We start with a frenetic opening sequence that shifts between black-and-white and color like the Wizard of Oz on acid, with a bunch of talking heads blabbering on about Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) being outed as the President’s “First Mistress.” The intrepid journalist behind this major scoop is the style editor of the Post, naturally, and if you wonder why a lowly fashion editor could yield so much power, than you haven’t been reading People’s Best/Worst dressed list carefully enough.
Then we pick up right where we left off … “Dad?” Olivia says to the guy we’ve only known as Command (Joe Morton). Then: “Um, BTW, why did you try to have me killed?” And I’m thinking, just wait until you find out he’s been trading that sex tape of you all around D.C. for political favors and $5 off coupons at Gettysburger.
Command’s response is that he didn’t try to get Liv killed, just Noel from Felicity (Scott Foley). I’m sure that’s a great relief to her! Then he brings her to a private plane and tries to ship her off to some island with a secret bank account and new identity, and she’s all “No! No! No! No!,” like a toddler having a tantrum over bathtime, and I’m thinking, “I’ll go! Send me to Mistress Club Med! It sounds like heaven.”
Daddy Command is all, “You opened your legs for a powerful dude, and they will gut you for it.” And: “I raised you to be twice as good as them to get half what they have … you could have aimed higher. Do you have to be so mediocre?” So apparently Daddy is quite the Tiger Mom. Also, if Olivia’s “handle it” speeches are typically at a level 10, Daddy’s pitch in these scenes is definitely an 11. Histrionics run deep in this family.
So Liv gets on the plane, and after raiding the complimentary bar and realizing the movie is Pitch Perfect (which she and Huck have already seen 12 times), she calls Cyrus (Jeff Perry). He tells her she must come back, otherwise Fitz will assume he had her killed, and then he can’t help him get out of this. I’m guessing any time Fitz hasn’t seen someone in a day or two – a political foe, his kids’ nanny, the family dog — he assumes it’s because Cyrus had them killed.
Cyrus swears to her that he’ll handle it, just so long as she sticks around. So Liv deplanes, and Daddy is not happy. “The White House will destroy you,” he growls. And she snaps back, “That’s what Mom used to tell me about you.” Yeesh, can you just imagine what Olivia’s childhood must have been like with this guy? “Merry Christmas, pumpkin. I got you surveillance pictures of Mommy kissing Santa Claus. And the Secretary of Agriculture. And the principal of your pre-school. I figure you can use these to blackmail some extra Christmas cookies out of her. Merry, merry! Love Commander Dad.”
Meanwhile, in the Oval Office, Cyrus wants Vice President Sally (Kate Burton) to speak for the President until the dust settles. But she’s all, “Bible Bible Bible,” and “the Lord doesn’t want me helping out this male slut,” and then Cyrus goes ballistic like he hadn’t just had a heart attack like 20 minutes ago.
So Sally snits about how rude Cyrus is, and how she is always courteous not to speak out about his “godless homosexual lifestyle” or the “poor sweet brown baby” he dragged into it. And I’m ashamed to say I sort of agree with her on this one. Not that the baby got dragged into the “homosexual lifestyle” (all kids should be so lucky!) but that he got dragged into a family with a scheming politician and cutthroat political reporter for parents. Are babies eligible for therapy? Because I think this kid could probably use it more than most on this show.
President Fitzgoldwyn (Tony Goldwyn) clears the room, and then he plies Sally with liquor, shamelessly flirts, and says, “Yeah, the Presidential peen wants what it wants. Whatcha gonna do, amIright?” And she sighs and is all, “Fine.”
Meanwhile, Liv’s car is surrounded by so many paparazzi you’d think it was school drop-off for Suri Cruise. She desperately tries to fix her hair before Huck (GuillermoDiaz) — yay, Huck! – drags her inside. The Gladiators are all hot to help her out, but she tells them there’s nothing to do, it’s all being handled. BTW, I was completely mystified who this new hire was who looked like she’s strolled in from an episode of Charlie’s Angels before I realized it was Abby (Darby Stanchfield). Somebody clearly took advantage of the sex scandal surrounding their boss to go and have herself a makeover.
Anyway, the Gladiators quickly learn that they’ve lost all their clients in the wake of the scandal. So they secretly decide that Liv will be the new client they save. You do realize that everyone on this show will at some point get their turn to be the client? Like there’s a Twister spinner somewhere in the office they spin that’s all, “Right hand red! Sex scandal Liv!”
In the West Wing, Cyrus sweet talks James (Dan Bucatinsky) into telling him how the style editor got the scoop about Olivia. James reveals that all the good gossip goes down at a bar where the Secret Service like to get their drunk on. Cyrus thanks him with a smooch. Gay men kissing on primetime T.V.! Somewhere an angel just got its wings. Or vomited, if you see the world the way V.P. Sally does.
Then comes my favorite scene in the episode because it involves peeing. Harrison (Columbus Short) tells Olivia to turn on her four TV’s because all the news channels are showing footage of President Fitzgoldwyn leaving her apartment – and the newscaster apologizes for the drunken young man urinating in the foreground of the video about four feet from the President. That cracked me up, like the Secret Service will take a bullet for the President, but no way in hell are they going to get in the way of some drunk frat boy’s urine stream.
Seeing the same story, Cyrus orders a “kill file” on Olivia. I’m sure Cyrus keeps kill files on people the way others do Christmas card lists. Backstory alert: at the “kill file” meeting, we learn that Olivia’s mother died in a plane crash when she was 12 (hmmmm), that her father, Eli (!) was a mild-mannered museum curator, and that she grew up to be a party girl with a thing for silver fox Daddy figures.