The presidential campaign is getting properly under way in ‘Pencils Down’ which, even in the absence of a Case of the Week, makes for a bouncy, entertaining episode. On the Republican side, the first televised debate is to be hosted by Sally Langston. Susan is knocking it out of the park in her rehearsals, but through a chance remark from Abby finds out that David Rosen is cheating on her, which throws her off her game. David splits up with Elizabeth, then Susan dumps him. Which is, of course, kind of unfortunate for David. In a matter of hours, he goes from being the man with everything – having nice sex with a woman he loves, and hot and dirty sex with a woman he doesn’t – to morose celibacy. He’s hardly blameless, of course, but still: sucks to be you, Rosen.
Mellie is seen as aloof, intellectual, and patrician – not entirely unfairly – so Olivia tries to coach her into being a woman of the people. “Lose the bitch face!” she snaps at Mellie during rehearsals. But the strategy starts to unravel when Mellie tries a little too hard to convince everyone that she loves burgers. And (Donald Trump) sails on serenely, making it clear that debate practice is un-American, and frying bacon with the barrel of his smoking-hot gun.
Over on the Democratic side, Cyrus is once again finding himself edged out: this time by Governor Vargas’s brother Alex, who has the ear of the Governor’s staff, and a taste for back-channel dealing himself: he offers Olivia dirt on Susan in return for something on Senator Edison Davis, who has also declared his candidacy. Is it time, in Scandal-land, for the first African-American president? No, replies Olivia, it’s time for the first woman president. (Shonda and Kerry’s support for Hillary Clinton is presumably not coincidental.)
And in her spare time, Olivia is still trying to find out why Jake has become engaged to Vanessa. (It should be said that Joelle Carter is doing an excellent job in this role, which requires her to be plausibly socialite-ish yet enigmatic, down to the little curlicues of vocal fry.) There’s another unpleasant sex scene between Olivia and Jake on the way to the answer, which links Senator Davis and – of course – Rowan, although precisely why the remnants of B-613 are so keen to back the Senator remains to be seen. Also, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that there’s more to Vanessa. It’s Scandal. There always is.