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Scandal - Watch Me - Review: "There's A New Sheriff in Town"

Scandal is finally back, people!! It’s the last season premiere we’ll ever get of our favorite show, and I don’t even know how to act. I’m simultaneously throwing confetti and weeping in my glass of wine because this is the beginning of the end. Buuuut it’s not the end yet and we have a premiere to discuss!

The Head Gladiator in Charge
“Watch Me” begins with a quick run through of some pivotal moments that has happened thus far with the new Grant Administration, which included the death of Luna Vargas, Cyrus’s swearing in as her replacement, and Mellie addressing a joint session of Congress in her first State of the Union speech. During this speech, Mellie laid out some ambitious goals that left the DC chattering class wondering how she intended to accomplish them all.

The answer to this is in the entry of Olivia Pope. She is seen strutting down a White House hallway in her trademark fashion to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” Dressed in a black and white suit with white heels on her feet and a white Prada Saffiano at her side, her gait is sure and strong. Those who she walks past can’t help but to look back at her in admiration.

Olivia’s appearance is juxtaposed by that of Senator Michaels on the political show “The Pryce of Power.” Mr. Senator is none too happy about Mellie’s proposed free education bill and he says that he won’t stand for its passage.

Cutting back to Olivia, she has finally made it to the anteroom of her office. She gets a short nod from her assistant to which Olivia gives a nod of acknowledgement before proceeding into her office. What they were silently communicating is made evident when Olivia opens the door to her office to find a waiting Senator Michaels. Olivia thanks him for his punctuality, and without missing a beat, proceeds around her desk towards a safe in the wall.

While Olivia retrieves what is inside, Senator Michaels states that this summoning of him to her office isn’t going to get him to change his opinion about the bill. Olivia tells him that he can keep his opinion, that what she is interested in is his vote. The senator replies that his vote is going to be a no, and Olivia counters by saying that his vote is going to have to be a yes. At this point, she is armed with an envelope in her hand as she comes to stand in front of Michaels. She again tells him that his vote will have to be yes.

Annoyed now, Michaels gets up from his seat to address the “missy” in front of him, but Olivia cuts him off before he can get far with his indignation to point out that she is holding an envelope that is full of all kinds of sordid details that would not only make the career of any journalist who gets their hands on it, but would also benefit the senator’s wife.

Sufficiently shook, Michaels sputters that what Olivia is doing is blackmail! He is again interrupted when Olivia proclaims “Mine” in the middle of his statement, leaving him confused as toher meaning. Olivia reminds him that he had asked earlier “In what world…” and this is her replying to that unfinished question. She tells Michaels that he is now in “envelope filled world”. Olivia goes on to ask in which direction one votes when they are in this world of hers, and Michaels reluctantly agrees that one votes yes. Satisfied with that answer, Olivia recollects her envelope and motions with her head for the senator to make his exit.

Daaaaaayum. That was bad bawse moves right there. Olivia has brought her OPA tactics to her role as White House Chief of Staff and I can’t even be mad.

Shortly afterwards, Olivia enters the Oval to inform Mellie and Cyrus of Senator Michaels’ yes vote. Mellie and Cyrus are both relieved by this news, but Mellie remains concerned about garnering the remaining votes needed for the bill. Cyrus suggests hitting the airwaves, and Olivia says that she’s already on it. A media blitz is planned, included a booked spot on “The Pyrce of Power.”

Cyrus thinks this to be a smart plan and assumes that he will be the one making the “Pryce” appearance, but Mellie gently breaks it to him that she and Olivia thought it would be better if he instead handled convincing more senators behind the scenes while Olivia went on “Pryce”. Cyrus isn’t thrilled by the fact that this decision is made exclusive of him, but he opts to be a team player and do as told. Olivia does not miss his hesitancy and her eyes narrow with suspicion. R’oh oh.

Flash over to Olivia’s old stomping grounds, and we see the gladiators trying to convince David Rosen to help them with nabbing high profile clients. David tells them that the only thing that needs fixing at the moment is the name of their business, pointing out that Olivia Pope & Associates is legend in D.C. People trust OPA. He then equates its newly christened identity of Quinn Perkins & Associates (QPA) to a babysitting service. (Shade.)

Abby is offended, Huck is silent as usual, and Charlie is for foregoing David altogether and advertising for clients. Quinn signals to Charlie that she wants more of whatever she was snacking on, and as he goes off to fulfill the request, Quinn warns David that he won’t be leaving the office until he helps them. Just then, a woman comes in looking for their services, and David is told to get lost. (Rude.)

