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Scandal - People Like Me - Review: "Discarding the Master's Tools"

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Ah, Scandal. My giver and my taker, you strike again.
“People Like Me” did so much to feed my shade-loving soul, only to then find some way to tap dance on the one nerve that I didn’t know I had left for the pairing known as Mellivia. Since Shonda Rhimes is determined to shake her girl power pom-poms with these two leading the squad, I guess I’ll sit through it or whatever. And then the writers compound my headache by giving us a high dose of Jake Ballard! Whatever did I do to deserve this, Lord?

But hold fast, friends! Despite what I just said above, the episode was a lot of fun. Truly. It was typical of what you’d expect from Scandal, complete with the ever-increasing feeling that something big is about to pop off. (Ahem.) And this installment was directed by none other than Joe Morton aka Papa Pope! It was well done, despite a few narrative annoyances that manifested here and there.

Let’s get into this, yeah?

The Devil at One’s Doorstep

“People Like Me” picks up from where the last episode left off with Mellie asking Olivia to kill Cyrus and Huck’s parting words echoing over the meetup like a looming conscience.

“I need you to do something for me. Be my Command again. Kill Cyrus Beene.”

“We’ve all done bad things. We’ve all hurt people. It’s what you do next that matters.”

Olivia balks at Mellie’s request for murder and Mellie says that she would do it herself, but that she and Olivia both know that that isn’t a possibility. (Come on, mayne.) When Olivia declares that Mellie isn’t a killer, Mellie takes offense and goes into a ramble about how as POTUS, she kills all kinds of people every day, many of whom are more innocent that Cyrus. (That wasn’t the kind of killing Olivia was referring to, but do carry on.)

Olivia reminds her that she is under suspicion for attempting to take down Cyrus’s plane, and she asks what Mellie thinks will happen if she is found to be responsible for Cyrus’s death. Here, Mellie interrupts to say that Olivia is “as precise and capable a killer as any”, and as she is set to add that Olivia knows how to make Cyrus’s death look like an accident, Olivia cuts her off to say that she is no longer in the business of killing people.

Mellie wishes tactics then. She brings up the thousands of Americans who died in World War II and says to Olivia that there is such a thing as a “just war” and that they are presently in the middle of one. Olivia argues that they aren’t at war, and Mellie counters by saying that they are indeed at war and that Cyrus is its architect. She states that Cyrus is the villain, and then in a show of frustration, she questions Olivia’s patriotism. She says that she is a state and that Cyrus is the enemy of the state. “He is attacking democracy, attacking the Oval, attacking freedom,” she says, and all I can do is roll my eyes.

Democracy, the Oval, freedom? I know this chick isn’t talking about attacks on democracy when she, Olivia, and Cyrus are all in the positions they are in because they rigged an election. Should I remind Mellie that she and Olivia only made it back into the White House because the rightful winner was assassinated and his wife later forced into suicide thanks to Olivia? But, sure, let’s talk about democracy and freedom and the American way.

And of course, Olivia slips right into place as she adds that Cyrus is also attacking Mellie the person. Mellie repeats this with great emphasis and then furthers her appeal by saying that Olivia worked so hard to get her to the White House, and that it was the two of them who “outran the boys all the way to the Oval”. Cyrus, she says, isn’t allowed to steal this from them; that Cyrus doesn’t “get to rewrite the history of women. He doesn’t get to erase [their] climb”.

Oh, give me a flipping breeeeeeeeeak! Mellie is using the same illogic on Olivia that Olivia used on her early in the season (701), and I just want to hit something. Because they are women who have never been in their positions before, they must kill to ensure that they maintain their place on top? How is this any different from what men have long done again? And Olivia was all like, “You right”.

Fauxmenism on 100. I can’t.

Elsewhere in the White House, Cyrus has summoned Jake to him to be sure that an eye is being kept on Mellie. He says that things are ramping up and he wants to keep Mellie from doing “anything stupid”. Jake agrees with this and then he proposes an adjustment to the plan. Cyrus dismisses an adjustment outright, but Jake insists that he should at least hear him out. He points out that Cyrus doesn’t believe that Olivia is going to sit quietly on the sidelines and let this coup happen, so he suggests that they carry out a preemptive strike against Olivia and the gladiators.

As Jake is about to elaborate further, Cyrus waves his words aside and tells Jake not to be “greedy”. He states that they (meaning Cyrus) have things set up exactly as they want it and so now was not the time for them to go on the offensive. They are to instead defend their position and not leave themselves vulnerable by going on the attack. Jake tries to interject here, but Cyrus shuts him down by stating that he appreciates his input, but they were going to stay on their present course with his plan and not “overcomplicate things”. Mellie is a prisoner in her own house and Jake is to make sure that things stay that way. (Why is this giving me Andrew Nichols vibes?) Jake eventually relents with a “Yes, sir” and Cyrus leans back in his seat and replies with an “Attaboy”.

Oh, Jake. You really expected things to be different this time around, didn’t you? Tsk.

When we see Mellie again, she is walking through the halls of the White House with Rachel following quickly behind her. The assistant is rattling off a list of various heads of state who she knows will call upon learning that Mellie is a person of interest in the Air Force Two hijacking. As they are walking along, various employees look at Mellie with suspicion, a few with outright hostility. Rachel is in a straight panic as she asks her boss what it is that she is to say when these people do call. (Where in God’s name is Mellie’s Chief of Sta….never mind.)

Once they make it to the anteroom of the Oval, Mellie turns on Rachel and tells her to “wipe that look” off of her face, stating that she is a “woman, not Bambi” and that “this is the White House, not a blazing forest”. (It may as well be.) Rachel calms herself all the way down, and Mellie lets out a long sigh before she provides Rachel with a standard response that she is to give to anybody who calls. She then tells her that the only person who calls who may be patched through directly to her is Olivia. Nobody else until further notice.

Next Lonnie Mencken is seen answering (or not answering) questions from a clamoring press corp. He tells them that he can’t tell them much without compromising the integrity of the investigation, but that he can confirm that Mellie is a person of interest. He says he’ll provide them with updates as new information is made available. As reporters continue to shout questions at him, Lonnie steps off of the podium and out of the room.

