This week’s flashback-heavy episode of Scandal is chock full of twists and turns and twisty turns, so let’s jump right into the recap!
The first flashback of many begins with Olivia, five years younger, on the way to her weekly Sunday dinners with her father, Eli Pope. She cheerfully greets a homeless Huck sitting in Union Station, and promises to bring him a doggie bag after the dinner.
The family dinner is awkward at best; Eli tries to get Olivia to talk to him, Olivia tries to make the dinner pass as fast as possible. We quickly discover that even before she knew that her father was the evil overlord of government assassins known as B613, their relationship was strained. She only agreed to the weekly dinners because Eli promised to pay off her student loans for her. Ouch, Papa Pope.
They eventually manage to get some conversation flowing, and Olivia leaves the dinner with a somewhat hopeful smile on her face. As she arrives back at Union Station, she calls up then-boyfriend Edison to tell him how it went. The phone call barely ends and Olivia gets assaulted- only to be rescued by Huck, who effortlessly and viciously takes the would-be muggers out.
Aaaand we’re back in present day. At the end of last week’s scandalously good season premiere we met Pope & Associates’ newest client: Jeannine, the woman that Cyrus and Mellie had framed for an affair with President Fitz Grant. Now, we get to see Olivia Pope and her people get down to business.
But not before yet another angst-ridden conversation between Fitz and Olivia, in which Fitz encourages Olivia to help Jeannine even if it means going after the White House (good) and then fantasizes about being a simple mayor of a town while Olivia, his wife, stays at home and makes jam (not good). Excuse you, Mr. President. If anything, Olivia should be mayor of that hypothetical town, not your manipulative ass.
Meanwhile, Mellie and Cyrus are having a freak out over not knowing Jeannine’s whereabouts. After Mellie storms out, Cyrus gets a call from Eli telling him to make the President confirm that Jeannine was his mistress. Apparently this story getting to the press was a gift from the gods and Fitz is squandering it. There are a couple more cryptic comments made about the contents of that Remington folder from last episode but we don’t learn much more about it. Ugh, the suspense.
Jeannine’s whereabouts don’t stay unknown for long, because Olivia Pope is standing just outside the White House introducing the woman to the press. She accuses the White House of slander and states that it’s high time they stop hiding behind “anonymous sources.”
Time for flashback #2! Some time after her almost-mugging, Olivia returns to ask Huck what in the holy hell happened that night. He tells her everything, including names of places like Acme Limited and Wonderland. Olivia isn’t sure whether to believe him, so the next time she has dinner with her father she asks him to look into the story. Uh-oh…
In present-day, Mellie and Cyrus consult with Fitz and try to order him to pin everything on Jeannine, but Fitz refuses, saying that they were the ones who threw an innocent woman under the bus, and now Olivia is going to fix it. Fitz is barely even out the door before the two of them start scheming again, this time leaking dates in the past few years where two things coincided: Mellie was out of town, and Jeannine worked in the Oval Office. Circumstantial evidence at best, but of course the press runs wild with it.
Jeannine tells the Gladiators that she was never alone with the President on those nights, and her time-stamped instant messages with coworker Ethan are proof of that. It’s a good lead, but before Olivia can follow up on it, she’s surprised by Papa Pope seated blithely in her office, chatting with her employees and saying hello to Huck.
Flashback #3: Huck is now missing from the metro station. Hmmm, I wonder who took him away and stuck him back in a hole in the ground to be brainwashed again. Hmmm. At their next Sunday dinner, Eli concocts this story about Huck being a violent offender who’s just been arrested. Olivia doesn’t buy it – especially when her father snaps at her to stop asking qusetions – and she decides to go investigating.
Their present-day conversation isn’t going so well, either. Olivia and Papa Pope shut themselves in another room and plaster on fake smiles, gritting their teeth through a talk about Jeannine, Fitz, and Jake Ballard. Eli tells Olivia that if she ever wants to see Jake again, she will drop Jeannine as a client and get the White House to confirm her as the mistress.
Olivia starts to make regular trips to the morgue to see if a John Doe matching Jake’s description has turned up. She then goes to ask Huck more about his experiences with B613, and what would happen if an operative were to disobey an order. It’s some dark, gruesome stuff. Olivia has a decision to make, now: either let Jeannine burn, or Jake is horribly tortured and then dies.
Obviously trying every last avenue before resorting to her father’s ultimatum, Olivia calls Fitz to see if he can use his power to free Jake. He tries Cyrus, who tells him that B613 is not the kind of people Fitz wants to be messing with, but Fitz orders Cyrus to find out if Jake’s alive anyways.