Now in the big office, Quinn and Abby listen to the client Madeleine Stewart relay that her father has been leading a religious studies symposium overseas, and that after each class, he gives her a call without fail. These calls stopped coming a few days ago and Madeleine is worried. Quinn speculates that there could be some innocuous reason as to why this is, but when Madeleine adds that her father is in the fictional country of Bashran, the mood in the room shifts. Quinn and Abby’s reactions tell us that Bashran isn’t a favorable place.

Madeleine continues by stating that her father is a scholar who makes regular trips there, so he is familiar with the country and how to communicate. She says that if he isn’t calling, then that means that something is wrong.

Later that evening, Olivia is seated in restaurant when Rowan arrives late. Upon Olivia pointing out his tardiness, a flustered Rowan clumsily explain himself. He is eventually able to say that he lost track of time, and he offers his daughter an apology. Olivia tells him that an apology isn’t necessary, but Rowan continues to assure her that his late arrival was unintended. He is soon distracted by the impressive wine that Olivia was selected for their dinner.

After taking a sip from her glass, Olivia says to her father that it is good to see him. Rowan in return says that it is good to finally leave the house. The implication is that his movements have been severely limited by Olivia, who in response to this tells him that he is allowed to leave his house whereever he wants. Rowan counters by saying that he is allowed to go wherever he wants because she has cameras on him.

Okay, time out. Rowan is being sycophantic because he doesn’t want to offend Olivia? This is one hell of a role reversal. I knew that she had him quaking in his boots in the season finale, but who'da thought we’d see Rowan being deferential to Olivia? What world is this?!

Oh, right. Olivia’s.

It is apparent that they have had this discussion in the past, and Olivia again assures him that she doesn’t have him under surveillance. Rowan doesn’t believe her, remarking that camera use is in Chapter 1 of “How to Imprison Your Dad Handbook.” (He’d know since it’s also in the “How to Manipulate Your Daughter using a B613 Agent” handbook.) Olivia tells him that putting cameras on him would mean that she believes that he would do something silly like run, ignore her advice, or indirectly say to her that he doesn’t enjoy having dinner with her. (Lord…)

Olivia then directs Rowan to ask her about work, and when he does, she shares that she believes that they’ll get the free education bill (a.k.a. the Vargas bill) passed. When asked how it is that she got Senator Michaels on board, Olivia replies that she presented the man with “facts” that in turn led to him seeing the “light”. Rowan is amused by her use of euphemism, and then he asks about the President. Olivia responding that “Mellie is good” prompts Rowan to say the following that, I think, foreshadows what we see later in the episode:

“So, Mellie is in formation. Happy to let you hold all the cards, wield all the power--happy as your puppet.” -- Rowan Pope

Olivia rebuts that she and Mellie are a team, and Rowan scoffs at this and points out that Olivia has never played team sports. (Ha! Truth.) Leaning forward in her seat, Olivia tells him that the time now is hers and that how she is doing things is better. Rowan chuckles at the absurdity of her statement, telling her that her present self is like him “looking into the window of [his] past”, that all he managed to do no matter how hard he tried with her was to create himself. He then downs his glass of wine in one fell swoop before pouring himself some more.

He goes on to say that a reckoning is coming for Olivia. He tells her that she may think that she has everything under control, but that there will come a day when she will discover that some of her acquired power is missing. It is then that she will be faced with the question of whether she wants that lost power back and who she will be willing to hurt to get it. Based on his experience, Rowan warns Olivia that she cannot have it all.

Needless to say, Olivia did not like hearing him say that she was Rowan 2.0, and she most assuredly did not appreciate him telling her that she can’t have it all. That was akin to Rowan throwing down the gauntlet. If there is one thing we know for sure about Olivia Pope, it is that she hates being told what she can’t do. Don’t hinder her progress by stepping in her lane and don’t tell her that she’s going to lose. She will go out of her way to prove you wrong. That much is evident in her defiant response to her father, to whom she says, “Watch me.”

We’ll be watching.

The following day, Olivia is on Curtis Pryce’s show debating the Vargas bill, and her hair is laid for the gawds! (Yes, ma’am!) She is handling this appearance like a boss, and right as she is set to launch into the merits of free college, Curtis signals that their time is up. Olivia notes that they had thirty more seconds and accuses him of ending early because he didn’t like getting schooled on own show.

The woman’s got confidence that could power an entire continent. And Curtis was enamored.

Over at QPA, Abby is verbally outlining what they know so far about their client’s father Joshua Stewart as she affixes photos on the glass wall board. One significant detail is that Stewart often travelled to some rough areas, including 1980s Nicaragua and 1990s Eastern Europe.

As this information is being laid out, Charlie is cutting up fruit for Quinn that he eventually slides over to her. Quinn picks up a grape right before she asks Huck if he’ll be able hack into the security system of the university where Stewart was last seen. Huck can and does, and the gladiators soon determine that there is more to this Stewart guy than meets the eye.