Over at QPA (day time), Olivia is strategizing with the gladiators and she has presented them with what she has in mind to get Cyrus to back down. Huck asks if what Olivia wants is for them to kidnap the Vice President, and Olivia says that what she actually wants is just access to him so that she can try to convince him to end his plot against Mellie. Huck points out the obvious then by reminding her that she is last person that Cyrus would want to see.

Abby turns to Quinn then to ask if she still has the number that Cyrus gave her and Quinn says that she does, but that she figures Cyrus must have gotten rid of the phone by now. Abby intends to use the number to try to figure out all of the places that Cyrus has been while he had the phone on him, and following that train of thought, Olivia says that tracing the number could give them a location for where she can have her little chat with Cyrus.

Olivia grabs her bag then and starts for the exit, but before she can make it far, Huck asks if there is a plan “B” should she fail with Cyrus. As Olivia turns towards him to reply, Quinn beats her to it by saying that they will be plan “B”. While Olivia works on convincing Cyrus, they will be working on finding proof that Cyrus coordinated the attack on his own plane. She says that if they succeed in finding the hacker that Cyrus used, they can take the VP down and clear Charlie’s name.

While Olivia stares at Quinn and shows no outward reaction to her response, Huck is staring at Olivia with heavy skepticism. He doesn’t look all that convinced that this plan of Olivia’s is going to go well.!

Flash over to the Ballards’ home, and Jake is exiting from an upstairs room with Vanessa fast on his heels. She is concerned about what is happening at the White House and wants to know if her husband is wrapped up in all of the Mellie treason mess. She asks if he is going to be fired or arrested, and he replies with an emphatic, “No.” Vanessa then wants to know how she will be affected after she lied about her former lover Robert’s involvement in a spying plot (711), and Jake tells her that she has nothing to worry about. (This woman is high-key annoying.)

Following him all the way down the stairs and into the living room, she asks him how it is that he can be so calm about all of this, and he says that it is because he knows that they are safe. He states that he and the Vice President have a “very solid working relationship” and that he has been promised a central role in Cyrus’s administration once everything shakes out with this Mellie business. He assures her that what he is doing is for the two of them and that they are going to be just fine. When Nessa asks him if he promises, Jake says that he does. They are a team, he tells her.

Over at the White House, Cyrus is walking into his office while looking down at the top sheet in his hand and he asks Hannah if what he is looking at is the current reflection of Mellie’s poll numbers. Hannah follows close behind with a bouquet of yellow daisies and replies that, yes, the numbers have gone down significantly. Ever the actor, Cyrus remarks on how “sad” it is that one subpoena has the public reacting to Mellie like so. As he circles to the other side of his desk, one can see what looks to be a doll of Dick Cheney [!!!] sitting on the bookshelf directly behind him! (Has he always been there?!)

Hannah presents Cyrus with the flowers then, indicating that he has been getting a lot of these particular ones lately, and she surmises that he must not like them since he throws them away every time that he gets them. She starts out of the room with the bouquet, but Cyrus directs her to leave them with him. Hannah then turns to leave the room, but then she stops as she comes to a realization. She turns back to her boss and says that if the President gets impeached, that would mean that Cyrus would be the next Commander-in-Chief. Cyrus plays coy as he acknowledges what she says, but states that he hopes for Mellie’s sake that it doesn’t come to that. (Ha!)

Once Hannah departs, Cyrus turns to the bouquet and unravels it. He goes right for one of the water tubes attached to the end of a flower stem and pulls out a note. It reads: need to meet.

Cyrus is next seen arriving at the location where he and Lonnie usually meet up, and as he shuts the door and starts addressing his co-conspirator, Olivia pops the cork on a bottle of wine and announces that Lonnie won’t be making it to the meeting and that Cyrus is going to have to settle for her instead. Cyrus is looking like a deer caught in the headlights as she holds up the opened of the three bottles that she brought with her and directs him to have a seat.

And Huck is with her, too!

Ish is about to get real. Hang on, folks.

Appealing to Better Angels

Back over at the White House, the press secretary is having one hell of a time handling the rabid mob otherwise known as the press corp. The reporters are impatient for answers as she trips over her words. Mellie is watching the presser from an area adjacent to the Oval, her disappointment plain over how Audrey is managing the situation. She turns off the television in annoyance, and as she is about to set the remote down on a nearby table, Marcus comes from around the corner.

Mellie is pleasantly surprised to see him, and they formally greet themselves while looking ready to hop on one another. Without a word, Mellie motions towards the door leading to the Oval, and Marcus opens it and stands aside to let her continue in first. (Ah, the gentleman.)

As they enter the room, Mellie’s mood sours and her eyes drift up to the camera situated at middle of the room’s ceiling. Marcus inquires as to her welfare, and Mellie says that she’s been better. Marcus remarks on the fact that she is being framed and then he says that he is there to help her fight back. He tells her that Cyrus is currently controlling the narrative and that Mellie ought to be out there in the press denying the allegations.

Mellie glances worriedly up at the camera again, and then she improvises a reason to move her and Marcus away from the spying eye and towards the windows. Her sudden talk of peonies throws Marcus off and he asks her since when did she start caring about “some damn flowers”. (LMAO! Slow ass…) Mellie again looks up at the camera and then motions for him to join her by the window.

I see y’all working in some throwback Olitz via their swirl-lite counterparts. (Keep in mind Mellie’s persistent awareness of the camera’s presence for later.)

Marcus is looking at Mellie like she has lost what little is left of her senses, but he obliges and joins her by the window. Mellie tells him that she isn’t usually into flowers, but that lately, that spot by the window is the only place where she can get some peace.

She is giving him all kinds of gestures to convey to him that they are by the windows for reasons having nothing to do with flowers, but Marcus apparently can’t translate her body language. He instead tells her that the fight is not over, and she replies that there is only one way that all of this ends. Marcus wonders what she means by this, and when she tells him not to worry about it, he says that he tends to worry when people tell him not to.

Letting out a long sigh, Mellie looks towards the camera yet again and then elevates her voice a bit to remark on how Chrysanthemums are hard to keep alive and so the groundskeepers are trying the peonies as a replacement. This statement has Marcus looking at her crazy again, and Mellie continues by saying that she isn’t “allowed to see things die”, that she is “protected”.

