A quick reminder of where we are – President Mellie; VPOTUS Beene; Olivia as chief of staff; OPA is now QPA (Quinn, Perkins and Associates) – and we’re off, with Olivia in killer heels strutting the corridors of the White House soundtracked by Public Enemy’s incendiary ‘Fight The Power’. Even more amazingly, the rest of this multi-stranded, thrilling episode isn’t a let-down after that.
At the start of the episode, the priority for the Mellie/Olivia White House is getting enough votes to ensure the passage of Vargas’s bill to provide free college education. Cyrus is trying to persuade a senator that it’s for the good of the country, while Olivia is using the darker arts to blackmail into compliance a good ol’ boy Senator who calls her “missy”.
While that’s brewing, though, the cash-strapped QPA is consulted by a woman whose academic father, Professor Stewart, has gone missing in a made-up Middle Eastern country. Who could do such a thing to a well-meaning educator? Well, the Prof is, of course, one of the CIA’s leading assets in the region, and Jake – installed, more or less, as Olivia’s current FWB – advises that he’ll just have to be found and killed, as by now he’ll be in the hands of someone who’ll make him give up sensitive information about US activity. Olivia is disinclined to accept that advice, and insists that he has to be rescued instead. Jake is disappointed, reminding her (and us) that Olivia is also Command, which means taking hard and unpleasant decisions.
Meantime Cyrus is on manoeuvres: fed up with the duties of his office he’s tempted by a Senator into thinking that he should be sabotaging the education bill in order to revisit the topic as President in three or four years. After a pep-talk from Mellie, though, he’s back to being ride-or-die for the new President Grant. Except that the Senator who was trying to turn him was actually working for Olivia; and Cyrus, being Cyrus, will have known that. My hunch is that we won’t ever get to see President Beene, but who knows?
While that’s going on, Professor Stewart is still awaiting his fate. Jake steers around Olivia and goes straight to Mellie, persuading her that the Prof needs to be taken out. Olivia, of course, doesn’t take at all kindly to being cut out, so not only ensures that her plan will succeed, but puts Jake in his professional and personal place while she’s at it. Nevertheless, the sheer excitement of being all Presidential means that Mellie forgets herself and tells Olivia that she, Mellie, is the President, and that Olivia will have to toe the line. Nuh-uh, says Olivia; don’t ever lose sight of the fact that I’m the boss, and that if you want to ensure the success of the first ever female Presidency you’d better keep that in mind.
Of the show’s other villains: Papa Pope turns up, but just about keeps himself in check. There’s a new right-wing talk show host, Curtis Pryce (Jay Hernandez, Dante in Nashville s1), who Olivia doesn’t much like, but she beds him anyway. And we don’t see Fitz in person; we’re no more than reminded of his existence by a quote attributed to him, so presumably he’s in Vermont, either brooding or involved in at least of one of the ongoing plots. Even without Tony Goldwyn, though, I thought this was the best episode of Scandal for a long time, Years, probably.