We start with a frenetic opening sequence that shifts between black-and-white and color like the Wizard of Oz on acid, with a bunch of talking heads blabbering on about Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) being outed as the President’s “First Mistress.” The intrepid journalist behind this major scoop is the style editor of the Post, naturally, and if you wonder why a lowly fashion editor could yield so much power, than you haven’t been reading People’s Best/Worst dressed list carefully enough.
Then we pick up right where we left off … “Dad?” Olivia says to the guy we’ve only known as Command (Joe Morton). Then: “Um, BTW, why did you try to have me killed?” And I’m thinking, just wait until you find out he’s been trading that sex tape of you all around D.C. for political favors and $5 off coupons at Gettysburger.
Command’s response is that he didn’t try to get Liv killed, just Noel from Felicity (Scott Foley). I’m sure that’s a great relief to her! Then he brings her to a private plane and tries to ship her off to some island with a secret bank account and new identity, and she’s all “No! No! No! No!,” like a toddler having a tantrum over bathtime, and I’m thinking, “I’ll go! Send me to Mistress Club Med! It sounds like heaven.”
Daddy Command is all, “You opened your legs for a powerful dude, and they will gut you for it.” And: “I raised you to be twice as good as them to get half what they have … you could have aimed higher. Do you have to be so mediocre?” So apparently Daddy is quite the Tiger Mom. Also, if Olivia’s “handle it” speeches are typically at a level 10, Daddy’s pitch in these scenes is definitely an 11. Histrionics run deep in this family.
So Liv gets on the plane, and after raiding the complimentary bar and realizing the movie is Pitch Perfect (which she and Huck have already seen 12 times), she calls Cyrus (Jeff Perry). He tells her she must come back, otherwise Fitz will assume he had her killed, and then he can’t help him get out of this. I’m guessing any time Fitz hasn’t seen someone in a day or two – a political foe, his kids’ nanny, the family dog — he assumes it’s because Cyrus had them killed.
Cyrus swears to her that he’ll handle it, just so long as she sticks around. So Liv deplanes, and Daddy is not happy. “The White House will destroy you,” he growls. And she snaps back, “That’s what Mom used to tell me about you.” Yeesh, can you just imagine what Olivia’s childhood must have been like with this guy? “Merry Christmas, pumpkin. I got you surveillance pictures of Mommy kissing Santa Claus. And the Secretary of Agriculture. And the principal of your pre-school. I figure you can use these to blackmail some extra Christmas cookies out of her. Merry, merry! Love Commander Dad.”
Meanwhile, in the Oval Office, Cyrus wants Vice President Sally (Kate Burton) to speak for the President until the dust settles. But she’s all, “Bible Bible Bible,” and “the Lord doesn’t want me helping out this male slut,” and then Cyrus goes ballistic like he hadn’t just had a heart attack like 20 minutes ago.
So Sally snits about how rude Cyrus is, and how she is always courteous not to speak out about his “godless homosexual lifestyle” or the “poor sweet brown baby” he dragged into it. And I’m ashamed to say I sort of agree with her on this one. Not that the baby got dragged into the “homosexual lifestyle” (all kids should be so lucky!) but that he got dragged into a family with a scheming politician and cutthroat political reporter for parents. Are babies eligible for therapy? Because I think this kid could probably use it more than most on this show.
President Fitzgoldwyn (Tony Goldwyn) clears the room, and then he plies Sally with liquor, shamelessly flirts, and says, “Yeah, the Presidential peen wants what it wants. Whatcha gonna do, amIright?” And she sighs and is all, “Fine.”
Meanwhile, Liv’s car is surrounded by so many paparazzi you’d think it was school drop-off for Suri Cruise. She desperately tries to fix her hair before Huck (GuillermoDiaz) — yay, Huck! – drags her inside. The Gladiators are all hot to help her out, but she tells them there’s nothing to do, it’s all being handled. BTW, I was completely mystified who this new hire was who looked like she’s strolled in from an episode of Charlie’s Angels before I realized it was Abby (Darby Stanchfield). Somebody clearly took advantage of the sex scandal surrounding their boss to go and have herself a makeover.
Anyway, the Gladiators quickly learn that they’ve lost all their clients in the wake of the scandal. So they secretly decide that Liv will be the new client they save. You do realize that everyone on this show will at some point get their turn to be the client? Like there’s a Twister spinner somewhere in the office they spin that’s all, “Right hand red! Sex scandal Liv!”
In the West Wing, Cyrus sweet talks James (Dan Bucatinsky) into telling him how the style editor got the scoop about Olivia. James reveals that all the good gossip goes down at a bar where the Secret Service like to get their drunk on. Cyrus thanks him with a smooch. Gay men kissing on primetime T.V.! Somewhere an angel just got its wings. Or vomited, if you see the world the way V.P. Sally does.
Then comes my favorite scene in the episode because it involves peeing. Harrison (Columbus Short) tells Olivia to turn on her four TV’s because all the news channels are showing footage of President Fitzgoldwyn leaving her apartment – and the newscaster apologizes for the drunken young man urinating in the foreground of the video about four feet from the President. That cracked me up, like the Secret Service will take a bullet for the President, but no way in hell are they going to get in the way of some drunk frat boy’s urine stream.
