Boy, was that a busy episode of “Scandal” or what?
That’s not meant to read as a criticism, but, whoa, there’s was hardly a second to catch one’s breath during “We Do Not Touch the First Ladies,” episode 12 in the hit ABC thriller’s truncated third season. (Don’t freak out, but there are only six episodes left!)
There’s plenty of ground to cover in talking about Thursday’s (March 6) episode, with the show servicing about seven frenetic plot lines, but as the episode title reveals, it’s Mellie’s story here that steals the focus. Working as a spiritual sequel to November’s “Everything’s Coming Up Mellie,” tonight’s episode further reveals the first lady’s past — this time, expounding on the history she shares with Fitz’s current vice president pick, Andrew Nichols.
The episode jumps back 14 years, just after Mellie’s rape at the hand of her drunk, lecherous father-in law. We learn that, in her grief, she’s begun to pull away from Fitz, which is understandable, all things considered. After all, she’s not sure who fathered her son and her husband is the offspring of her rapist. As she and Fitz argue over why she’s decided to skip a dinner honoring Jerry Grant Sr., the audience learns that Andrew overheard the whole thing.
As a drug use scandal meant to threaten Fitz’s re-election campaign arises in present day, with Andrew claiming the Oxyconitin was meant for him, it’s revealed he’s covering for Mellie. Why? Turns out he saved her from a suicide attempt, forcing her to purge the bottle of pills she swallowed. After he kept watch over her throughout that harrowing evening, he’s made sure her secret has remained under wraps ever since — even if it means falling on his sword and giving up a chance at being veep.
At every turn, Andrew reveals himself to be the man Mellie deserves. He protects her even scarier secret when she reveals the circumstances of her rape to him, he shows her the attention Fitz saves for Olivia, he’s willing to sacrifice his political career to protect her — something Fitz would only do for Liv and not his wife, as Mellie pointedly notes to her husband when she asks what it’s like to be so turned on by someone that you’re willing to sacrifice everything for them.
Sure, at face value she’s asking why he gambles with his presidency the way he does to keep Olivia in his life, but there’s got to be part of her that’s trying to understand why Andrew is now doing the exact same for her.
She’s able to stand her higher ground when Liv suggests she and Andrew have become involved because she’s remained faithful, despite the connection that’s developed with this other man. To some, this might seem like a further retcon — another opportunity to make Mellie a retroactively sympathetic figure. And there’s some merit to that argument, but as she dresses Liv down in that moment, it feels wonderfully earned.
Liv dares presume that she’s found some common ground with Mellie, something that might level the playing field and excuse her affair with Fitz. But, as Mellie makes perfectly clear, that’s never been the case: “Olivia, no matter what I went through back then, no matter what happened and why, when I was faced with the chance to cheat, I kept my knees together and said no. We are not the same.”
Except, it looks like that higher ground is slowly eroding under Mellie’s feet. A man who vocally wants to protect her, to put her first, is all Mellie’s looked for in Fitz, but never gotten. And now, here’s a man willing to give it to her.
Following a donor dinner for Fitz’s re-election campaign, she catches Andrew alone in a room, admiring Jackie Kennedy’s portrait. (Symbolism much?) She breaks the news that Liv managed to get the drug scandal story shut down, before telling him “We don’t touch the first ladies.” Not exactly subtle, but clever considering the location. He asks what would happen if he kissed her, prompting her to leave the room.
Until she turns around and fully macks on him. It’s steamy and hot, so naturally Mellie pulls away and runs out of the room. After all, we don’t touch the first ladies. Except, as Andrew’s pawing of Jackie’s portrait once Mellie leaves proves, he’s not playing by anyone’s rules.
– Have we ever seen Olivia stand up to Fitz the way she did in the opening scene? She read that fool the riot act, as poor Jake waited just outside the door, hearing every word. “I am not a prize at the state fair. You cannot win me,” she shouts, adding, “This is not about you. My whole life is not about you. I have goals, I have dreams!” Tell him, Liv!
