With one word, Liv changes everything.
Credit: Nicole Wilder/ABC
S5 E2
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Before tonight’s episode aired, I made myself promise to write at least three nice things about Fitz, partly to help balance out my never-ending Jake love, partly to try to remember what Olivia sees in him. But luckily for you Fitz shippers, the limbo of this episode — Liv in hiding, Fitz ready to come clean — really made me want them to at least give it a shot.

We begin with another Sally Langston monologue, in which she shows the leaked surveillance photos of Liv and Fitz again, and calls Liv a “seductress.” Are we just going to let her have this show and be a crazy (but entertaining) talking head? Is she never going to be punished for killing her husband?

While David Rosen and Liz try to figure out who leaked the photos, which definitely came from inside the White House (doesn’t this feel like a tame horror movie? “The call is coming from inside the house!“), Abby is the only one focused on the real issue: what to say to the press. Liv has bolted, telling Fitz, “I had to leave while I still could” and “I’ll call you,” but Fitz, sweetly, doesn’t want to make a statement without her. Possibly because he loves her, possibly because no one words a public statement as well as Olivia Pope.

Liv flees to Quinn’s apartment (“I have water; I have tea,” Quinn suggests before turning on her brain: “I have wine.“) Of course, she grabs the wine and says, “I have to work” — just before chugging straight from the bottle. I kind of love stressed-out Liv, even if she crazily decides to take on a case in order to distract herself from the public onslaught.

Mellie visits Fitz and demands an apology. For what, you ask. “For those divorce papers,” she says. “That hurt my feelings.” Then she makes a nice little speech about Liv and tells Fitz he “outed her” by moving her into the White House. “The minute she came in here, she became what we all become when we move in here…a statue,” Mellie says. “She’s not just a mistress now: She’s America’s mistress.” Sounds like a new reality show — which is exactly how Liv’s life probably feels right now. Mellie tells Fitz she’s willing to start over and help him fix this by denying the affair rumors and playing nice for the cameras so they can be a team again.

Fitz, for his part, obviously thinks Mellie is the one who leaked the photos, but Mellie points out that they don’t really paint her in a great light. “Those photos make Senator Grant look weak and frigid and sexless, and we both know America will never elect a woman who can’t get laid,” she says. Despite the speech, Fitz is 100 percent OVER her. “Get out,” he roars. Mellie has a lot of talents, but taking hints and letting things die really aren’t in her arsenal.

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Quick pause to get through a kind of pointless B-plot: Rich lady hires Olivia Pope & Associates (which now comprises Liv, Quinn, Jake, and a newly “fixed” Huck) because her stepson has killed her husband, his father, and he’s on the run. Perfect, because so am I, Olivia probably thinks and goes off to chase him. She finds the creepy-looking guy at a casino, where he first mistakes her for a hooker, then a bounty hunter (because baseball caps on women are really confusing for him, I guess). Liv does a cool move where she sneakily handcuffs his ankle to his chair, and then Jake comes to the rescue, and they hide out with the kid at a motel. Liv sees herself on the news but tries to ignore it.

They go to a diner, and she — STUPIDLY — lets the man-child, Gavin, go to the bathroom alone. This is the No. 1 rule of having a captive: Don’t let them go to the bathroom alone. Olivia, of ALL PEOPLE, should know this, because she used her bathroom time to try to escape from her own captives last season. Maybe she blocked it all out? Anyway, she gets recognized instantly because she’s become the most famous woman in the country overnight, and Jake has to save her from a swarm of selfie-takers. Obviously, Gavin escapes in the mayhem.

Later, Liv and Jake find Gavin in this house he was trying to build with his dad’s money, he tells them about how the dad used to call him a “weasel” all the time (he really did sound like an awful dude), then he confesses. Bye-bye.

The only important parts in these scenes are when Jake is talking to Olivia and trying to figure out a) if she’s okay and b) why she’s running away if she wanted to be with Fitz so badly all these years. “You wanted to be with him so much… What’s changed?” he asks. Liv’s response is just, “What’s changed?” Cut to seeing her face on the news. Jake, I love you, but come on. I’m starting to want Jake to get a girlfriend so he can move on and stop chasing a woman who doesn’t want him and Liv and Fitz can just be together. Note to casting director: I am FREE to play this girlfriend.

