'Scandal' Season 4 premiere recap

The "Scandal" Season 4 opener reset the board totally after the events of the finale, and I could not be happier.

Olivia is with Jake.  I repeat: Liv is with Jake! On an uncharted island 100 miles off the coast of Zanzibar, where they are pretty much living a fairytale! Liv's got a really cute, curly beach fro and Jake refuses to button his shirts! They have sexy-time at the beach! They get their food delivered to them by a guy on a boat!

But things can't stay perfect and sunshiney forever. Their next grocery shipment comes with a letter. At first, Liv and Jake debate over whether or not she should open it. It's definitely not from her father because a helicopter and a group of soldiers would be more his style. But he's the only one who knows where they are. Liv's even got a cute, new alias: Julia Baker. Jake asks her not to open it, but unable to resist, Liv rips open the envelope and finds a news clip about Harrison's body being found.

Well, now we know for a fact that Columbus Short is off of the show. By the very next scene, the couple is riding in a black car through D.C., with Jake making Liv/Julia promise that they'll only stay a few days.

Liv visits the OPA office and seems upset to find it empty with a large stack of mail (including a few Union magazines with Fitz on the cover) on the table, sheets covering the furniture and ... a full investigation about her whereabouts taped to the conference room windows.

Of course ... it was Quinn who had tracked her down. How did she do it? By following Liv's "tell," a trick she learned from Harrison. It was Liv's fancy red wine that gave her away. Quinn asked the clerk at Liv's favorite wine shop what he'd given her for Christmas and tracked the shipments until she found one that matched. She figured that Liv would want to know that Harrison and Adnan's bodies were found in the desert.

Liv decides that that's enough exposition and asks where the rest of her team is. Huck is going by "Randy" now and working as an IT guy at some tech shop. He actually speaks to Liv, which is more than he'll do for Quinn, but once she admits that she's only back for the funeral he moves on to the next customer.

And Abby? She's working at the White House, handling its press. Her hair's awesome, she's got new suits and she's chewing Fitz's head off about the way he's gutting his cabinet and alienating his party. After his reelection (and Little Jerry's death), Fitz seems to be on a mission to make his second term mean something. His latest project is to get equal pay for women, which is why he's trying to reconfigure his entire cabinet and get support from across the aisle.

Mellie, on the other hand, isn't handling Little Jerry's death the way any of us might expect. Instead, she's traipsing around the White House in her pajamas and Uggs, eating dry cereal from the box. Hey, at least she's wearing fresh panties.

She's skeptical about whether or not the party will support Fitz's new goal, and she's probably right, since the RNC Chairmman (who Cyrus nicknamed "Lizzie Bear," because RNC chairman come and go so quickly. Ouch.) is waiting in Cyrus' office to discuss Fitz's refusal to fundraise, his liberal agenda pissing off the party, Mellie being MIA and the rumors that Fitz is going to replace the current Attorney General with a Democrat.

Abby, who is wearing a fabulously drape-y burgundy coat, has a surprise meeting as well. Liv came to ask her to help her bury Harrison, but Abby is furious that she left in the first place and gives her a major guilt trip about deserting them. Never one to back down, Liv tells Abby that she abandoned OPA, too, shutting out Quinn, Huck and Harrison while only a few blocks away at the White House.

Liv and Rowan are getting along a little better, which is kind of nice, even though we all know he did some majorly evil things at the end of last season. He chastises her for leaving the island, but she explains that Harrison is dead.

He gives her permission to ask him the question that he feels looming in the air: Did he kill Harrison? OF COURSE HE DID, but he lies about it, before telling her that he killed Marie Wallace on orders from the president. Liv's obviously upset, but Rowan tells her that Fitz did her a favor, too. No one will know that Little Jerry died at the "hands of the president's mistress' mother," he says. Liv actually buys it and seems glad her mother's finally dead.

Cyrus and his terrible wig confront Abby for not telling him that Liv is back, which endangers "this twisted, but highly functioning, White House."  He goes to give Fitz the news about Harrison's death and Liv's return. There's a little emotion, but given the fact that he seems to be standing by Mellie as she mourns, Fitz may have actually turned over a new leaf.

Liv's also going through some emotional strain. She's trying to plan Harrison's funeral, but burying a friend is proving to be more difficult than she expected. Fortunately, she gets a distraction in the form of a young woman knocking on her door, asking her to help her boss, a senator named Stephanie Vaughn who thinks she may have killed Senator Sterling.

Jake takes a second to check in on David Rosen. He's upset that David hasn't taken down Cyrus and B613 already, but David is terrified. He's color-coded the files and left them in storage. Jake pushes him to act, and later, when David visits the unit, he gets a late-night phone call from the White House. Cyrus asks him to be the new Attorney General.  Yay, David Rosen!