Moving in closer to him, she whispers that Olivia is working on something for her. Marcus wants to know what she means by “something”, but Mellie doesn’t elaborate. She instead tells him that the Office gets you one way or another, that it got Fitzgerald and now it has her. She adds that one has to either allow someone to take the Office from them or lose themselves fighting back against the usurpers.

Soooo...Mellie has opted to lose herself in order to hold on to power?

Marcus still appears confused by what she is saying and Mellie gives up on further elaboration. He wants to say more, but Mellie steps away from him, and in a louder voice thanks him for coming by. She walks over to the phone and signals for Rachel, asking her to come and show Marcus out. As Mellie hurries him along towards the door, Marcus gives her a worried look before exiting.

Back to Olivia now. She is pouring wine for her and Cyrus while saying how she would have preferred that they were having their little tête-à-tête on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial like they used to do in the old says; just the two of them late at night discussing their hopes, fears, wants, needs. Right as she remarks on how times have changed, Cyrus asks her what it is that she wants. Olivia walks over and holds out a glass of wine for him, but Cyrus just stares at her in suspicion, trying to figure out what her game is.

Noting his refusal to accept the offered wine, Olivia informs him that she is first going to take his phone, and she then orders Huck to collect the phone. As Huck approaches, Cyrus is still looking perplexedly at Olivia, and Olivia tells him that he’ll want to hand his phone over. There is a casual threat in the statement, one which promised pain if Cyrus didn’t do as told. Cyrus pulls his phone from his pocket and hands it over to Huck, his eyes still focused on Olivia. Huck tells Liv that he will be right outside and she nods as he makes his way out of the room.

Once alone with her long-ago teacher and friend, Olivia continues by stating that the next thing she is going to do is make him an offer. Cyrus patiently waits to hear what that offer is, and Olivia orders him to immediately end his coup. She says that if he is able to convince her that he has some humanity somewhere buried deep inside him (shade), she will let him go.

This is this the best that you can do, Livvie?! Prove that he’s human and you’ll let him go? You didn’t bother putting your back into this one, did you?

Cyrus rightfully laughs in her face at this weak ass offer and tells her that he will have to reject it. He accepts the wine and continues further into the room while asking what the alternative to this offer is. Olivia humorlessly chuckles to herself as she sets her wine aside and curls her fingers onto the top curve of a metal chair. (Send a prayer up for this child...) She proceeds to threaten that there are people outside of that room working to piece together the details of Cyrus’s plot by figuring out how he hijacked his own plane and who he paid to do it.

Cyrus watches her speak, but he doesn’t at all look afraid. He reminds Olivia that there is another team outside of that room that is far more superior than her “gaggle of misguided thugs and one rather irritating little ginger” and that they are known as the Secret Service. He asks her what she believes will happen when he is found in that room with the President’s former Chief of Staff, and he predicts that people will think that Mellie wasn’t satisfied with attempted murder, so she had to add kidnapping to the list. Olivia replies that sure someone finding him there would be very bad, but it would be bad for him. She says that Cyrus wouldn’t want anyone to find him in the same place where he and Lonnie had been hatching their plot, and she asks how he thinks it’ll play out when the world finds out that there is collusion between the Vice President and the special prosecutor.

Cyrus remarks that if Olivia had proof of this supposed collusion that he would possibly be worried. It is clear to him that Olivia doesn’t have anything because if she did, he predicts that she would have already used it against him. Olivia says then that it took her less than an hour to figure out how he and Lonnie were communicating, but Cyrus cuts her off by saying that the only thing Olivia has managed to do is figure out how to tangle herself up in a situation that has nothing to do with her. He tells her that this war isn’t hers to wage and reminds her that Mellie fired her. (Welp.)

After a beat, Olivia asks him if he misses prison and is looking for a way back there, and Cyrus replies that what he actually misses is the du Bellay, having not had it in ages. He grabs his glass of wine and goes to get comfortable in one part of the room. As Cyrus sets his glass to the side, he lays his trench coat down on the floor and the proceeds to lie down on top of it. A shot from above shows the room to be oval-shaped like the Office for which he is plotting to seize.

We’ve been shown this shot before in previous episodes, but I hadn’t connected it to Cyrus’s plot for the Oval Office until a wise fan (H/T @mizztamarabass) pointed it out. The design team of this show is something else.

So about this first part of this face off between Olivia and Cyrus. It’s a bit sad to me because Olivia is channelling her old persona, yet is doing so without the terror that her name alone usually invokes in her target. Cyrus has never shied away from going up again her in the past, but he did at least recognize her as a formidable foe. Here he doesn’t even react as if she is worth a response. She really has become the chihuahua barking up at the giraffe. How tragic.

Back over at QPA, Quinn alerts Abby that Huck was able to clone Cyrus’s phone and is transmitting the data over to them. Abby asks if Huck is on his way back, and Quinn tells her that the data isn’t for Huck to analyze. Abby is taken aback and then asks if Quinn means that she herself is going to have to hack! Quinn replies that Abby has always talked about how she wanted to learn how to code, and that now was her opportunity. She says that if Cyrus has been in communication with some hacker, evidence of this would be present on the phone, and that she will need Abby’s help to find it.

Abby proceeds to take a seat and Quinn walks her through the beginning steps of cracking into Cyrus’s phone. Abby is all excited about getting her turn at the wheel while Quinn looks like someone whose fate rests in the hands of a toddler who has been charged with control of an 18-wheeler.

Over at the Grant Institute, Marcus comes into Fitzgerald’s office to talk to him about Mellie.  Fitz is busy typing up God knows what and he doesn’t at all lift his eyes from what he’s doing as Marcus paces back and forth. The younger man laments about how the Mellie that he knows isn’t the one he just left behind in the Oval Office. Fitz distractedly replies that Mellie is under a lot of stress, and when Marcus states that Mellie is in a prison over there, Fitz says that the White House is indeed a prison. Marcus tells Fitz not to just brush the matter off as if Mellie is just having another bad day and he reminds him that Mellie is being framed. Fitz is way too nonchalant in his acknowledgement of what Marcus is saying and it ticks the man off. He asks Fitz why it is that it seems like he doesn’t care, and Fitz finally looks at Marcus to state that he does in fact care.

