The writers have clearly decided that the best way, this time, to work around Kerry Washington’s pregnancy is to give each of the main characters an episode of their own to carry, rather than just proceeding as normal but situating Olivia behind huge handbags and houseplants. It’s a fair enough idea, I suppose, and this week – which, I think, will be the last of the Scandal-goes-Rashomon episodes – we finally get to find out the genesis of the conspiracy to assassinate Vargas and install another President. And all roads lead to Abby.
Fitz is working on his retirement plan: after decades of service, one way or another, he wants to take a step back, establish his Presidential library in Vermont, generally chill a bit. Not unreasonable, you’d think, but Abby wants him to carry on working himself – and everyone around him, it seems – into an early grave. So when she’s approached by the season’s Big Bads, “Marjorie Rulance” and “Mr Payas”, who offer her the chance to stop running around after the “big old man-baby” and seize some power for herself, she’s receptive after some initial reluctance.
But why President Abby, and what do Ruland and Payas actually want? Well, the latter remains unclear, but it looks as if Abby as POTUS was never really on the cards; she was presumably thought to be ripe for manipulation. And once she’s taken the money she can be blackmailed by that alone, as it can be traced to a bank which funds North Korean terrorism, and persuaded into performing a series of ever more appalling deeds.
I really didn’t like this episode at all, mind you, although even as I’m typing the words it feels arbitrary: the last two episodes were pretty dumb, but I thought they were entertaining. This time, though, I just don’t buy for a second that Abby – one of the smartest people in any room she walks into – would be so stupid as to believe that $300 million from people she’s never heard of to fund her utterly improbable Presidential campaign would come without strings. Or, for that matter, so dementedly ambitious and amoral that, having never stood for any public office in her life, she would suddenly be so consumed with a craving for power that reaching into a corpse to retrieve a bullet, in order to swap it out, would seem like the best thing to do in all the circumstances. (Incidentally, writers, do what you like with the bullets; but the trajectory/distance thing remains unaddressed, as does the fact that the shooting of Vargas would have been one of the most filmed, witnessed, and analysed incidents in human history. We’re not talking shaky Zapruder footage here.) On the bright side, any episode in which Leo gets smacked around has at least that to redeem it. I also liked the reveal of who David Rosen is dating. But little else.