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Scandal Finale Recap: Bad Guys Run the World

SCANDAL - "The Price of Free and Fair Elections" - Election Day has arrived and nothing is off limits as the candidates try to capture votes. Meanwhile, Olivia tries to understand Maya's motives and Charlie makes a very surprising move, on the season finale of ABC's "Scandal," THURSDAY, APRIL 17 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Ron Tom)KERRY WASHINGTON, SCOTT FOLEY

It's the season finale, and the start of this episode is frenzied; Cyrus is bugging out over his decision to let an entire church full of people explode, and Liv plays the concerned daughter as a stabbed-up Papa Pope is wheeled into a hospital. I say plays because as soon as Jake busts into the White House to tell the president about BombSplosion Fest 2014™ and they evacuate the church, Olivia basically teleports to the White House while her dad is still on the operating table. Hospitals are boring and your dad is, in fact, a stone-cold murderer, but damn, Liv, I thought y’all were trying to patch things up. How did she even manage to get to the White House in the chaos of a senator’s funeral being blown to smithereens with the vice-president in attendance? I imagine she grabbed the giant lapels of her cashmere coat, spun around like Inspector Gadget, and screamed, “I. AM. OLIVIA. POPE!” to anyone on the ground trying to block her as she levitated over the gate into the White House gardens.

At the urging of Leo Bergen, Sally Langston, Decisive Bitch, Esq., decided to use the churchsplosion as her own Pearl Harbor and started wrapping wounds faster than the throat-filling bile of a Huck and Quinn sex scene. This Florence Nightingale act basically cinched the presidency for Sally — she was crawling over rubble to rip bandages with her teeth while Fitz stood behind a podium like an anthropomorphized penis wearing an American flag pin. Who would you vote for in this election, Rambo or Bob the Builder? According to the split-screen coverage that nearly gave Olivia an aneurysm as Sally overtook Fitz, you would vote for Rambo. After Sally bandaged a man into a turtleneck, she stood on the steps of the church, prayed with the nation, then winked at the TV camera and said, “Checkmate, piggy piggy.”

Olivia and Cyrus know they’ve lost the election, but when they tell Fitz, he’s agog. Drunk Mellie (perfect queen, wig on point) wants her money back, and Liv sees that as her cue to finally scurry back to the hospital to see how Pops is doing. Even when he’s laid up with a stab wound that came millimeters away from his heart and being force-fed oxygen, Papa Pope will give a monologue from a hospital bed! This one is about how much he loves Olivia, who was “very scared” to find him in a pool of his own blood. Clearly not scared enough to stick around the hospital and make sure this emm-effer lives, but scared in a different way, I guess.

Since the bombing didn’t work, Adnan has orders to kill Harrison, and I swear I screamed “Put him out of his misery!” at the screen before I’d even had a sip of wine. He negotiates, figuring out a way to “save his life and hers,” which fails fantastically by the end of the episode, but I would just like for you to know that at this point, I was actively wishing for the core cast to get murdered. Why? Because the next scene is Huck bending Quinn over a table at the office next to a blood-stained floor having grunt-enhanced sex, which my eyes can never unsee and ears can never unhear. If I had access to the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind experience, I would wipe this entire season from memory. Abby, thankfully, was the proxy for all of us, telling them to get it together and clean the fuck up. Literally. When Charlie and Quinn break up, he gives her an envelope that will destroy their budding relationship one way or the other — it’s information about Huck’s family, and when Quinn takes him to see them, he flips out and tells her to never talk to him again. Great idea! I wish Charlie had found Huck’s family in the first episode of the season.

Fitz was writing his concession speech with Liv, and he seems relieved to have lost, once again bringing up babies, Vermont, and jam as a contingency plan. Liv finally broke when he called Mellie a “vindictive, grasping, power-hungry monster” and spilled the secret that Mellie had been raped by Big Jer when Fitz was running for governor. A wave of realization washed over Fitz — probably remembering how she didn’t want him to touch her after it happened, how skittish she was around his dad up until the day he died — and he went to her. He kissed her head and shut his mouth, and they cried together as she told him that Jerry Jr. was his after all. Later, when Fitz was gearing up to give his last speech, he told her that he couldn’t leave Mellie now, and Olivia said she wouldn’t want him if he did. Their theme music, which sounds like the original Legend of Zelda theme slowed down to 16 RPM, played in the background while they sat on the phone in silence, a callback to earlier seasons and a move they trot out every single time they realize they’re doomed.

