Last week on Scandal: “WHAT! DID!! YOU!!! DO!!!!?” I still get chills thinking of that, and can’t imagine how Olivia’s staff, gladiators or no, managed to stand there without running to cower and pee in the corner, like newly adopted puppies reprimanded for, well, peeing in the corner.
So, where were we? Right, Cyrus (Jeff Perry) opening a folder Daddy Command (Joe Morton) gave him and being all “Oh My God … these are naked selfies of Chris Evans, how did you get these?” and Daddy Command’s all, “Um, wrong secret mission! Give those back to me and turn the page!”
But rather than picking up there, we pick up, as on-screen titles boldly announce, “5 years ago.” Actually, we hardly need the announcement, because as with all flashbacks, the bad hair tells all. I love flashback episodes because they give a chance for all those Hollywood wig interns to try to show their stuff and get “good try!” on their wig report cards, even though it amounts to Huck (Guillermo Diaz) looking like the Geico caveman and Liv (Kerry Washington) in bangs. And bangs, in any time period, are never, ever a good thing. Just ask our own First Lady for real, or Nate on Gossip Girl.
But I love Scandal’s flashback eps, because unlike the last 18 seasons of Lost, flashbacks on Scandal not only fill in crucial bits of back story but also change the way we view characters going forward. Like I loved those flashbacks of Liv and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) on the campaign trail because they rendered their present relationship slightly less preposterous. And the Huck episode, which I think divided even die-hard Scandal fans into “Love It!” or “Hate It!” camps, just wrecked me and made me care for the character and his devotion to Olivia all the more. So it’s interesting to me that this episode starts out as a sort of Homeless Huck: Part 2 flashback extravaganza.
We start with a quick meet cute on their favorite train platform where Bangs Liv is all, “Ugh, I hate my life! I have to have dinner again with my asshat Dad in a gorgeous 5 star restaurant,” and Caveman Huck is all, “Have fun! I haven’t slept indoors in a month!”
Then Liv sulks through dinner with Daddy Command at this posh restaurant, like she’s the weird vegan daughter forced to eat at a steak house, and it comes out that after tension in their past, Daddy Command basically bribed Sunday night dinners out of Liv in return for paying her law school bills. My mother does the exact same thing to get me to visit, only she does it through old fashioned guilt, which is much, much worse. So it seems to me like Liv’s got a pretty cushy deal going here, and she should just enjoy it and order dessert.
He admonishes her for being so petulant-teen about the whole thing and asks her to try to be civil. So she warms up just an iota, orders the second most expensive entrée, and asks him about his job at the Smithsonian. And he lights up all, “Guess what? We’re this close to getting an original Doctor Bunsen Honeydew to add to the Muppet wing, fingers crossed!”
On the way home, Liv is mugged, and Geico Caveman Huck comes to the rescue, kicking multiple mugger ass.
In the present day, Liv is off on an anxious jog, remembering how poor White House press secretary Jeanine Locke (Samantha Sloyan) was thrown under the D.C. press bus as the President’s mistress just because she once called Tony Goldwyn hot on YouTube (and by that logic, I should be locked away in Gitmo at this very moment).
So Liv calls President Fitzgoldwyn in person, who’s all “I miss you,” and “I played basketball with the Dalai Lamai … the score was 0-0, so he said he had indeed won. What’s that about?” Liv laughs, and then sternly says she’s going to clear Jeanine’s name. Because, you may remember, Jeanine is her newest client. In the time honored tradition of her firm always representing people who they screwed over in the first place, only to then “help” them and make everything much, much worse for them (see Amanda Tanner from Season 1, and that Governor guy who shot his wife’s lover). Fitz is all, “Bring it on.”
Bring it on she does, holding a press conference in front of the White House defending her client Jeanine’s honor and accusing the administration of reckless slander. Yesterday, she says, she, Olivia, was the accused. Today, it’s Jeanine. And tomorrow? Who knows who the mud will be directed at? (Given the way this show rolls, it will either be a Kardashian, a former American Idol contestant, or Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg).
Flashback! We know this because it’s a train station and Liv is wearing her Bangs Wig of 5 Years Past. Liv asks Huck how he got so good at kicking ass, and he starts talking crazy talk about how he was once a trained assassin for a secret offshoot of the CIA called the B52s. Run by a dude called “Daddy Command.” Crazy talk, crazy talk, Acme, Wonderland, more crazy talk.
Bangs Liv goes for dinner at Daddy Command’s house, and he goes to pour her some wine, and she’s all, “Gross! How about a Zima?” and he’s all, “Try this.” (Which is when Mark, my wise, wonderful husband, observed: “At last! The origin story of Liv’s love of wine!”).
Daddy Command is all in Daddy mode, telling Liv he’s worried about her, what with being mugged and rescued by a crazy homeless guy. And she says, not to worry, the homeless guy claims he works for some top secret government agency called the B52s, ever heard of it? And Daddy Command crushes his wine glass with his bare hands and says, “Nope! I’m going with nope! Please pass me a tourniquet.” And he promises Liv he’ll ask around the Smithsonian if anyone’s heard of this top secret organization.
