Scandal recap: The Lesser Evil
Whoa, baby. What an episode.
I’ve been tough on Scandal this season. It’s dwelled a little too much on feelings and back stories that were informative but not urgent — we seemed to be getting the same information over and over again. And most importantly, it hadn’t hit the conspiracy heights of the first. But with “Truth or Consequences,” things started fitting together in a compelling way. It began to feel like something was truly at stake, attributable to the fact that in this episode the unflappable Olivia, the fixer of everything, stalled.
So, let’s get to the recap.
The episode opens in a school auditorium where a man is explaining to a number of elderly voters that they’ll be the first county in Ohio to use touchscreen voting. “No paper ballots to be collected this year. Now that’s progress,” he tells them, before leading them elsewhere. But a young guy hangs back and switches out the black box with the election software in it with his own. It’s Lindsey/Quinn’s boyfriend Jesse. In “Truth or Consequences” we finally get a play-by-play of what exactly happened with Lindsey Dwyer and Cytron. It was great to see the tension building before Hollis resorted to mass murder. We get confirmation that Jesse had sold software to Hollis to rig the election. We got to watch Jesse make the epic mistake of threatening Hollis Doyle and blackmailing him for a bigger payout. And we got to see how deeply involved Becky has been all along.
Back in the present, David has called on Hollis Doyle and his army of lawyers to inform him that they’re investigating the connection between Cytron and the election rigging. He’s looking to make a deal. Information for immunity, essentially. But, “there’s only one seat in the lifeboat,” David says. And Hollis responds with one of his folksy metaphors: “I s’pect you know how we turn bulls into steers? Don’t make me haul out the clippers.”
Meanwhile, a very pregnant Mellie storms into Cyrus’ office and tells him to fix Fitz. To get him under control. At the end of the last episode Fitz asked her for a divorce, and our Mellie, only four weeks out from giving birth, is not one to give up that easily. Cyrus says he’ll take care of it, ushers her out the door, and mumbles “breeders” under his breath.
NEXT: Cyrus confronts Fitz about wanting a divorce, and we see a whole new Fitz…
Olivia is back at her office, and Harrison and Abby are spying on her twirling the insanely gorgeous engagement ring that Edison gave to her in the last episode. (Serious question: If someone proposes and you don’t say yes, and don’t say no, are you allowed to keep the engagement ring ’til you decide?) “The wife of a Senator, not too shabby,” Harrison says. “Please,” Abby replies. “Husband of Olivia Pope.” Wonkette would be all over this DC power couple.
But things don’t stay happy for long. Enter: Hollis Doyle. Awkwardly, the first people he sees are the two whose lives he nearly ruined: Quinn and Huck. But Olivia meets with him anyway. Hollis tells her that David is snooping around, and that she’s failed him. Knowing that he was behind the assassination attempt on the President, Olivia is less than warm to Hollis. But he doesn’t care. He just tells her to fix it.
Cyrus goes to confront Fitz about the Mellie situation. Jeff Perry is so good in this role. He’s simultaneously affable, sinister, and professional. And when he starts to monologue with the intent of convincing someone to do something…well, you just kind of weep for the other party. In this case, he has to convince Fitz that divorcing his pregnant wife for his mistress would be a bad idea. This isn’t just Cyrus being evil or overly protective of their power. It would be a bad idea. For Fitz, it would be political suicide. Cyrus even references Olivia’s “hue.” But Fitz won’t budge. He’s less malleable and he tells Cyrus that he’s stopped being afraid, and that he’s realized he has “nothing to lose and no time to waste.” He tells Cyrus to work out the details and to make it happen. I might like this new Fitz better.
Olivia goes straight to Cyrus about the Hollis situation too. And she starts to break down. She realizes for the first time, out loud at least, that David is the good guy and that she and the rest of the collective are the bad guys. “I have been running and running to stay out of it, and I’m tired and I don’t know what to do next,” she says. Cyrus is not ready to give up, though, and tells Olivia that Hollis is now his problem. He does sometimes seem like the real fixer in the show, when other characters give him the agency and the go-ahead to get things done — no matter how he does it.
And then, the weight of Olivia’s choices and compromises and conspiracies all come back to haunt her at once, and she takes to her bed in a state of almost catatonic depression. Fitz calls and senses it immediately. He tells her he asked Mellie for a divorce. She tells him Edison proposed and that she thinks it might be nice to quit and move to the country and have babies and make jam. He tells her not to marry Edison and to wait for him. It’s sweet and convincing in that sort of poisonous way that estranged couples talk and tell one another that everything will be OK, eventually.
NEXT: The associates start to investigate Olivia Pope…
Olivia refuses to talk to Edison too, which prompts him to go to Olivia Pope and Associates to ask them to figure out what’s wrong. “I think we have our next client,” Quinn says. And finally, Quinn takes some initiative. It’s been building to this. She asks that everyone tell what they know. And with the honesty dump, they start piecing things together. For the audience, it’s been hard to keep track of who knows what, so I’m glad they did this. It makes more sense that Olivia’s associates would be more curious about things, considering a building bombing and a Presidential assassination attempt is involved. They figure it out fairly quickly: Olivia hasn’t persecuted Hollis because they’re in on the election rigging together.
Huck goes to check on Olivia and reminds her that when Cyrus says he’s handling things, that means a murder is about to happen. And so Olivia takes a different route — she tells hospital-bound Verna that she’s going to blow the lid off the whole operation. Verna agrees that this is the best route. Cut to federal agents arresting Hollis Doyle for the attempted assassination of the President. David can hold him for 48 hours only, and needs Olivia’s help to obtain more evidence — proof money changing hands, etc. Cyrus does not agree with Olivia’s choice. He wants vengeance. She wants justice. She doesn’t even care if she goes under for it, but Cyrus sees something more at stake here — the fate of the Republic.
But Olivia has things to do, and she gives her associates the task of trying to find some proof of an exchange of money between Hollis and Becky (the one who pulled the trigger on the President, and who orchestrated the Cytron framing). Huck goes to see Becky in prison and gets her to give him her bank account information by giving her his real name. He says it’s so he can hire her a good lawyer and can continue seeing her. This may be a half truth — Huck did seem to be conflicted about Becky, but his true allegiances are to Olivia.
Mellie is back at Cyrus’ doorstep about Fitz. He tells her that she needs to deal with it, that he has no influence over him since the shooting. So Mellie goes to the hospital to ask for a favor, and Cyrus gives the go to his guy to kill, or at least slow down, Hollis Doyle.
Olivia confides to Harrison that her White Hat was starting to eat her alive. He tells her he’s got her back. Everyone should have a Harrison. David goes head-to-head with a fast-talking lawyer who basically tells him he has no case while Hollis Doyle reads Family Circus. Cyrus gives Fitz one last plea to stand down on the whole divorce thing and they are interrupted by an “emergency” with the First Lady. And then things get tense. Olivia Pope and her associates find out Hollis didn’t pay Becky and that, presumably, he didn’t arrange the shooting. Mellie induces labor and gets Fitz back on her side, and Cyrus’ guy gets on the same elevator as Hollis. This will not end well.
So, if it wasn’t Hollis, WHO paid Becky? Who arranged for the assassination? Is there someone we haven’t met yet? And what do you think about the Cyrus and Olivia argument? Is it better to manipulate the system for the greater good? What is the lesser evil? There are three more episodes left in the season. Do you all think we’re going to get all the answers? What is it all building to?
Shonda Rhimes’ political drama: Sex! Murder! Olivia’s suits!