We open on Liv’s bedroom, where the newly returned Ballard (Scott Foley) is passed out on the bed, even though if I were released from The Hole, the first things I’d do would be shower, shave, and eat about 20 donuts.
Liv (Kerry Washington), for her part, is cowering on the floor, with this haunted, shell-shocked look on her face, like she just realized she’s out of wine and/or watched the season finale of Breaking Bad.
For recapping purposes, she’s helpfully remembering scenes from last week (in flashback-friendly black-and-white). You remember — confronting Daddy about being Daddy Command … getting choked by Huck … and “Ding, dong, special delivery. Here’s that battered, emotionally shattered husk of a boyfriend you ordered. With a side of garlic knots.”
She gets a call from Fitz (Tony Goldwyn), who says they need to talk about Ballard. She says, “No!” and hangs up.
Then she calls Huck (Guillermo Diaz), and says they need to talk about the whole choking incident.
He says, “No!” and hangs up.
Then my doorman calls to ask if he can send up the pizza delivery guy. I say, “No!” and hang up. And immediately smash my head against the coffee table for being such a moron.
To cheer herself up, Liv – wearing an atypically colorful ensemble that’s simply to die for – heads to the office, for what will no doubt be a restful day of paperwork and Candy Crush.
The Gladiators greet her but wonder where Huck is. They’re surprised to hear Liv’s claim that he’s taking a personal day, given none of them get personal days. Or weekends, or holidays, or paychecks. In fact the only day they get off is President Fitzgerald’s birthday. And that’s only so Liv can go to the White House and give him his traditional birthday BJ for old time’s sake.
But good news! They have a client! One Mary Nesbitt (Cynthia Stevenson), a sweet-faced, super-nice lady with a midwestern lilt in her voice, so she’s obviously a raging psychopath (like all nice people from the Midwest).
She hands over her retainer and says she’s got to dash to a meeting on the Hill, let’s talk later, nothing suspicious here.
Although it does quickly get suspicious when Quinn (Katie Lowes) does some snooping and discovers that a) Ms. Nesbitt emptied out her savings account to pay them; and b) her son was suspected of being a terrorist and was killed during an FBI raid. Ruh-roh! This gets Liv’s spidey-fixer senses tingling, so she heads to the Hill.
Meanwhile, in the White House, President Fitzgoldwyn and The First Mellie (Bellamy Young) sit at the dining table, getting a debrief from Cyrus (Jeff Perry ) on their terrible approval ratings post-Fitz affair.
Fitz is astonished to see Mellie feeding their baby through this, marveling that she even knows which orifice the food goes into.
She says she’s prepping for a number of “Look What a Great Mom She Is!” photo shoots Cyrus set up. I know just the kind of photo spread she’s talking about, just like all those annoying celebrity moms in their three million dollar nurseries, and obviously as phony as those “Body after Baby” and “Stars Without Makeup” magazine spreads.
Cyrus says they can win the public back by showing how as a couple they’re plowing through their problems and still devoted to each other. Which is why he’s sending them off for a “Love Weekend at Camp David,” (which is coincidentally the name of a romance/YA novel I’m working on).
Mellie wonders how she’s supposed to fake affection with a guy who could hardly “get it up” to get her pregnant, and I’m pretty certain slandering the Presidential Penis is a Federal offense. He tells her to “Shut up!” and she says “No, you shut up!” back, and if I were Cyrus I’d put both of them in time-out and take away their iPad time.
Meanwhile, in another part of the White House, we join a tour already in progress. They’re right up to the good part, where the tour guide tells you all about that one President who liked to dress up like Eleanor Roosevelt and bake cakes in the middle of the night (you know which one I mean).
Suddenly, this gray-haired guy breaks away from the tour and heads off on his own, like maybe he’s really, really excited about seeing the Presidential broom closet down the hall? He’s promptly tackled by security. And then demands to speak with the President about “Operation Remington Steele.”
Word of this naturally gets to Cyrus, who calls Daddy Command (Joe Morton) and tells him that they’ve got a Remington Steele situation on their hands.