Present day. Cyrus and The First Mellie (Bellamy Young) advise President Fitzgoldwyn to “grow some presidential balls” and go on TV and admit to the affair with Jeanine Locke, then put it all behind them. Fitz gets all pissy about how they’re throwing an innocent girl under the press bus, and only Liv is trying to make this right. Then he storms off …
… giving Cyrus and The First Mellie a moment alone, which is always a very dangerous proposition. Mellie tells Cyrus she’s going to give him a folder showing all the dates she was out of town, which happen to coincide with when the President was home alone in the White House. She gives him permission to leak it to the press. Cyrus: “You’re evil.” Mellie: “You’re welcome.” (Me: “I love you both. Promise me you’ll never change.”)
Cut to talking heads blabbing on about how Jeanine and Fitzgoldwyn were clearly testing out the mattress in the Lincoln Bedroom while Mellie was away.
Olivia hears this and tells Abby (Darby Stanchfield) they need to get Jeanine an alibi. Jeanine tells Abby that she and her nice probably-gay-boy BFF Ethan worked late together and sent each other tons of IMs (sample: “Who’s hotter? Liam or Chris Hemsworth?”). Get copies of those IMs, Olivia says, and Jeanine has an alibi.
Meanwhile, Olivia marches into her office to find the Gladiators all giggly over this wonderfully entertaining guest … Daddy Command!
Flashback! Bangs Liv asks Daddy Command if he ever asked about that whole B52s secret agency thing. Daddy Command tells her he did, and there’s no such thing, and the homeless guy who helped her out is clearly cray-cray and was arrested and carted off to homeless jail. He orders her to drop it.
Present day: Quinn (Katie Lowes) gushes to the gladiators over how “normal” Liv’s dad seems and wonders why she never mentioned him. Out of gladiator earshot, Liv and Daddy appear to be smiling and laughing, but are actually saying horrible, horrible things to each other. Like, “I want you to leave,” and “If you ever want to see Noel from Felicity again, you’ll make sure the American public buys that Jeanine is the President’s Chief of Nookie.”
Meanwhile, Liv enjoys a relaxing night out of the office by visiting the morgues looking at dead bodies on the off chance one of them is Noel (Scott Foley) from Felicity. Fun pastime! Less tedious than book club, less exhausting than Zumba.
Afterward, Liv pulls Huck aside and asks him what the B52s do if you disobey orders, wondering if they just plain kill you. He tells her they don’t kill you at first; they just throw you in “The Hole,” (which contrary to its name, is NOT the sleazy gay bar on 13th Street, and I should know since that’s where I’m typing this recap at this very moment). He elaborates that The Hole is a TERRIBLE place that absolutely BREAKS you! Like the only grooming products are expired bottles of conditioner from the dumpster behind Motel 6. And there is streaming Netflix, but it only shows Dexter seasons 5-8. It will BREAK you!
Olivia calls her main squeeze, Pres Fitz, and asks him to look into this whole “Jake Ballard, is he or isn’t he? Dead that is?” issue. He agrees to help, but only because it’s Liv asking (and NOT because Ballard was an old army buddy who he was co-involved with in some top secret Iraqi mission that was so horrifying it even had Cyrus clutching his pearls in panic).
Flashback! As much as I adore Liv’s bangs, they’ve got nothing on David’s hipster goatee. There’s been sadly little of David (Josh Malina) so far this season, but this facial hair more than makes up for it. David tells her he ran the prints on her purse to see if the homeless guy who rescued her was in fact carted off to prison. No match, which means, Olivia quickly realizes, that Daddy Command LIED! Bad Daddy!
In full on Nancy Drew mode, Bangs Liv goes to check out the locations from Huck’s lunatic ravings — Acme plant, Wonderland Ave. – and realizes that Daddy Command had personally given her a PLOT CONTRIVANCE PEN bearing the name “Acme” on it. Because all heads of nefarious black ops organizations carry around and distribute personalized pens embossed with their HQ name.
Liv goes to see Daddy Command at their next fancy restaurant dinner, throws down the pen, and asks him to fess up to what he really does for a living. “And don’t tell me it’s curating Muppets!” Followed by the awesome line: “WHAT! DO! YOU! DO!!!!?” Daddy Command: “Check please!” He tells her she can’t handle the truth, and demands she order dinner, or at least a freaking appetizer. She gets up and walks out.
Present day. Back at the office, Quinn is giddy that she managed to hack into Liv’s email – much to Huck’s horror at the psycho-girl he helped create. She wonders why Liv’s emails with her dad stopped so abruptly.
White House. Fitz asks Cyrus to look into Ballard’s whereabouts. Cryus says they can’t do that – the way that the B52s was set up, they are their own entity not answerable to no stinking White House. Their sole objective is protecting the public, and right now they’re not such big Fitz fans, given his raging libido is more volatile than the stock market.
