For the last couple of weeks, I’ve started each episode thinking, Eh, maybe this one isn’t going to be so dynamic. They can’t all be winners. They start out slow, but by the end I am punching my couch, jaw flapping open, quietly yelling “WHAT?” over and over again until the local news flashes on the screen. There is a slowly rising tension in this fast-paced show, and this week was no exception. I have to talk about that ending, but we cannot get there without a detailed beginning, so let’s go.
Those of us wondering how it was possible for Olivia’s apartment to be bugged when she employed Huck, the most frighteningly agile spy in town, got our answer last night when he came in to do his monthly sweep with Quinn seconds after Ballard had dismantled and removed all of the cameras to the overlapped soundtrack of President Fitz telling the American public that Osbourne was the mole in a press conference. When Huck and Quinn left, Ballard went back in to hook the cameras up again like a well-choreographed version of I Am Morally Corrupt: The Musical. Let’s take a moment here to appreciate how often Captain Ballard calls Olivia from the inside of her own apartment while she is not there. He gets all of his core strength by stretching over his huge nutsack the way most people use an ergonomic Pilates ball.
Back at the office, and in the wake of Fitz’s press conference, Olivia and the crew decide it is safe for David to go home now that the mole situation has been settled. Shortly after he leaves, Osbourne’s wife, Susan, barges in to tell Olivia that she thinks her husband was murdered and wants Liv to investigate. Liv takes the case; after grilling his security detail, she finds out Osbourne had a gambling problem and that the dry cleaner was actually his bookie. At the same time, Abby discovers that Molly, friend of murdered Wendy, was paid $100,000 to say Osbourne was the mole, and she has disappeared. Abby rushes to warn David that he’s not safe after all; Molly is interrogated by the gladiators along with David, and by the end of the episode, she is dead without having revealed who hired her. Liv tells Susan she was right about Osbourne being murdered, and has a disappointing phone call with Cyrus when she tries to convince him of the same. Captain “Weeble Wobble Pick No Sides" Ballard meets with his as-yet-unnamed contact, who tells Ballard to “take care of it.” I almost want to see Ballard try to take Olivia out just for the chance to watch the gladiators strip his carcass in seconds flat like a polar bear eating a deer, but I think it was just interpreted as “get her off the scent of the real mole.”
Mellie and Fitz are prepping for their first television interview since the baby was born, and Cyrus indicates that Fitz is going to have to make his bid for reelection in six weeks, making this interview kind of a big deal. During the interview they recall the sweet story of how they met (saw her across a crowded bar, etc), which we later learn is a front — Fitz’s dad had him set up with then law clerk Mellie in attempt to match his son with someone of “good breeding.” Later, at the White House, Fitz asks Mellie if the lies bother her and seems concerned that lying has gotten so easy for them. Sober Fitz is clearly the better Fitz, but he is still very much the emo high-school freshman who has just discovered Ayn Rand — he just wants you to know how he feels about the world being garbage and his part in it without doing much of anything to affect positive change. Fitz knows that he is a figurehead, and it’s starting to make the nonstop charades with Mellie a bit draining.
We finally got to see James again for the first time in ages, learning that he eventually kicked Cyrus out of the house for lying about Defiance. Cyrus has been living in a hotel for about three weeks; even though James is still hurt, Cyrus eventually convinces him to let him move back in after a rousing speech that pinpoints the real problem — James’s disappointment that he is just as much a bad guy for choosing his life with Cyrus over bringing down the White House.
Huck and Quinn get a lead on the mole after hacking an account, and set off to find some information about a new storage locker the mole just opened. When Huck goes inside, he finds an empty wooden box, which he is promptly stuffed into after being beat over the head with a lead pipe. Shadows concealed the beater, but in the next scene we see Captain Ballard hiding a black bag, so they clearly want us to believe he is the perp. He’s already crushed a photographer for far lesser reasons, so it’s not absurd to think that getting rid of Huck was part of his plan to “take care of it.” Quinn searches for and finds Huck after he had been gone for a few hours, but he’s turned into a simpering, shell-shocked Jack-in-the-box, crouching in corners and more unresponsive than that time he got waterboarded. The Huck robot is broken and needs to be restored to its factory settings.
