There were a whole lot of women backing away from men in this episode, right? It was a very “don’t start none, won’t be none” sort of night.
Jeremy Winslow told Quinn she “can’t stop what’s coming” and then shot himself in the head at the beginning of the episode, but you have to put a pin in that — Quinn eventually tells Olivia about the folder full of pictures, but then he doesn’t really come up again. First-season Quinn would have been catatonic if she had seen something like that up close, but fourth-season Quinn just shrugs, wishes she had a collar to pop on her leather jacket, and steps over the body on her way to the bathroom. She’s just sort of an automaton right now, and all we can do is pour one out and hope that someone gives her something to do soon.
The cool part of this episode, and the reason it gets five very hard-won stars, is that Olivia has declared war on Rowan. This episode felt like Scandal again — there’s more than one story line happening, Abby is shape-shifting into a character from Mortal Kombat, and we’ve finally crawled out of Liv’s vagina and back into the world of Washington at large. I’m sure it’s nice and impressive in there! I bet she can effectively do Kegels even while sneezing! But it was starting to get a little boring.
A little part of me was hoping Liv would take Senator McDonnell on as a client, just to see how she would spin a diaper-crapping, grown-ass man filmed by a sex worker. Alas, not even Olivia can work that sort of magic, so McDonnell’s resignation was the right thing to do, and it kicked the door wide open for us to meet the top contender for his replacement: Abby’s abusive ex-husband, Charles “Chip” Putney.
We’ve all wondered about Chip (played by Michael Trucco from Battlestar Galactica) ever since we found out Olivia saved Abby from a horrible situation, and Abby’s reaction to seeing him — maintaining a smile, then puking down her dress and cowering behind her desk when she left — was heartbreaking. The power dynamic in the White House prefers the people that win; we see Cyrus throwing chairs around, Fitz spitting orders at people, and Mellie dismissing anyone not worthy of her time. But Abby’s seemed sort of powerless since she left Pope and Associates — the wide-eyed efficiency of her job doesn’t stop anyone from disrespecting her, and she doesn’t have enough of a foothold to keep herself from fumbling at the podium. Chip’s reemergence rocked her in a way that seemed legitimately confusing; she knows she can’t show any of the emotion she’s feeling (“Press secretaries can’t cry — it’s, like, a rule!”), and it’s also unbearable to not only face her abuser but stand by while he’s feted by the most powerful man on the planet. Having her grab a gun from her car and shove it in his face was an interesting move, but one designed to give her some agency back. The best-case scenario, though, was always going to be getting Liv to take him down, and beating him at his own game.
Olivia is pretty busy right now — she’s trying to make sure Jake is okay in the supermax, fighting with her dad, and fielding calls from Fitz every single day because the man has no chill at all. Just because she said there’s hope that doesn’t mean you have to phone-sex her every day, dude! Phone sex with Fitz just seems exhausting, from his “starting from the bottom” Drake-style entrance to the “I’m going to make you wait for it” finish. Olivia doesn’t even have time to drive through Gettysburger — you think she has nine hours a night to wait for your drunk ass to slur your way to a sloppy finish? PICK UP THE PACE, FITZ. Besides, Mellie can hear you talking to Olivia out on Fried-Chicken Credenza, you’re not fooling anyone (and how dare you sully such a sacred, delicious space).
Olivia went to see Tom; she really wanted him to confess that Rowan was the one who put him up to all that murder business, but he just wanted to remind her that, in the grand scheme of things, she’s Helen of Troy, and that he’s never really taken time to look at the woman who brought the president to his knees. For a man who has said all of ten words in the past three seasons, Tom really picked up that ShondaLand cadence pretty quickly, and was fully planning on going down with the ship until he got stabbed the hell up. Stabbed-in-the-kidneys-Tom changed his tune and told Olivia that yes, Rowan was the one who ordered the hit on the president’s son, information she took back to Fitz immediately. At first, we were made to think Rowan ordered the stabbing because the guard said, “This is from command,” but in the end, we find out Olivia is the one who paid the guard off in an effort to get Tom to turn. She used Rowan’s own B613 tactics against him, and that’s why David Rosen uses her name as a verb.
