Woo, Shonda! I think this episode was Scandal’s best feminist victory yet, with Olivia, Mellie, and even psycho Sally Langston stealing scenes, while Fitz and Cyrus both stepped up and stepped aside to help Mellie’s Senate run.
We also need to talk about the other obvious victory here: JAKE IS ALIVE. When Quinn stumbles onto his punctured body, she’s sure he’s dead, but Huck gives Jake’s chest a good B613 pound, and he unleashes a zombie yell. Can they take him to the hospital? No, of course not, because that would create a digital trail, Rowan would find out Jake’s still alive, and “he’ll kill all of you,” Liv says.
Charlie calls a Russian doctor who sets up a makeshift hospital bed—but he won’t help Jake unless Liv promises to help his KGB assassin pal, Black Sable. After some hesitation, Liv agrees, since it’s the only way to save Jake. This doctor, terrifying though he may be, provides some pitch perfect humor for the episode: He calls David Rosen “scared man with glasses” (and isn’t that pretty much always appropriate?), and his instructions for Rosen to help move Jake’s body are, “We flip. He screams. We flip anyway.”
Liv and Huck investigate Black Sable, who turns out to be a nice, cookie-baking grandmother who goes by Mary Peterson. This is her new life, though. In the life she left behind, she was a KGB assassin. “All I had to do was learn English, go to America, and murder people when asked,” she explains. Oh, that’s all! Anyway, she’d left it all behind, but yesterday found a “death drop” (a.k.a. instructions for a new kill job) under her windshield wiper. As is the trend du jour with every television show from House of Cards to The Americans, Mother Russia is the bad guy, and Putin wants the KGB back in business.
Let’s lighten up for a minute and visit the White House, where they’re dealing with the problem of Mellie running for a Senate seat in Virginia, while First Lady. Mellie tells the voters that it’s no big deal: First Lady is a title, it’s a privilege. It’s not a job. Then here comes Sally Langston, crying about a lack of patriotism, and worse: “Does it sit right with you,” she asks her viewers, “to a have a member of the legislative branch share a bed with the head of the executive branch?” I hate that woman, but she sure knows her audience.
The American people are outraged, and the White House is flustered. Sure, it’s a conflict of interest to have the President sleeping with a Senator, but is it illegal? As Fitz asks, um, “Has anybody checked?” Abby calls David to ask, who says, “Well, yes. It’s legal, because nobody ever considered a First Lady would run for Senate.”
“So Mellie’s senate run is legal because of misogyny, is that what you’re saying?” Abby asks. Yep. That’s exactly right, and they’re going to make sure every reporter in town knows it. The only problem is, if they’re trying to convince people who are already a bit averse to the idea of feminism (e.g. Sally Langston’s audience), they need to have a man explain it first, so a sulky Cyrus agrees to appear on Sally’s show to be the mouthpiece.
Cyrus vs. Sally was a fantastic sparring session: Scandal’s writers need to remember sometimes that they can create great dialogue that doesn’t involve lofty speeches and beating catchphrases to the ground. This face-off was a battle of words and wits. Cyrus says the First Lady has no sworn duties to the country, Sally says she’s renouncing her marriage vows, Cyrus says it’s sexist to tell a woman she can’t have a job, Sally says she has a job and being a mother is the hardest one in the world, Cyrus says you can’t quit being a mom like you can quit a job… like Sally did. Then Sally flips the tables: I can see it in your eyes, you think you should run for Senator, not Mrs. Grant. There were a few minutes there when I really thought Cyrus had lost it, because Sally clearly could see right through him, and hey, she had the home court advantage (I don’t watch sports, but I think that’s the right phrase). But then, Cyrus RE-flips those same tables: If we were talking about the First Gentleman, we’d obviously let him have a job. And here comes the kicker: “Would you have stopped Daniel Douglas, rest his soul, from working outside the home?” (If you’re just joining us… Sally killed her late husband, then called Cyrus from the crime scene. So this was the ultimate trump card.)
NEXT: Papa Pope lays down the law… well, the opposite of the law
In more quick-and-dirty power moves, Russell and Rowan have two chilling chats, which we’ll detail below because they’re so short and awesome:
“Ballard has been eliminated,” Russell says.
