A couple of disturbing images are floating around in my head after last night’s episode, but before we get into all of that, let’s pick up at last week’s cliffhanger.Olivia’s mom is alive, which isn’t the biggest surprise in the history of this show. What is interesting is that Rowan held her prisoner for 20 years in a hidden cell in what looks like a very crappy hospital, for reasons that aren’t 100 percent clear, yet.Charlie drops Quinn off at work, which is definitely not the most covert way for them to meet. B613 recruited her in order to have a spy in Pope & Associates, and she is still reeling after murdering that security guard. Charlie advises her to pretend he’s her boyfriend, just asking about her day, which is one of the creepiest things he’s said yet. And if she doesn’t, he’ll kill her. I can only dream.Quinn has no choice, and is not going to make a very good spy. She practically turns green at the mention of Omar Dresden’s name, but lucky for her, a Josie Marcus crisis strikes as the perfect distraction.Huck and Jake are still on the Dresden case, checking other buildings’ security cameras, since the security tapes they need are missing.As much as I love James, I can’t help but be annoyed that it has taken him this long to figure out that he is married to Satan. But that comes later in the episode. First, James gets coaxed into spending some alone time with Daniel Douglas.Cyrus being nice to him should be a dead giveaway that something is horribly wrong. But James is too consumed with his disappointment at getting fired to realize that Cyrus getting him an assignment from the “D.C. Times” is definitely part of a scheme.Cyrus jumps at the opportunity to write about Daniel Douglas. Watching Cyrus pimp out his husband in order to hurt Sally’s campaign may be even more awful than the time he tried to have James murdered.On to the Josie Marcus drama. Someone broke into her house and stole her sister/daughter’s laptop, and only her laptop, which was full of detailed information about the campaign. Of course, Candace is ready to point the finger at the Reston campaign and wants to hold a press conference post-haste. But Olivia wants the authorities to accuse Reston.Mellie, watching the interview from last week, loves watching Fitz stand up for her on national TV. But real-life Fitz, sullen and rude as ever, leaves the room to call Olivia. Kudos to her for finally letting his call go to voicemail.Now for Mama Pope’s master plan to either die or get sent to the infirmary: chewing into her own wrist until she hits an artery. Seriously, Shonda Rhimes warned her Twitter followers not to eat until after the first commercial break, and I definitely should have heeded her warning. Maya winds up in the infirmary, and Rowan is not happy.Quinn runs into Jake while she’s trying to steal the security cameras from the office buildings surrounding the murder scene. She pretends she's just being a good little soldier and showing some initiative, but Jake seems suspicious.Abby’s at David’s office, asking him to look into the break-in at Josie’s home. Having been burned by Pope & Associates more times than any other character in the series, David is skeptical. He accuses them of trying to use an FBI raid on the Reston campaign as a photo op, but Abby argues that this is “Watergate, all over again.” Impassioned or not, David tells her to think like a lawyer. He needs more to go on to call in the FBI, even if the “burglar” only stole campaign files from a house full of valuables.Cyrus wants James to do the interview with Daniel Douglas, so Douglas can hit on James, James can refuse him and then tell Cyrus. Cyrus and Mellie could use that information to bully Sally into giving up on her campaign. Or else, James will write an exposé about the Langstons’ “sham of a marriage.” Mellie worries that Daniel Douglas may not make a pass at James, so Cyrus tells her to plant the seed. Mellie is uncomfortable, but does so expertly. while she chats with Daniel Douglas before he goes to the vice president’s office to meet James, she hints that James and Cyrus have an open marriage.Huck and Jake are looking through security-camera footage to see if they can get an image of the killer. Quinn is pretending to help, but is really just freaking out and being extremely obvious. Olivia tells Quinn to focus on tracking down the stolen laptop instead.Harrison, noticing that Candace Marcus is on the TV screen, turns up the volume so they can listen to her insinuate that Gov. Reston’s campaign stole that laptop, thereby doing EXACTLY what Olivia instructed her not to do. Why do their clients even hire P&A if they’re never going to take their advice?Fitz is still calling Liv, saying she owes him the opportunity to explain, but she is officially done. She hangs up the phone and then smashes it to pieces. Jake comes in and sarcastically, but not unkindly, asks her if she really thinks that will prevent the president from contacting her.Harrison arrives at the Marcus house to