Olivia takes a page out of the Eli Pope playbook

By Amanda Bell
April 08, 2016 at 01:56 PM EDT
Richard Cartwright/ABC


S5 E17
  • TV Show

Scandal’s not known for its regular use of onomatopoeic episode titles, so when they went and dubbed this one “Thwack!” (yes, with an exclamation point for emphasis even), you just knew it was going to be significant. And while the moniker definitely has some actual auditory relevance in a moment that required a slew of “violent content” warning snippets, it also signifies the ferocious removal of Olivia Pope’s white hat now and forever more — and just when she’s snagged the Catholic blessing of Mellie Grant, no less!

It all begins with a mercifully quick misunderstanding between Abby’s surveillance team and Fitz’s girlfriend, Lillian Forrester. Abby — who’s devolved into a walking, talking personification of code red at this point — suspects that Lillian is pregnant because she’s been spotted frequenting a health facility which has an abundance of OB-GYNs on staff. She’s sure enough to confront Fitz about it and lament his lack of “Chief Citizen” role model status when she’s interrupted with the news that a baby-Grant-to-be would’ve been a helluva lot better than what’s actually happening right now.

Turns out, Andrew Nichols is back in the picture, and the former Vice President is on a sly warpath (again), this time wrangling in a media ally — that’d be Lillian — to reveal an unknown oral history of the War in West Angola. Now, Abby’s *really* got something to freak out about.

Andrew’s got some major wear and tear from his brush with Pope & Associates’ hit squad (well, Huck), but he can speak well enough to put the president on blast for going to war over his then-mistress, and there are legal implications for everyone involved. This calls into order a White House kitchen meeting of Fitz, Olivia, Mellie Grant, Elizabeth North, a reluctant David Rosen, a blissfully immune Cyrus Beene, and, of course, Abby in level 10 crisis mode.

They’ve got a couple of options here, and only one of them is a sure thing — the Eli Pope-endorsed silencer route. Olivia’s a big N-O on that note and says that if they can destroy every shred of physical evidence to back his story, they’ll all be fine. But no one seems 100 percent convinced, even her. She even experiences a sudden onset of PTSD flashbacks to her escape from the bunker as she walks the hallway.

(By the way, that briefly close proximity of Olivia and Fitz and their new shared mission here haven’t done much to warm up her attitude toward him; he tries to thank her for coming when he called, but she icily retorts that it was Abby, not him, who got her to the table. So there, harrumph.)

Back at OPA, Marcus is busy drumming up a Catholic endorsement for Mellie Grant by way of Cardinal Suarez — which seems like a wild goose chase to keep him occupied thanks to Mellie’s umpteen-hour filibuster in support of Planned Parenthood until he actually gets it done. His absence from HQ means Olivia’s free to speak-shout loudly at Huck about his handiwork on Andrew Nichols and forbid him from finishing what he started. Instead, they’re to put their technical skills to use and delete any shred of communication between Andrew and Mellie.

Surprisingly, Huck heeds Olivia’s order here, even after Elizabeth passes along Andrew’s hospital information in the parking garage and does her best to prod him into the job by reminding him that his work MOM was kidnapped and sold because of this dirtbag.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is still Team Vargas and advises Frankie not to parade the footage of his almost-assassination in a commercial but rather to craft a secondhand social media image to that effect. Frankie’s brother is clearly butthurt when Cyrus’s direction is taken above his, so he decides to do a little digging as to whether there are any other reasons Cy might not want the video to get out, and ah, yes, the grassy knoll! He tasks his team with finding out exactly who our friend Tom is and why he’s seen in the surveillance footage from the shooting. Ruh roh.

NEXT: Mellie takes matters into her own hands…

While everyone else is off doing their best to scrub Liv’s kidnapping and the Mellie/Andrew affair from existence, Mel decides to try a round of sweet-talking her old flame. After all, what they had was real, right? WRONG. If Andrew was a demon before his shot-induced coma, now he’s the devil himself, and he meets Mellie’s effort at a kind resolution with lewd rudeness. Hearing about the nonstarter effort enrages Olivia even further and brings on yet another bout of her traumatic flashbacks. She has to literally silence Mellie to make it through the episode, and that’s when she reaches out for some outside assistance with this matter.