“Untrue. False,” says Rowan. “Jake Ballard is very much alive.” If Jake were dead, you see, Olivia would have called in a rage, threatening war.
“If he’s alive, he’s hanging on by a thread,” Russell argues.
“Then find him,” Command commands (ha). “And cut the thread.”
Rowan: “Did you find Jake?”
Russell: “They’ve gone underground. I’ve called your daughter, but she wouldn’t bite.”
Rowan casually SHOOTS RUSSELL in the arm.
Rowan: “Maybe now she will?”
Then he hands Russell a handkerchief! He’s seriously a mix of James Bond’s class and Freddie Kruger’s terror. Plus a sprinkle of Voldemort, or some other incarnation of pure evil.
Liv, still unaware that Russell is Rowan’s demon henchman, rushes to Russell’s hospital room. He tells her that he was cornered by two guys. “He’s on high alert,” Liv says to Huck about Rowan. “He’s going to murder everyone we’ve ever met.” Huck tranquilizes him.
Back in the Land of Makeshift Russian Medicine, Doc puts the finishing stitches on Jake’s Swiss cheese abdomen and leaves the room. But when Jake rolls over, Russell is lying on the table next to him, and he starts to shake (as you do when your attempted murderer is lying next to you with what’s basically a cut on his arm, while you’re strapped onto a table with a breathing tube). Russell cuts Jake with a scalpel, then plays dumb as the doctor rushes back in.
NEXT: Things are getting dark…
Earlier, Liv tried to reason with Black Sable’s Russian boss, offering money in exchange for letting Mary off the hook, but he wouldn’t take it. Olivia did have a nice power play here, though, telling him, “Some people have bark, some have bite. I have both,” and poking him in the chest, as he holds a butcher knife. That takes guts—even if her speech fails, and she has to come back and offer Command’s phone number on a silver platter to be delivered to Putin. It would be nice if we could just get the Russians to kill your father for you, Liv, but is it ever that easy? Of course not.
In the “hospital,” Liv tells the crew about her deal with the Russian, and Russell’s ears perk up. Fitz calls, because of course her ex-boyfriend would call when she’s sitting with her new boyfriend and her other ex-boyfriend. But he doesn’t want to moon over Liv—he just wants advice on all the Mellie drama. The White House wants to leak information about the Grants’ marriage being over to prove they have separate political agendas. But reluctantly, Liv offers up another plan, which is obviously brilliant and much better than a lie.
They’re wasting time focusing on country-wide polls and approval ratings: The people who matter here are the voters of Virginia, and why wouldn’t they want “a Senator with access to the most powerful person in the world?” Ugh, she is so smart. And of course, this plan seems to go over beautifully at Mellie’s rally, where she plays up that Southern accent like only she can.
And here, Scandal turns dark again. Liv goes to check on Black Sable, and finds her dead body sitting on the couch with her grandkids, all of them with bullets to the head. In the trunk of a car in the driveway, she finds the Russian butcher boss, to whom she gave Command’s number. Damn it, Rowan. As my roommate pointed out, the show is starting to feel like a horror movie, with Rowan always lurking somewhere just out of sight.
This is the final straw. The Russian doctor is furious because Liv didn’t follow through with their deal and help his friend. Jake still isn’t doing well, but the doctor is abandoning them. So Liv makes the call: David has to cancel the grand jury against B613, they’re going to take Jake to a real hospital, and she’s going to call Rowan and surrender. White hat turns into a white flag.
Russell and Rowan have one last talk, and Rowan tells him, “The job has changed. We’re moving onward and upward.” The new job has something to do with “Foxtail”—yay, more operation code names or human aliases to memorize.
Liv and Russell are having some sexytime after a rough couple days. I’m torn between screaming at her and just being terrified for her, but I don’t know why I ever underestimate her. She tells him to close his eyes, starts talking dirty, and then… puts a gun to his head. She figured out he was the one who told Rowan about the Russians, and he’s sure as hell going to tell her what Foxtail is. “But Alex…” he protests.
“It’s Olivia,” she says. “And this is definitely going to hurt.”