Flashback #I’ve-totally-lost-count-by-now, Olivia With the Adorable Bangs goes to meet David Rosen – who unfortunately seems to have a dead rodent glued to his face – and he tells her that no one matching Huck’s description or prints has been arrested. Now aware that her father has lied to her, but unsure of why, Olivia follows up on one last lead: Acme Limited, the fake paper company that Huck told her about before he disappeared. In a sudden lightbulb moment, Olivia digs in her purse for the pen her father gave her earlier, a pen emblazoned with Acme Limited. And for a finishing touch… the company is located on Wonderland Avenue. Egads!
Horrified, Olivia heads to the scheduled Sunday dinner and begins questioning her father. The scene is heartrendingly mesmerizing to watch. Kerry Washington, you amazing person, you. And Papa Pope, you are the actual worst. The enjoyably villainous kind of worst, yes, but still the worst.
Present-day again. Quinn, her curiosity piqued by what she saw the day Eli came to Pope & Associates, is hacking her way through Olivia’s email, looking for correspondence between Olivia and her father. Huck walks in on her doing that, and tries to tell her to be less like him and more like Olivia.
Elsewhere, Abby is finally following up on that instant messaging lead in the Jeannine case. She successfully gets Ethan to download the chats using a little blackmail. With Ethan on board, now all the Gladiators have to do is prep Jeannine for her interview to the tune of “Burn, Baby, Burn.”
But of course, Mellie isn’t going to let this go uncontested. She arranges to secretly meet with Jeannine, where she promises her a secure future if she lies and says she slept with the President during the interview. Jeannine agrees, asking Ethan to destroy their evidence.
Flashback again. After their last disastrous conversation, Eli is understandably surprised to see Olivia With Bangs standing at his doorstep the next Sunday, but quickly figures out what’s going on when she drags in new fiance Edison and flaunts the relationship in Eli’s face before ordering Eli to give Huck back.
It works. Huck is back in Union Station, noticeably more damaged. Olivia answers a phone call from her father, where he practically gloats about orchestrating an accident that nearly killed her fiance Edison, casually suggesting that if she doesn’t cancel the engagement, Edison is going to die a horrible death.
Papa Pope is an evil, evil, man.
Olivia Sans Bangs (aka, this is present day again) finds out about Jeannine’s plan to go on television and tell the world she had the affair with Fitz. She also gets confirmation that Jake Ballard is alive, and attempts to bargain with Eli for Jake’s life – apparently, if he lets Jake go, she will have weekly dinners with him again. Fantastic work, Olivia! Now all you have to do is poison the wine next Sunday and you’re all set.
Also, in a last ditch effort to get Jeannine to tell the truth, Olivia delivers a highly personal speech to her. Jeannine looks like she’s affected by it, but we’ll never know what she would have done, because her interview is interrupted by the President who announces to the press that he had the affair with Jeannine, because he doing so would release Jake Ballard. VP Sally corners him after the press conference and accuses him of lying. Fitz displays his manipulative side again by stepping just a liiiittle too close to Sally – who looks uncharacteristically flustered by the closeness – and tells her they’re going to be just fine.
After all the hullabaloo dies down, Quinn talks with Huck in private and shows him some of the emails she found while she was hacking. Huck puts two and two together and figures out that Command is Olivia’s father. He goes to confirm with her, just in case… and his suspicions are confirmed when he, in a fit of anger, panic, and desperation, chokes the answer out of Olivia in an empty car park.
Huck runs, and Olivia heads home traumatized. Her father calls to tell her to open her front door and that Sunday dinners are back on… and Olivia opens the door to find a bloodied Jake Ballard collapsed just outside.
Mellie: You don’t know where she is?! You were supposed to control this girl, Cyrus, now we’ve got a bimbo on the loose!
Cyrus: You need to grow some Presidential-sized balls.
Olivia: I’m sorry, that’s impossible. Someone specifically told me he was arrested.
David Rosen: Then someone specifically lied to you.
Eli Pope: I’m your father. So I’m going to explain to you how you are to behave in my presence. You do not ask questions that you cannot handle the answer to. You do not make judgement about things you cannot imagine. You don’t know me that way, you don’t ever want to know me that way, but if you push, you will know me well. And that would break my heart, because I’m enjoying these Sunday dinners that you make me pay for. And now you are on my dime. Pick up your menu, order your meal, and tell me about your day.
Abby: It’s gotta be a little like using a bittorrent to illegally download movies, right? I’m impressed with your wide range of tastes, by the way, from French New Wave to America’s Sluttiest Moms.
Olivia: One day you’ll look in the mirror and you won’t even recognize yourself. And you’ll hate what you see, Jeannine. Believe me.
Eli Pope: We are family, sweetie. We’re never done.