Scandal premiere recap: 'Survival of the Fittest'
Scandal's premiere takes no prisoners as the fight for the White House turns deadly
Knock me into the Potomac and call me Amanda Tanner! Scandal is back.
I’ll be joining you as your aficionado this season, and together we’ll make sure it’s handled. Through the Christmas episode abortions, the hooch in the dresser drawer, and the botched elections, we’re here at the end of the most absurd election since… well, let’s just stick with fiction. We open with Quinn and Huck trekking through the woods together, talking about marriage and looking for an unnamed woman, but when they get to the cabin she would be staying in, the cabin blows up. Let’s just say that it’s probably fair to say Amanda and this lady have something in common.
But of course, we don’t get answers immediately because we have to throw back to the night before… Election Night, as exit polls are coming in. Remember when exit polls were fun to watch? What a time. Surprisingly, it appears that the election is coming down to California, which seems to be leaning in Mellie’s favor, but it all depends on San Benito County. Mellie’s camp seems pretty excited, but suddenly, it falls into Frankie Vargas’ court. Olivia downs a glass of liquor, and Mellie falls back on the hope that there was voter tampering going on in San Benito.
Meanwhile, Jake’s wife/best new character Vanessa is getting toasted on the couch, which feels super relatable on TGIT, am I right? Jake is nowhere to be found, and Olivia is pushing Mellie in the direction of having her concede. Mellie’s determined that 4,000 votes aren’t enough to end it, but Olivia demands she make the call. Olivia coaches her through it with cues on notepads, and it’s painful, because how much has Mellie earned this? Yes, Frankie is great and fun and charming, but he has Cyrus in tow, and Mellie really had earned it.
Fortunately, Mellie and Olivia retreat to a bathtub, fully clothed, to drink victory champagne, now being used to nurse their loss. As they mourn, they hear cries from the main room. Running in, they reporter on television announces that President-elect Vargas has been shot. It’s too, too much. They find the shooter, and Fitz is immediately briefed. Strangely enough, Jake is immediately by his side, and you have to wonder if his quick absence makes more sense because of it.
Abby heads to the hospital to start calling the shots on who can be around as PEOTUS Vargas is being operated on. The lead agent attempts to put Abby in her place, but she shuts that down REAL quick because this is her house… at least for a few more months. Of course, in the aftermath, Olivia and staff are trying to pull the pieces together. As the rest of the staff waits at OPA, practically considering Vargas dead, Olivia is coaching Marcus through reporting the news on Frankie. He was hit three times: once in the arm, once in the stomach, and the third went into his brain. And with that last shot, Frankie Vargas, PEOTUS of Shondaland, dies.
Of course, in the sadness of the moment, we have to turn back to the politics of it all: Who will be President now? David Rosen explains that while it could very well be Cyrus, it could also be a number of other people. Speaking of a number of people… we still don’t have much detail on who killed Frankie Vargas, which leads Olivia to Rowan’s office. He admits he didn’t kill Vargas, but when he sets into a lecture about why Olivia lost the election, he reveals that Cyrus likely paid off the assassin who took Vargas out. He also reveals that he offered Olivia San Benito County, and she turned it down because who needs a double Defiance on their hands? Olivia heads back to OPA with Huck and Quinn to review the tapes to see that Cyrus did step away from Frankie right before the gunshots, as if any of us are shocked that Cyrus would maim a man for the presidency.
NEXT: Does Mellie want the job?
Olivia takes the news to Mellie, who says, “These people.” Raise a chicken leg to this girl, because we get it, Mellie. She immediately dismisses the notion that she’d go for the Oval in the face of Frankie’s death. But Olivia is not done with it, because she’s a professional business lady. You know who else is a professional business lady? Abby. That’s why she blocks Frankie’s wife from calling their children, because the White House has to decide how to move forward. When you work for the government, you don’t get to be a human… or even a Tide to Go pen. Poor Mama Vargas. Fitz has to choose a president because Vargas is dead, but according to Fitz, he’s not dead until he says he’s dead… which is not how science works, but Olivia was also kept in that red dungeon for, like, five episodes, so who are we to start calling shots now?
Olivia shows up at the Oval, ready to convince Fitz to choose Mellie for the presidency, and that’s when she drops the assassination-sized bomb that Cyrus hired out to kill Frankie. Without proof, though, Fitz isn’t willing to make a move. Instead, he gives Olivia until morning to figure it out. Huck, Quinn, and Charlie hop on the case, investigating the man who shot Frankie. But on the White House terrace, Fitz finds Mellie, who apologizes for all the resentment she had for Fitz. In the way Bellamy Young shines best, she goes into a full-blown monologue that amounts to her admitting Fitz was never weak… he just wasn’t power hungry.
That’s when he reveals to Mellie that he has to choose, and the choice is impossible. Cyrus and Mellie both broke the law to get him there (well, arguably, Cyrus a little bit more because… assassinations), but he can only choose one. He tells Mellie that if she doesn’t want it, she can tell him in secrecy, and no one will ever know. But Mellie confirms that she does want it: that rare air. And you deserve it, sister friend. Through the cereal and rogue-son-killings and the adultery. You deserve it.
The OPA staff can’t find any evidence connecting Cyrus to the assassination, but Olivia is not convinced — so much so that she scream speeches at the whole room. So Olivia does what she does best: handles it herself. She meets up with Abby on her way to Cyrus, but when she gets there, she’s shocked at what she finds: a blood-soaked Cyrus, absolutely stunned by everything that has transpired. It leads her back to the White House, where she apologizes to Fitz.
Fitz heads to the hospital to meet up with Cyrus and tells him that if he will uphold the legacy of Francisco Vargas and be better than either of them ever were before, he will allow Cyrus Beene to be president. Cyrus. Beene. Is president. Marcus meets Mellie the next morning to give her the news, and she’s clearly heartbroken. At OPA, Charlie and Quinn are talking about taking off on vacation. That’s when Huck steps in as professional police and announces that this isn’t for personal matters, unless they’re interested in getting married. That’s when Charlie proposes to Quinn.
Of course, as that transpires, Huck discovers one deleted voicemail the team didn’t go over. It’s from a Vargas campaign staffer named Jennifer Fields, who lives in a cabin deep in the woods… remember that cabin? It’s the same one that blew up, and when Quinn and Huck get back from the site, Quinn says yes to Charlie’s proposal and that voicemail is revealed. Olivia goes to the White House to offer her condolences to Cyrus, but as she leans in, we hear that voicemail: Jennifer confirms that Cyrus is the one who killed Vargas. And Olivia vows to Cyrus that she’ll prove it. Lord be.
How many times can one person audibly gasp during an episode? Enough to nearly hyperventilate, per my count. What did you think of the episode, and do you think Cyrus will ever be proven guilty in the killing of that hunk of a president, Francisco Vargas? Rest in peace, sweet prince. We’ll honor your name every Thursday at 9 p.m. /8 p.m. Central when Scandal returns.