Meanwhile, Abby coerces Jeanine’s former co-worker Ethan to print out the IMs the two were sending that provide her alibi for the night she was allegedly shtupping the President.
The team prep Jeanine for an on-air appearance proclaiming her innocence. At one point Jeanine breaks down, and Liv holds hands and gives her a shoulder to cry on, not revealing she was the one Fitz was actually having the affair with all along.
Meanwhile, Mellie watches talking heads speculating if there even was a woman the President was sleeping with, as the First Lady claimed, saying that it wouldn’t be the first time a “woman of a certain age” got jealous for no reason. Ouch! And these fools don’t know who they’re messing with.
So the second Liv leaves Jeanine asleep on her sofa (always a mistake! See Season 1 Amanda Tanner), Mellie calls Jeanine for a secret limo meeting, telling her she wants to help her.
Flashback! Bangs Liv shows up at Daddy Command’s door … with her fiancé, one Senator Edison Davis (Norm Lewis). Who, she points out, just happens to run that special Senate committee that makes sure there aren’t any secret black oppsy organizations around making people disappear, not that that would ever happen to anyone for real, ha ha ha! Game, set, match Olivia. Eat it, Daddy Command! Taking a moment alone, she demands Daddy set Huck free from wherever he’s been taken.
Present day! Press conference. Abby breaks the bad news that Jeanine erased all the IMs that were to have been her alibi. Olivia quickly realizes someone in the White House got to her. And when she confronts Jeanine, finds this to be just the case, for a cool 2 million dollars. (And good lord, can you blame her? Two million dollars just to go on TV and say you slept with Tony Goldwyn – sign me up!)
In the midst of all this, Fitz calls to let Olivia know that a) Ballard is alive. And b) there’s nothing he can do to get him released. Liv is furious, wondering what good it is for him to be the freaking President if he has no power. Then she calls Daddy Command, trying her luck there to see if she can get Ballard back. He declines … until Liv makes a horrible, heinous, humiliating agreement; she’ll do Sunday dinners with him again. Oh, the horror!
Liv tries to prevail on Jeanine that she shouldn’t go on TV lying about having had an affair, blabbering on about how being a liar, liar pants on fire will eat away at you. But it harldy matters. Because the second she’s about to go on the air, she gets preempted.
By a special announcement from the President. I have to say that, for a show that can lean toward the, shall we say, “delightfully ludicrous,” this is the most realistic thing they’ve ever done. Because how often have you come home to find your TiVO all screwed up because of some last minute Presidential speech that totally messed with your recording of that night’s The Voice?
Flashback: Train Station of Misty Water Colored Memories. Liv is talking with Huck when she gets a call from Daddy Command, who tells her he’s not so keen on Senator Edison as a prospective son-in-law. And BTW, he adds, Edison is in the hospital, after a “terrible accident.” Yikes! Daddy Command plays hard ball. He tells her she has to turn Edison’s marriage proposal down. Check mate, Daddy Command. Liv screeches that she’ll do what he wants but THEY ARE DONE. He responds that they’re family, so they are never done.
Present day: Right before his press conference, Fitz tells Cyrus he’ll do what he and the B52s want and admit to having hooked up with Jeanine in the Love Shack, but only if Cyrus gets Ballard released. Otherwise he’s going to expose them for trying to besmirch an innocent girl.
Fitz goes on air and announces he did in fact have an affair with Jeanine. Isn’t this about the 30th time on this show he’s publicly admitted that, to paraphrase Chorus Line, he’s been going through his Presidency with an open fly? It’s yet to be seen how his constituency reacts to this cheery news, but we do find out right away that VP Sally (Kate Burton) is NOT happy.
After the press conference, Quinn confronts Huck with something she found in Liv’s emails with her father – discussions about a “deal” involving a homeless guy she met in the train station. Quinn figures this refers to Huck. But before he answers Quinn, he goes after Liv in the parking garage and CHOKES HER (holy crap!), demanding to know why she lied about cutting a deal for his return from Command’s clutches. He asks her flat out if Liv’s Daddy is in fact Daddy Command. She says, “FRGRFFFYTH!!!!” Then, after he lets go of her throat, she clearly says, “He is.”
Final scene: Liv is relaxing at home with her cherished wine and popcorn. Her phone rings, she sees it’s Daddy Command and answers saying, “I don’t want to speak to you,” begging the question why she picked up in the first place.
A la the first three Scream movies, he tells her to open her door. She does, to find Ballard on her doorstep. And I find it fairly hilarious that while, after about 10 minutes in The Hole, Huck came out looking like Cousin It, Ballard has been in there for weeks and has barely a good layer of hipster scruff to show for it. I guess Noel from Felicity never really did get through puberty, did he?
Meh. I’m giving this one only two burgers.
Not nearly enough gladiators, not enough Mellie, not enough Cyrus, and the flashbacks with Liv and Daddy didn’t show us much more than we’ve already guessed about their relationship. But I am eager to see what happens now that the Ballard’s out of the box. What did you think?