With folksy stories about a guy giving a woman the Heimlich not because he wanted to save her, but because he was the IRS and he’d come to collect the Penny she swallowed. Personally, I thought Fitz’s speech about how he planned to reduce the debt by $5 trillion in three years sounded more interesting. But, folksy works in this universe.

The senior members of the campaign go to dinner and everyone is drinking and laughing and listening to Grant the elder’s stories about craps while Fitz gets super drunk on something brown (scotch or bourbon?). Verna’s laughing along with his father, saying “I was more of a Poker girl.” Fitz drunkenly interjects with a creepy “I bet you were.” This leads to a campaign strategy fight with his father and an attempted tryst with Olivia in the elevator. Olivia’s having none of it, but the door opens and of course Mellie is standing there. Fitz stumbles out and Mellie walks into the elevator to apologize to Olivia, and to let her know how important she is to them. They hug. We all feel uncomfortable.

There’s a brief interlude with Fitz in the situation room looking all lethargic and like he’s just experienced major brain trauma and woken from a coma. Sally Langston is not pleased.

At the directive of Fitz’s “Did we bring pillows to a knife fight?” father, the advisers agree to dig up dirt on Reston and we see the future Olivia Pope and Associates come together for the first time. Abby, Harrison, and homeless Huck all meet at a diner and start hunting for something that they can use against Reston.  Meanwhile, the Collective is still debating whether or not to rig the election. They decide that it might actually be a necessary evil because they have the chance to put “the real deal. A patriot. A believer” in the White House. Olivia is hesitant, though. Are we seeing where she developed the moral fluidity that allowed her to become Olivia Pope the Fixer? Was she an idealist who would never compromise before this moment?

NEXT: Olivia asks Fitz if he even wants to be President…

Fitz’s dad is clearly wearing him down, and he kind of loses it and starts to yell at a bunch of poor PAs who are prepping the studio before the debate. Olivia clears the room and asks Fitz the question we’ve all been thinking: “Do you even want this? Or are you just wasting everyone’s time and energy and faith and dreams? Why? Why do you want to be President?” Good question, Ms. Pope. Even pre-head trauma, Fitz has been consistently lethargic, lovelorn, and eager to just resign at any given moment.

Back in the present, Cyrus asks Olivia to convince Fitz to cancel his upcoming live press conference. Fitz isn’t giving in. “I’m the President. The people deserve to see me to know that I’m in charge.” Olivia is convinced fairly easily. Maybe she’s just impressed that he’s able to string a few sentences together at all and doesn’t want to bother him with an argument. “It’s going to be great,” they both say to Cyrus. Cyrus gives his “well, okayyyyy, but I think you’re both nuts” face.

Flashback: Reston takes Prozac, under a fake name — 16 milligrams a day for the past 20 years. Olivia wants to leak it to the press to distract Reston from his campaign prep. Fitz’s dad wants him to integrate the blow into a debate answer and blindside him on live television. Shrewd move, Fitz’s dad. Crippling depression is something that should be used for your political advantage.

And then we enter into the dual Fitz on the Podium segments that switch back and forth frequently. At the debate, Fitz chooses to show the people who he is. He doesn’t expose Reston’s Prozac problem (which…I mean…it seems sort of minor? Just Prozac?). He just gives an honest, heartfelt answer — and he makes Cyrus cry. Fitz’s dad is not pleased with the fact that he didn’t bring up the drugs. They fight. He dies from a heart attack pretty soon afterwards. Olivia and Cyrus have a hushed conversation, and he convinces her to agree to the election rigging. The fate of The Collective is sealed.

In present day, a White House Correspondent asks him if he’s ready to lead. Fitz pauses, everyone looks nervous, and then he assures her that he’s never been more ready. Sally Langston even comes to accept Fitz’s reinstatement. And they soften her. Nice job, Scandal writers.

The episode concludes with Edison apologizing to Olivia for suggesting that she was the President’s mistress and PROPOSING TO HER, and Fitz asking Mellie for a divorce.

So, Scandal watchers, what do you think about Fitz? Do you like a lovelorn President? Do you believe that Olivia and Fitz have an Important Love? Can we trust Edison? What do you think about these flashback episodes? See you all in two weeks!

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