Meanwhile, Liv heads over to the Capitol in search of her client, who she correctly guesses is having a meeting with her state senator (drunken Duck from Mad Men!). Liv hears Mary screaming that she wants answers about what happened to her son.
Then she turns to face Liv and shows that she’s wearing a suicide bomber vest, and it says all you need to know about this show’s relationship to fashion that the vest is actually quite fetching, like I found myself wondering if it comes in navy, maybe with a nice pinstripe.
Later on, in the midst of hostage negotiations, Mary and Liv have a little chit chat where she reveals she pieced together the vest herself – with a little help, naturally, from the Internet – using supplies from her crafting table (!!!). And if she’d gone that extra step and bedazzled that sucker I’d be giving this episode a 5 out of 5 Gettysburger rating.
Anyway, Mary wants answers about what really happened with her son, demanding to see the classified FBI filed that’s been denied her or she’ll blow everyone up. She tells Liv that one of the reasons she hired her is because she’d read Liv always trusts her gut and her gut is always right, and her own gut is telling her that her son is innocent. (You and I of course laughed our asses off at that, because Liv’s gut has proven right on this show exactly 0%.)
But I will in all sincerity commend Kerry Washington’s performance in these scenes, because while Liv very competently takes charge here, you can see in Washington’s acting how she’s also kind of losing her sh*t at the prospect of being blown to Prada-bedecked smithereens.
Liv gets the Gladiators involved in trying to get the FBI file, sending Quinn (or “Baby Huck” as Abby hilariously calls her) hacking, and Harrison (Columbus Short) to cover the scene outside the Capitol, and Abby (Darby Stanchfield) to meet with David Rosen (Josh Malina).
Oh, and the FBI hostage negotiator she deals with is played by famous fourth Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson. So if this thing winds up having anything to do with the spirit of Zuul or the Staypuff Marshmallow Man, they’re in good hands.
At one point, Harrison alerts Olivia that there are snipers outside prepared to take Mary out, and Liv goes ahead and stands at the window, right in the crossfire, which I’d say is a pretty impressive level of customer service she’s providing her client for a measly 20 grand.
When she’s at the window, Fitz – who is watching everything from the presidential situation room – realizes she’s involved. But he refuses to get her the file, even when she gets Ballard to ask him to, because it would look bad in the press for the President to be linked to her yet again, and also cause it kinda looks like she’s helping out a terrorist.
Then this woman who says she’s FBI goes up to Harrison and explains that the guy who was killed was in fact a terrorist, and to prove it she shows him what appears to be scenes from Homeland on her iPad.
However, with a little help from Abby, Harrison quickly figures out the woman isn’t real FBI and there’s something fishy going on. When Abby presents this to David, she gets his suspicions raised as well.
David goes to Cyrus’ office and demands to know what’s in the FBI file. Cyrus tells him that he might want to remember that he got him his current cushy U.S. attorney job and should mind his own bee’s wax. David goes dick-to-dick with him and says that just because he compromised his morals that one time by turning over the voting machine chip, he’s not going to compromise his morals all the time. Then he plays his trump card, revealing that he found evidence of pay-offs to all the FBI agents on that fateful raid.
This is all enough to get Fitz to call Olivia, with Cyrus and David beside him. Fitz tells her that he can reveal what really happened, but she in no circumstances can tell any of it to Mary Nesbitt. She agrees, and he explains that Mary’s son was in fact a CIA agent who went deep undercover. The problem is he also recruited other CIA agents and sent them off to various terror cells to report back. If word gets out in the Terrorist Times that the guy who recruited them was CIA, all those agents will be exposed and tortured and killed. He asks Liv if she understands the need to keep this secret. She says, “No,” and hangs up on him.
And then, much to my surprise I have to say, she says to Mary, “Here’s what really happened … your son really was a terrorist. Like, for reals.” I honestly thought she was going with the truth and was surprised she agreed to Fitz’s terms.
