There was a time when Olivia didn’t drink wine?
I love episodes like this, where everyone featured is in rare form. Rowan Eli “Mystery Man” Pope has more ways to manipulate Olivia than he does monikers, and this week we got a little more insight into their incredibly tense relationship.
So, in flashback, we see that he used to force her to come to Sunday dinners in exchange for paying for her law school degree, an arrangement that Olivia understandably detested, given that they hadn’t been on good terms since he sent her away after her mom died — and because he talks about mastodons in that annoying dad way that forces you to humor them because you feel like such topics bring them their only real joy in their life. But her resistance comes across as a little bratty at first. I just started my Ph.D., and I’m here to tell you — if anyone offered to buy me unlimited dinners in exchange for paying for this degree, I'd show up with a smile so wide it would threaten to sprain my gums and discuss anything, including Miley Cyrus. It’s hard to blame Liv, though, once you’re reminded of how overbearing and dismissive Rowan is to her.
On her way to one of these dinners, Liv sees Huck in Union Station, and he really gets her attention by going Wolverine berserker on her would-be muggers. She asks for his story and he gives it to her, oh boy, in the form of a ranty stream-of-consciousness-style confession, namely that he used to work for a group called B613 that masqueraded as Acme Limited and can kill men with “very little effort and a lot of joy.” This is enough information for Liv to piece together throughout the episode and figure out that her dad is not a mild-mannered Smithsonian employee who really loves classifying mammal bones, but the tippy-top head of an elite group of super spies programmed to kill. Pass the salt.
I think we’re all ready to move on to the next scandal (Remington), but we’re still trying to wrap this presidential affair up, so we keep getting tiny hints about it from Cyrus. What if it’s something lame, like Fitz has six toes on one foot, or one time Jake had to pee on his jellyfish sting? Everyone is using Jeannine for some ulterior motive, unbeknownst to her, but when she tries to hop in the ring and grab a cool $2 million for her troubles, Fitz cock-blocks her faster than Huck could bare-handedly snatch your eyeballs out of your head.
I think we were promised some Harrison backstory this season, but so far the Gladiators have been underutilized, or at least a little too much in the background for my liking. Harrison is getting SUPER glary, right? He keeps intensely insisting that he’s Liv’s right-hand man, but he looks at her like he wants to slap the phone out of her life. Is anyone else picking up on this weird vibe?
Having seen Rowan in action, it’s understandable that Liv became a savior, or looked to make a family out of equally broken or damaged people. She saves people who have been cast out in some way, much like herself, and the unexpected side effect of their eternal gratitude is probably as close as she’s ever come to unconditional love. She’s too smart a character to paint with such a generic brush (she saves because she needs saving), but it’s also the thing that humanizes her the most, the tiny crack where love gets in and humanity pours out.
By the end of the episode, Fitz has given a fake confession to sleeping with Jeannine in order to free Jake Ballard from the clutches of B613 and get in Olivia’s good graces. I think he also loved digging into Cyrus and reminding him who has the “presidential balls.” Huck is devastated to learn that Rowan Pope is Command and Olivia lied to him when she said she never made a deal for him, and when he leaves the parking garage and trots off into the night, I was left wondering if he would find a way to effortlessly and joyfully kill Command so he could get his family back.
Leaderboard of Arbitrary Points, Week Two
+10 points to Liv for dismantling the “we could be making jam in Vermont” daydream. Not only is that THE whitest thing I have ever heard on network television, but Fitz has a weird way of manipulating her with dreams while ruining her actual, real life.
-15 points to Rowan for having a personally recommended sommelier. My wine recommendations are generally of the “go to Safeway, third aisle on the left” variety, so I definitely chuckled at his bougie hubris, especially when the pen he used to write the recommendation contributed to his cover being blown by Olivia.
+1,400 points to Cyrus’s increasingly amazing phone-answering skills. “Doom, gloom, fate of the republic, I get it!” When the 7:52 episode aired, ABC had T-shirts available that night — will no one get on the Cyrus Beene Yelling Into Phones ringtone/app action?
+/-133 points for Olivia going after the White House on behalf of Jeannine. I love that she took on a client that threatened to expose Fitz and Cyrus, but I hate that Fitz felt like he was in a position to give her permission to “go for the jugular.” Guess what, muhfuh, she already was.
+184,322 points to Liv for using the long-suffering Edison Davis to one-up Rowan in the manipulation machine.
+19 points to Mellie and Cyrus for this exchange:
-4,985 points for the music selections lately. I could BARELY with last week’s “Superfreak” being played during the Jeannine-exposing montage, but I simply CANNOT EVEN with this week’s “Disco Inferno” playing over her shopping montage.
+16,442 points for bringing the phrase “Now there’s a bimbo on the loose!” into my life
-4,879,322 points for David’s flashback beard
+88 points for Ethan. “Mr. Beene’s soup can never get cold.” Aw, you poor, nervous thing, you.
-10 points for every single week we don’t get to see Cyrus and James’s baby.
+15 points for Rowan’s eerily accurate statement: “We are family, sweetie — we are never done.” I swear this is somehow going to set up the return of Liv’s mom, but even if it doesn’t, we’re now fully convinced of the depths of Rowan’s manipulative assholery.
+20 points for Liv searching for Jake at the morgue every time a body came in fitting his description, but -19 points for how heartbreaking it was to watch. I wish she’d let herself love him.
-70 points for the soft-focus flashbacks. I was super distracted by the harsh and obvious use of green screens last season, and this season I feel like someone smears Vaseline on every lens when it’s time to shoot a flashback scene — everything suddenly looks like the 1987 Sears Christmas catalogue.
+50,000 points for the return of Puppy Eyes Ballard! I know they just dragged him out of a hole, but it’s sort of a dick move for B613 to leave a bloody and psychologically damaged guy on Liv’s doorstep. What’s next for Puppy Eyes? Is Liv going to make him a Gladiator? Is he maybe going to take a few months for his eyes to adjust to post-hole sunlight? Does Puppy Eyes even know about twerking? So much to catch up on.
See you guys next week!