Blurring the Lines

Later that evening, Quinn shows up at Olivia’s. It is late and Olivia looks disheveled. Quinn attempts to come into the apartment because she needs to pee, but Olivia blocks her entrance and asks Quinn why it is that she has come. Quinn explains that she believes their missing person client may be a CIA operative. Olivia takes the file offered by Quinn and does a quick flip through before telling Quinn that she’ll see what she can find out. Quinn thanks her and then again reiterates her need to pee, but Olivia shuts the door on her.

If you’re of the mind that Olivia has pulled this stunt before on one of her gladiators, recall “It’s Hard Out Here For A General” (510) where Olivia would only open up the door enough for Huck who came to speak with her about a sensitive client. Huck wondered why it was that she wouldn’t open the door to let him in and even told her then that her behavior was weird.

The repeat here with Quinn let me know that Olivia was engaging in some foolishness that she had no business engaging in and that she was doing it with the same rat bastard that she was doing it with in 510. This suspicion was confirmed when Olivia returns to her bedroom and we see a barely dressed Jake there.

What in the entire gatdamn fug!

Like, help me understand this, y’all. First of all, he’s her subordinate now. Secondly, ain’t his behind still married? WYD?! Thirdly, what?? Of all the men in all of the freakin’ world…

Jake is standing by the bed with his pants on as Olivia comes back into the room. He asks her what the visit was about, and she says that it’s something that he will need to look into. As she settles back into bed, Jake moves to take his pants back off. Olivia notices and asks him what he is doing. Jake replies that they aren’t “finished”, to which Olivia says that they are. When Jake insists that they “finish” again, Olivia points out that she just told him that she has work for him and she tosses the file that Quinn give to her in his direction.

Jake suddenly catches feelings and gives her a “yes, ma’am” before he starts shoving his legs back into his pants. (How old is this man again?) Olivia sees that she has offended him and so she attempts to rectify the situation by taking the file back and saying that the work can wait until morning. She even goes so far as to apologize, but Jake continues to act like a petulant child.

Olivia lets out a sigh before she says to him that she thought that they were both clear as to what their arrangement was. Jake recalls that she used the word “convenient” to describe it. She goes on to add “safe and secure.” He then spits out “easy.” Since he’s clear as to what it is that they are doing, she wants to know why he is now making things difficult.

Pause for the cause. Does Jake have any self-respect? This woman has repeatedly treated him like garbage, and he returns each time for more abuse? Is this a case of hoping that something will change in her feelings for him? Is this the best that he believes he can get? Some attention is better than none at all? Why would anyone agree to being her “convenient”, “safe”, “secure”, and “easy” boy toy when you know that she won’t be giving you that which you seek from her?

And they accuse women of doing emotionally dumb shit?

Olivia is eventually able to coax him back to bed, and we are thankfully spared further demonstration of their dry ass bed tussle. I swear, that had to have been the most awkward choreography ever. I don’t know why Shonda insists on making me suffer such indignity.

The following day, Olivia is in her office tallying up the numbers of votes that they have for the Vargas bill. There is a news report on that she is barely paying attention to until there is mention of the former President Grant. Olivia turns away from the board and fully towards the television then, and she stares for a long moment at the image on the screen of what appears to be Fitz mid jog.

The moment parallels a similar one from “Defiance” (207) where Fitz was in this very same office with Cyrus, and he wasn’t listening to a thing his chief of staff was saying because his attention was fixated on the small bit of Olivia that he could see from the corner of the screen. Same soundtrack plays over that scene and this present one, and I feel a little Olitz flip in my stomach. Le sigh.

The media had sought the former president’s opinion on the latest legislation that Mellie is pushing, and Fitz declined to give them one, opting instead to say that there is only one president at a time.

Maybe it was just me, but I thought it unusual that they would be seeking his opinion about something that the current President Grant is looking to pass. Do other former presidents get asked this of their successors or is Mellie a “special” case? Hmm.

The spell over Olivia is broken when Jake comes into her office. The television is put on mute and Olivia gives her visitor her full attention. Jake shares with her that Quinn was right about her client being CIA. According to what he has learned, Stewart is a highly valuable asset whose teaching position in Bashran was a cover. He goes on to say that Stewart’s disappearance is a big deal.

Olivia believes that they should share this intel with Mellie, but Jake disagrees. He speculates that whoever has Stewart will likely torture him to the point of spilling state secrets, and so in order to keep that from happening, he recommends that Stewart be killed via B613. Jake warns that if they don’t kill him, Stewart could be turned into a weapon that the Bashranis use against the United States. Stewart could compromise all of the other CIA operatives in the region.