Now that he has Fitz’s full attention, Marcus tells him that Mellie is dark and desperate, and that she is capable of “going to a place she won’t be able to come back from”, to the same place that Olivia went. Fitz gets up then to retrieve something from across the room and he says to Marcus that the presidency does that kind of thing to those who occupy the office. When Marcus asks him if that is seriously his response to what he has shared, Fitz replies that Marcus wouldn’t understand because he has never been president. Marcus passionately declares that none of what is happening is normal and that neither is Mellie, and Fitz says that he has been where Mellie has been and that sometimes the only way out is the one that you would have never before had considered.

Marcus is now staring at Fitz in judgement as Fitz says that Mellie knew what she had signed up for. He states that the knowing doesn’t make any of what she is going through any easier, but that she will find some way to survive it. (Wow, Fitz. What is going on with you, ma dude?)

Marcus turns on him then to say that Fitz believes Mellie will survive whatever dark deeds she is contemplating simply because Fitz himself had survived it. When Fitz replies in the affirmative, Marcus asks him if he really did survive the White House and if he is truly past all the horrible things that he did to protect his legacy. Marcus lets out a humorless laugh then and shakes his head as he starts away from Fitz who now wants to know what it is that Marcus isn’t saying. Marcus initially refuses to share, but Fitz demands that he spit it out. At that, Marcus says that from his perspective, Fitz looks like a man who is haunted by his choices. He states that Fitz may have survived the White House, but wonders if Fitz doesn’t think that Mellie deserves better than merely surviving.

Brother Walker. Always willing to tell it like he sees it, whether or not anyone likes what he says or how he says it. I’ve got to respect him for never being afraid to speak his mind. It’s nice that Mellie has someone this staunchly in her corner, even though I’d personally toss her into the Potomac and call it a night. And what is going on with Fitzgerald? His blase attitude over the circumstances is rather curious, if not a tad disappointing. Sometimes one must do what they have to to protect their legacy? Is his behind aware that Olivia is part of that “whatever one must do” equation? And why would he want anyone to endure what he did in the White House? As Marcus said, that ish ain’t normal!

Fitzgerald, don’t make me hurt you, love.

The Walls Are Closing In

Back in the Oval, Mellie appears to be talking out loud to herself about a conversation she had with her daughter Karen over some boy she was seeing named Neil Fitzpatrick, but we soon realize that she is directly addressing the one who has been keeping his eye on the Oval Office. Mellie is having herself some of her hooch as she speaks about how she counseled against Karen seeing this guy, but that Karen went and did the opposite of what she advised.

Mellie says that now that she thinks about that whole business, the Neil guy reminds her of him (i.e. Jake). She points directly up at the camera before she claims a comfortable spot on one of the sofas. She relays that she liked Neil, thinking him to be different and considerate and even the “kind of strong hand that Karen needs in her life”. She says that by all measurements, Neil was perfect! But alas. Looks can be deceiving.

Karen had purportedly claimed that Neil was becoming “needy” and “deeply insecure”. He posed as an equal partner in public, but was “looking for a mommy” and a master behind closed doors. (Eek!) Mellie says that she doubted what her daughter was saying about dear Neil, asking how it is that someone can be “so upstanding and strong one minute, then so weak and needy the next”.

I have to pause here for a moment because….

We are pulled out of the Oval a moment to be shown that Jake is indeed watching Madame President from the B613 lair. Mellie continues by saying that she had been wrong about Neil and that Karen was right. She states that she now sees that Jake is her Neil Fitzpatrick.

Jake listens, not appearing to be at all rattled by what Mellie is saying, but his composure soon crumbles as she digs further. She characterizes Jake through her Neil analogy as being a “delusional, insecure little boy who believes he’s a leader, but in truth, has only ever followed”, adding that he flits from one master to the next, all while looking strong on the outside.

Mellie tells him that she sees him, that Olivia sees him, and that Cyrus most assuredly sees him. She says that this explains why it was so easy for Cyrus to steal him from her and use him. She chuckles then and tells Jake to now see her. She tells him that she earned the presidency and that she is a “leader of men”. She says that she will always be who she is and that Jake will always be who he is, which is Neil “without the excuse of being young”. (Eek!) She predicts that soon Jake will once again be all alone with no master, no allies and no love. She then tells him that “time’s up” and that they are coming for him.

Is it even necessary for me to say that Mellie pissed Jake all the way off? LMAOOOOO!!! The camera zoom was brilliantly used here to emphasize Jake’s anger. You could damn near see the steam coming out of his ears as Mellie read him like the Yellow Pages. There wasn’t a single lie in anything that was said either, much of which mirrored what Olivia relayed to him in “Til Death Do Us Part” (518). And to think that there are some who believe that Olivia hadn’t meant what she said then and that she had merely said them because she wanted to “save” Jake. Bless your hearts.

From a character perspective, there is a miniscule part of myself that cannot help but to feel sorry for Jake. I mean, how many times does it take for one to be screwed over before they have had enough? When you account for his backstory, the things that he does (or doesn’t do) is in complete keeping with his character. I’d elaborate further on this, but who really wants to read me ramble on semi-objectively about Jake Ballard?

Yeah, me neither.

Flashing back over to the secret Cyrus location, Olivia emerges from the room to get an update from Huck who has made himself comfortable on the floor. She asks him if there has been any word from Quinn and Huck asks if Cyrus isn’t budging. When Olivia shakes her head, Huck says that she’ll keep trying with him. Olivia nods a little to herself over this and then turns to head back to the room.

Before she can get far, Huck asks, “It’s the ‘76, isn’t it?” Olivia looks at him in confusion, and Huck continues by saying that can’t be the ‘87 because Cyrus is already drinking one of those. Olivia asks him what he is talking about, and Huck says that he is referring to the three bottles of du Bellay that she brought with her. He wants to know of which of them she poisoned as part of her plan “B”! (Oliviaaaaaa!)

Huck goes on to say that two of the bottles are from ‘87, which is her favorite, and that the one is from 1976. He deduces that she needed to have the latter bottle so that she could remember which of the three that she had poisoned. (Yikes!) Olivia doesn’t bother denying his conclusion, but she does look a tad regretful that he had figured her out. When Huck says to her that he has just gotten her back from the darkside, Olivia replies that she hasn’t done anything yet, to which Huck stresses the yet part. He then shakes his head in disappointment and looks away from her.

