You know something truly strange happened on Scandal when the truth behind the Kennedy assassination is only the ninth most important development in the episode (it was B6-13's fault). But when the — SPOILER ALERT, GLADIATORS! — big reveal at the end of the night is the epic truth-bomb that Fitz likely killed Olivia’s mother in a freaking plane crash in freaking Iceland, one of the largest freaking unsolved mysteries in our nation’s history simply must be brushed aside in favor of more important things. My apologies to President Kennedy — we ran out of time.
Season 3, Episode 5: "More Cattle, Less Bull" largely focused on the upcoming presidential election — a race that President Fitzgerald Grant still has absolutely no desire to win — but the insidious threat that is Rowan Pope and the whole B6-13 mess loomed heavily over POTUS and some of the unlucky folks in Olivia’s inner circle. Ballard and Huck played their spy game with the doting daddy formerly known as Command throughout the entire episode, and we all knew that eventually their search would lead to some sort of heinous crime that Fitz may or may not committed, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted that that crime involved crashing a passenger plane whose manifesto included Olivia’s mother. What the what, now?
To be honest, I have absolutely no idea where they are going with this, nor how this newest revelation makes sense within the timeline of the show. Why would Rowan cover up his own wife’s death to save the reputation of some congressman’s kid? What could he possibly have gained from this? And did Fitz know about Mama Pope when he first hired the bright young Gladiator from Georgetown Law? Does Shonda Rhimes want everybody to hate Fitz?
So many questions, so many episodes left (thank God) to come up with answers that make some sort of logical sense. And if for some reason you’re unhappy with the head-scratching randomness of this latest development, remember the shirtless Jake Ballard phone call and the gratuitous Fitz-Ballard basketball montage and stop complaining! The Shonda Rhimes giveth, and the Shonda Rhimes taketh away when she damn well chooses.
Yet even though this big twist will be the scandal on everybody’s mind at the water cooler tomorrow morning, so much of the episode was carried by Lisa Kudrow’s enigmatic presence as the capable but very human Congresswoman Josephine Marcus. When Olivia chose to work on Fitz’s campaign at the end of the night, I can't have been the only one throwing my glass of vino at my Vizio in a state of rage. Why vote for that old lady murdering, philandering putz when you have Phoebe Freaking Buffay on the ticket? (This is a rhetorical question.)
We learned at the end of last week that Josie had given birth to a secret lovechild as a teenager, so naturally she was Olivia’s client by the time the paparazzi cameras signaled the start of a new Scandal tonight — Olivia is just that good at picking up women who have issues with Fitz. Marcus was straight up with Olivia when it came to the general existence of her daughter, but it took a Gladiator (minus Olivia) group excursion to Josie’s hometown in Montana to dig out the remaining truth — her mother had raised the baby as Josie's sister, and now this girl, Candace, is the congresswoman's best friend-slash-campaign manager. And she had no idea! These are the kinds of things you’re supposed to work out before you run for president.
But Josephine was a newcomer, so she didn’t know that. And the world of D.C. politics nearly ate her alive... only one week in. The mean, scary Republicans in the White House told the mean, scary Democratic frontrunner, Governor Restin, to call out Lady Marcus during one of the first democratic debates, and her candid, unprepared answer actually ended up working in her favor.
“I think what Governor Restin is trying to say is I had a baby,” she said. “Thirty years ago I was fifteen, and I had a baby. I made a mistake. I was young and stupid, and he was a nice boy with a nice smile and a shiny yellow pickup truck, and I thought I was in love.”
…And just like that, she was America’s sweetheart! Cyrus and Mellie, who had already lost ace campaign manager Leo Bergen to Sally Langston (which they don’t know) due to Fitz’s wandering eye (which they do know), knew that Marcus’ seemingly unending charm and popular appeal would hurt their already ailing campaign, so they brought out the Big Guns to secure their nomination.
(The Big Guns, on this show, always means Olivia Pope. I mean, hell, her name is officially a freaking verb at this point. Y’all got Pope-d.)
So Mellie summoned the Big Guns during the annual White House Press Correspondents’ Dinner, which Olivia just-so-happened to be attending with Jake. Queen Gladiator promptly jammed a stake in Ballard/Olivia shippers’ hearts when she left his side to follow the White House aide who brought her to Mellie, and was nearly driven to tears when her once and future rival finally admitted just how much Olivia meant to her husband. “It isn’t the job,” Mellie said, clearly manipulating Olivia for her own personal gain. “It’s doing the job without you.”
Who knows how genuine Mellie’s speech really was — if at all — but it was enough to get Olivia on board (how does one run a campaign and Pope & Associates at the same time?) after Marcus fired her due to the emotional fallout from the adoption-bomb.
But Olivia might just run back to Josie's side, since the episode’s wacky B-plot made Fitz look dirtier than Huck’s crazy-beard. Yes, el Presidente told Spy Daddy 2.0 to back off — and asked Cyrus to officially categorize B6-13 as non-essential government employees — but the fact still remains that there are now three goddamn terrible scandals attached to Fitz’s name, and that’s not even including his affair with Olivia. (I haven’t forgotten you, Amanda Tanner.)
Who could honestly still like this guy? Why does Quinn need a gun? Are we really supposed to forget the fact that David Rosen betrayed so many people last season, and just accept his reconciliation with Abby? Why is Olivia too blind to see that Jake is clearly the better option? Why on earth does Rowan still care so much about having dinner with Olivia, when all other evidence points to the fact that he’s a sociopath? What was Fitz doing in freaking Iceland?!
I have so many questions at this point that I'm getting Lost-style flashbacks to, well, Lost, but this time around I have no doubt that Shonda has something crazy up her well-tailored sleeves. But what did you think of the episode, Gladiators? Let us know in the comments!
Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.