If there’s one thing Eli Pope is good for — and Jake, too, at this point — it’s as a stern-faced reminder that the area Olivia works in is filled with ugliness. Ugly people, ugly motives, ugly actions, and, most important of all, ugly consequences. He offers up the quick end to her Andrew Nichols problem — it would be that easy, after all — but she’ll settle for some plain ol’ NSA espionage on Lillian Forrester for now, thanks. “I am not you, Dad,” she says, still clutching her innocence for dear life. “In my world, when someone’s in your way, you outthink them not end them.” Eli gives her a prophetic version of the “I told you so” speech and sends her on her way with the promise to keep an ear out on Lillian’s team.

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But here comes Huck doing Huck things! One (more) needle to the neck, and Andrew’s down for the count. And while it might seem like he’s gone rogue by doing so for a split second, Olivia’s there when Andrew wakes up underground at the White House, demanding a settlement number to kill the story once and for all. They arrive at $10 million (with the catch that Liv’ll have to represent him and his memoir, rage-inducingly titled Andrew Nichols: Battle Scars of the American Hero), and Olivia heads out and dutifully scurries up the cash from Elizabeth and Fitz. Just after the money’s wired, though, Andrew proves just how valueless his word is and backs out unless they come at him with $20 billion (and some warm apple pie ‘cause he’s a pig).

Much to the dismay of Abby, Fitz decides to step up and fall on the sword for everyone. His term is almost up, and he was the one who’d chosen Andrew as his VP, so if anyone should shoulder it, it’s him. But Abby’s not having that. She’s worked too hard to maintain his image, despite his best efforts to sully it at every turn. She turns to Olivia for help talking him out of it, but Olivia’s actually impressed with his initiative (possibly for selfish reasons, but also because she thinks it’s mighty “Presidential” of him to own up to his mistakes). Abby doesn’t want to become relegated to some Indiana Community College professorship, and after Olivia offers it, it becomes clear she dang sure doesn’t want to return to working as one of Liv’s Gladiators.

She goes behind everyone’s back and settles things with Andrew herself; Olivia finds out from Jake and Eli that Lillian’s story is now titled “Mellie Grant: One Affair, Many Lies.” At first she thinks it’s Elizabeth North who’s pulled this off to benefit Susan Ross’ campaign, but Abby’s sneer says it all. “He’s still the President,” she says in defense of her devious decision. “His term is not up. Your job is not done, and I run the Oval now… I don’t work for you; you work for me.” She informs her former boss that her White House privileges (including the parking pass for crying out loud) are being officially revoked, effective immediately. How about OUCH. Guess the wine night sleepovers are dunzo, huh?

NEXT: Liv gets her hands really dirty…

Too bad for Abby, Olivia’s got other ways of getting where she wants to go at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, so it takes her just one phone call to get herself back into that basement to confront the man who’s causing everyone so much trouble.

Annnd the conversation goes just about as well as anyone could expect — with Olivia trying to prod him with reason and him firing back with pure sexual assault. She tries to keep her cool and offer up a stern warning — “You think you can take us down without me burning everything to the ground?” Liv asks — but that’s when he starts discussing what rate he might get if he were to sell her off now that she’s no longer “the President’s side piece.”

That does it. Liv, who’s been tormented all day with flashbacks, has her fight or flight response reawakened and bashes his head into the ground with a metal chair while insisting that no, he does not get to emerge from this with revenge and repentance. “That’s mine,” she asserts as his face is reduced to a pile of crimson sludge. Eli was right; she did have it in her.

Fitz is the first one there to tell her it’s all well and good, despite the fact that she’s just committed murder, and afterward Abby arrives to get a good eyefull of what her behind-the-back behavior has done.

“Never cross me again,” Olivia sternly warns her former protégé. Indeed, the kitchen table crew rallies around Liv’s narrative that Andrew’s big story was but a “distorted machination of a sad individual suffering a few lingering repercussions of his stroke,” and as far as the public is concerned, Andrew’s suffered a fatal spill and nothing more.

Andrew Nichols, you just got handled, son.

Not coincidentally, the episode ends with Liv being welcomed into Eli’s home (which, like the escape door from her kidnap hatch, has a bright red door). There’s no going back from this, and she’s already made peace with that…or has she?

Oh, and smug Cyrus is about to get a rude awakening because Team Vargas just figured out what’s been going on with himself and Tom, and guess whose doorstep they showed up to first to spread the good news (with photographic evidence)? Yep, that would be his loving husband Michael. We have a feeling he won’t be smiling so much next time we see him.

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