Abby's forced to get blood on her hands
Credit: John Fleenor/ABC
S6 E8
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Ah, so that‘s why Abby was acting so whack-a-doodle in last week’s episode.

They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and with Abby Whelan, it’s the president who makes the grave mistake of underestimating her — and it’s the entire country that’ll pay for the price. As it turns out, she was the gear that got the whole system grinding toward Meg’s assassination of Jennifer Fields and, possibly, Huck.

It’s not what she meant to happen, of course. Before this week’s episode, Abby’s soul was relatively unmarred by all the shadiness of the D.C. players. But now she’s gotten her hands dirty, quite literally speaking, and there’s no going back for her… and what’s more, she doesn’t seem to want it to.

Let’s walk through what just happened on tonight’s new episode of Scandal!

The episode begins in the seconds after Francisco Vargas’ assassination. Abby and President Fitzgerald are riding their motorcade away from the scene, and she’s panicked, cloudy-minded, and refusing to answer her phone. In other words, she’s not Abby right now. Fitz assumes she’s just losing her cool, given the gravity and unprecedented nature of what she’s just witnessed, but when they arrive at the West Wing, Abby steals away to answer the mystery caller who’s been blowing up her phone. We don’t find out who’s calling just yet, but we do learn that it’s someone who wants her to run some kind of reconnaissance mission outside of the president’s purview right in the middle of this moment of national crisis. It’s impossible, she insists, but her caller will not take no for an answer, apparently.

That’s when we look back at a simpler time, just two months before, when Fitz was hulking over Abby about where he’s to place his presidential library. He wanted to place it in Santa Barbara, but since that’s off the table, he’s now got his eyes set on Vermont, and we all know just why that is.

Abby’s got no time to bat down Fitz’s wishful thinking ploy right now, though. She’s got a donor luncheon to attend, to fund the darn thing before they can start scouting locations. Once she arrives, though, she quickly learns that this meeting was set up to be something else entirely. The proprietors of this Fund for American Renewal, Mr. Paius and Marjorie Rueland, aren’t really interested in stocking Fitz’s shelves. No, they’ve got $300 million to share with her today, but it’s for her and not her boss. See, they’ve taken notice of her gifts and see big potential in her future; has she ever considered that she belongs in the Oval Office with an entirely different job description than what she has? Isn’t she tired of serving that, to borrow Marjorie’s phrasing here, “big old man baby”? No and no, but now she’s got something to think about, then, doesn’t she?

Who’s the first person she goes to when she gets a whiff of this carrot dangling before her face? Nope, not Leo, although she does hit him up for that fancy bourbon he’s had tucked away so that she can take it to Cyrus, who’s her real confidante on this subject. He senses the truth of her visit right away and encourages “Red” to go for it, so long as she’s willing to cut Fitz out of her future forevermore. He’s a grudge-holding kinda guy, Cyrus has learned from experience, and his absence from a life makes a “hole” that can’t ever be filled.

When she gets back to Fitz’s office, she’s conflicted. Right there on the desk is a vintage photo of them looking chummy and blissed out as teammates. But his attitude doesn’t paint the same rosy image of their working relationship. He’s still dead set on his Vermont idea, all the while dreaming up some vacation in Hawaii and a future spent learning to fly fish and make jam.

Abby calls him on his idyllic nonsense. He’s the president, she insists, and that means never actually retiring from public service. Fitz makes a compelling counter argument, though, by noting that he’s gone to war, lost a child, and worked tirelessly for almost a decade of his life. He needs a vacation; he deserves a vacation from this “blood-sucking swamp.”

That’s when Abby whips out the big guns and hits him with the newsflash that “Olivia is never going to Vermont with you.” That stings. The president blisters back by raising his proverbial fist to hammer down his insistence that his little landmark will be in Rutland, Vermont, and that she needs to scamper off and make it happen pronto like a good little gopher.

That does it. With that insult left to boil her blood and Mr. Paius’ millions in super PAC funds just a phone call away, she gets to dialing real quick. Although she suspects there’ll be some strings attached to the loot, she obviously has no idea what she’s just signed herself up for with these people.

Fast forward to election night, when San Benito County is officially declared for Vargas, and Abby gets another call from that ominous private line. It’s Marjorie, and she’s ready to start collecting on that mega-debt Abby now owes. She warns that something upsetting is about to happen and that she’ll need to answer her phone when it does. And lo, just after Vargas has delivered his victory speech about the hopeful future ahead, he’s gunned down, and the place erupts into chaos.