Cyrus is still banging Michael, but thanks to Abby’s intel, it’s now in an effort to catch Liz in the act of espionage. When an embassy bombing happens in West Angola, Cyrus pulls some Adele-level spy shit and gives Michael the wrong name of ship they’re sending to help. Liz doesn’t mention it herself but feeds the information to Mellie, who is still bolstered by her visit with Bitsy Cooper last week to turn an interview about picking a new china pattern into a political agenda. Is Cyrus going to go after Liz directly, or just try to turn Michael into a double agent? If he gets rid of Michael, he can’t really prove that Liz is doing anything at all.
In the end, Jake is led to an underground bunker, prompting me to wonder why more sinkholes aren’t opening up all over Washington, considering the earth has been tunneled away to make more underground bunkers than will ever be used. Liv is there, and then a quick shift reveals that Fitz is there, too! They’re probably going to team up to take Rowan down, but if this devolves into the standard “let’s go to a bunker and talk about what it’s like to have sex with Olivia,” I hope she’s the one doing the talking this time.
Leaderboard of Arbitrary Points, Week 7
+85,110 points: “This isn’t JailhouseMingle.com.”
+55,300 points to Abby for her “Fitz is not a man, he’s an idea” speech that brought Olivia up to speed.
–897,222 points to Huck’s son for setting up a playdate with a stranger via his video game and then actually going to meet him in an arcade. I’m not advocating for child-snatching as lesson-teaching, but I have a new appreciation for how dumb and innocent kids are, and how goddamn terrifying it is to be a parent these days. I’ll give him back 4,000 points for finding Huck via IP address, though — that was sweet, and a connection with his son might keep Huck from becoming a psychopath again.
+4,500 points to Susan Ross (Artemis Pebdani from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) for letting Olivia stomp into her rickety, Crayola-heavy campaign and take over. Poor thing didn’t even know what was happening to her. And we got a makeover-montage moment, which I love.
–300 points to Tom for casually dropping the news that Fitz spent the summer wailing animalistically in Olivia’s empty apartment and trying to kill himself. Your timing, sir!
But +1,000 points to Tom for saying, “Oh, you think you have a father? You have Command.” I particularly like how he makes Command sound like a venereal disease. (“Shit, girl, I have a raging case of Command, how the hell did that happen?”)
–3,000 to the supermax, because doesn’t 2,700 calories a day seems like a lot for someone who is only getting an hour of exercise?
+28,900 points to David, who was purely comic relief but so funny.
“You want to waltz in there in all of your white stuff …”
“You already have a plan, don’t you? I’ve been Poped, and I don’t know it.”
+945,000 points to Olivia for saying, “As a feminist …” on primetime TV, and minus infinity points to everyone who makes the world such garbage pit of misogyny that simply saying it is notable.
+300 points for the best of possible fake band names, Misguided Vicious Dinosaur.
–7,644 points to Olivia for not having a locksmith on speed dial by now to change her locks every week.
+650,800 points to Abby for telling Olivia that speaking up isn’t always the best option: “Those women became Anita Hill, Monica Lewinsky. They told their story, but where are they now?”
+10,200 points to Leo for coming back. He’s funny and brings levity to every situation.
+1,700,000 points to Leo and Abby kissing. I like them together! Plus, drinking in the press pit and “Have some more bourbon and I’ll touch your boob.”
+3,498,111 points to the women of the show for drinking the tears of their enemies right in front of them: Olivia had no problem telling Rowan he wasted his life doing the wrong thing when he tried to control her, Abby shut Leo down and used his Yahtzee! against him when she told him precisely how his candidate Chip had abused her, and Mellie called Fitz out for bailing on her when she grieved for two months after holding the family together for the past 20 years. Don’t sleep on any of them, basically.