As with the first episode of the season, we’re introduced to the mid-season premiere (ew) by Sally Langston on The Liberty Report, although on this occasion her task is to lay out the theme of ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a General’ – power and the exercise thereof – rather than provide exposition. Anyway, we’re six months on from the events of the last episode, and quite a few things have changed. With Olivia out of the White House, Abby is being work-wived to death by a lonely President, who has her on 24/7 speed-dial for discussion of issues both big and small. Meantime, Olivia is having ostensibly affectionate dinners with her father, and is in a friends-with-benefits relationship with Jake, although there isn’t much that’s friendly about it; from what we see of their rough and taciturn encounters, it looks more like hate-fucking. This being Scandal, I’m sure that there have been one or two think-pieces about it in the couple of weeks since the episode aired in the US, so I’ll suggest that, generally, if it’s consensual it’s OK, and leave them to it.
And OPA has a client and a Case: the first female director of the NSA, General Diane Peters, has had highly secret information about Project Mercury – under which the USA is spying on world leaders, which I’d kind of taken for granted – extracted from her home computer, where it shouldn’t have been anyway. The obvious suspect is her relatively new partner, Billy, a computer programmer who’s been off the grid for a couple of days. Olivia’s job is to handle it for Diane; meantime, with the press sniffing around, Fitz asks Jake to limit the damage. OPA rapidly concludes that Billy is either traitor or whistleblower, while Diane gamely and loyally keeps insisting that he wouldn’t betray her.
I’m perhaps the only viewer who didn’t see how the Case of the Week was going to play out. Indeed, there are probably lost tribes in the Amazon rainforest who’ve never seen a TV, still less an episode of Scandal, who could have told me what was going to happen. Suffice to say that Rowan’s behind it which, when Olivia confronts him, allows him an opportunity for a classic Spy Daddy monologue: “Get yourself”, he snarls, “some power”.
Fortunately, a path to power has presented itself, or rather herself, to Olivia: Mellie has given her a copy of her draft autobiography to have a read over, and Olivia’s view is that it’s boring. If Mellie wants to run for President, Olivia suggests, she needs to write something more interesting, which deals with the questions to which people want answers, and would she like some help? Which, in turn, sets up Mellie running for the Oval with Olivia in her corner. On one view, it’s the show’s most natural alliance, and it’s one we’ve been waiting for; on the other, given what these people have put each other through, they really shouldn’t be able to exist together on the same planet. Still, if I’m being honest, after five seasons I’ve mostly forgotten who’s done what to whom in Scandal, so perhaps they have too.
This was a largely impressive return: the dialogue pops, the plotting’s tight, most of the characters get a moment in the sun, and B-613 seems to be off the agenda again. Assuming, as I think we must, that Scandal isn’t going to return to its season 2 form, this is probably about as good an episode as we can realistically expect these days.