And that’s when we circle back to that phone call in her office that left her breaking glass. As it turns out, it was Marjorie on the other line, telling Abby to shut down St. Anne’s Hospital, where the president-elect’s body was just transported. There’s blackmail to put some pep in her step, of course. It turns out that $300 million she accepted from them came from a bank in Macaw that’s got ties to North Korea, so she’d be facing a full-on international incident if she doesn’t comply with Marjorie’s demands. And to think, the woman had such a friendly face!

Impossible though this request — nay, demand — may be, Abby’s always got a way. She falsifies some classified document and instructs a page to deliver it to the president in exactly 15 minutes. The Situation Room is bonkers, of course, with Jake Ballard and the rest of the Intelligence heads trying to make heads or tails over the identity of the shooter, so when the envelope is delivered, Fitz only gives it a passing glance before shipping Abby off to the hospital to shut it down. Success! Right?!

Wrong. That was just step one. After Abby has to look Vargas’ wife in the face and tell her she can’t have her phone back to call her children, who just saw their father shot dead on live television (whoosh, this is intense), she gets her next series of instructions. This time, they come directly from Meg, who says that Abby’s now gotta find a way to replace the bullets that are in Vargas’ body with the three she’s brought in an envelope and then return the assassination ammo to her.

Not only is this psycho and gross, but it’s pretty much impossible, seeing as an autopsy of the body has yet to be ordered. And who’s got to pull the trigger, so to speak, on that? None other than Fitz, who’s not ready to reveal to the world that the PEOTUS is dead just yet. But they’ve got Leo held hostage and beaten up as a second layer of leverage, once the North Korea entanglements thread starts to fray. And here she thought getting into bed with a bunch of bajillionaires who wanted to flush her with campaign cash just for kicks was a good idea.

Abby manages to bully a major from Joint Pathology to do a rush job on the autopsy, promising him prime location on his next assignment in return. Then, she goes to his superiors and tattles on him to cause a row in the exam room. That serves as enough distraction to get her a few minutes alone with the body, but the bad news for her (okay, okay, it’s all bad news, but this is extra awful) is that one bullet’s still lodged in his insides. So, basically, she has to glove up and fish it out herself.

Tonight, Abby’s pretty much the epitome of, “If there’s a will there’s a way,” so she does what she has to do to get the bullets to Meg. And with that, she’s released from responsibility — for now, at least. But as she catches a glimpse of Cyrus Beane covered in blood in the next hospital room, she vomits over what she’s just done before going home and playing dumb with poor Leo, who thinks he was merely mugged.

So, when she gets a call from Fitz, it seems like she might be back to wearing her hat as his chief of staff again, but the hits keep right on coming. That’s when she hears Jennifer’s voicemail implicating Cyrus and learns that her cabin exploded. She knows good and well that Cyrus had nothing to do with this and that they’re framing him when he should be taking Vargas’ place as the president-elect.

This explains why Abby was in such a tizzy about the David Rosen and Fitz pushing for the death penalty; this is why she was flittering around town acting on the president’s authority to stop it; this is why she’s been such a frantic mess during all of this. Now we know.

Abby’s conscience wins out over her pocketbook, though, and she decides to launch her own mission to prove Cyrus’ innocence. She marches to David Rosen’s house and intends to spill her guts to him, but then Marjorie intercepts and tells her she’s five steps ahead of her with every possible move already dealt with. “I’m a real bitch and you just play one on TV,” she warns. When David Rosen walks out, Abby thinks she’s got the upper hand, but then he plants one right on the lips of Marjorie “She’s the Best” Rueland, and that ends that option. To borrow Olivia’s coinage, Abby’s just been “handled.”

But while Paius and Marjorie are defensive of maintaining their easy scapegoat in Cyrus, once Abby finds out from Huck that Jennifer Fields is alive and in hiding, Abby runs right to the fancy offices of the Fund for American Renewal and makes a deal with them. Cyrus will be released from prison in exchange for helping them find Jennifer.

That’s why Meg shoots Jennifer on the spot when Huck takes her there; that’s why she puts three in Huck, too. Damage control. And Abby doesn’t even flinch when she hears Huck’s gone down with the Jennifer ship (although we don’t get that officially official word on his dead or alive status just yet).

And all Abby cares about is getting Cyrus out of prison now. She’s “going to war” for him, she informs her battered friend in the visitation room. “You said yourself, Cyrus. I’m a force,” she declares.

Serious question: Did she just earn the VP spot? Are her ambitions that thorough that she’s gone to such great lengths to exonerate Cyrus for her own political posturing? At first, it feels like she’s just consumed with guilt over playing a part in framing him, but with the blood that’s spilled in her mission to free him, it seems like something else has bubbled up inside of Abby, hasn’t it?

If so, one thing’s for sure: Olivia’s gonna be maaaaaaad.

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