Olivia watches him for a moment before she states that Quinn will find the hacker and that they will get Cyrus to back down. She tells him that plan “A” will work. When Huck still refuses to look at her, she leaves him be and heads back towards the room. As she walks away, Huck glances over at her with clear doubt in his eyes.

If I were him, I’d doubt her, too, because if she was truly convinced that their first plan would work, she wouldn’t have resorted to wine poisoning.

Back in the room now, Olivia is making another go at Cyrus by trying to appeal to his good side. She tells him that she has been thinking a lot lately about her goddaughter Ella (she remembers her?!) and she asks about how she is doing. Cyrus laughs at this and says that Olivia’s attempt to guilt him into being a better person by bringing up his child isn’t going to work. He tells her that it’s a rookie move that “reeks of desperation”. (It was weak sauce, Livvie.)

Cyrus then asks her if she would like to know who he has been thinking about lately, and Olivia says that unless it is whoever he hired to hijack Air Force Two, she doesn’t see the point. Cyrus shares that he thinks a lot about Fitzgerald, more than he cares to admit. Olivia absorbs this and then says that it is a shame that Cyrus hasn’t been able to get over him. (LOL! Kettle, see pot!)

Cyrus is serious in his musing...or at least appears to be serious. He wonders aloud if it all comes back to Fitz, if the two of them are in that room together at that very moment because of him. He states that it was Fitz who brought them together, he who made them. Olivia adds that Fitz had made them friends once, and Cyrus corrects her to say that they are friends forever, bound together by all the secrets that they hold.

Oooo, lookie here! It’s a loose reference back to “All Roads Lead to Fitz” (205)! That episode featured the first time that we see Olivia and Cyrus share wine together as friends. Cyrus had come over because he was upset with James for taking a White House press position, and Olivia was fresh off the heels of finding out that Governor Reston had indeed killed his wife’s lover. Prior to all of this, Fitz had broken up with her before leaving for the G8, and she was having a hard time moving forward with Edison. Cyrus muses that the Reston business getting out would draw attention away from Fitz and the G8, and Olivia replies to this with, “All roads lead to Fitz”. Later when Cyrus asks her why it is that she was hesitant to go all in with Edison, he concludes this same thing and Olivia concurs.

This is a mere summary of that parallel scene to supply a bit of context to the remark and this present moment, and to also show the evolution of the Olivia-Cyrus relationship. As you will later see, Cyrus’s injection of Fitzgerald into this space will prove vital to how this showdown concludes.

Cyrus asks Olivia is she ever wonders what would have happened if she had never met Fitz, where she could have been in the world, if she would be a better person. Olivia appears lost in contemplation of his question, but she snaps to attention at this last bit, stating that she finds his implication offensive. Cyrus apologies and rephrases, instead asking if she thinks she would have been a different person.

Olivia returns to considering his question and she looks as if she’s going to respond, but then she turns suspicious when Cyrus presses for an answer. Cyrus is earnest as he tells her that his question is an honest one, and Olivia tells him that there isn’t anything about him that is honest. Cyrus says that he just wants to see something, and when Olivia asks him what that something is, he tells her to answer the question and then he’ll tell her. Olivia laughs at him then and calls him ridiculous. Cyrus says she may be right about that, and then he remarks on needing another glass of wine. He offers to get her one, but Olivia says that she’ll get it instead. (For reasons.)

As she heads over to wine, Cyrus provides her with his answer to his own question, stating that he would be exactly the same person whether or not he had met Fitz. He says that he can easily answer that question because, unlike Olivia, he knows exactly who he is. (Keep this in mind.) He states that he is the kind of person who would “trade his conscience in for a shot at power without ever thinking twice”, adding that it wouldn’t have mattered whose secrets he was keeping or who he was set to knock from the throne. He states that he is who he is and always will be, and that there isn’t anything that Olivia can do to change that.

Y’all know Olivia was itching for a reason to pull out the ‘76 bottle, right? Lord have mercy… She stares at this man for the longest time and then considers the poisoned bottle in her hand. Letting out a heavy sigh, she sits the bottle down with the thud and tells Cyrus that he has had enough to drink for the time being. Cyrus laughs at this, and as Olivia heads for the exit, he tells her that she is wasting her time and that she is going to have to let him go.

The Last Temptation

Over at QPA, there’s a breakthrough! Abby succeeded in hacking into Cyrus’s phone and changing his password. They are able to access an encrypted messaging app that Cyrus has installed on his phone and they hit pay dirt! They find evidence of Cyrus being in contact with an aliased hacker and now they must use that information to track the person down.

Back over at the secret location, Olivia is sitting next to Huck looking dejected. Her phone soon rings and it’s Quinn. Olivia answers the call with the hope of the hungry expecting to hear that manna is about to fall from heaven, but instead, she is told that the famine is to continue. Quinn and Abby had found the hacker, but the man is dead. There is evidence on his desk to suggest that he overdosed on crack, but it wasn’t all that long ago that a patsy was set-up in a similar fashion (706). Quinn surmises that Cyrus killed the hacker and that he is likely to kill Charlie as well.

With her only way out of having to kill Cyrus dashed, Olivia sits for a bit just staring down at her phone. Her face cracks with emotion as she accepts what she believes she must now do. Huck tells her that she has other options, but Olivia can’t hear any of that. She tells him that she is going to head back inside and that in 20 minutes, she will place an anonymous call to the police. As she continues on to say that first responders will find Cyrus’s body and a cyanide-laced bottle of wine with him, Huck begs her not to follow through with her plan. She adds that all attempts to revive Cyrus will be useless and that all clues will lead back to Lonnie Mencken as the murderer. (Damn.)

Huck once again begs her to reconsider, telling her that what she is about to do isn’t her, and Olivia cuts him off to say that it was time for him to go. Huck reluctantly and regretfully does as she asked and leaves. Olivia sits in obvious distress over what she is about to do.

Flash over to the White House and Mellie has places a call to Fitz. When he answers, Mellie glances up at the camera at the ceiling, obviously feeling limited by circumstance by what she can say over the phone. Fitz asks her how she is doing and she replies that she is good, but it is clear from her tone that she isn’t. There is a stretch of long silence between them, a silence that is loaded with things they want to say, but know that they can’t.