Poor Mary shrieks, but then seems to cool down enough to vacate the office. Then she pushes Liv out the door and blows herself up. D’oh!
So after that fun-filled day of relaxing client relations (like why can’t Liv ever just have a nice client lunch at some flowery/salady place?), Liv heads back to her office. To find Huck doing that creepy thing that only TV characters do where he’s sitting in her darkened office on the off chance she’ll actually come in and see him there and get the crap scared out of her.
Olivia is very suspicious of how his day went, because Quinn had told her that, in the course of snooping around on his computer, she found evidence that Huck was obsessively researching Daddy Command. So Olivia asks him, “Did you kill me father?” And when that gets no answer, she tries it like this: “DID. YOU. KILL. MY. FATHER?!!!”
To everyone watching, at this point it certainly looks like he did kill him. Because throughout this whole episode we’ve seen brief glimpses of Huck stalking Daddy Command. In fact, he follows him to a remote trailer, where we see Daddy Command go inside and meet with … the gray-haired White House tourist who cried “Operation Remington Steele.”
Daddy Command gives the guy a chunk of cash that he doesn’t seem much interested in, and tells him if he wants to meet the President, he can, but he’ll have to cool his jets for a while first.
Daddy Command exits the trailer to find Huck pointing a gun at him.
But when Huck later tells Olivia what happened, we see that he couldn’t go through with killing him. Instead Daddy Command heads off, telling Huck he left a present for him.
Inside the trailer, Huck finds the White House tourist guy handcuffed to a chair, and a razor blade helpfully left on the table. And Huck proceeds to slash him, staging it to look like a suicide.
In Liv’s office, Huck breaks down in tears, telling her that even after everything he’s suffered, he can’t break free from Daddy Command’s control.
Meanwhile, in the White House, The First Mellie is getting good and snookered on homemade hootch at the dining table.
Fitz comes in and joins her, and she drunkenly wonders how many presidents had sex on that very table, and I throw up a little in my mouth as any number of unwanted images then enter my head, culled from high school history textbooks, postage stamps, and U.S. currency. Let me tell you, the number of presidents I want to imagine having sex is exactly 0.
Mellie says she’s celebrating, and Fitz wonders why, given her arch-enemy Olivia Pope didn’t actually get blown up. Mellie correctly states that if Liv had died, Fitz would have wasted no time in turning her into a saint and getting even more insufferable. As long as his “whore” still lives, she says, Fitz has a flaw — and she’s got a puppet whose strings she can pull and get her husband dancing.
Then Mellie drunkenly sashays out, and right in my living room, I stand up and give them both a standing ovation. The two Fitz-Mellie scenes this week just made this episode. It was like watching a Schoolhouse Rock version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and I loved it.
Meanwhile, after her fun day at the Capitol followed by her fun employee performance review meeting with Huck, Liv heads home for a relaxing night in with her battered, emotionally bruised sometime-boyfriend. Who has wine and Gettysburger waiting for her, so obviously he’s a keeper.
But she’s not in the mood for snuggle time, and demands Ballard tell her why Daddy Command agreed to release him.
Ballard says he doesn’t really know the reason. He goes on to describe how The Hole was a TERRIBLE place. Like the sheets are only 300-thread count, and the shampoo is only the dandruff kind, and even though there is streaming Netflix, it’s only streaming the Lindsey episodes of Arrested Development. It will BREAK you!
But, Ballard says, the whole time he was in there, it was thoughts of coming back to Liv that kept him going. She’s having none of that kind of talk, telling him this isn’t a fairy tale and there is no happy ending for them. Because if he’s out of The Hole, she realizes, it’s only because Daddy Command still has a use for him.
Daddy Command owns both of them, she says, ignoring an incoming call from the man himself at that very moment.
End of episode.
I’m again giving this one only 2 out of 5 Gettysburgers. Honestly I almost gave it a one, because it felt like a step back to those Season One stand-alone episodes that focused on a single client, before the show found its crazypants groove. I upped my rating a notch, though, for those two glorious Fitz-Mellie scenes and the developments on the Huck front. What did you think?