After the tumultuous events of the season 3 finale, it’s no surprise that ‘Randy, Red, Superfreak, and Julia’ – great title – spends a little time bringing us up to date with where everyone is. So Huck’s behind the support counter in an electrical goods store; Abby’s the White House Press Secretary; Quinn seems to be keeping the OPA flame alight single-handedly; Fitz and Mellie are coming to terms with the loss of their son – it’s no surprise that grieving, drinking, sweatpant-wearing, non-waxing (“it’s like 1976 down there”) Mellie is as awesome as every other iteration of Mellie. Olivia and Jake are living under assumed names on an African island.
And Harrison is dead. Now, as well as Kerry Washington’s pregnancy, the other major offscreen development which forced the hands of the writers in season 3 was Columbus Short’s meltdown, which led to him being fired from the show. As Short is now saying that he’s got his shit together and would love to return, it’s probably worth noting that we didn’t see Harrison’s death, or corpse, and that his coffin remained closed, so if Shonda wants to bring him back it won’t require too much retconning.
Anyway, it’s Harrison’s death which entices Olivia to Washington, D.C., Jake dragging reluctantly behind her. It’s just to organise the funeral, of course, then they’re going back to Zanzibar. But Jake knows that as soon as she feels the gravitational pull of the White House, and the President, she’ll find it difficult to leave. Significantly, though, what actually hooks her is a proper case which needs the Olivia Pope magic touch. I may be reading too much into this but, together with David Rosen’s literal and metaphorical parking of the B-613 files, I wondered whether this was a deliberate attempt to reach out to viewers who found season 3 a little too much about B-613, and not enough about OPA: we hear you, folks, and it’s handled.
And the case is a cracker: legislator-on-legislator violence, with a female Senator claiming that she acted in self-defence when a male Senator made unwanted sexual advances towards her, leaving the latter close to death in a hospital bed. Olivia quickly discerns that the allegation of sexual assault is fabricated, even though she firmly believes that women don’t make these things up. But there’s a reason, and it revolves around the Senator’s aide Kate (played by Lisa off of The Newsroom, Kelen Coleman, who is always welcome as far as I’m concerned). I’m not sure the writers entirely extricated themselves from this situation in a way which would stand up to scrutiny, but then not knowing what to think about a TV show is sometimes quite good.
Add to that a wicked Portia de Rossi performance as the magnificently-haired RNC chair Elizabeth North, Rosen being appointed as Attorney General in the “twisted but highly functioning” White House, and Fitz and Olivia walking within centimetres of each other in the White House without touching, or even looking, at each other, but both smiling the same secret smile after the fly-past, and what you’ve got is a show firing on all cylinders.