– Harrison has fallen under Adnan’s spell, who reveals he’s hiding something in his past about Clearwater from Liv. That won’t end well. She also forces him to donate her (ill-begotten) cash to the Grant campaign. When she shows up at the donor dinner, she offers to bankroll Fitz’s campaign, as long as she’s protected. He’s uncomfortable to be seen with her in public, but Cyrus Beene will never turn down an opportunity to keep Fitz in power. When she returns to her hotel room, there’s someone waiting for her. A woman deep in the shadows. I’ll tell ya, I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming: It’s Mama Pope. This ought to be fun.
– Abby and David are in a better place than ever. She even tells him she loves him (something he foolishly doesn’t reciprocate before James calls him). It’s too bad he’s preoccupied with the dangerously panicked James. Sure, James has every reason to fear his husband, who’s not above buying the deaths of his adversaries, up to and including his husband.
Cyrus calls James into his office, tasking him to arrange an exclusive between the style reporter Publius has been leaking info to. Cy wants her to name her sources, while a scrambling James says it’s unethical. He suggests he should talk her instead of Cy as it would be better coming from a fellow journalist.
As James continues to freak out, David suggests he represent Publius when Vanessa demands a face-to-face meeting. The danger? Charlie has cloned Vanessa’s phone at Cy’s behest and is ready to do damage to her source. James realizes it’s a set-up and tries to warn David, but he’s too late.
David gets abducted outside the diner, shoved into a trunk with a bag over his head. After wriggling the sack off his head, he calls Abby, getting her voicemail, telling her he loves her and wishes he’d said it before he died.
Of course, he’s in no real danger, as his kidnappers open the trunk and reveal themselves to be Huck and Abby, rescuing her man after hacking into his e-mail. I didn’t see that coming for David. I’d already begun his eulogy. Thankfully, I can store it in my desk drawer for another week, at least.
– As Jake settles into his new position as the head of B613, he’s delivered the crazy secret information that’s for his eyes only. Not only is he made aware of all the agency’s ongoing missions and classified passwords, he’s also made aware that he has an agent working inside the White House who will reveal themselves in due time.
Jake continues as Olivia’s beard, while trying to convince Quinn she doesn’t want anything to do with B613, but its the final moment with the hunk that proves the most shocking. Fitz’s most trusted Secret Service agent, Tom, delivers Jake a flash drive containing video of the president’s conversation with Olivia about whether she loves the new Commander, revealing himself as the hidden B613 agent. Poor, poor Fitz. That man can trust no one.
– Of course, that cowboy
caricature Hollis Doyle rears his ugly head as the whale of a donor oily Leo thinks he’s secured for Sally’s campaign, in exchange for the energy secretary position in her cabinet. Crazy ol’ Sally agrees, but it’s revealed that Hollis is playing both sides.
Before giving Sally any money, he also attends Fitz’s donor dinner, where the sitting president of the United States tells his chief of staff he never wants to accept any money from that snake ever again. Seriously, Hollis could disappear forever and I wouldn’t mind.
– Rowan is the one leaking info about Fitz to the press, beginning his takedown of all those who’ve wronged him. Seriously, Rowan Pope is not a human anyone should wish to face off with. This man is out for blood.
– Huck is desperate for Liv’s understanding, as he argues that she ought to have known what she she was doing by domesticating a monster like him. He would only react to Quinn’s supposed betrayal one way, and she should have anticipated that.
– Speaking of Quinn, homegirl has seriously broken bad. When Liv catches her spying on her dinner with Rowan, the spurned former OPA associate pushes Olivia away. She kicks Liv out of the car, pulling a gun. “Get out or I’ll shoot you. I’m violent now, or hadn’t you heard?” Poor Quinn.
– “Wine is not beer and popcorn is most definitely not real food.” Jake may be Liv’s beard boyfriend, but geez, he’s just so perfect.