Scandal Recap: Mutually Assured Destruction


A Woman Scorned
Season 2 Episode 20
Editor’s Rating 4 stars


A Woman Scorned
Season 2 Episode 20
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Danny Feld/ABC

Mellie and Liv are monster trucks, with all of Washington sitting in as the junkyard cars being crushed under the weight of their tyranny. They owned this episode. In another life, these two would be tag-team partners, wrecking shop and taking names with an icy finesse, but for now they are adversaries, working opposite ends of the machine that props up the indecisive man-child that is President Fitzgerald Grant.

Oooo, Fitz was bossy last night! I often compare him to a petulant teenager, but last night Fitz was a little too “Game of Thrones King Joffrey” with his demands. He seems to swing the presidential wang around at the most inopportune moments; during the hostage crisis, he was a wilted drunk steadily in the fetal position, but when trying to get his former mistress to stay and chat, he’s suddenly a puffed-up rooster full of piss and vinegar. Fitz put Captain Plain Clothes Ballard on babysitting duty, eager to keep tabs on Liv since she left the hospital and still doesn’t know that Ballard was the one who put her in there. Olivia, not thrilled with the shadow, confronts Fitz at his office, where they proceed to yell contradictions at each other. Her: “You do not summon me!” Him: “You do not walk away from me!” He does summon her, actually, since he called and she ran right over, and she has worn out at least eight pairs of Louboutins furiously stomping away from him this season alone. Olivia gets the last word, though, when she tells Fitz, “I’m not a toy you can play with when you are bored or lonely or horny. I am not a fantasy. You want me? EARN ME.” I wish this show had the budget of a Michael Bay action movie so that we could have seen his head actually explode.

Hot Bitch Extraordinaire and scorned First Lady Mellie has moved out of the White House; she and baby Teddy now live across the street. Mellie has given Fitz exactly 36 hours to come back to her loving arms before she stages a full-scale attack (Threat Level: MOTHRA) on Fitz’s entire life. Under Fitz’s instruction, Cyrus first tries to placate her with future dreams of Senate seats and governorships before turning to scare tactics, promising an equally aggressive retaliatory attack that will leave her life in political shambles. Mellie gives a prim smile, reminds Cyrus that he’s still not securely in Fitz’s inner circle either, and resets the countdown clock, threatening to go on live television in the morning to reveal his affair if Fitz doesn’t come crawling back.

The Gladiators and David spend a good deal of time this week running around looking for clues about Baseball Cap Man and the Albatross/mole. Huck I.D.’s Charlie as Baseball Cap Man just from his ear, proving that he is back in eerily fine form. When Liv gets back to the office, they tell her that the implication of Charlie means that Cyrus might be the mole. Olivia wants more evidence before she accuses him, so the gang sets out to find Charlie. He’s moved out of the apartment Huck once tortured him in, but they track him down through a combination of dessert stores and hacking into Cyrus’s phone. Charlie seems to have a girlfriend he met at a book club, but the girlfriend turns out to be a court stenographer Charlie is using for intel. He stole her computer for the case notes on Defiance and has disappeared again. Cyrus cannot be the mole since he already knew about Defiance and wants it to go away.

Cyrus is literally all over the place this episode and spends most of his time shuttling between Mellie and Fitz in an underground corridor, trying to get one of them to relent. He confirms with Mellie that he is “fixing the Olivia problem” while on his way up to her apartment after offering to “get rid of her,” but Captain Ballard refuses to let him through the door. After he agrees to let James take a TV news job, his marriage is back on track with a kiss and a B.J., but he’s still trying to keep the president’s marriage intact. He gives Fitz a rousing speech about “giving for what you love,” but it sends Fitz straight to Olivia instead of Mellie.

There were some tender moments with Captain I Can’t Figure You Out Ballard this week. When Liv lets Ballard into her place after watching him masterfully block Cyrus from entering, he admits that he broke into her apartment a few weeks ago, copied the Albatross flash drive, and now thinks Cyrus is the mole. Olivia agrees that she thinks Cyrus is the mole, but is conflicted because it seems like such an act of betrayal for Cyrus to hurt the president like that. Ballard grills her about “how deep” she is in with the president, and Olivia evades the answer by kissing him and twirling out of the room with a glass of wine, fingers in her ears singing “I don’t know what you’re talking about, la la la.” The mole is still unknown, but at the end of the episode we see Captain Quadruple Agent Ballard talking to Command (Joe Morton) about Cyrus knowing “more about his operation” and his cover potentially being blown. Is Ballard the mole or just working for the mole? I think he is the mole and that his grilling her about “how deep” she was in with the president was an attempt to frame or blackmail her in the future. It’s too bad that Captain Ballard is so cute, because I’m pretty sure he’s destined to die.