What Jake is asking Olivia to do is something that Cyrus would have approved without hesitation. He, after all, nearly had Olivia and her captors blown to bits when the opportunity presented itself in “No More Blood” (413). What he had said to Abby then to justify this plan of attack was that the “fate of our nation is more important than the life and liberty of one individual”. Abby did eventually find another way to save the one and the nation, and it would appear that Olivia is trying to do the same here with Stewart.

Jake goes on to say that this is Olivia’s call to make, but as her adviser, he is telling her that this is something that they must do and do fast. When Olivia says that she needs to think about it, he pushes back, but she again asserts that she needs time. Jake eventually relents, and before he exits, he tells Olivia that it gets easier being Command. (Um, okay?)

Olivia has gotten in way over her head with the resurrection of B613 and installation of herself as Command. This is going to be one hell of a personal conflict that is going to go sideways with a swiftness.

Elsewhere in Washington, Cyrus is meeting with Democratic Senator Diane Greenwald who he is trying to woo over to their side with the Vargas bill. The senator says that she doesn’t have anything against the bill, but that the initiative was supposed to be a Democratic one. She urges Cyrus to work with them to burn the bill, so that in four years, it could be a game-changing legislation for himself.

Cyrus expresses some incredulity at her proposal, stating that they are barely 100 days into Mellie’s presidency and here the senator is asking him to sabotage her so that he can take his chances in four years. Senator Greenwald counters by saying that Cyrus ought to take the long view of how beneficial doing this would be to him, urging him not to hand this to “Olivia Pope and the president she chose.”

The senator goes on to list the many things that Cyrus has going for him: he worked for a Republican president, ran as a Democratic VP to a martyred Latino, served as a Republican VP to the first woman president, he’s gay, adopted a black baby, and served time for a crime he didn’t commit. According to Greenwald, Cyrus is a liberal dream. She adds that Cyrus’s climb shouldn’t have to end at VP when he can go all the way to the very top of the mountain. It is obvious that Cyrus is giving her words some consideration. It is a tempting prospect.

Over at QPA, Quinn is assuring their client that the White House has promised that they will do everything that they can to bring her father home. Once Ms. Stewart leaves, Charlie asks Quinn why it is that she didn’t tell her that her father was a spy and Quinn replies that they were hired to find her father, not play therapist. In between this, Quinn announces that she is hungry and that they should order from some vegan place. Abby whines that that place doesn’t sell food (LOL!), but Quinn gives Abby her order anyway. Quinn is eating at almost every turn.

Before Quinn disappears into her office, Huck asks if she has heard from Olivia since the previous night. Quinn says that she hadn’t, that Olivia said she would call. When asked why he was inquiring, Huck says that he was just wondering.

Later that evening, Olivia is emerging from the elevator on the floor of her apartment when she is startled by Huck who is standing just off her line of vision. He opens their dialogue by saying that Stewart’s body needs to come home. He states that it won’t be easy bringing a body back, but that Stewart’s daughter is deserving of a funeral. After a moment, Olivia tells him that they shouldn’t be having the conversation. Huck replies that no one at QPA knows that he’s there, that they believe that she is helping them. He tells her that all she has to do is give them Stewart’s body and no one will have to know that it is she who killed him.

Olivia asks Huck why it is that he would assume that she would kill Stewart, and Huck points out that the man is a spy and that killing spies is what is done when they get caught. Olivia brushes that aside and again repeats her question of why it is that Huck would assume that she herself would do such a thing, and Huck says simply that Olivia is now one of “them.”

Whew. I don’t think Olivia was prepared for that answer. First her father tells her that she reminds him of himself and now Huck is seeing her as being a part of the unidentified “they.” If anything, this encounter likely solidified her resolve to do things differently than “they” would.

Challenging Her Leadership

The next morning, Jake enters the Oval after being summoned by the President, and he finds Mellie standing together with Olivia. He is caught unawares when Mellie asks him about Joshua Stewart, and his eyes shift to Olivia who pipes up then to say that she has brought Mellie up to speed on their rescue plans and that the President agrees that bringing Stewart home would be the best course of action.

Rescue plans??

Well, damn, Liv. That’s one hell of a way of informing Jake that you’ve decided to forego his recommendation of taking the man out! Aren’t y’all supposed to be a team or something?

Following this meeting, Olivia is questioned by Jake as they walk down the hallway on why she bothered to seize power if she won’t be able to make necessary difficult calls. Olivia states that she makes tough calls all the time. When Jake challenges of this assertion, Olivia brings up Luna Vargas as an example. Jake acknowledges her role in Luna’s death, expressing his admiration in her ability to had made that call, but he is quick to add that that decision was but one of thousands that Olivia will have to make.