Finally, Mellie states that it is lonely there, and Fitz asks her if there is something that he can do for her. She tells him that he’s already doing it by talking to her. She adds that she doesn’t really have anyone to talk to. Fitz informs her that he spoke to Marcus and then offers her some advice that he says that she doesn’t need. He tells her to find other way to handle her present predicament if she can. He says that her time as President doesn’t have to be as it had been for him, stating that he went down the wrong path and justified it to himself. He says that people forgave him for it and that he also eventually forgave himself, but that he has never been the same.

In once again encouraging her to find another way, Fitz tells Mellie not to lose her soul over this. He goes on to say that Mellie is better than him, that she is better than all of them and that she shouldn’t forget that.

Mellie is a who, what, huh now? She’s better than who??

The lies that are told so sincerely. Don’t make me have to hurt you, Fitzgerald.

The insanity of that last line aside, here Fitz is (thanks in large part to Marcus) giving Mellie his perspective on what happens when you go down the path of no return. You may emerge from it alive, but you are forever changed. Mellie may think she understands this, but in reality, she doesn’t. The woman who she asked to kill Cyrus for her, however, does, and now she’s out there having an internal battle with herself over crossing the murder line again. Yay.

Elsewhere in the White House, Jake enters his office and is startled to find Lonnie waiting for him. Lonnie tells him that they have a problem, and Jake agrees, stating that the special prosecutor shouldn’t be in his office. Lonnie says that them being seen together only jeopardizes his investigation, that is if it hasn’t been jeopardized already. He goes on to state that Cyrus’s schedule indicates that he is at physical therapy, but that Cyrus doesn’t actually go to therapy. Lonnie says that this is Cyrus’s cover for when he meets up with him. Putting two and two together, if Lonnie is there with Jake, then that means that Cyrus is meeting up with someone else. Ut oh.

Flash back over to the secret location and Olivia is now pouring into their glasses the ‘76 du Bellay. She asks Cyrus if he would care for it, and he tells her that it is all the same to him at this point. (Ha!) Olivia holds the glasses by their stems and then looks over at Cyrus, who rolls his eyes and asks what it is that’s on her mind now. Olivia replies that it’s nothing, but it’s clearly something. She summons up her courage and proceeds towards him with only one glass, leaving the other that is meant for her on the table. She stops short of reaching him and wavers in place.

Cyrus watches her behavior and surmises that Olivia is thinking about his earlier question about if she would be different. Olivia is quick to give him her answer this time, saying that of course she would be different. Then she agrees with him on what he had said about himself being incapable of change. She tells him that being just so isn’t something that Cyrus ought to be proud of, that it is rather sad. Cyrus stares at her for a moment before telling her to just pass him the drink so that he can have something to numb the pain of being stuck down there with her. (LMAO!)

Our dear Olivia. This girl is here talking about her ability to be different and do better (thanks to Fitz), yet she’s holding out a glass full of poisoned wine.

Just then, the door to the room unlocks and in walks Jake. Cyrus is close to accepting the offered wine when Jake announces his presence. Olivia is standing there with her arm outstretched with the wine, her eyes focused on Cyrus as he comes to his feet and starts to put his coat on. She remains as if she is in animated suspension and leaning over an edge that she planned to jump off of, but at the last minute finds herself frozen in place.

Cyrus tells her that he had warned that she would be wasting her time with this endeavor, and when he turns to leave, Olivia asks him where he thinks he is going. Cyrus laughs at this and asks Jake if Olivia is serious with her question. Jake looks at Statue of Liberty Olivia and concludes that she is indeed serious. Olivia spares him a look, but then places her focus back on Cyrus as she tries to press the wine on him, telling him that he is forgetting his drink. Girlfriend looks halfway crazed.

Jake takes note of the drink then and tells her to quit stalling. He says that she’s not going to give Cyrus that drink and that they both know why. As what Jake is implying dawns on Cyrus, the humor that he displayed just a moment ago vanishes. He looks back at Olivia in some surprise, and the woman is literally still holding out this wine glass. (LOL! Somebody come and get this child.)

Mind you, she hasn’t moved from where her feet are planted the whole time. Jake takes the glass from her and sets it aside, and he offers her his gun instead. He tells her to take it, but Olivia makes no move to do so. Jake says that using the gun would be much faster and easier than trying to take Cyrus out with poison, though it would be a lot messier. He adds that messier shouldn’t be a problem for her since she’s got people to handle the cleanup on that kind of thing.

When Olivia just stares at him and says nothing, he loses his patience and yells at her to take the gun. Olivia jumps in response and still doesn’t obey. Jake then points the gun at himself and says that Olivia can shoot him, too. Cyrus is watching this exchange with some concern. Jake escalates the situation by saying that he’ll help Olivia with the task of shooting him, and he proceeds to insert the barrel of the gun into his mouth before grabbing Olivia’s hand and placing it on the grip.


Olivia is now holding the gun that is half planted in Jake’s mouth as if she means to do something with it. Jake stares directly down at her in wait for her to prove herself a cold-blooded killer, and Cyrus is in the corner nervous as fug. Olivia looks right back up at Jake, her hand tight around the gun as she visibly struggles to make herself pull the trigger, but she can’t do it. Jake bats her hand away then and reclaims his gun.


How anybody is still on this ramshackled raft that shall not be named is beyond me.

Jake says to Cyrus then that Olivia isn’t going to kill either of them because she isn’t capable of doing it, and Olivia interjects to say that he has no idea what she is capable of. (Let it go, girl.) Jake tells her that the truth of the matter is that she talks a good game, but that when it really comes down to it, she doesn’t actually do anything. He says that what she does is give orders and have other people do the work for her, adding that she works hard at pretending to be evil, but that evil is not her. The assassinating, blowing up of planes, the real dirty work? All of that, he tells her, is left for people like him to carry out. He says that she and Mellie get to stay clean because they have people like him.

Jake goes on to say that if she cannot believe this truth about herself then she should take his gun and prove him wrong. He presents her with his gun once more and Olivia just stares at him in distress. Having made his point, Jake invites Cyrus for to join him in leaving, and they depart from the room. Olivia is left all alone to deal with the aftermath of what she nearly made herself do.