yell at Candace for being an idiot, but this time, his fast-talking rant feels…different. There is palpable sexual tension in the air when he tells her to “mind her elders, color inside the lines” and follow his every command.Jake and Huck are making progress on the security tapes, spotting a reflection of the killer/Quinn on one of them. Meanwhile, Quinn locates the missing laptop; it’s at Reston’s campaign headquarters in Georgetown. P&A immediately gives the tip to the FBI, and Candace gloats as they watch the report on the news.Josie wonders if they should go to the press. Olivia assures her that the press will come to them, they will opt not to give a statement, and it will work out in their favor. Like clockwork, she gets a call from The New York Times.James is frustrated because his interview with Daniel Douglas, who I am referring to as D.D. from now on to save time and keystrokes, was a flop. All D.D. wanted to talk about was college football, no matter how many serious topics James tried to bring up. Cyrus tells him to give it another try, in a less-formal setting and wearing this cute, purple v-neck. This is one of the most manipulative things Cyrus has done on this show.Charlie reports to Rowan about his progress with Quinn. He had her recruited so that he could further spy on Olivia, and tells Charlie to “do as you were told” if Quinn gets caught spying. So, she’s going to die, right?Charlie leaves. Rowan begins to sort through a file of news clippings of Olivia. He takes them to Maya’s hospital room. She’s awake, despairing over the fact that her plan didn’t work. But Rowan, there to be compassionate, shows her the press clippings of Olivia. The look on her face when she sees how beautiful her daughter has become is heartbreaking.When Olivia gets back to her apartment, Tom the Secret Service Agent is waiting for her with a package from Fitz: surveillance photos of her and Rowan. At the sight of them, she agrees to meet him, hopping on a helicopter to Vermont.Can we talk for a moment about how much I dislike the green screen scenes on every ABC show I watch, from “Once Upon a Time” to “Grey’s Anatomy?” The effects just don’t look good. I get that it’s a network show, but this looks cheap.But Olivia’s hounds-tooth coat doesn’t look cheap as she struts off of the “helicopter” and into this “mansion” to meet Fitz for one hour. She explains that she never talks about her father. She didn’t even know how to approach the subject with him when they met.Fitz is upset that she didn’t tell him when he was going to be president, but she argues that she didn’t know he was going to be president. He snarks about Defiance, and asks why she didn’t tell him the truth once he got elected, or once he told her he loved her, or that time he tried to give up the White House for her. Remember that? Those were simpler days.Olivia’s not about to let him play the victim, but he argues that he told her everything that he could legally tell her. “You know who I am, and you’re just this bundle of dirty little secrets,” he shouts. And…that would be your cue to slap him again, Liv.Instead, she tells him that he would have run in the other direction if she’d told him the truth, but he argues that he would have protected her. That’s when we finally get a hint of the Olivia Pope that we fell in love with at the beginning of this series. She shouts, “I don’t need protecting! I am not the girl you save. I am fine!”She reminds him that at the snap of Rowan’s fingers, Fitz shot down a plane with hundreds of people on board. Olivia verbatim: “You’re the one that needs protecting. I fixed the election. He’s my father. I ruined YOU!” I hate how much I love you, Liv.Fitz starts playing tour guide, which obviously annoys Olivia; she demands to know why they’re there. Of course, it’s that house in Vermont he’d promised her, where she would make jam and he would be mayor and they would have babies. He had it built when he thought they had a chance to be together.A couple of people on my timeline compared this to Noah building Allie her dream house in “The Notebook,” but no! Noah built that house himself, with his two hands. Fitz hired people to build this house for Liv. Fitz is the worst and he fails at this Grand Gesture because it is retroactively petty to bring Olivia here after they’ve already called it quits. Fitz can do nothing right and I hate him. Of course, Olivia falls for it, because she is dead set on being a disappointment this season.Back at P&A, Huck and Quinn share a quick, tender moment in which he tells her that he knows she does a good job. You’re not too hard on her, Huck. She is an idiot. You should probably be meaner to her, actually.Like the idiot that she is, she rolls up on Charlie in the parking deck and holds a gun to his head. Charlie suggests she rethink things, because he is the best “handler” she’s going to get.Rowan and Maya are in the hospital, cooing over photos of Olivia. (Something about Maya saying “You just want to eat her” as she