While I am squarely in the “Andrew and Luna Had It Coming” camp, I’m not a fan of this Olivia who uses murder (or murder by proxy) as evidence of “toughness”. And I’m certainly not here for Jake’s encouragement of her to murder again, but this is the bed that Olivia has decided to lay in--both literally and figuratively.

When Jake asks her if she has any other tough calls left in her, Olivia replies that her call is that Stewart is a patriot and that all patriots get brought home. Her call is also “hope of cynicism” and that murder will not be a part of her White House. It is here that Jake interjects to point out that they are talking about B613 and not the White House. Whispering now, he says that B613 is the real job and that the organization is what needs her real attention.

Jake treads  into the forbidden territory of telling Olivia what she ought to be doing when she cuts him off with a warning. He tells her that he’s trying to help, and when he proceeds to speak of when Rowan began B613, Olivia interjects to remind him that this B613 isn’t her father’s and that it is she who runs the show. She recalls for him that his position in this endeavor is to do as told, and as such, he is to bring Stewart home alive. She caps this off by addressing him as “Admiral Ballard.” Ouch.

Later, Olivia is in her office updating their tally on the dry erase board when Cyrus walks in. She wants an update from him on Senator Greenwald, and Cyrus tells her that the senator is tough but that he’ll be able to get her to play ball. Olivia replies that he’ll have to or there won’t be a bill.

Proceeding to her desk, Olivia picks up her phone and rapidly starts typing into it. Cyrus stands there a moment before asking if the update was all Olivia wanted, and Liv says that she will need him to say a few words to a group of Rangerettes. She explains that Mellie would do it herself but that she got pulled into a meeting with the Bashrani ambassador.

Cyrus looks insulted by the request. Noting this, Olivia asks him if the meeting is going to be a problem. Before he can answer, she points out that he is the second-in-command to the first ever woman president and that the “Rangerette organization is dedicated to the education and empowerment of young women”. She goes on to say that based on his naked contempt for the request that Cyrus obviously considers it unimportant to meet these future leaders.

She’s got him cornered and Cyrus knows it. It takes him a moment, but he does agree to speaking with the Rangerettes. Once he is back in his office, he instructs his assistant to clear his afternoon schedule for the Rangerettes and to call Senator Greenwald for him. He is ready for that drink. (Ut oh.)

Meanwhile in the Oval, Mellie is sitting with the Bashrani ambassador who is impressed by the Bashrani tea that he has been presented with. Following the small talk, Mellie begins the serious conversation by using nonspecific terms such as “a situation” and “problem” when referring to Joshua Stewart. She stresses that it would be in their respective country’s best interests to resolve the matter in a way that would make both sides happy.

When the ambassador plays dumb to her meaning, Mellie gets more specific and states outright that it would be a serious problem if Bashran is holding American assets captive. She outlines all the different ways in which such a thing could be a problem for Bashran, including the use of the Armed Forces. She does pull back from that thinly veiled threat to say that she isn’t interested in going that far.

The ambassador speaks up then to say that he now understands the issue. He goes on insult her by suggesting that because she has been President for a short while, the massive amount of daily intel gets has made it difficult for her to decipher which among the information is legitimate. He then patronizes her by saying that she shouldn’t worry, that he knows that she’s only doing her job and that he takes no offense. He further compounds the disrespect by saying that he will partake in another cup of the tea.

The kind of restraint that Mellie must have had to employ in that very moment…

Later in the day, Olivia shows up at the NSA to find Jake listening in to some tap of the Bashrani ambassador. Olivia asks if anything has yet been said about Stewart, and instead of giving her a straight “no” in response, Jake opts for sarcasm. He then tells Olivia that her plan isn’t working. (Didn’t you just start on this like a few hours ago?) Olivia says that she knows that he thinks she is wrong about this, but she insists that she is looking for a better way.

Jake asks Olivia for how long it has been since Stewart has been missing, and when she gives him the answer, he launches into detailing various times when he had been captured as an operative and the things that were done to him in an attempt to get him to talk. He does this as a way to explain to Olivia that unlike himself, Stewart is not trained to withstand the level of torture to which he himself had been subjected. He does this to try to get Olivia to change her mind and go with his plan, but despite the numerous risks that Jakes presents to her, Olivia remains steadfast in her resolve.

This is a really risky thing that she is doing here. She’s playing Russian roulette where Stewart is the bullet in a Bashrani gun and America and all of her assets is its target. When you consider the long-reaching ramifications of Stewart cracking under duress, you’d have to admit that Jake’s plan has merit.

Back at the White House, Cyrus is seen pacing right outside of the room where the Rangerettes are gathered, and he appears to be having something of a mini anxiety attack when Mellie shows up. He is surprised see her since he had been told that she would be occupied all afternoon. Mellie tells him that there had been a change of plans and that her meeting ended earlier than expected. (I’d bet.)

