"Scandal" is back! "Scandal" is back! After months of waiting and rewatching the first two seasons on Netflix, we start the first season by checking in with Pope and Associates. Huck, Harrison, Abby and Quinn are preparing for battle, locking doors and taking the phone off the hook. Olivia has just been outed as Fitz’s mistress by a “Post Style-section reporter,” leaving every one reeling. Mellie, Fitz and Cyrus all look miserable, but no one is more upset than Olivia Pope.
She’s still in the back of that limo with Daddy Pope, who reveals that he wanted Jake Ballard killed, and not Olivia. Which…kind of makes sense, but that doesn’t mean he’s a particularly loving father.
They pull up to a hangar. Daddy Pope continues to berate Olivia, whilst delivering the first rambling Sorkin-esque monologue of the new season. The gist of it is that he’s disappointed in her for buying into the fairytale of becoming Fitz’s first lady -- for “opening her knees” to a man with power whop will undoubtedly throw her under the bus to save himself.
Olivia refuses to believe that Fitz would do this, but her father argues that Fitz doesn’t have a choice. Fitz doesn’t have power – he is run by power. (I am kind of loving Olivia’s father as a character. He’s horrible and frightening and obviously very powerful. This scene teases Olivia’s origin story a bit, and I am very anxious to learn more about her this season – outside of the affair with Fitz and her career.)
Her father is upset with her for being so ordinary, the same lecture that Ellis Grey gave Meredith when she was lucid for a day. But his lecture is grounded, not only in his belief that his daughter is better than allowing a man to blur her vision, but because he feels she forgot that as a black woman, she has to work “twice as good as them to get half.” Mostly, he wanted her to aim higher than first lady. He is disappointed that she is so “mediocre.”
But Daddy Pope has a plan to fix the mess his daughter has made. And that plan is to pay off her associates and put her on a plane to some faraway island with a new identity and a Swiss bank account. There, she’ll wait for eight months, then he’ll ship her off to Brussels or Johannesburg.
We have seen Olivia weak before. We’ve seen her in a hospital bed. We’ve seen her curled up in a ball in bed, crying for days. But this is something else. Olivia’s slack-jawed and stammering, unable to assert herself because her father is just that intimidating.
It’s understandable. Most of us regress when we’re around our parents. We start whining or cowing or fixing. Olivia cows. After boarding the plane, she borrows the flight attendant's phone to dial Cyrus, who is horrified at the idea of her fleeing.
Olivia isn’t buying Cyrus’s concern, and is convinced that he wants her in the states so that he can throw her under the bus to salvage Fitz’s political capital. Cyrus tries another tack: he is worried that Fitz will believe that he had Olivia killed if she disappears. He claims he’s on her side. Olivia calls him a monster. He says that he’s her monster.
Not sure if she believed Cyrus, but Olivia does get off the plane. “I am many things, but stupid is not one of them,” she spits at her father, and suddenly, she’s Olivia Pope again, breezing past this obstacle and thinking on her feet.
Daddy Pope tells her that the White House will destroy her. “That’s what mom used to tell me about you,” she shoots back after climbing into the limo, now firmly in control.
This is what we love about Olivia – along with her freakish ability to wear white all the time and remain stainless. This is what all of those inane “think” pieces that mull over Olivia’s inability to serve as a role model miss: Olivia is imperfect, but you still root for her. She’s that person who is always able to say the right thing when she is insulted, who can break the rules and still save the day. She is the type of person who would attack her friend’s abusive husband with a tire iron.
She’s not always right, but we are in awe of her. How people can still “like” Don Draper and not “get” Olivia is beyond me. Olivia wants to be right. Don, Walt, Tony -- all of these male anti-heroes are firmly rooted in being brilliantly awful. Olivia still wants to wear the white hat that always seems to elude her.
In the Oval Office, Sally Langston is being Sally Langston: self-righteous and Southern. Writing her lines has to be fun. Cyrus wants her to take over Fitz’s public appearances, dodging questions and buying them time.
Sally’s not going for it. She cannot come to the aid of an adulterer, and Cyrus has had enough. They finally have the argument that has been brewing between them for the past couple of seasons. Cyrus yells that “The Lord did not fill out a voter registration card,” and Sally responds by commenting on his “godless, sexual lifestyle” and the “poor, sweet brown baby” that he and James adopted.
Most of all, she is refusing to help him because she feels that he condescends to her and disrespects her because she is a Christian.
They continue punching way below the belt. Sally calls Olivia a whore about 12 times, until Fitz finally asks everyone to leave. He pours Sally a Scotch, so that she knows that it’s sharing time. He admits the affair and apologizes to her because he failed her: as her teammate, as her President, etc. He lived a lie. She bends and they sit to talk.
A resolved Fitz has decided to admit what he’s done to the world, but he’s not ready to take that step just yet. He needs time to plan, in order to protect the people in his life. He needs Sally to buy him time. She agrees, acting like his partner for the first time ever.
Olivia finally gets to her office, and the photographers swarm around the limo. Thinking quickly, she takes down her hair to help shield her face, but the driver gets out to try to confront the photographers and one of them scrambles into the limo, snapping away.
It’s honestly terrifying, but Huck finally rescues her and leads her up to the office. Olivia changes her clothes, hoping to get to business as usual, but her associates let her know that her clients are only calling in to fire her.