When Ballard watches the tape of the night he sent Olivia to the hospital, he sees Charlie sauntering into his apartment the following day to watch the very same tape of Ballard and Olivia having sex the night before. Charlie has been in both Olivia and Ballard’s apartments, but also seems to know exactly what to look for; we know he told Cyrus that he had the Ballard/Olivia sex tape, and Cyrus told him to hold on to it. If Cyrus knows about Ballard and Olivia, is he going to try to use that to his advantage to get back in good graces with Fitz? Or will he use it for some other nefarious purpose? Now that he’s willing to take Olivia out, what won’t he do?

In the end, Fitz chooses Olivia. He shows up at her apartment 22 minutes before Mellie is set to go on television, and tells Liv that he loves her more than he loves being president. In an effort to earn her, he’s going to “let the clock run out on his marriage”; he asks Olivia to sit with him and watch him choose her and earn her trust. Across town, Mellie looks devastated, knowing that Fitz has officially chosen Olivia, and goes forward with her interview. James is the one conducting the interview; he is surprised, and Cyrus is LIVID. Mellie orchestrated the inclusion of James as an extra twist of the knife to Cyrus; when he shows up, sweaty and out of breath from having just run the length of the White House underground, she shoots him an evil glare before turning back to the camera to tell the story of her cheating husband to the American public, while Fitz and Olivia are simultaneously boning all over her apartment.

Blatantly Honest of the Week: Abby telling Huck they didn’t want to bother him while he was “shaking off the crazy.”

Well, He Has His Methods: “He likes killing. And sugar.”

Welcome Back: James, who “could be the next Anderson Cooper.”

Please Put One of These on My Gravestone: Cyrus described Mellie as “the incoming nuclear winter that is your wife” to Fitz, but Mellie called Fitz a “whore-loving bastard.” Either would be fine.

Cyrus Rant of the Week: There were a few to choose from, but this masterful takedown of Mellie while cementing his own status as a monster was my favorite.
“Flip the page.”
“It’s blank.”
: “Because that’s how much political capital you’ll have! After the whisper campaign we’ll start within the party about how you were complicit with the president’s affair, about how you were frigid and a closeted lesbian, after how you tore the president down for your own political gain, it’ll be dirty and false and relentless.”

Easter Egg: This episode was directed by Tony Goldwyn (the actor who plays Fitz).

No Ballard Zone: Olivia slammed the door in Jake’s face twice last night, poor guy.

Best Primal Scream: Cyrus when he found out that Mellie was going forward with the interview, and waited not-too-patiently for updates. “What is happening?!”

Gag Me With a Spoon: Fitz and Olivia’s “Hi.” “Hi.” while they boned in the shower. Schmaltzy romantic comedy tropes always read as weird in this landscape, where most of the characters spend their time shouting.

Unsung Heroes: White House secretarial staff. You go on to your granddaughter’s piano recital — Cyrus will still be having a meltdown when you come back.

Author Comparison of the Decade: David talking about his conversation with the book club organizer. “After she was done sharing her views on the similarities between Kate Chopin and E.L. James, all good points by the way … ”

Tongue-in-Cheek-ish: Charlie the Murderer saying the violence in Fifty Shades of Grey was “more than a little disturbing.”

Whatever Turns You On: “They showed me my suits.” I have never dropped to my knees as fast as James did over an article of clothing.

Huck and Liv, Friends Forever: When he admitted that he knew Charlie killed Amanda Tanner (in season one) and Liv asked him why he told her, Huck said, “The last woman sleeping with the president ended up dead in the Potomac, and I want you to stay alive.”

The “Make Him a Gladiator Already” Award: David! With his “Huh — wonder who he banged” and “Yay, multilateration?” cracks last night, I think he provides a much-needed comedic core to the Gladiators

Queen of Uncompromising Demands: Mellie. “I want what I asked for — nothing less.”

T-shirt That Should Be for Sale by Monday: “Book Lovers Never Go to Bed Alone”

Robotic Sentiments From Cold Hearts: This is not the title of a new Tom Robbins novel, but a comment on the weird way Fitz told Liv he loved her. “Come back to me. Forgive me. I love you.”

“I’ll Show You the Life of the Mind!” Cohen Brothers Reenactment Club: I giggled uncontrollably when Cyrus was running down the hallway, yelling, begging someone to get James to stop interviewing Mellie

Masterful Shade-Tossing of the Week: During her interview, Mellie took a moment to remind the nation that she has a new baby under a year old and also nursed Fitz back to health after his shooting. Fitz will have to run out of a burning building holding five orphans in each arm to see an increase in his approval ratings ever again.

Next week, it looks like Huck figures out who the mole is, Mellie begins her campaign of terror, and Cyrus gets in deep. See you then!

Scandal Recap: Mutually Assured Destruction