She is on her way into the room to speak with the girls when she turns back around to address Cyrus. She offers him genuine thanks for his help with the Vargas bill and acknowledges that what he was tasked to do was difficult. Cyrus responds that it is all part of the job, and Mellie thanks him again anyway. She then points out the improbability of them working together and wonders why it was that they spent so many years trying to destroy one another, musing that they could have been friends in all of that time. (Ha!)

Elsewhere in the White House, Olivia returns to her office to find Curtis Pryce standing in front of her door. She says nothing as she stares at him, and Curtis is forced to explain that Olivia’s assistant made him stand in that exact position and wouldn’t let him into her sanctum. Lucy (the assistant) is quick to say that she had been trying to call Olivia, and Olivia tells her that she should have made Curtis wait outside or instructed him to go home.

Turning back to the TV host, Olivia asks Curtis what it is that he wants, and he says that he has come to see if she still wanted her 30 seconds. Olivia gives him a blank stare before he asks her out for dinner. Confounded, Olivia asks if he came all the way to the White House just to ask her out, and Curtis explains that he was actually there for a media summit with the Communications Office and figured that since he was already there, he would swing through.

In response, Olivia points out that it is the middle of the day. As Curtis explains that he didn’t mean to that they go out at that very moment, her phone chimes and Olivia looks down at it. She starts to smile and Curtis takes this as a positive sign. Olivia tells him that her smile has nothing to do with him as she starts back out of the room. Curtis says that he doesn’t believe her, causing Olivia to step back to give him her serious face before continuing on her way. Curtis then looks over at Lucy, who deadpans that she thinks that Olivia was telling the truth.


Olivia is soon seen coming into the Oval to share with Mellie the good news that they have landed another senator for the Vargas bill, but she cuts herself off when she notices Mellie glance towards someone behind her. She turns around to find Jake sitting there. She starts to ask what he is doing there when Mellie cuts in by saying that Olivia isn’t the only one with good news. She informs Olivia that Stewart has been located.

Olivia is still facing Jake at this point so Mellie can’t see the look of certain death that Olivia is directing at him. Jake finally gets up from his seat to step closer to the women, and he shares that he has learned that Stewart is being held at a compound near the Turkish border. Olivia finally turns to face Mellie and she agrees that this information is indeed good news. She goes on to say that a SEAL team in the region could start preparing to stage a rescue, but she doesn’t get very far with that thought because Mellie cuts in to say that the plan has changed.

It is now Olivia’s turn to be caught off guard as Mellie explains that rescues take time and that time means dead Americans. She continues by saying that Jake has walked her through all the possible scenarios and that a surgical strike (i.e. eliminating the asset) is the best option. Olivia requests a moment to discuss this with Mellie, but Mellie shuts her down by saying that Olivia has already made her case and now Jake has made his. When Olivia dares to continue arguing the point, Mellie stands up from her seat and asserts that this plan is what they are doing, leaving zero room for further argument. Olivia is taken aback as Mellie turns to Jake to have him walk her through the strategy of their agreed upon mission.

Oh, hot butter popcorn! Y’all know darn well that Olivia Carolyn Pope isn’t about to be usurped in her White House by Jake Ballard, right? No siree Bob!

In juxtaposition with the happenings in the Situation Room, Olivia is seen meeting up with the Bashrani ambassador who says to her that he hopes that she has arrived with a case of the tea that he was given during his visit at the White House; otherwise, he has nothing more to say to her. Olivia responds by handing him a tablet that is running video of children at play. Among those children is the ambassador’s son. Olivia reveals that what he is watching is a live feed taken from the scope of an M96 sniper rifle. What she wants from him is Joshua Stewart. The ambassador can either stick with his lie and lose his son or give up Stewart.

When the ambassador makes no immediate move to do just that, Olivia picks up her phone to call the person manning the rifle. It’s Huck! He confirms that he has a clean shot of their target, and then with some concern, he seeks verification from her that this exercise is only a bluff. When she doesn’t immediately answer, Huck asks again, but this time there is a bit of panic in his voice.

Meanwhile, Olivia is daring the ambassador to call her bluff. She instructs Huck to take the shot and starts a countdown. 5, 4, 3… The ambassador gives in before she could get any further, and Olivia looks like she was worried that the man wouldn’t capitulate. That was one hell of a gamble that paid off.

Back at the Situation Room, the mission isn’t going as expected. The soldiers on the ground arrive to where they believed Stewart to be, but they instead find an empty room. As Jake is trying to work out where else in the compound Stewart could be, Olivia strides into the Situation Room with her phone to her ear and heads straight for Mellie. She has the Bashrani ambassador on the line, and he would like a word with the President.

