Welcome back to Scandal, where the morals aren't real and the votes don't matter.
Our story so far: Two mysterious Someones, who were reportedly supposed to be Russian agents until the reality of 2016 forced the writers to think of something more original, arranged a murder-and-framing-spree around the President-elect. Mostly through surrogates that they've threatened and/or slept with, including about half of our main cast.
The heroes are dealing with this through a strategy of random guessing, dramatic confrontations, torturing people for inaccurate intel, forgetting to frisk people at key moments, and angsty self-reflection about that time when they rigged a presidential election.
Seven episodes left. Who will win? Not America, that's for sure.
Episode 10 (of the season, episode 100 of the show) is a whole Imagine Spot about what if Olivia hadn't voted to rig Fitz's election way back when.
For some reason AU Pope and Associates can't afford the swanky office. I thought she got there on her own amazing skills and reputation -- is this implying that her business was somehow propped up by Fitz's presidency? Or is it that she turned a moral corner with the election-rigging? Maybe the show wants us to see this as "she got more ruthless in doing whatever it takes to support wonderful deserving people," so down this fork-in-the-road she's not as good because she's held back by silly things like ethics.
Also, she's wearing her hair natural. Found a post that unpacks that a bit.
Fitz gets divorced, marries Olivia. Cyrus won't sit with his not-yet-husband at the ceremony, and, uh, ends up making out with Mellie for some reason? (No word, not even a mention, of who gets custody of their kids.)
We do get a couple of sweet details. Huck walks Olivia down the aisle, looking super awkward in a nice suit, while Abby is the maid of honor. Shots of various smiling friends and allies in the refreshingly multiracial audience.
Fitz gets a cheesy TV pundit spot. Also, for some reason it's a year post-wedding and they're not living together. Abby and David are namechecked as happily married. Cyrus and Mellie...are...married and pregnant? Quinn didn't even get roped into the firm, so she's being cute and giggly on a Bachelor-type reality show.
...oh my god, the Bachelor says to not-Quinn "You really love torturing me, don't you? Is that your thing?" (And Huck is clapping! He's rooting for her!) This is beautiful and they're so innocent and it hurts that they don't live in this universe.
Final score: Cyrus stays closeted and career-driven and miserable. Mellie is also pretty glum, but she's a better human being who cares about others. Fitz and Olivia have a lot of stress and fighting, including the revelation that she could've stolen the White House for him...but they pleasantly surprise me by both ultimately realizing that politics is soul-sucking and they're better off without it.
Totally should've gone with this reality.
Aaaand we're back to the merry-go-round of people yelling about who the Electoral College should vote for, based on whose kink for power they're most interested in indulging.
Mellie yelling at Olivia: "Get off your high horse! Like you never killed anybody? Like you never stole an Oval or two?" Look at all that sense and logic.
Olivia's response: "I know you. You are better than most. You are inherently good." Have you never seen your own show.
...She switches to Team Cyrus later in the episode, for reasons, and there's a lot of back-and-forth between Team Cyrus (he knows he's not worthy, but he wants to do it for Frankie!) to Team Mellie (Cyrus was a terrible husband and also she deserves it!). Until the point where Mellie meets the Someones...and one of them murders not!Veronica in front of her. Dammit, I liked Veronica!
Also, remember how the FBI director and the President are doing it? Yeah, that comes up again.
Fitz accuses her of being jealous of Olivia. She responds: "Boy, I am the director of the FBI, not some chick who got dissed at prom." Federal Director of Sass. And currently holding the mantle of Only Likeable Character Left Alive.
The EC votes! Mellie is in! Possibly in a landslide! Wonder how many of the electors were flipped via murder.
Episode 12 finds Dad Pope in protective presidential custody, although he's cranky because he sees more murder on the horizon.
...and we finally get one of the Someones confronting Olivia in person. Threatens her to replace Mellie's VP candidate. She goes to him and says "you should try being head of the NSA instead," as if our mysterious enemies would be totally chill with that.
FINALLY, a ploy with some strategy! Our heroes send one of their own drones into WH airspace, giving security an excuse to drag all attendant Someones into a secure bunker with phone signals blocked. Time for a secure war council.
(Or at least, I hope it's secure. Mellie's office was bugged for months and they never noticed. Have they learned a lesson from that? Time will tell! And there's a mention of Mellie's kids being in Secret Service custody -- are we taking it for granted that the Service hasn't been compromised?)
...so, okay, there was not a lot of actual council-ing in the secure council. Lots of angry yelling about various bombshell secrets that Subset X was hiding from Subset Y. (I remembered Dad Pope killing one of Fitz and Mellie's kids, but I forgot that Fitz knew. Mellie...finds out here.)
Then they split off into subgroups for a bunch of one-on-one conversations. Pairs up people who haven't interacted much all season, and I appreciate the character moments that come from exploring underused dynamics...but is this really the time?
By the end it seems like the only decision they've made is picking Mellie's replacement VP. No progress in figuring out who, exactly, is blackmailmurdering their way into the US government? Do we have a long-term safety strategy? Because that was not mentioned.
True fact: I am genuinely impressed by the VP reveal. I didn't see it coming at all, and yet in retrospect it's perfectly suited to the themes this season has brought up over and over -- how decent people usually aren't the ones who run for office, how they can honor the voters who chose Vargas by giving his position to someone he trusted, how political wives (and husbands in Cyrus' case) deserve more credit for all the sacrifices and compromises they've made to support their husbands.
It's Frankie Vargas' widow. She's consistently been a Good Person in all her appearances, and yet I haven't even been mentioning her in my tally of likeable characters because she's so mild and unassuming and respectable. Which I suppose was probably the point.
Scandal being Scandal, I give it 50-50 odds that it'll turn out she was the evil mastermind behind the Someones this whole time.
But if she isn't...possibly the American people will end up kinda-sorta winning? Or at least not totally losing?
Nicely done, show.