Seeing the same story, Cyrus orders a “kill file” on Olivia. I’m sure Cyrus keeps kill files on people the way others do Christmas card lists. Backstory alert: at the “kill file” meeting, we learn that Olivia’s mother died in a plane crash when she was 12 (hmmmm), that her father, Eli (!) was a mild-mannered museum curator, and that she grew up to be a party girl with a thing for silver fox Daddy figures.
Meanwhile, Olivia has a deep throat meeting with her Dad, demanding he tell her what he did with Captain Noel-from-Felicity Ballard. He barks that no one appreciates all he’s done to protect democracy and keep “fatties watching reality T.V.” which I take to be a shout out to me personally. Thanks, Daddy Command!
Olivia stomps off and retrieves this secret folder and places a call to what appears to be somewhere on Battlestar Gallactica, uttering the code word “Providence.” Then she goes to some Cylon bunker where she meets with President Fitzgoldwyn himself. He’s all pissy because Providence was supposed to be a one-time cry for help code. I’m confused because from what we’ve seen, it’s never been a problem for her to get to see him, like she could show up vomiting on the White House lawn demanding cab fare home and he’d come out and hold her hair.
But I overlook that because, first of all, Olivia is wearing this white coat that’s so stunning I almost forget my own name much less what’s going on here. And also because it leads to this really amazing scene with Fitz, Olivia, and, wait for it, the First Lady! Yay, the First Mellie (Bellamy Young)! She’s the best! And I love when she and Olivia reluctantly team up. It’s like Laverne and Shirley, if Squiggy had been the Leader of the Free World. (Which would have been ahmahzing!).
So, anyway, we get this really incredible scene of just the three of them that’s like a one-act play co-written by Samuel Beckett and Jackie Collins. Mellie is sort of pissy that Fitz screwed them both by screwing his “whore” every chance he got, and Olivia – awesomely – is like, “Um, if you want me to handle this, maybe ixnay on the hore-y-ney stuff, ’mkay?”
Fitz wants Mellie to go on T.V. with him as he confesses to the affair and offers an Oprah-worthy mea culpa, and Liv thinks, with the right fashion accessories, it just might work. But Mellie rightfully points out that the press will want details about how long and passionate and how sordid the affair was. She says if this was just about a silly old stained blue dress and naughty cigar, it would be fine (it was for Hillary). But in their case, it will be apparent to everyone that he was in love with Olivia, and she can’t have that.
So Mellie threatens to do the most terrible thing possible, something more terrifying to Fitz then the Soviets launching nukes. “I will make a scene!” she says, as my blood runs cold. I am terrified of this woman, why isn’t her husband?
Olivia wonders just how many times it would be OK with Mellie for them to reveal to the press that she and Fitz had sex. They haggle a bit like they’re playing a sexed up version of Monopoly and agree on twice. Their story straight, Mellie leaves the Cylon bunker, and YOU’D THINK SHE”D KNOW BETTER THAN TO LEAVE THOSE TWO ALONE AT THIS POINT. Because of course Fitz and Olivia get all gropey with each other before the door hits Mellie in the ass. Fitz gets all emo-boy about his concern for Liv, but she insists she’s fine and leaves.
But Mellie has the last laugh. Turns out, she has no intention whatsoever of going through with this press conference calmly holding Fitz’s hand. She tells Cyrus she has a plan. And it involves using the Gladiators to leak video and email that implicates Fitz’s current communications director, Jeanine something, as the woman in the affair.
After poor Jeanine is thrown to the press wolves, Liv storms into her office all furious, all “WHAT DID YOU DO?” to her naughty followers. And then she sticks it to her team by announcing that their new client is – you can probably guess – the wrongly accused other woman.
As is usual, the last five minutes offer a one-two punch of twists and revelations.
First, Mellie confronts President Fitzgoldwyn revealing that she sabotaged his whole PR plan because she’d figured out he was the one who leaked Olivia’s name to the press.
She makes this awesome speech about the problem with being as smart as she is and stuck in a dopey role like First Lady is that it gives her plenty of time to put two and two together. (Bellamy Young is so fantastic in this scene that you truly sympathize with how she’s marginalized. Honestly, she really should be President.) She figured out that Fitz still wants to bring his “whore into the White House,” and leaking her name was the first step to making that dream come true. Fitz, in response, declares war on her, and he must be more liquored up than usual if he thinks he has any way of beating her.
Meanwhile, Cyrus comes home to find lollipop-assassin Charlie on his bed alongside a drugged-out James. Charlie whisks him via car trunk to Command Daddy, who sits him down and presents him with a top secret iPad app about one “Operation Remington,” the very mission that a strapping young Fitz and Ballard once embarked upon in Iraq. Cyrus: “OMG!”
End of premiere.
Overall a very intriguing start to a new season, although lacking in the more crazypants developments of the show’s batty best. I’m giving it three out of five Gettysburgers: