Shonda Rhimes & Co. decided to welcome us back from hiatus with a sucker punch right to the cry bones. Not even the unmitigated disaster that is Olivia and Fitz could hold my attention in the face of Huck working through a newly triggered psychotic breakdown.
Actually, let’s start with Liv and Fitz, because I just cannot with them and the push-me-pull-you. Readers, you are easily the greatest, most intelligent people on this planet but I cannot understand why you want them together. No one wants to see the President of the United States moaning under a window with a boombox, and his smart, angry dickishness is less Lloyd Dobler and more Keyser Soze. Have we forgotten how terribly he treated Olivia after their visit to the Sex Closet™? Or his general descent into off-the-rails assholery when they finally broke up? Olivia is still in the hospital but newly enlightened, having figured out that Ballard was spying on her for Fitz, who haunts her hospital floor like an oblivious, overly saccharine ghost. When he crept over to her face to say “I’m sorry, I love you” and she said, “I hate you, you left me all alone,” I swear I checked that I wasn’t watching the Lifetime channel. Their love is abusive and apologetic, and the cycle is starting anew. It all comes to a head the next day when Liv is being discharged; she tells him to go home, he makes a big speech about Defiance changing him, that he is angry about her fixing him, but meh, you know what? He still loves her so much he cannot breathe without her. Iyanla, fix his life. Liv almost falls for it, sucks on his skull a little and then reins it in; she pulls away, says “I can’t,” and slams the room door in his face. Next week, I expect to see Liv guzzling wine out of a garden hose with Cyrus while the faint tones of “I Will Survive” reverberate through her incredibly well-appointed apartment.
Captain Pants on Fire Ballard’s protective lie is in place; he told Fitz that Liv was attacked outside of her apartment building instead of revealing that he actually bounced her skull off of his supporting beam when she found him out, and Harrison figures out that something is going down between Liv and Fitz when the Secret Service prevents him from visiting her in the hospital. He gives chase to a baseball-cap-wearing Charlie when he spots him in the hospital, but Charlie slips away. When Mellie finds out that Fitz has been camping out in the hospital with Olivia, she pulls the super-boss move of leaving him, telling Fitz that she’ll be discreet for a little while, but that he needs to make up his mind before she hits the press. I am so ready for Fitz to get permanently dumped by both Olivia and Mellie; we can watch him tailspin into Insanity workouts, empty pizza boxes stacked in the Lincoln bedroom, and openly sobbing in the fetal position wearing a half-buttoned shirt on the presidential seal in the oval. Fitz will either break down completely like a robot, or come to light in his full villainous glory, but Mellie just racked ‘em up, either way.
Fourteen years ago, Huck was a Marine surprising his librarian girlfriend, Kim (played by Fringe’s Jasika Nicole), with a trip home from Kosovo. He had no idea why his tour had been cut short, but it turns out he tested so well that the C.I.A. wanted to hire him for his exceptional skills. Creepy Charlie looks on while bossman Crosby (played by Justified’s David Meunier) gives Huck an ultimatum that forces his decision — take this job or go back to Kosovo. Huck accepts the job with the understanding that he had no wife or kids; when Kim gets pregnant and Charlie finds out, Huck tries to make a run for it, but gets captured in the process and thrown in a hole instead. Crosby routinely shows up to ask him, “Do you have a wife and a son?” Huck says yes for an unknown number of months until they finally break him. He goes back to work with a partner; when he is unable to perform the torture murders, his partner sets Huck free, saying “Command” ordered him to be killed, but he should run instead. He’s dead, he’s a ghost; he’s been broken and abandoned, and that is how he ended up the homeless Huck that Olivia found in a D.C. metro station five years ago. “Command” is revealed to be Joe Morton, the Bastard on the Bench that has been giving orders to Captain Ballard, who was told Huck is dead. If Ballard is working for Command, does that mean Ballard is C.I.A., or a double agent in some other capacity? Is their involvement with Olivia a way to get to Huck? Ballard wants out, but Command reminds him “there’s no such thing as out.”
Present-day Huck is deep in psychosis, sitting on the floor in the office and muttering “seven fifty-two” over and over again. When Harrison calls Liv to tell her what is happening, she asks everyone to keep talking to him. It turns into a perverse confessional — Quinn reveals her dreams of a garden and baby-filled life with Jesse before Hollis Doyle ruined her; Abby recounts her traumatic experience with domestic abuse and the convoluted relationship she has with Olivia for saving her; and Harrison, master of the smooth talk, tells Huck he is the one true gladiator and honors him with silence. When Olivia is released from the hospital and shows up at the office, she goes directly to Huck and closes the door. She crouches down, holds his hand, and tells him that she did not save him — he saved her. She feels that she is alone except for Huck because they both come from the “dark side of the moon” and implores him to come back to her. Huck looks up at her with tears in his eyes, and says “I think I used to have a family, but I don’t remember if they were real,” which was delivered in a way that broke every beating heart right in half. There is no doubt — Liv cherishes her staff, but Huck is her consigliere. As she stands up and holds out her hands to him, we get a final flashback: Huck, homeless in the train station, watching his wife and child get off of a train. His son puts a dollar in Huck’s cup, smiles, and runs back to Kim, just as we get a donkey kick to the heart when the camera pans up to show the time is 7:52 a.m.
He waits for his family, every day, even though he questions their reality and does not remember them. They are still his touch point after all these years.
The tears, people. The TEARS. I think this tweet basically sums up our collective emotions.
Worst “Secret” Service Agent: Hal, for snitching on Fitz to Mellie. Secret is the first word of your job, Hal! Shut your gob!
One Question You Will Never Hear on HGTV: “Why are there guns in our piano?” Alternately, “Why does my husband keep a box of watches from people he murdered by torture in the piano?”
Charlie’s Best Tip for Disposing of Bodies: “Always do your job on trash day. That way after they’re dead, you put them in plastic, roll them in a rug, shove them in a Dumpster, and you’re good to go.”
Best Nod to Ghostbusters: When Cyrus (criminally underutilized in this episode) came to the hospital to inform Fitz that camping out at the hospital with Liv for a “late night booty call” translates to the public as “Markets panic, reporters swarm, Defcon levels change,” and Fitz responds with a casual “Cats and dogs will finally get along?” I see what you did there, Scandal writers.
Most Tense Staring Contest: Before Huck accepts the job from Crosby, he quickly assesses the situation by pointing out the “non-descript office park, ceiling cameras, guy behind me with a bulge in his pocket that must be a gun” and waits a while before saying “yes.”
Too Little, Too Late: Fitz’s dramatic revelation to Olivia in the hospital. “This past year I have learned only one thing — that I cannot exist without you, that I cannot breathe without you, that the man I am without you … I’m nothing, and you are everything and I need you to give me another chance. I demand another chance. We’re worth another chance.” Fitz is a walking telenovela.
I’m Onto You of the Week: Cyrus having Charlie check out Jake. This will not end well.
Most Matter-of-Fact Job Description: When Charlie told Huck, “We kill people. That’s the job, that’s what you signed up for. We don’t just kill them, we torture them. Here’s your first gig.”
Unintentional Tear-jerker of the Week: Abby’s speech to Huck about losing faith in herself when her husband was abusing her. After pointing out that years of abuse made her question her ability to be right about anything, including David’s love for her, she said, “David might love me but I owe Olivia my life.” Oh, Abby.
Go, Mellie, Go!: She ripped Fitz a new one when she told him she was leaving. “You want to be very careful how you use this time. I’m keeping it quiet for now, but there’s a clock on that, the clock is ticking, and when the alarm rings, I will be holding press conferences about my philandering husband and the whore who has him on a leash. I’m done. I hope you choose family, because good luck getting reelected once I start talking.” Is she going to run for office herself?