Back in Washington, Abby seeks advice from Cyrus, who can’t stop using dad metaphors now that he’s unemployed and actually has to learn his baby’s name. He tells Abby that if you act like an adult, the person you’re dealing with will start acting like a child.

NEXT: Abby takes charge

At a press conference, when reporters ask if Mellie has been living at Blair House, Abby swiftly denies and says Mellie lives at the White House and that the president and first lady are handling the matter privately, as a team. “There’s no statement to be made,” she says, concluding the statement she just made. Slick. But guess who’s mad? Liz, who tells Abby she would fire her if only it wouldn’t add more drama to the scandal.

Fitz summons Vice President Susan and asks her to fill in at something for him, and the lady goes off on him. “Do you think about us? The people that voted for you, when you’re having an affair in our house?” Okay, the White House is not your house. I sure don’t think of it as my house, but I sort of get her point, I guess. “I fell in love, Susan. I’m a flawed person, just like everyone else,” Fitz says, but Susan tells him, “That’s not the job you signed up for.” Yes, he’s a horrible president, and he doesn’t know how to do anything presidential, and he probably should have just gone to Liv’s every time instead of having her in one of the highest-security buildings around. But I don’t think Susan has a right to judge him. He’s been trying to divorce Mellie for like four years. I think he AND Mellie would be happier without each other, but okay. End rant.

Liv is freaking out in the dark motel room, crying and replaying scenes in her mind with Fitz and with Jake. Jake, however, is right here, and Fitz is far away. “I keep asking myself, ‘When did it happen?'” Liv says. “‘When did I turn right instead of left?… What flap of the butterfly’s wings brought me to this moment?’… I can’t seem to retrace my steps.” She admits that she’s scared, but Jake assures her that fear will only make her more focused. Liv asks, “Can we…? Would you mind if…?” And it turns out she just meant, “Can we spoon?” So they do, and it’s sweet. She talks about spending so many years ashamed and letting her guard down just for a bit, only for the photos to come out. “Loving the president isn’t a crime,” Jake says. Okay, he’s clearly a masochist.

Fitz is on the balcony, where he does all of his brooding and moping these days, and Abby finds him to see if he’s seen what happened to Liv at the diner. Of course he has. “So then you know who she’s with,” Abby says, meaning Jake. Taking Cyrus’s advice, Abby decides to tell Fitz what she feels but doesn’t know for sure: “Olivia is doing what she always does: avoiding the storm.” And then, “That kind of pressure and scrutiny…what kind of woman wants to live through that? Olivia is never going to tell you she’s okay with that, Mr. President.” Fitz is convinced — I mean, this isn’t the first time Liv has run off with Jake when things with Fitz don’t go as planned.

He apologizes to Mellie, and they decide to do a joint interview to present a unified front. Meanwhile, David Rosen hands Abby the findings of their leak investigation, which note that Mellie’s keycard was used, but not her computer. So the only culprit is…

LIZ. It was a fun game, but of course it had to be Liz — Mellie was right when she said it wouldn’t have been in her interest to leak them. But in a weird move, Abby decides not to destroy Liz’s career and instead just asks to be treated as her equal. Liz obviously agrees.

Liv, in the car with Jake, gets a phone call from Fitz. “I get it,” he says. “All this time, I’ve been waiting to hear from you so you could tell me what you wanted. But it’s what you don’t want, isn’t it? You don’t want this.” He tells her he’s going to deny Sally’s story and bring Mellie back to the White House. “I don’t want you to throw away your whole life just for me,” he says. “I love you too much for that.” Liv cries, and I thought we were going to be right back in this stupid cycle again, where she dates Jake and pines for Fitz.

BUT THEN: Liv gets out of the car to walk to her apartment, and a hoard of reporters obviously swarms her. As she reaches the front door, one asks, “Aren’t you the president’s mistress?” Liv looks straight at him and says, “Yes.”

YES, YES, YES! I’ll admit, I got goosebumps when she said it. Finally, she’s taking a stand! And I kind of love that Fitz wasn’t begging her to do it — maybe that was the push Liv needed to realize that she was more ready than she imagined to take the next step. Of course I would rather she’d stayed on the island with Jake, but that would make for a boring show, and this Fitz-Liv thing either needs to end or finally start. Looks like the latter is finally happening.

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