goes on about Olivia’s formerly fat cheeks is disturbing, since we just watched her chew into her own arm not even an hour ago.) She notices that Rowan only brought her press clippings and no home photos, and knows his relationship with Olivia isn’t a good one. He harshly reminds her that she doesn’t know Olivia the Adult, and the tender moment is over. He tells the doctor that they’re moving her tomorrow, and to make sure she is sedated.Mellie can’t reach Fitz at his “hotel in New Hampshire” and has Lauren the secretary call. No answer. Knowing Fitz, Mellie asks Lauren to call Olivia. No answer. Doesn’t take a genius to know that they’re somewhere having sex. Cue the long, slow motion scene of Liv and Fitz having sex, and me throwing something at my TV.When Olivia gets up to leave the next morning, Fitz warns her that he has to stop Rowan. Unsurprisingly, she’s all for it, and even though she obviously hates her father, this is annoying. As far as she knows, Fitz killed her mother -- and not only did she just sleep with him again, but she also just signed off on him taking out her father. As she leaves, she tells him not to sell the house yet. *eye roll*David and Abby are in bed when his computer guy calls with the news that the info on Candace’s stolen laptop isn’t enough to help the Reston campaign. It was wiped clean the day before the break-in. The burglary was obviously a set-up and David, in an effort to have a normal relationship with Abby, pointedly refuses to accuse P&A of planning this. Abby assures him that they had nothing to do with it, and calls Harrison with the news.Of course, Abby immediately knows that Candace was the one behind this…and of course, when the camera pans out, you see that he’s in bed with Candace.Cyrus meets up with Mellie to update her about the new plan to pimp James to D.D. Mellie’s hesitant, worried about James potentially cheating on Cyrus. Cyrus tells Mellie that this is James and not Fitz. He isn’t worried in the slightest.Olivia shows up to work, and Jake instantly knows why she missed his call the night before: Fitz. Reminding Olivia that he told her Fitz would find a way to reach her, Jake sips his coffee and leaves.The great Ava DuVernay (“Middle of Nowhere”) directed this episode and live-tweeted the entire thing. Here, she re-tweeted someone who said Jake always “reads Olivia to filth lowkey,” tagging Scott Foley and translating the slang for him. It was just awesome. Seriously, go look at her timeline for extra insider goodies.The rest of P&A is back to focusing on the security camera footage when Josie and Candace arrive. Josie is obviously furious, but Candace stands by what she did. Olivia asks the others to leave the room. Josie is giving up. Olivia tells her that if they handle this right, it will just be “a bump in the road,” but she’ll have to fire Candace. They set up a press conference.Meanwhile, D.D. and James are giving this interview/booty call another try. James freaks when D.D. kisses him. D.D. is furious, saying he never would have tried anything if he hadn’t heard that James was in an open marriage. When D.D. tells him that Mellie was the one who told him that lie, it suddenly clicks and he realizes what Cyrus was doing all along.At the press conference, Josie withdraws her candidacy rather than fire her own daughter, because Candace is “just a kid.” She plans to make a plea deal for Candace, go back to Montana and see what happens from there. Whatever.Mellie goes to the Oval to talk to Fitz about the status of things. She asks about “New Hampshire,” and then mentions that Josie dropped out of the race, which means Olivia’s available again. The look of shock on Fitz’s face when she suggests they try to hire her again is no match for the shock on Cyrus’ face in the next scene.He’s waiting up for James anxiously, and pretends to be asleep when he hears him coming. (“Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding is playing in the background and it is perfect, btw.) James gets in and heads straight for the shower, which should have been a dead giveaway for Cyrus, especially when he tells him not to wait up before saying that he loves him.Cyrus’s phone buzzes with the arrival of surveillance photos from one of Cyrus' spies of James sleeping with D.D.At the weird hospital, the doctor is trying to sedate Maya, but she has other plans. By the time Rowan shows up, the doctor is passed out on the floor and Maya is gone. Gone where? To find Olivia, who is thoroughly shocked to see her not-dead mom.Meanwhile, Quinn gets to her apartment, where Huck is waiting for her in the dark, with his torture kit on display. He wants to talk about her involvement with B613, because Huck is not stupid and you suck at lying, Quinn.Next time: We have to wait two whole weeks for the next episode, because of Thanksgiving. Ugh. The winter finale promises to be everything, though. That preview of Huck licking Quinn’s face menacingly was all I needed to see.
Lauren McEwenFor The Baltimore Sun