It’s Weiner time! Yes, as fans who paid attention to this week’s promos were anticipating, “Say Hello to My Little Friend” finds the Gladiators defending Richard Meyers, a married senator who’s been sending explicit text messages to a young woman named Desiree. Of course, since Scandal always has to up the ante, the man operating under the nom de sext Redwood Johnson isn’t just cheating on his wife; he’s on trial for Desiree’s murder.
Maybe it’s because of the ripped-from-the-headlines story or maybe I just like seeing Professor Lasky of Saved by the Bell: The College Years fame get work, but I was more drawn in to this week’s client story than the previous episode’s hostage situation. We got some pithy dialogue — “Slut-shame the dead girl? All aboard” — that also highlighted one of Shonda Rhimes’ favorite themes: the way women, and especially young women, can lose both their lives and their dignity as collateral damage of the Washington power structure. There was a well executed, if not totally surprising, twist that revealed Meyers’ wife, Shelly, as the true killer. And there’s a good bit left unsaid between Olivia and Shelly about smart, powerful women subsuming their own ambitions to those of even more powerful men; in fact, I’d go so far as to say that their connection explains why Liv doesn’t discover Shelly’s lying until she hears it from Professor — er, Richard.
It’s also good news that we’re finally making progress in the ongoing tale of Fitz’s covered-up military scandal — although, as I may have mentioned in early recaps, I still find this storyline a bit dry for a season-long arc. This week, Fitz reads about Pete Foster’s death in the newspaper and pulls some strings to give the man Huck murdered a solemn military funeral at Arlington, which he very suspiciously attends. Hilariously, Cyrus only learns that this has taken place when James bustles into his office, waving a gravedigger’s Instagram photo in his face.
Meanwhile, on the heels of telling Liv, “Your father would slit your throat and drink your blood if it would help the republic,” Jake — and all intrigue surrounding B613 — has been banished from her life. In fact, she seems to go into full Rowan-mind-control mode, saying things like, “I’ve never heard of you” and insisting that she needs to become the perfect, unquestioning daughter again.
Obviously, this doesn’t last long. Jake’s next move is to track down Huck, but in an encounter that finds each waving a gun in the other’s face, the latter refuses to team up in taking down Rowan. Well, for a while. After Jake spies on Cyrus and Rowan, he returns to Olivia’s office with Foster’s file and the news that he’s listed as the pilot on a mission that none other than President Fitz actually flew. Now Huck is on board — but, you know, because it’s Huck, he’s scarily on board and his brain is working like a computer and he’s poring over Jake’s audio of the conversation between Cy and Papa Pope. What doesn’t add up here — what has been bothering me for a few weeks, actually — is why time in the Hole and as part of B613 in general left Huck an antisocial shell of a man, while Jake came back from all that isolation and all those beatings with his mind entirely intact.
This is a whole lot of exposition (characters seemed to be talking even more quickly than usual this week, to fit in all the information that needed to be relayed), but the episode ends with a nice cliffhanger: here’s Fitz marching into Rowan’s office for a confrontation. If that’s not a sign that this season is about to heat up, well, there’s also the fact that Liv and Jake are swapping spit again — at least, they are until the president calls. It’s starting to feel like he and Rowan share a spooky knack for interrupting these two with a well-timed phone call, and it’s disappointing because I’m beginning to wonder if Jake isn’t a much better guy for Olivia Pope than Fitz. Although, of course, it’s not likely that Scandal will let go of its protagonist’s on-again-off-again romance with the president that easily.
Before we go further into the plot, I want to take a moment to say that I’m interested in the developing story of Olivia’s fall from her pedestal. The Gladiators make repeated mentions of how tight money is at Pope and Associates; in fact, that’s the whole reason the firm takes on Meyers as a client. And there’s a heartbreaking moment woven in where Liv watches news anchors pontificate about her: “This is a woman who used to command a lot of respect in this town.” Now, apparently, her public profile has been reduced to a “punchline.” If Season 3’s overarching plot is going to be about Fitz, Jake, Rowan, and Operation Remington, then it seems like its underlying theme will be Liv’s quest to not only free herself from her father’s influence, but also rehabilitate her own image.
As for interpersonal Gladiator issues, we saw Huck confessing his “whiskey” relapse at an AA meeting, as Quinn looked on — and was eventually discovered. (This was really a big week for the camera panning to the side to reveal that someone is listening in on a private conversation.) Her fascination with his assassin past and addiction to killing is getting really fucking scary, frankly, and he’s right to call her out on it: “You’re not worried; you’re interested,” he says. “Stop while you still can.” I’m getting a little bit sick of the Huck psychodrama — this seems like ground we’ve already covered — but I wouldn’t be opposed to a shift in focus that gets deeper into what Quinn finds so attractive about all this pathology and carnage.
Also on the personal relationships front, we see some “will they or won’t they” action from Abby and David again this week. In the end, she sends him a naughty pic in cheeky tribute to the sexting case (that he happened to prosecute) just before showing up at his door. There’s not much suspense or even much of a thrill here… but hey, they’re cute, and it’s nice to see someone on this show happy.
And finally, did you think I’d forgotten about Lisa Kudrow? Well, after four recaps, you should know me better than that. I was simply saving the best for last. “Say Hello to My Little Friend” introduced us to Kudrow’s Josephine Marcus, a Democratic congresswoman and vocal critic of Fitz’s affair. In a hilarious moment she doesn’t realize is being recorded, Mellie reads this lady like one of RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants, and the “trailer trash” comments get out — earning Mellie headlines like “Worst Lady” and upping Marcus’ profile to the point where Cyrus fears she’s popular enough to run against Fitz. This means Cy is immediately on the case, sending a staffer to dig up dirt in Josephine’s home town. (He returns with nothing and Cy doesn’t seem bothered, so… to be continued!) As excited as I am about Kudrow’s recurring role, we didn’t get to see as much of her as I would have liked this week. Fans of Lisa, please join me in crossing my fingers that she’ll take center stage in the episodes to come.