‘Scandal’ Season 4 Episode 12 Recap: “Gladiators Don’t Run”

How much is Olivia Pope worth — and how much is she worth to Fitz? Last night’s Scandal came to the conclusion that she’s worth $1.1 billion, at least to an unknown buyer that may be Iran but — knowing this show — is probably Papa Pope. With Jake, Fitz, Huck, and even Maya Pope banding together, Liv’s dad will eventually go down. But for now, we wait. It’s Kerry Washington’s world and the Gladiators are just living in it, so it’s not like they’re going to kill her off.

I shielded my eyes as much as I wiped them during Scandal this week. Mostly, I tried to keep up. Watching Scott Foley saw a guy’s head off in a leather racing jacket is not something I ever expected to see, but with the season Scandal‘s offered up so far, nothing should surprise me. Yet twice I rewound the scene where Mellie tells Fitz that she wants to be President someday. Amidst the bloody murders and violent monologues, that was the most shocking moment of last night’s Scandal. A post-mourning Mellie who “wants to run the world” — and that trash-dick Andrew gets to walk because of it. There’s no way for Mellie to go unscathed after he reveals their affair, and she knows that. “America can forgive a man 100 infidelities,” she says, “but they will never forgive a woman even one.”

As disappointed as I am to see Andrew not rotting in prison for what he pulled, I was touched by Fitz and Mellie’s partnership for the first time since Jerry’s death. They may not have a normal marriage, but Fitz acknowledges the sacrifices Mellie’s made and wants to support her dreams. This moment was also the first time I felt like Olivia and Fitz’s Vermont dream could actually work, assuming she isn’t beheaded by a foreign enemy (she won’t be, come on, have you ever watched a Shonda show before?). Mellie may not become President, or that may not be part of the journey tackled in Scandal, but she has lofty goals for herself that would make it feasible for Fitz and her to split amicably.

Then again, if you use the Clintons as a model of what Mellie and Fitz would be trying to pull off, then they probably would have to stay together for her to have even the slightest chance of winning. But the Grants and the Clintons are worlds apart, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, Mellie’s going to atone for her husband’s sidepiece sins by meeting every plane of dead soldiers that arrives from West Angola. Excuse me while I sob my life away.

As for other characters coming to Real Talk conclusions, Abby had a big episode. Her monologue to David, in which she admits how much she misses Liv, was perhaps one of my favorite Abby moments of the series so far. “You son-of-a-bitch, she is my best friend,” she screams upon finding out that Olivia has been kidnapped, tortured, and put up for auction. “You have to tell me my only friend was kidnapped,” she continues. I was sort of annoyed that they made this moment that should have been about the bonds between women who save each other, but then David went and made it kind of romantic. “Abby, she’s not your only friend,” he says, and suddenly I’m shipping Scandal‘s most milquetoast couple again.

Only Scandal would turn Dexter-style slaughters and a darknet auction among all-star terrorists into a rallying point among friends. With Abby finally breaking down her walls, I think the Gladiators could be back for real — but only if Huck doesn’t slip to the dark side again. He’s extra gravelly this episode, and his eyeballs stick out like he’s new to Earth. When he can’t hack into the auction for Liv, the group is forced to align with Maya Pope. I admire her rabid negotiation skills — basic cable in Supermax — but she really does a number on Huck by blindsiding him with the news that he needs to kill three men as bounty for the aid of one of her terrorist buddies in accessing the auction. When the auction is suspended anyway, you can see the look in his eyes: he took a bath in those men’s blood for nothing… except maybe he own disgusting desires. (Also, apparently Huck stole $2 billion from B613. That is going to come back to haunt him big time.)

As for Olivia, she attempts her usual manipulation on the programmers running her auction, particularly after Gus kills Ian. Olivia’s co-option of the tech bubble’s pseudo-humanitarian dream backfires when one of the programmers shares his sob story about growing up in abject poverty. “My dream is a billion dollars,” he says, chucking while he still can. Sometimes it feels like Olivia and the Gladiators are surrounded by morons.