We open on Liv (Kerry Washington) and Daddy Command (Joe Morton) out for one of their Sunday night dinners, which as with all of our families, is clearly the result of hardball negotiations involving the release of hostages.
Liv, for her part, is being all passive-aggressive borderline aggressive, angrily stirring her coffee, refusing to share dessert, and generally seething. But Daddy Command thinks it’s all good, since for once she hasn’t accused him of any crimes against humanity. She snarks back that there’s no point, since it gets her nowhere, and typically winds up with him forcing her friends to kill people.
She mentions having to hold her tongue despite being the outspoken young woman her mother raised her to be. And Daddy Command is all, “Your mom had nothing to do with it. I MADE YOU! And if you don’t want your friends killing people so much, tell Huck to stay out of my way.”
Speaking of Huck (Guillermo Diaz) … he and Ballard (Scott Foley) are continuing with their adorable little Hardy Boys investigation of Daddy Command. At that very moment, Huck, working remotely, has hacked Daddy Command’s home security, giving Ballard entrance to his house to copy files from his computer.
In keeping with the “pretty but dumb” moniker I gave him last week, Ballard seems to have waited to do this until Daddy Command is pulling into the driveway, rather than during the TWO FREAKING HOURS he was out to dinner with Liv. So we get one of those “downloading against time” sequences that’s never suspenseful because they always wind up finishing just in the nick of time and we all know it.
So Daddy Command walks in but naturally doesn’t bust Ballard, although he does have this “someone’s been eating my porridge/messing with my computer” look on his face, so his suspicions are raised.
In the Oval Office, Cyrus (Jeff Perry) and The First Mellie (Bellamy Young) are meeting with That Guy from Private Practice (played by That Guy from Private Practice). He’s giddy over seeing such famous Oval Office hot spots as the butt-check indentation left by Grover Cleveland, and the coffeetable rings left by Lyndon Johnson, who notoriously refused to use coasters.
But the real reason they’ve called him there is to ask him to take on managing Fitz’s re-election campaign. He says he’s not comfortable answering in front of Mellie, and she’s all, “Oh, don’t think of me as The First Lady. Think of me as a terrifying succubus who will devour your soul.”
So he lays it on the line, saying the campaign reeks of desperation, the way horny teenage boys reek of Axe body spray. Plus, it’s riddled with problems, from Fitz’s “penis problem” to Mellie’s “frigid shrew” problem. Then he makes an “L” with his fingers, holds it up to his head, and does the “Losers, losers” dance, refusing to take the job.
We cut to Liv on an actual job interview with none other than Congresswoman Lisa Kudrow (Lisa Kudrow). Liv has just answered the question about which Wizard of Oz character she most identifies with, when Congresswoman Kudrow asks her what she would do to help her bid for the Presidency.
Liv responds that the Congresswoman has a lot going for her, but comes off as too inexperienced, like a high school kid visiting college for the weekend, the kind who has too many jello shots and gets up in front of everyone at a dorm screening of Rocky Horror, and strips to their underwear, and pukes (What? Like that didn’t happen to you?). But good news! Liv can help her.
Throughout the meeting, we see this woman hovering about who Congresswoman Kudrow introduces as Candace, explaining, “She’s my daughter. I MEAN MY SISTER! Why do I keep doing that, ha ha ha!” She sends Candace out so she can have a private chat with Liv, during which she reveals she had a baby at age 15 who was subsequently adopted. Liv advises her to get out front with the story before it can be used against her, which is actually excellent advice. But Congresswoman Kudrow fears that the now-grown-up child will get dragged into it and insists on quashing the story to protect her identity.
So Liv dispatches her Gladiators out to Congresswoman Kudrow’s home town of Butthole, Wiscontana. In the car, Huck is talking on his phone with Ballard about their investigation, while, hilariously, Abby (Darby Stanchfield) is flirting by phone with David (Josh Malina), all, “Tomorrow night I’ll do that to you!” and “I think I’m wearing your underwear. Are you wearing mine?” while everyone else in the car gags.
They pull up at a motel that’s clearly being run by Norman Bates’ younger, much more deranged brother. Then they set out to find all the surviving people who knew about Congressman Kudrow’s baby – ie. the doctor, the baby nurse, Oprah Winfrey, the babydaddy – and shower them with heaps of cash to keep their pieholes shut.
Meanwhile, Ballard and Huck are searching through the computer files from Daddy Command. And they find surveillance footage of the meeting between Fitz and Daddy Command that capped off last week’s episode. After all that build-up, what actually happened was sort of disappointing, pretty much a bunch of “whose is bigger?” male posturing. Fitz asks Daddy Command how many people he’s going to kill to protect a secret no one is looking into. Daddy Command counters that someone is looking because they found a certain IPO address that has been poking around in the Operation Remington Steele files.
Huck and Ballard realize this means they’ve likely been made. And moments later, Ballard gets forced into a car and brought in for horrifyingly graphic torture. Meaning he’s forced to participate in a one-on-one basketball montage with President Fitzgoldwyn (Tony Goldwyn) that goes on for about two hours and comes off like the trying clothes on sequence in Pretty Woman. Finally, they stop the game for more “whose is bigger?” posturing and accusations on Ballard’s part that Fitz plays dirty.
Undeterred, Ballard and Huck continue with their investigation, raising more questions about Fitz’s role and whereabouts during Operation Remington Steele. Someone working on this show clearly realized how boring this was all getting, because at one point Ballard takes his shirt off for NO REASON WHATSOEVER, not that I mind that in the slightest. Game of Thrones is famous for its “sexposition” scenes, meaning scenes where a bunch of prostitutes are having an orgy in the background while a few characters update the plot. I think here we’re getting a shirts-off version of it. Let’s call it “pecsposition.”
Later on, Ballard is in Liv’s office to access Huck’s computer, when she totally busts him. He lies and says he was checking to see if she’s OK. Then he busts her for having come back for her secret Batphone to the President. She admits that she thought Fitz might call, given the White House Correspondents dinner is coming up, and he always wanted her help with the jokes, which is hilarious given we’ve never seen either of them crack a smile on this show much less say anything remotely funny.
To prove her loyalty to Ballard, she tosses the Batphone into the trash, and if you’re going to throw away a secret phone with a direct link to the President, you might want to CLEAR THE CONTACTS LIST FIRST! I swear this week’s episode is like a competition for who can make the dumbest move.
Meanwhile, out in Butthole, Wiscontana, the team run into a little trouble because it looks like the babydaddy is going to go public in a TV interview. This is all at the prodding of Cryus, who is using his underling to try to dig up the very dirt that Liv’s people are trying to suppress. But just in the nick of time, the Gladiators dig up embarrassing dirt on the babydaddy (ie. a secret Real Housewives addiction), and get him to clam up in the interview. Leading Cyrus’ underling to report in to his boss, “We’ve been Pope’d, sir!” Heh.
This is as good a time as any to point out that during the whole trip, the team have been chastising Quinn (Katie Lowes), because Huck apparently let them know about the whole psycho drill thing. So they’ve put her on notice and aren’t letting her do much, and I question the wisdom of responding to a clearly unstable woman by making her feel even more unwanted and ostracized. Haven’t they seen Carrie? Sure enough, by episode’s end, Quinn’s got herself a brand new gun collection – apparently an easy thing to do in Butthole, Wiscontana, where guns are given away like mints in a diner.
Meanwhile, when the team go to question the baby nurse, they learn that Congresswoman Kudrow never placed the baby for adoption. Instead, her mother had quietly raised the baby as her own. Dun dun dunnnn!
So Liv goes for a sit down with Congresswoman Kudrow, all “Ah ha! So miss ‘She’s my daughter, she’s my sister’ really is your daughter!” Congresswoman Kudrow says Candace doesn’t know and it would devastate her to find out, insisting she needs to keep it quiet, even if it will kill her political aspirations.
Right before a major democratic primary debate, Liv’s spidey senses tingle, and she realizes the White House has egged on Kudrow’s opponent to let the pregnancy cat out of the bag during the debate. Again, Liv prevails on her client to take control of the narrative.
The debate opponent is none other than the Governor guy who Liv and friends had totally sabotaged when he ran against Fitz. You remember him … the one who also shot his wife’s lover and got away with it? So it’s fairly hilarious when mid-debate he claims he has the moral authority to be President, then asks Congresswoman Kudrow if she’s hiding anything.
Congresswoman Kudrow makes a very moving speech in which she admits to the teen pregnancy. Watching the debate on a surprisingly small TV in the Oval Office, Cyrus rages that she just won the hearts of all of America.
Congresswoman Kudrow was careful to leave out the part about her sister really being her daughter. But Candace figures it out easily enough and runs off distraught. Angry about what Liv put her up to, Congresswoman Kudrow promptly fires her.
Saddened at the loss of such a promising client, Liv goes off to get soused, and I love her all the more for keeping a stash of wine and stemware in her office. Wouldn’t you know it, just then the Batphone rings from the trash. She retrieves it and it’s Fitz, calling (from the Presidential potty!) for help vetting his jokes for the dinner, something he acknowledges is more difficult this year given his raging libido has made him into a walking dick joke.