After a few minutes on the phone, Mellie is given the unbelievable, yet good news that Joshua Stewart has been delivered unharmed to the US Embassy. As the others in the room gasp at this development, Olivia turns a knowing look on Jake and then Mellie before looking away. She is obviously not happy with either of them.

She’s the Captain Now

That evening, Cyrus is seen having that drink with Senator Greenwald. He tells her that he thought about her offer and that he thinks that it makes a lot of sense, but that it has a significant flaw. Since the legislation is a good one, there is no need to wait four years for it to be implemented. Cyrus then goes into a passionate speech about why free education now is important and to who such a deal would benefit. There is not only a willing President, but also enough votes in the House and Senate (with her say so) to get this bill done today.

Cyrus then promises that if she and her band of cynics vote against the bill, the President and their constituents will hear all about how another fat-cat politician would rather given the other side a loss than to give the American people a win. And with that Cyrus exits.

Dare I hope that we are seeing a new Cyrus Beene? Eh. I’m well-versed Shonda shenanigans, so I know the deal. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, you can’t get fooled again.

Back at QPA, the gladiators watch the reunion of the Stewarts from outside of the conference room. Huck remarks that he loves a happy ending, and Abby says that she loves a big fat paycheck. (Haha!)

Elsewhere in DC, Olivia is watching “The Pryce of Power” and its host has just admitted that he was wrong about not believing that the President would be able to get the votes necessary to make the Vargas bill a reality. Olivia is soon interrupted by a knock at the door, and she opens it to find Jake. She initially ignores his greeting and tells him that he can’t come in, but when he apologizes for going to Mellie behind her back, Olivia steps away from the door and back into her apartment, which allows for Jake to make his way inside. Olivia tells him that there is no need for him to apologize because what happened was entirely her fault. Jake is quick to absolve her by pointing out that she had been right about Stewart and that it was he who was wrong. Olivia is like, “Of course, I was right--DUH”, but that isn’t what she is referring to.

“You overstepped. You went around me to Mellie. That’s not about being wrong. That’s about being too comfortable.

“I made a mistake with you. We are very, very good together. We have a skill. And...I was weak. But no matter what, I never should’ve let you back in my bed.

“You’re sleeping with the boss. You got comfortable. You got familiar. You forgot who I am. You forgot to be afraid and you overstepped.” -- Olivia Pope

Jake has a hard time believing that Olivia is being serious, but the woman is eerily calm as she hands down her indictment. She tells him that she won’t be making the same mistake ever again and informs Jake that “this is over.”

Despite her words, Jake is still in denial and he attempts to coax a kiss out of Olivia, but she stops his further advance by ordering him to go home to his wife. Hahahaha!!

Lord have mercy…. What kind of ain’t shit individuals are you two anyway? This fool is still married to a woman he doesn’t care for because he somehow can’t find it within himself to divorce her without a directive from one of the Popes, and Olivia is here messing around with yet another married man (not the same, I know) that she doesn’t even want beyond the sexcapades. And that’s not even mentioning yet again that he is her subordinate!

I understand that a girl has needs, but is Jake seriously her only option in the sea of men who live in the DMV? Come on, mayne. Please stop subjecting us to this chapped parchment paper of a pairing. They’re as sexy as two slugs getting it on in your glass of lemonade. Hard pass forever.

Once Jake departs, Olivia gets a phone call from Senator Greenwald who tells her that Cyrus did not fall for the bait, and that he is Team Mellie all the way.

Wait a gosh darn minute! Greenwald’s proposals to Cyrus was concocted by Olivia?! Wowww. Sneaky way to find out if Cyrus is attempting to make moves behind their backs to further his own career. She’s smart to not trust him, but I do wonder about her paranoia.

The following morning, Olivia comes into the Oval to find Mellie sitting at her desk. She starts off by telling Mellie that the Bashrani President is irate over the U.S. military’s incursion into his country, and that because of it, he is no longer interested in discussing a nuclear treaty. She adds that she has secured a call with the British Prime Minister in an effort to get him to assist with smoothing things over since he went to school with the Bashrani president.

Mellie responds that maybe Olivia could call the British Prime Minister herself, and then she asks if maybe Olivia would rather give her an earpiece so that she can feed her lines. Before Olivia can say much, Mellie seeks to set some ground rules and she tells Olivia that her job is to give Mellie counsel and that it is Mellie who then makes the decisions. (True.)