When Liv goes back to the hospital room, Mama Pope is sitting on Papa Pope’s bed, telling her the bombing was her attempt to give Liv a chance to be free. The Popes officially give the world’s worst presents! At the same time, Fitz and his family take the stage, Jerry Jr. starts coughing up blood and bleeding from his nose and passes out as a destroyed Fitz carries him into a hospital, moments before Jerry Jr. is declared dead from bacterial meningitis. Holy shit, what? Fitz has already had Mellie and Karen sedated, so Secret Service Agent Tom casually tells Fitz that a vial of this particular strain of bacterial meningitis had gone missing from a secure fort earlier that week, so, uh, hey, your son was murdered. GODDAMMIT, SHONDA.

Olivia and Cyrus had a come to Jesus talk with themselves in the hallway while the Grant family was falling apart, with Cyrus asking what is basically the thesis question for this show: “When did we stop being people? Or did serving at the pleasure of the president allow us to shed our skin and unmask us as the monsters we really are?” Right now, I’m pretty sure the answer to the latter is yes.

Papa Pope, ever the opportunist, sidles up to Fitz in his bathrobe, pushing a walker and wheeling around an IV, and says, “Hey, uh, I’m pretty sure my ex-wife killed your son, and, uh, I’d be happy to murder the shit out of her on your behalf.” Fitz is like, “GREAT,” and gives Papa Pope the keys to the kingdom when it comes to tracking down Maya Pope.

Olivia, thoroughly sick of all levels of bullshittery happening around her, asks her dad if his offer still stands to put her on a plane and get her ass out of there. When Abby finds out Liv is leaving, she becomes apoplectic, and reminds Liv that her father is a monster. Liv is already mentally in a bikini on a beach, so she throws her keys on the table and leaves. I’m with Abby — this is a dicey move. But she doesn’t have to go it alone — Jake showed up at her doorstep, begging her to “save him,” too. I still think Jake should save himself by forgetting either of the Popes exist, but the heart wants what it wants.

At the same time Liv is deciding to implode her life, Papa Pope rolls up on Harrison and says, “Hey, so Adnan Salif is dead — why don’t you tell me where I can find Maya?” and Harrison does. Mama Pope emerges from a bank looking flawless, and then is arrested and carted off. But the real reveal comes when Harrison realizes that there’s no way Mama Pope orchestrated all of this, which so clearly benefits Papa Pope, and Papa Pope confirms that he was the mastermind behind it all. He convinced Fitz to reinstate B613 (with him as command), he killed Adnan just to get Harrison to talk, he captured Mama Pope and put her in the same hole he put Huck and Jake (then lied to Fitz about her being dead), and, with the help of Tom, HE MURDERED FITZ’S SON because “he took my child, so I took his.” When he finishes explaining himself, he calls Harrison a “waste of great talent” and has Tom aim a gun at his head. After a season’s worth of nothing at all, Harrison is probably dead. The king is dead, long live the king.

Fitz won the election, but he’s a complete mess, collapsing on the presidential seal and crying. Papa Pope really did get revenge — Fitz’s son is dead, and Olivia is gone. Papa pope played ‘em all; I wouldn’t have been surprised if he stabbed himself in the heart just to set off the chain of events.

Leaderboard of Arbitrary Points, Week 18

+ 5,900 points to Jake for leaving David Rosen all of the B613 files and a note to “go get the bad guys.” 

+ 10,00 points to Mellie for her sorrow in realizing that she always held Jerry Jr. at arms length and now he’s gone.

+ 50,000 points to Sally Langston for a fabulous campaign season. Ya got done dirty, Salls.

And in the end, who won the season?

NO ONE. We all lost the moment Huck and Quinn started hocking loogies at each other.

This feels like a series finale, even though I know they’ll be back next season. I’ve been saying from the beginning that there was something off about this season, and I’m not sure that I feel entirely comfortable with this finale. What can possibly happen next year? Whatever they do to bring Liv back next season is sure to be crazy town, and now that B613 is back are we just in for more of the same old stuff? Here’s hoping that Liv and Fitz break up for good, that everyone moves out of the White House and back to a case of the week, that if Harrison is alive he actually has work to do next season, and that Huck and Quinn’s sexual organs are somehow hermetically sealed. You guys are the greatest, and it is so much fun to watch this show with you.

I’m still recapping for Vulture throughout the summer; I’ll be starting Orphan Black this Saturday, and I'm back for Orange Is the New Black in June. And, of course, I’ll be here in September with wine by the gallon and popcorn by the bucket to recap Scandal. Check my Vulture page so you don’t miss out. Have wonderful summers! Don’t be strangers! You are 2 good + 2 be = 4 gotten!

Photo: Ron Tom/ABC