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Scandal Recap: I Know What You Did Last Election Night

SCANDAL - "Nobody Likes Babies" - As David uncovers the truth about the Cytron case, things come to a head for Olivia, Cyrus, Mellie, Hollis and Verna. Backed into a corner, the five conspirators go to extremes and, in some cases, unconscionable lengths to protect themselves and/or the ones they love, on ABC's "Scandal," THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/RICHARD CARTWRIGHT)KERRY WASHINGTON, TONY GOLDWYN

Good morning. I’m filling in this week for Danielle Henderson (you can find me over in Justified-Recap Town every Wednesday). So just to sum up the top-sheet notes from this episode: Two characters turned out to be killers who we didn't think were killers; one character who we thought was a killer isn't (um, yet); one character we thought had it in him to be a killer turned back at the last possible second; and one character we know for sure is a killer turned down the chance to kill so he could instead offer a teaching moment. It was a big week, life-or-death-wise.

My thought was that the whole episode would build up to the revelation of who put the hit out on President Fitz, but boy, was there no time to linger on THAT revelation when there were three to four huge ones to come. We got the I.D. of the presidential-hit-maker pretty darn early: Justice Verna! Poor Verna was at death's door, but she still wanted to preserve her legacy, so to keep the Cytron scandal from seeing the light of day, she called Becky and arranged the hit. Olivia figured this out after a quick-cut investigative montage and went straight to Verna's hospital room, where Verna proceeded to reiterate the spirit of Cyrus's speech last week about how the American people wouldn't be able to handle the idea that the democratic process was riggable. Olivia seems to accept this as reason enough to keep the conspiracy secret forever, which puts Pope and Associates firmly on the side of cover-up and eliminates a lot of the nice ambiguity the show's been rocking the last couple of weeks. Anyway, after putting out the hit, NOW Verna's conscience needs some scrubbing, so she places a call to David Rosen. She's going to blow the whistle anyway.

As for Team Gladiator, things are as weird as ever. I always thought that Big Love was my favorite TV show about cults, but Scandal might have it beat. The best thing about Shonda Rhimes is that she has a clear and confident vision for the kinds of people she wants her characters to be. The worst thing is that oftentimes there isn't that great of a reason for those characters to be that way. The maniacal devotion that the Pope Associates have to not only backing up Olivia but insisting on doing so in the most unquestioning manner possible is some creepy shit, and I honestly can't tell if this is a story point or if Shonda has just decided that blind loyalty is as much of a virtue on Scandal as love-at-all-costs is on Grey's Anatomy (actually, that attitude's present here, too, but we'll get to Edison in a bit).

This all manifests itself in poor Abby's story line. After last week's truth-telling round-robin, the only real secret that remained was that Olivia and Harrison faked that report of David being a woman-beater in order to break him and Abby up. After listening to hours and hours of bobblehead recordings from David's apartment (including his "I love you" while Abby slept one night), Abby realizes that Pope treachery was at least a possibility. To Olivia's credit, she doesn't deny it when asked. But the real crazy-pants happens when Abby confronts Harrison and he just unloads on her about Mother Olivia and how she must never he questioned and instead followed off of any number of cliffs. This clear evidence of institutional insanity not only convinces Abby, it convinces her enough to go to David's apartment, and — after a seemingly genuine reconciliation — swiping the incriminating microchip in order to save Olivia's bacon. Olivia has each and everyone of those fools on lockdown. I think I'm impressed.

Still, despite the Gladiators' best efforts, it looks like Rosen is going to come out on top. He's got James as his secret weapon and is calling him to testify. As James tells it to Cyrus, either he tells the truth about what he knows and Cyrus goes to jail, or he perjures himself, and he goes to jail. There's some A-plus Cyrus and James stuff this week, all leading up to the bug-nuts scene where James demands that Cyrus tell him he stole the election and Cyrus demanding that James strip so he knows he's not wearing a wire. I like the idea that if Scandal is not going to be respected as a Serious Important Drama, it can instead be the show where pivotal relationship moments happen while naked brinksmanship is going on. Cyrus finally comes clean, and James has seemingly made his decision: For their daughter's sake, he cannot perjure himself and go to jail. Sorry, Cyrus.

