This feels like it should be a momentous episode: the destination of the Presidency is decided; an established if medium-ranking character is killed; and the show’s OTP make out. It isn’t, though, for reasons I’ll come to. Starting with the Oval: Cyrus is formally exonerated and released from prison, putting him back in the Presidential race against Mellie, even though he doesn’t really want to be. Olivia tries unsuccessfully to persuade Mellie to stand aside, then starts to work on the rehabilitation of Cyrus’s reputation – referring to him as “our new client” to the rest of OPA, presumably to remind them that clients are something they’re supposed to have – starting by putting Vargas’s relict on TV to testify to Cyrus’s qualities. Meantime Elizabeth North is stiffening Mellie’s resolve.
The incredibly annoying Peus and Ruland double-act, though is looming over everything. Rowan – Rowan! – is so terrified of them that he’s already shot the President-elect, and keeps warning Olivia that if Cyrus becomes POTUS she’ll be killed, as will Rowan. It all comes to a head when Mellie goes into her office to find Elizabeth there with Peus and Ruland; she orders them all out, but instead Ruland repeatedly smashes Elizabeth over the head with a golf club, killing her. They’ve fixed the electoral college, they tell her, so it’s going to be President Mellie – and, when the college meets, it is – but she’ll be working for the two of them. (Jake gallantly does the cleaning up, and confirms that he’ll be her Veep, protecting her from the worst.)
Meantime Fitz decides it’s time to stand up to his FBI director gf – who calls him “boy” at one point, and who is presumably part of Team Peus in some way – by ordering the Feds to ignore a warrant for Olivia’s arrest and and lift Rowan instead, to Olivia’s fury. It turns out, though, that Fitz has done that in order to keep Rowan safe; he’s been taken somewhere he can be protected, and that the fight back against can now #Peland start. Olivia is so pleased and relieved that she and Fitz hit it. I realise that not everyone is in favour of Olitz, but I very much am: the two of them have a chemistry that simply can’t be faked, and I’ll say no more than that. Soundtracking the scene with ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ is inspired as well.
What I don’t quite get about this episode, though, is this: everyone, including Rowan, is panicking; behaving as if Peus and Ruland represent some sort of uniquely appalling threat. Let’s bear in mind who’s lined up against them: established psychopaths Jake (who made a man urinate in fear a few episodes ago, just by telling him what was going to happen to him), Huck, Quinn, and Charlie; Papa Pope himself, Command, the B-613 despot, a man who’s ordered more wet jobs than his daughter has had glasses of red wine; even Olivia herself, who last season beat a former Vice-President to death with a chair. So why are they all pretending that an old guy with a slightly menacing manner and a chick with a golf club would provide anything more than a gentle warm-up exercise before breakfast? Perhaps we’ll find out. For now, though, I find it impossible to take this storyline – and, by extension, this show – in any way seriously.