Scandal recap: 'Baby Made a Mess'
Abby is forced to confront her past, while Liv brings the truth about Jake to light.
“They all love you.” So Tom tells Olivia this episode when she goes to interrogate him in prison. He’s talking, of course, about his commanders, Rowan and Jake, and his charge, the President. It’s a theme that’s been very apparent in this fall’s episodes. After the huge conspiracies of last season, this year Scandal has put a tight focus back on Olivia, and specifically on her relationships with the most important men in her life. “The face that launched a thousand ships,” Tom says, making the parallel to Helen of Troy over-explicit. But, unlike Helen, Olivia Pope is so much more than just a pretty face.
Jake remains locked away, but Liv has two charged conversations with the other titanic figures in her life. By giving the President a generalized promise of “hope,” she’s got him back on a routine of calling and texting her, even (reluctantly) giving her information on Jake. But this doesn’t stop her from pushing him for more—specifically to talk about his suicide attempt. “I have people who will sweep you in here and erase your presence in a matter of minutes. I am very powerful, you know,” he tells her, trying to push her to come to him. When that doesn’t work, he makes a different, and much more successful kind of power play: a little bit of dirty talk, letting her know what he’d give her if she came (to the White House). Olivia’s immune to the allure of Fitz’s presidential power, but she can’t deny his ability to rile her up on a personal and physical level. Liv is defenseless against him in any situation where they can step outside their lives and just be Fitz and Olivia.
Meanwhile, Rowan is starting down the warpath. Liv finds him waiting for her in his apartment, but not for some Pope-family whining and wining—he’s furious that she went to see Tom. He’s furious that she’s still wondering after and worrying about Jake’s case. “You do not disrespect me ever,” he commands her. “I have spent a lifetime keeping you safe from harm. A lifetime worrying about your fate. A lifetime making sure that the path in front of you is clear of debris.” Rowan sounds like any other parent (often when talking to a teenager)—do parents ever feel their children understand the totality of what they do, what they give up, for their offspring? But, of course, Rowan is not just a parent who feels unappreciated and misunderstood. He’s also the invisible hand behind the government, a man who loves his control, his power, as much as he loves his daughter. And while Liv in the past hasn’t exactly been the obedient daughter, now she’s in outright rebellion.
“You never ever choose one of them over me, again,” Rowan orders her. So, naturally Olivia chooses both of them! She turns Tom by making him think Command has ordered his death, with a calculated and bloody gambit that proves more than anything else exactly whose daughter she is. Fitz hears the evidence, and before you know it, Liv, Jake, and the president are all in the super-secret safe room, plotting how to take down Rowan.
NEXT: The saga of Abby Whelan
After the leak of a disgraceful sex tape forces a senator’s resignation, the President endorses Charles Putney, Abby’s abusive ex-husband (Michael Trucco). This takes Abby completely to pieces—she calls Olivia for a spare dress, and for her to make sure Putney doesn’t win the nomination. “We had a passionate relationship. Move on. Let it go already,” Putney cajoles her, after surprising her in a dark parking lot. The difference between how Abby sees their marriage—just interacting with them in her workplace made her ill—and how Charles sees it is a fundamental rift. He has shrugged it off and is even flirtatious, while Abby is a mess of fear and anger.
She pulls a gun on him and gets him to leave her alone in Washington D.C.’s most poorly lit garage. But again, it rattles her. Even Liv’s encouragement to go public can’t bring Abby to do it. As she points out, what can she expect by going public, except a lot of scrutiny, shaming, and eventual ignominy. But she can’t stop herself from revealing it to Leo Bergen when he comes in to gloat about his campaign’s guaranteed win.
Imagine her surprise when Leo, bottle of bourbon in hand, finds her later and reveals that the Putney campaign is sunk. It seems someone let the press know that Putney set up the senator he aimed to replace. And it seems Bergen did the leaking. He shares his bourbon. He kisses Abby. He makes jokes. Guys, does this mean that Leo Bergen is… a good guy? I’ve always enjoyed his kind of sleazy charm—he’s a hack who has embraced that and revels in his job. But, apparently, he has higher feelings! Or, maybe more accurately, lower feelings. Feelings, anyway, at least for Abby.
In other news, Cyrus is getting back on his game. A bombing in West Angola gives Cyrus an opportunity to slip Michael some false information while his aide monitors Liz North’s public appearances. Finally, we’re seeing flashes of the old Cyrus Beene. “I know all your weaknesses now, Cy,” Michael tells him (about his fondness for tooth-dissolvingly sweet coffee). But really, the weaknesses are all Michael’s now. The Beene is back, and he has his smoking gun when Mellie drops his planted tidbit in an interview.
And about Mellie: She is once again trying to stake out her own territory as a political figure, making foreign policy statements in puff interviews, and becoming a very pliable tool for Liz North. I’ve long been a Portia de Rossi fan, and her cool, downright-snake-like North is great. The confusion and slight contempt in her voice as she tries to find an opinion about White House china patterns is excellent. North is a woman who blew past housewares ages ago and never looked back. But she’s very at home once Mellie expresses her desire to do more. The First Lady has fully snapped out of her grieving shambles and found her anger and frustration with Fitzgerald Grant back at full flame (helped, no doubt, by the fact that she knows he and Liv are back in contact).