Olivia interrupts then in opposition to this framing of her job, and when Mellie warns her about crossing her again, Olivia points out that she actually saved Mellie with this Stewart debacle. It is here that, Mellie gets up to say to Olivia that the Oval Office is her office, but Olivia is disabuse her of that thought:

“This is not your office. It belongs to the people, to the Republic. This Office is sacred. You don’t own it. You lease it--four years with an option for renewal. You protect it, you serve it, and you don’t decide the best way to do that by yourself.” -- Olivia Pope

Mellie scoffs at the suggestion that she made any decision by herself, stating that she listened to Olivia’s advice and chose to take a different route. Olivia cuts in to say that because Mellie chose to not go with her advice, she is now stuck cleaning up after her. (What’s new?) Olivia is set to get the British PM on the line when Mellie exclaims that she doesn’t care if the situation with Bashran leads to another World War. What she presently cares about is making clear that Olivia is to follow her orders and not freelance behind her back after an order has been given.

LMAO! Mellie, girl, why are you acting brand new? Olivia’s going to follow your orders?

Olivia is momentarily stunned by Mellie’s words, but then she gathers herself and prepares to give Mellie a monologue for the ages.

“There are three things you need to know about me that you should already know, but I clearly need to reiterate. One, you do not ignore me. Because, two, I am right, always. It’s frustrating--get used to it. And three, there is only us.”

At this point, Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock’s “It Takes Two” starts to play.

“You and me. That’s all there is. We have it all. The people, the pulpit, the purse strings, the guns. All of it. Everything. Ours to deploy in the defense and the betterment of the people and the office we serve.

“But the men outside of these oval walls? They want to take it all away from us because they are terrified. Because they are outraged. Because they have come to the realization that all those centuries of misogyny and privilege and status quo are finally over. That is why you never listen to a man over me. Your success as President is my only agenda. I, alone, have your back always.

“You want to keep the barbarians at the gate? You want to hold these walls? You want to keep having it all, reverse the tides of injustice, redraw the map, flood the darkness with light, earn our place and make it so that woman holding this office is no longer a novelty by the norm? Then you have to stop thinking of me as an employee and start thinking of me as what I am.”

When Mellie asks Olivia what exactly it is that she is, she replies:

“The boss. Put your faith in me and me alone, and you will become a monument. Ignore me, allow them to come between us, and you will become an asterisk.”

So, um, there is so much to unpack here. I’ve seen the applause given to this speech, and while I find a good deal of it to be aspirational and fantasy fulfilling, there is quite a bit that I consider to be troubling. How is it that Olivia can tell Mellie that she cannot make decisions on her own, and yet turn around and say that Mellie must place her entire trust in her alone? If Mellie is to never ignore her advice and isn’t allowed to deviate from said advice, then Mellie isn’t actually making the decisions, is she? Olivia is. And if Olivia is the one making all the decisions, then Mellie is essentially a puppet figurehead, yes?

Contrary to what Olivia has long believed (and what those in her circle have further enabled), Olivia isn’t always right, and Mellie would be foolish to buy into this false narrative. Olivia lucked out with this Bashrani situation, but it could have had a very different outcome. It could still have unforeseen consequences that could play out in the episodes ahead.

Now I may be on the wrong track here, but it felt like Olivia was isolating Mellie from receiving input from anyone else, with men being cast as the enemies of their progress. It’s a rather extreme form of protectionism that can lead decisions being made with limited information and perspectives. We’ll see how this all plays out in the coming episodes.

And of course, Mellie says to Olivia that she wishes to be a monument. I do wonder if she understands that she is submitting to what sounds like the relinquishment of her autonomy. This isn’t what a partnership looks like, and it most assuredly isn’t typical of the President and their Chief of Staff. As Rowan said earlier, Olivia doesn’t play team sports well.

Juxtaposed with this Oval scene is Olivia strutting into some restaurant that is populated by mostly men. She is accompanied by Secret Service as she makes her way towards a table. She greets several of these men along the way, and makes eye contact with Curtis who is sitting at the bar. He soon joins her at her table, and she proceeds to casually instructs him on the steps he needs to take in order to meet up with her at a nearby hotel. There is a man named Mike who works for her who will give him a key to a room that shares a connecting door with the room next to it. She informs him that that door will be unlocked. Olivia then tell him that she’s going to depart now and that he is to follow after 30 seconds.

Oh. Okay now! Looks like Olivia done gotten herself a new boy toy. Maybe? It’s hella risky, but he ain’t Jaaaake. (I’m petty) As long as the D is unmarried and knows how to put it down...

So what do you guys think is going on here? Does Curtis smell like trouble waiting to happen? Is Olivia going too far with Mellie? Can Olivia handle being both Chief of Staff and Command? Will Mellie eventually crack under Olivia’s direction? Could Rowan had been right about Olivia not being able to have it all? Will Huck’s assistance of Olivia lead to conflict with QPA? Is this the absolute end with Olivia’s dalliance with her “brother”?

Share your thoughts in the comment section below or send them my way via Twitter.

Thank you for reading this recap/review of Scandal’s episode 701, and I will see you next week!

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