This here scene! My, my, my. Did Jake hold up a mirror to Olivia Pope or did Jake hold up at mirror to Olivia Pope? And to think that all of this truth came out of him because he now recognizes her for what she has been all along. This is quite a change in tune from what he said to Fitz about Olivia evolving into the person that she was always meant to be (704). He was so sure that she was morphing into the second coming of Command and that they were going to be some kickass tag team murdering on behalf of the Republic.

Yeah, that worked out well.

Remember what I said about Fitzgerald being injected into this space? Cyrus may be unchanged by having had Fitz in his life, but Olivia is not. Fitz and all that he represents sat heavy in the room as Olivia kept trying to make herself to do what was smart instead of what was right. If Jake hadn’t shown up, Olivia still wouldn’t have given Cyrus that drink. Not with the way she was shaking like tree leaves in a hurricane. She probably would have spilled the drink or drop kicked it out of Cyrus’s hand, all while hyperventilating. Y’all know this girl is high-key soft when she isn’t playing at being Rowan, Jr.

Some unspecified amount of time later that same evening, Jake is back home and he is discussing with Lonnie what he believes their next move should be. He suggests that he widen his investigation to include Olivia and says that he can easily supply evidence that she was involved in Rashad’s assassination and scrub any evidence that points to his involvement. (Motherfuc….) He concludes the call by telling Lonnie that they can review everything in the morning.

Not even a second after he hangs up, Vanessa comes into the room with a million and one questions. She doesn’t bother hiding the fact that she was eavesdropping on his conversation. Jake tells her to go up to bed, but Nessa will not be deterred. She wants to know what is happening, especially with Olivia being dragged into the situation. Jake explains that Olivia can’t stay away from the White House and that she should have been part of the investigation from the get go.

Vanessa interjects to remind Jake that he promised that this whole thing would shake out well for them and that they were a team, and Jake stresses that everything he is doing is in fact for them. Vanessa deduces then that Jake is protecting Cyrus and that it is he who Jake has been taking orders from. She then asks him what it is that Cyrus is having him do that he isn’t sharing with her, and she wonders if Cyrus has been having Jake get down on his knees on the nights when he isn’t at home with her.

Christ on the Cross…

Jake orders her to stop talking before he states that he isn’t doing anything that Cyrus or anyone else wants him to do, that he is doing what he knows is best and aligning himself with the strongest allies so that he and Vanessa don’t get left behind. (Uh huh.) Vanessa isn’t buying his explanation as she tells Jake that there is no “we”. Jake starts to warn that she ought to watch where she is going with that statement, but Vanessa cuts in to say that she was supposed to be Jackie Kennedy and “not the wife of the Vice President’s bitch”.

Nessa, girl, you done did it. First Cyrus treats him like a bitch, then Mellie calls him a bitch, and now you’re calling him the same. I peeped your future before it even came to pass, and the White House just won’t be happening for you, boo.

Walking in the Light

Back at the White House, Mellie is waiting for Olivia in the underground tunnels, and when Olivia shows up, one look at her tells Mellie that Olivia didn’t accomplish her assigned task. Olivia whispers that she was unable to do it, and Mellie halts her from having to explain further, saying that murder isn’t who either of them are, even as she wishes that it was. (Oh, that’s good know.) She goes on to state that she now feels like they are two fish flapping vulnerably on the sand while waiting for the tsunami to hit them.

Olivia steps up to Mellie then to say that they don’t need to use the methods or tools employed by men to accomplish what it is that they need to here. She says that they don’t need to adopt or justify violence simply because that is how things had been done before them, and that their past leaders sins need not be their sins. (YES!)

This here statement from Olivia feels like an echo of a famous quote made by intersectional feminist Audre Lorde, in which she states that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change”. A word and a half, y’all. A word and a half.

Olivia continues by saying that they may always be outnumbered and outgunned, but that they themselves have to be smarter and better than those coming after them; that they must be more just. She states that the only way they can win is if their bond is stronger than that of the other side and if they hold fast together, no matter what comes at them. She tells Mellie that she is with her and says that no matter what Mellie may think, she has always been with her. (Eh.)

Mellie seems surprised by Olivia’s words, and she searches her face as if looking for the guile, but there isn’t any. When Olivia asks her if she is in turn with her, Mellie sighs and finally replies that she is. (Apology accepted. Super!) Mellie asks what it is that they are to do now, and Olivia replies that they must now find a way to “surf the tsunami”.

Aside from the fact that I detest this pairing damn near as much as I detest Jake Ballard, I liked it because it stands in contrast to where they had been at the beginning of the episode. Really from the beginning of the season up until now. They had been upholding, pursuing, and emulating patriarchal power instead of forging a path that was uniquely their own this whole while. It will be interesting to see if their renewed bond is able to weather the storm that looms ahead.

Isn’t it something that Fitzgerald (directly and indirectly) had a hand in both of these women realizing that they were walking down the wrong path? He who once stood between them was the catalyst for them moving away from the dark. He’s a miracle worker!

Following her meeting with Olivia, Mellie returns to the White House with determination in her every step. As she walks down the hall, she doesn’t notice the stares she is getting from the staffers as she had at the beginning of the episode. She’s got renewed confidence, baby, and no side eye from the peanut gallery is going to get her down! She is ready to do battle!

Mellie heads right into the press briefing room and addresses reporters herself. She is emphatic in denying the allegations against her, which she says have been brought about by opponents who wish to see her backed into a corner. Fitz is watching the presser in his office with Marcus, and David and Abby are watching it from David’s office. Quinn and Huck are watching it from QPA, and when Mellie wishes her opponent good luck in trying to take her down, Huck is elated and says to Quinn that Olivia didn’t kill Cyrus! (He has probably been all worried about this possibility since he left her alone.) This fact gives Quinn small comfort since Charlie is still locked up.

As Mellie lists all the things that she is doing with her time as President, which, she says, does not include taking down the jet plane of her Vice President, Olivia is being driven somewhere. It’s unclear if she is listening to Mellie’s speech in the car or if it merely plays over this moment, but Olivia looks rather proud of herself and she ought to be. She made it past another huge hurdle, though it was touch and go there for a minute.