As she did with Congresswoman Kudrow, she advises him to seize the narrative and own the joke. Then she helps him come up with a few jokes of his own, and they’re as unfunny, badly written, and uncomfortable as you’d expect, and having to deliver painful lines like these as if they’re hilarious will surely be good practice for Kerry Washington’s upcoming SNL stint. Oh, then Fitz tells her he loves her.
Then we see that the whole time, the bathroom door’s been open, and Mellie’s been listening, because when you’re going to tell your former mistress you love her and your wife is in the next room of course you wouldn’t SHUT THE FREAKING DOOR! Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner for this week’s dumbest move.
Later on, Fitz tells Cyrus he wants to shut down Command and B52. Cyrus warns him that those in the past who poked around B52 wound up mysteriously dead, think “grassy knoll shooter.” (Did this show really just go there? I think they did.)
Correspondents Dinner Time! Everything’s been leading up to this, like on how every episode of Gossip Girl there was a cotillion or masquerade ball. Which I love, because it’s always fun seeing everyone all gussied up in their formalwear, because let’s face it, what we most want from TV is to see pretty people looking even prettier.
Ballard (in full military attire) is graciously accompanying Liv (who looks absolutely stunning in this origami-like geometric black and white number). But just as they sit down, this one Secret Service guy starts blinking morse code messages to Liv. Assuming, as usual, that the message is, “The President would like to f*ck you now,” she goes running into the back. Only to find her assignation is with … Mellie! Ha! Ambush!
But, sadly, we don’t get a diva-off. Mellie gets in one good zinger, asking if Liv’s new boyfriend is a married man. But then she makes peace, saying, “Remember when we were young, and carefree, and we duped the American people and fixed a Presidential election and all was good in the world? What say we do that again?” She sincerely talks about how the campaign, and Fitz himself, need Liv to succeed. Liv appears to take her very seriously, and it’s moments like this when I wonder if the entire series is going to end with Liv and Mellie getting hitched, buying a bungalow in Maine, and living out their days putting up jam and walking their collies.
Back at the dinner, Fitz does his bit (“Funny story! I can’t control my sexual appetites and cheated on my pregnant wife! Get it? Is this thing on?”).
Meanwhile, VP Sally (Kate Burton) excuses herself and goes to the men’s room. At this point I thought she was going to whip it out and be revealed as Dick Cheney in drag, which wouldn’t be an unusual turn of events on this show. But instead she’s seeking out The Guy from Private Practice. She wants him to run her election campaign as – get this – an independent candidate. Bwa ha ha! Because that always works out so well.
But I like this turn of events because the VP is a fun character. And from the brief glimpse we get of him, I think her husband is played by Jack Coleman, who played one of the gay Stevens on Dynasty, and the gay Congressman on The Office, so maybe just maybe he’s a closet case here too? Which, given Sally’s character, would be phenomenal.
After the dinner, Ballard totally ditches Liv, telling her nobody puts Ballard in a corner.
Meanwhile, David Rosen returns from the dinner to find Abby waiting for him, dressed to the nines. (Seriously, she looks totes gorge.) Earlier, they’d had a tiff because she’d lied to him and said she couldn’t go to the dinner since she was still away on business and then was busted since he was standing outside her office at that very moment. Score another dumb moment!
But he now realizes she didn’t want to go since her abusive ex-husband was going to be there. They make up and promise to be honest with each other going forward. Awwww.
The next day, Congresswoman Kudrow calls a meeting with Liv and says to forget the whole “you’re fired” thing. No hard feelings, she really wants Liv to manage her campaign. Liv politely declines, and we know it’s because she’s got her heart set on working for Fitz now. But Congresswoman Kudrow asks her to give it a day just to think before answering.
Gee, what could possibly happen in one day to make Liv change her mind about Fitz? (!!!)
Ballard comes home to find Huck waiting for him, and Huck has uncovered a real doozy. It seems the cover-up involving Fitz not actually piloting the Operation Remington Steele plane in Iraq was because he was secretly in Iceland. Shooting down a plane. And on the passenger list was none other than …
Jaw, meet floor.
Wow! I have to say that I was certain this whole Operation Remington business would slog along and ultimately not be nearly as interesting as they were making it out to be. Boy was I wrong.
When I heard this reveal, I got the same giddy sensation I did with last year’s finale and the whole “Dad?” thing. This is the kind of clever, ballsy, twisty turn I expect and love from this show. For that – and for leaving me feeling like I can’t possibly wait until next week for more – I’m giving this one a four out of five Gettysburgers.