‘An Innocent Man’ starts with former Republican President Cooper, politically at least a thinly-disguised Reagan-a-like, dying of a stroke. This spins off in two directions. In the first, his folksy widow Bitsy turns up at the White House to dispense some platitudes for the cameras. As soon as she’s alone with Mellie, though, Bitsy turns out to be a bit of a game old bird, who had to endure years of her husband’s philandering, and perhaps in consequence has developed a taste for Martinis that Diane Lockhart would approve of. The Bitsy/Mellie scenes are some of the best in the episode (“You go crochet, or vaccinate fat kids, or whatever silly hobby makes you feel like you’re making a difference”) and the really good news is that, finally, Bitsy’s appearance seems to have given Mellie something to do: inspired by tales of how Bitsy ran the country while her husband was out tomcatting, Mellie appears to resolve to use the power she has, and starts immediately by spiking a plan to close military bases.
The second storyline relates to an assassination attempt on Cooper years before: the convicted shooter, Leonard Carnahan, maintains his innocence, and hires Olivia to help him. It was deemed too dangerous to remove the bullet which struck Cooper in the head during his lifetime, meaning that Carnahan was tried without ballistics evidence to confirm that he fired the gun which shot the President. Carnahan claims that the bullet, once extracted, will prove his innocence, and Olivia concludes that the only way to get it is to persuade David Rosen that the shooting led, years later, to the fatal stroke, and therefore that Carnahan should be tried for murder. This, of course, is something of a high-risk strategy, and it inevitably goes wrong, although not in a way that I anticipated.
And as well as that, Olivia has to try and save Jake from Fitz’s wrath and Rowan’s malice. Rowan has already persuaded POTUS to hand Jake over to B-613, so Olivia has to make a countermove, leveraging Fitz’s feelings for her. There’s actually something quite endearing about the show’s insistence that, on top of everything else, these people are dynamite in the sack. Olivia explains her outmanoeuvring of her father to him: “You may be Command, but I have weapons you can never possess”, stopping just short of giving us a PowerPoint presentation of what these weapons might be. As for Cyrus, he seems to have taken leave of his senses. I realise that Scandal trades on its impossibility, but there really is no way that the Cyrus of seasons 1-3 would be setting his sex worker boyfriend up in a flat without giving him the biggest background check in the history of the Republic, so one can only assume that Michael really brings it between the sheets.
Not much of a week for Abby, Huck, and Quinn, but at least they’re still doing something. Abby is still Press Secretary, just about, and manages both to intimidate POTUS and work out what’s going on with Cyrus. Huck is benevolently catfishing his son; this cannot end well. And the key that people were willing to swallow/die for/kill for/pick through entrails for takes Quinn to a locker, and some apparently anodyne photos: either this storyline is going nowhere or it’s ticking over nicely. On the evidence of this week I’m going for the latter; this was a packed and entertaining episode.