The exercise of presenting her with Cyrus to handle served, I think, to reveal to Olivia who she still is at her core. She had said to Fitz in 712 that she was no longer the woman that she once was, but this situation proved that she is still there. Fitz saw it, but Olivia struggled to see it for herself. Now that she knows this to be true (thank you, Jake), she can finally discard the misshapen coat that she’s been wearing and reclaim the one that fits.

Mellie continues on with her statement, saying that she will not be bullied and that the truth is on her side. Cyrus is seen getting comfortable in front of his television at his home as Mellie tells her audience in no uncertain terms that she will not stop fighting until the truth of the matter is out. Cyrus does not look happy at this turnabout.

Quite some time later, a knock is heard at a door and we are flashed over to Fitz in his hotel room. When he opens the door, there isn’t anyone there, but there is a bottle of scotch sitting in the middle of the hallway. Stepping out to retrieve it, he looks to the side to find Olivia standing there. She opens up the conversation by telling him that she’s been thinking about the old days. She drifts off a bit before saying, “I think that was it” and directs his attention to the liquor. She goes on to provide details as to its quality: cask strength, first fill, aged 24 years. She says that the drink used to be his favorite….back in the day, and Fitz replies that she remembers well.

These two are clearly engaged in some high level flirting, given the intimate tone that they are using with each other, and Olivia takes a few steps closer to him as she says that she thought that they could both use a drink. Fitz is skeptical of this supposed drink proposal, but Olivia sticks to this and says that the drink would be dedicated to the old days and the way things used to be. She gives him the sexy eyes, and I am left to wonder if “drink” is really just a euphemistic bend for something else entirely.

Why does this moment recall for me the one in “Lost Girls” (704) when Fitz proposes that they get a drink together before he heads back to Vermont? “Drink” sounded dirty then, too. Or maybe it’s just me.

In any case, Fitz slowly closes the gap between them as he tells her that this drink that she speaks of will require her to share an very expensive bottle with him, but he doesn’t get to finish his sentence for the moment he is close enough, Olivia pulls him down to her and kisses him.

They maneuver their way into Fitz’s hotel room and slam the door behind them. I swear they swept into that room like a Harlequin novel.

A moment later, Fitz emerges briefly to retrieve the bottle and then disappears back into room. Somebody’s fitna have some fun tonight.

It would seem that Olivia was doing more than just thinking about the old days between her time with Cyrus and the moment she decided to hightail her behind on over with this high end liquor. Is this a “Thank God I didn’t kill a man today” sex? A nostalgic horizontal mambo? Or maybe it’s a “you’re the reason why I remembered who I am” throwdown. Could it be a combination of three? Does it even matter?!

I’ll take Olitz for 1000, Alex.

Elsewhere in DC, Cyrus has arrived at the Ballard residence. When Jake opens the door, Cyrus notes that Jake is out of breath, and Jake explains that he and Vanessa are “having a bit of a disagreement”. He asks Cyrus why he is there, but before Cyrus responds, he turns towards his agents to send them off.

Now inside of the house, Cyrus says that he is thinking that maybe Jake was right when he suggested that they find a way to manage Olivia and her team, and he says that now may be the time to adjust the plan. He adds that things are getting out of hand and he hopes that it isn’t too late to salvage the situation. (Oh, so now he wants to listen to Jake after underestimating the threat that Olivia poses to his mortality. Okay then.) Jake replies that he is glad to hear Cyrus say this, and he then reveals that he has already taken care of the matter with Lonnie. He shares that Olivia is now a person of interest in both the hijacking and in the assassination of President Rashad.

Why is this man still breathing?

Cyrus looks at Jake in confusion and tells him that he can’t just call up Lonnie, that there are ramifications from this sort of thing. When he states that he never signed off on this move, Jake’s cordial mood shifts and a dark cloud moves in as he tells Cyrus that he didn’t need his sign off to do what he did. Cyrus is like, excuse me, this is my operation. Jake gives him one of his creepy smiles and then asks Cyrus to come along with him, that there is something that he wishes to show him.

Cyrus follows him towards the kitchen, and as he gets closer, his steps slow and then come to a dead stop. Looking down at whatever is on the floor, Cyrus asks Jake what it is that he had done. Jake in response asks Cyrus if he recalls the question he had asked him when Cyrus came to him for help in carrying out this coup. When Cyrus does not, Jake tells him that he had asked Cyrus why he believed that he would work for him, and Cyrus had said that Jake wouldn’t be working for him, but would be working with him. (He sure enough did say this.) Jake says that what Cyrus had sold him was a partnership, that it was to be the two of them against the world. (This sounds oddly familiar….)

Jake goes on to say that he and Vanessa had made a similar pact when they got married. They had agreed to work together, to have each other’s backs, and to listen to each other as equals. He then states that that evening, Vanessa made it clear that their arrangement was no longer acceptable, so he decided that it was time for him to terminate their partnership. (The woman signed her own death warrant with that whole “there is no we” business. Should have stuck to speaking French, girl.)

If you haven’t already guessed it out, laying on the kitchen floor with blood pooled all about her head is Vanessa Moss Ballard, and she is deader than a corn-chipped toenail. Verna dead. The message and threat being made towards Cyrus is clear: he is to be partners as he had promised or Jake will have to terminate their partnership as well.

Now in parallel to the AU (610), is Cyrus that version’s Mellie and Jake its Rowan? I suppose Mellie is still Mellie in the sense that she is presently trapped in the White House, but Cyrus’s predicament seems more fitting, given that he is now in a prison of his own making. Olivia tried to appeal to his better self and he refused her offer. Now he is almost certainly guaranteed death because he foolishly miscalculated and took Jake for a neutered puppy with no teeth. He definitely should have known better.

And another well done episode comes to an end. What I do need them to do is stop wasting this 10pm time slot and give me what I want! (No need for elaboration.)

With this setting up for one hell of a showdown, what the heck are we about to get with the remaining two episodes?!  OMG, the remaining two!

So what did you all think of the episode? Was it good, bad, blah? What were your likes and dislikes? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or hit me up with them on Twitter!

This is the conclusion of the recap-review of Scandal episode 716. We’re almost at the finish line, people!! Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next week!

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