Liv, of course, has decided to help Vaughn. She gets to the house to hear the story. Vaughn went to Sterling's house to talk about the Equal Pay Bill. He offered her a drink, which she accepted, and then, he tried to seduce her and she pushed him off of her. He landed on a table, and she believes he's dead. Liv sees his hand move, so she tells Vaughn's assistant to get her boss out of there and anonymously calls 911.

A few quick clips from the news (did I ever mention how much I love the way this show uses TV news clips to drop in exposition? It's really clever.) tell us that Senator Sterling's vote would have been crucial to the Equal Pay Bill. Liv's busy trying to recruit a good defense attorney for Vaughn, knowing that this is going to be a really tricky case.

Liv heads back to see Huck, breaking a new phone in order to force Huck to talk to her. She's planned the funeral and she wants to know what's happened with his family. But he shuts her down, telling her that he is not Huck, but Randy the Smart Guy. Randy doesn't hope. Hope is dangerous and he can't have her getting his hopes up.

At home, Jake tries to have some sexy time with Liv, but she can't stop thinking about the fact that Senator Sterling is being made into a saint by the press when she knows that he's a rapist and that the woman who he tried to assault feels like she has to remain hidden because it could hurt her career and damage her credibility. Yes, Feminist Liv! I love you and I missed you.

She tells Jake to go ahead and start kissing her again, but since he's getting all of the comedic lines in this episode, he tells her to "wait for it" and she continues to rant, pushing him to the side so she can grab the phone and tell Clark, the lawyer, that he shouldn't make a statement because she's taking the case.

Jake tries to remind her that she "doesn't work here anymore" and warns that they are never going to get back to the beach. But his biggest issue with them staying in D.C. is, of course, Fitz. As soon as she gets back there, Fitz creeps back into her life, despite the fact that Jake "is the one who reaches [Liv] in places that [Fitz] can't begin to touch," and a whole lot of other things that made my jaw drop. "Scandal" is turning things up in Season 4.

The only problem with Liv helping Senator Vaughn is that, against every anti-victim blaming impulse that Liv has, her gut tells her that Vaughn's lying. She can't remember details about the assault when pressed by Clark, which Liv says would be impossible, if it really happened.

After confronting Vaughn about lying, she borrows her assistant's phone and calls Quinn to tell her they need to look for another angle. That's when Quinn notices that all of Sterling's assistants kind of look alike: brown eyes, brown hair and curves. Liv instantly realizes that it wasn't Vaughn who was assaulted by Sterling, but her assistant. The senator is lying to cover for her.

David and Abby meet up and it doesn't seem like they're happy. David's freaked out that Fitz asked him to be AG, believing it to be an attempt to buy his silence. Abby assures him that she didn't tell them about his files, but he's skeptical since she works for the "Deathstar." Oh, David Rosen, how I missed you.

Abby insists that she joined the staff because the president asked her to serve, but David argues that they don't even know her name. (David: "They call you 'Red!'" Abby: "I have red hair!" David: "You have a color rinse!" Tears.)  She didn't know they wanted to offer him the AG position, but if they'd asked her she would have told them that he's a good lawyer who loves justice...more than he loved her, she says, since he spent those months after Liv left pouring over those files instead of helping her deal. She tells him to get on the inside, get some power and use it. Um, yesss, Abby.

Vaughn tells Liv that she was going to take the fall for her assistant because she thought she'd be more readily believed. Of course, Liv knows that to be utter crap. She quickly figures out that Vaughn knew Sterling had a type. The senator admits that she sent her assistant to Vaughn's house in order to try to make the "vote go down easier," a risk she was willing to take to get equal pay passed. Her assistant overhears and the disgust and betrayal on her face is enough to remind Liv why she left town.

But first, Harrison's funeral. It's small, but lovely, with the entire OPA staff showing up to bury their friend and get a little healing going.

Mellie and Fitz have also reached a weird point of peace, at least on Fitz's end. Earlier in the episode, he stood by her when he thought Cyrus was going to criticize her bathrobe and messy hair, and then followed that up by standing with her as she visited their son's grave. He asks her to come in from the balcony before it gets cold, but she tells him that even if she did jump, the fall wouldn't kill her.

Apparently, Fitz tried to kill himself one night, which she kind of throws in his face. He firmly tells her not to bring it up again, which she "adds to the list" with her rape, Little Jerry's death and Liv being MIA. Fitz tells her that Liv's back, and she demands that he give her a heads-up when he sees Liv. That way, she can mentally prepare for him to want to have some twisted, just-saw-my-mistress sex with his wife. He promises that he won't see Liv, which Mellie doesn't believe.

But ... something may have actually changed between them. They run into each other at the White House, where Liv has given a press conference (she's sticking around to represent Kate, Vaughn's assistant, and announces it with the best speech she's given in a while), and Fitz has officially nominated David for the AG gig. They run into each other in the vestibule, and although their fingers almost touch, they keep on moving.

Same players, but a new, more exciting-looking game.

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