Liv shows up at Ballard’s apartment with Gettysburger right as he was packing up his bag o’ beatdowns and he convinces her to drink a beer and have sex with him, in that order. He won’t let her leave or even consider a glass of water; she finally manages to sneak into the kitchen while he’s sleeping, only to turn on the television and see HER OWN APARTMENT being monitored on the screen. Captain “He’s Always Standing Right Behind You” Ballard wrestles Olivia to the ground after tossing her against a wall, and tells her it’s not what she thinks, that he is protecting her, and turns her head toward the screen to show her a masked man sneaking around her apartment with a gun. I would not be surprised if Ballard is revealed to be an android in the vein of Alien’s Ash; he’s so emotionally defective that he doesn’t realize hitting a woman to the ground while telling her he is protecting her is like eating an Dagwood hoagie in front of a starving person while telling them you’re just helping them stay slim. Olivia passes out and wakes up in the hospital, where Ballard is telling her to lie about knowing him just as Fitz enters the room and sucks all of the air out of it at the same time. Fitz says “hi,” strokes her cheek, and leans in to kiss her cheek, as a terrified Olivia seems to finally put two and two together, realizing that Ballard has been working for Fitz this entire time.
Biggest Reveal: Fitz finally told Cyrus that he stone-cold murdered Verna Thornton during a heart-to-heart about their respective messed-up relationships. Cyrus had some advice about how to handle the guilt (“There’s things we don’t tell them, things we never tell them, that’s the job”), but this employer/employee relationship is increasingly co-dependent in a dangerous way.
Cyrus Rant of the Week: During their fight, when James accused Cyrus of making him perjure himself, Cyrus said, “This is who I am, this is who you married, this is who you love. You chose love, you chose me — you could have put me in prison or brought down the White House, and that is not sitting so well with you now. This choice is rotting deep inside; it’s not the choice, but the fact that you now know you are capable of making that kind of choice. You can pretend it’s me, that I’ve infected you with my bad, bad ways, but you did this, this is the man you are, and I love you anyway, because that is the man I am.”
Oh, David Rosen, You Old So-and-So: “Gladiators in helmets, right?”
The Student Surpasses the Master: Quinn leaping over the counter, turning off a Tex Avery cartoon on the TV, and demanding to see the security-camera footage in an attempt to find Huck after one too many dismissive “darlings” from Zeke, the clerk. "Listen, Zeke, 'darling' has a law degree from Stanford and the chief of police on speed dial. I watched three ladies leave with three gentlemen, so let 'darling' look at the damn security cams.”
Funniest Throwaway Joke: “It’s not Oprah. Oprah is more important.”
Shadiest Shade Thrown: When Abby asked Liv if she set her DVR to record the president’s interview and Liv said, “For this? No, not really my thing.”
Best Side-Eye: Liv watching the interview anyway.
"Fitz, You Dick" of the Week: Telling Mellie, “Your blood was blue, DAR blue, I’m sure there was some slave trading in your background. It wasn’t a blind date, it was a merger — just short of prostitution, and they sold you to me. I wonder if you knew what was happening? It doesn’t matter — Big Jerry got what he paid for.” Mellie could ask for a divorce and be running the country within a week, and she should.
Good Use of Nostalgia: Loved that phone call between Cyrus and Olivia, both swirling glasses of wine and arguing about protocol when she tells him Osbourne was not the mole. Brought me back to the days when they were a team.
How Are You Missing His Creepy Clues?: When Ballard offered to cook Liv dinner in the “beautiful kitchen she never uses,” she asks “how did you know?” and he says, “Lucky guess.”
MVP: Zeke. “I just take deposits — I don’t notice the magic of the place.”
I Hope You Crazy Kids Work It Out Award: David asked Abby if she still had feelings for him, and she said, “I like sleeping with you; it doesn’t mean I want you to die.” When he presses her, he drops the hammer — “Oh, you can still have feelings for me, but you can’t admit that you ruined my life by stealing my Cytron card.” Damn, David, going right for the jug.
Moment of Greatest Concern: I love Olivia’s strength, and appreciate her vulnerability, but I cannot stomach seeing her portrayed as weak, and that is what I was reading last night. Liv seemed weak in that hospital, which is bound to happen when you realize the man you are currently screwing is in cahoots with/hired by the man you were screwing right before him, and oh, he happens to be the singularly most powerful man on Earth. She is entitled to a little meltdown, but I hope she ends the season in fighting form. I cannot take it if she retreats to her bed for another depressing round of How Did President Fitz Ruin Your Life?
Unanswered Questions: Why did Charlie call Cyrus from the hospital? Is he the one who was sneaking around her apartment? If so, what does Cyrus have up his sleeve? And how did Ballard just happen to record someone sneaking around Liv’s place as he was trying to convince her he is a good guy — was it an earlier recording of him, or is he really trying to protect her while simultaneously working for the mole?
See you in the comments, and next week!