So Cyrus, not a day after promising Olivia that he learned his lesson with the Hollis Doyle situation and won't arrange hits on innocent people anymore, calls up Charlie the Friends Yeti and it gets REALLY close (like, Charlie is inches behind James and reaching for his gun) before Cyrus calls the whole thing off. He calls up Olivia to tell her they're officially screwed, and Olivia pulls out her emergency wine. But of course we can't have a show if Olivia and Cyrus and Fitz are all in jail, so James has a change of heart on the witness stand, completely stonewalls Rosen, and Rosen goes APESHIT.

Back to Fitz for a second: Mellie had the baby, the better to lure the press with photo ops, but it hasn't changed Fitz's mind. He still wants to pursue a divorce. Alone with Olivia, he tells her that he knows Mellie induced labor, making her just that much crazier than he thought she was. Once again, he asks Olivia to wait for him. Meanwhile, Mellie threatens Cyrus that if Fitz goes through with this, she's going "nuclear" on his whole career. At this point, Cyrus has so much other stuff to deal with and assassinations to either call off or not that he basically just has to hope Fitz changes his mind. Lucky for him, Fitz gets a call from Verna in the hospital.

So Fitz goes to visit Verna, and the next thing we know, he's calling the nurses into her room, and Verna has died. What happened in the interim? We don't find out until the end of the episode — after James has refused to testify; after Abby has retrieved Cytron chip; after David Rosen has stormed into Pope and Associates and promised to rain holy hell on them all. After Olivia has turned down Edison's marriage proposal, for good this time. Olivia thinks she and Fitz can finally be together, but at Verna's funeral, he tells her he's had a change of heart and will be staying with Mellie. And why? Well, he found out about the election-rigging. And he is pissed.

Flashback to Verna's hospital room, where she tells Fitz the whole truth. A-plus work from Debra Mooney as she hits a tone of regret that she has to tell Fitz and also anger that he managed to get them all so worked up about him becoming president that they all sold their souls to make it happen. He wants to know who was in on it, and as he descends the list of participants, his heart breaks further: Mellie, of course; Cyrus; ... Olivia. Verna then tells him about how she called David Rosen and intends to make a full confession, at which point Fitz gets that Carl Bruner look in his eye. He didn't ask for this, after all. He didn't ask them to steal the election. Why should he be punished for it? (Plus, also, America would find out about Santa Claus, blah blah ... ) The detail where Fitz folds Verna's hands before he removes her oxygen is a nice touch. And now we have a show where the president of the United States is a murderer, and he's not even really a bad guy.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Huck: After saving Hollis Doyle's worthless life in the elevator at the beginning of the episode (cool little standoff with Charlie the Friends Yeti, that), Huck then later talks Quinn down from her plan to offer him $5,000 to kill Doyle himself. He tells Quinn he'll do it for free, but in exchange, Quinn has to leave Pope and Associates and return to her life as Lindsey Dwyer, because Gladiators don't kill for revenge or some such. Huck's lines of morality are funny, you guys. Quinn doesn't go for it, and Hollis Doyle lives to order barbecue another day.

Quote of the Week: It's Mellie who gifts us with our episode title, bonding with Cyrus over their lack of affinity for babies. "Nobody Likes Babies" should be the title of her autobiography.

Quote of the Week, Runner-Up: James, during his naked argument with Cyrus: "I'm not made to be a fugitive? I've got asthma." Too true. It also made for a fine rhetorical flourish later in the argument, as Cyrus broke down about his role in the election-stealing. "I was not made to be chief of staff," he told James. "I was made to be the president." Aw, Cyrus. You won't be in the history books, but you did manage not to kill anyone this week, so you're doing okay.

Hellacious Dumping of the Week: Boy, was David Rosen pissed when he thought Abby stole the Cytron card. I mean, she did, but he didn't have any proof of that. That pained look on her face when she retrieved the card (from her bra) and gave it to Olivia, all, "Now are you proud of me?" was kind of sick-making. These people are all brainwashed, I'm telling you.

Hellacious Dumping of the Week, Runner-Up: Liv gives Edison the ring back, as we all knew she would, before delivering the most Shonda statement of all time: "I want painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love." Edison at least gets to say that she's goddamn crazy.

Your (Fictional) President Feels Your Pain: Hey, so Fitz was just like ALL OF YOU: He thought Mellie put the hit out on him, too. Where his interests and yours might diverge is when he goes back to Mellie because at least her awfulness was on front street the whole time.

Next Week: Brand-new story line, which appears to be David Rosen framed for murder!

Photo: Richard Cartwright/ABC