Having not aired a single episode since early December, it seems safe to say that there was a lot of expectation built up around Scandal’s return to the airwaves last night. While the episode, titled “Ride, Sally, Ride,” wasn’t exactly among the show’s most shocking, there were certainly enough captivating moments to keep loyal fans interested.
As opposed to the first half of season three, which saw Olivia drawing further away from the Grant administration amidst the growing rumors of the affair she had with the President, and her choice to support Congresswoman Josie Marcus (Lisa Kudrow) in an upcoming bid for the Office, it seems that Pope & Associates will once again be on the side of the White House as the season moves forward. It also seems that Scandal’s main focus, at least for the time being, has shifted away from Olivia’s mother, who, as we learned before the show went on break, was secretly a terrorist and is now at large again thanks to Olivia. Making matters even more complicated for the Pope family, it was Olivia’s father, Rowan, who kept this secret hidden so many years by locking her mother up with the help of the super-secret spy organization he ran, B-613. Of course now, in part at Olivia’s behest and in part because of other old grudges which I won’t even go into, President Grant has deposed Rowan as the head of B-613 and replaced him with Jake Ballard, the President’s old friend/Olivia’s sometimes boyfriend. Everyone caught up yet? Let it never be said that the one thing Scandal doesn’t do is to make sure they have multiple irons in the fire.
In “Ride, Sally, Ride,” Olivia returns to the President’s side when he needs her personally and professionally more than ever. Vice President Sally Langston has denounced him, and gone public with plans to run as a third party candidate in the upcoming election. And on top this, Sally has decided to stay on as Vice President in the meantime, saying that she cannot abandon her post. This puts everybody in a difficult position, especially the President’s long-suffering Chief of Staff, Cyrus Beene, who could take Sally down easily, knowing full well that she killed her husband in a jealous rage, but who is also unable to do anything about it, since it was he who advised her to cover it up. Adding to all the other mess going on in the White House is President Grant’s new choice for VP, the Governor of California and his former Lt. Governor when he held that job, a man named Andrew Nichols (Jon Tenney). Olivia can’t really find anything wrong with Nichols, but she and everyone else is concerned that the President has picked a white male as his running mate during a time when he needs women voters more than ever (of all the twists and turns in last night’s episode, the idea that the Republicans might give this issue more than a few moments’ worry was perhaps the hardest thing to believe of all).
I think my favorite scene last night was between Vice President Douglas and her campaign manager, the ruthlessly ambitious Leo Bergen (Paul Adelstein). At first, Sally is just muttering to him about how she let down her base when she changed her stance on abortion, but this quickly turns into the inane ramblings of a zealot when she tells Leo that it was the Devil who killed her husband, and that he invaded her body after she sinned by abandoning her principles. As she confesses all of this, you can see Leo realize that the horse he’s backed may not just be deeply religious, but that she may in fact be an actual crazy person.
I don’t think I’m the only person who’s getting a little tired of the Olivia/Fitz dynamic at this point. One minute they’re making out, and the next, Olivia is telling him they can never be together. But for the moment, it looks like Olivia will be in the President’s life, but maybe not his bed. Mellie and Olivia had a pretty great scene this week where they meet for lunch so the public can see what good friends they are. During this charade, the First Lady presents Olivia with a list of possible suitors she can date as to make people forget the speculation around her romance with the President. Olivia is insulted by this at first, but by the end of the episode, she settles on a decoy boyfriend of her choosing: good ol’ Jake Ballard. As you might’ve been able to guess, the President isn’t too happy about this, but Olivia tells him it’s how it has to be if she’s going to help his campaign. I don’t really think that Olivia and Fitz can keep their hands off each other for very long, and Jake Ballard is about as interesting as a box of rocks, but I’m happy the show is doing something to pull Olivia and President Grant away from each other, even if only for a little while.
Speaking of tumultuous relationships, “Ride, Sally, Ride” also saw Cyrus’ husband and current Speaker of the House James Novak switching allegiances for what feels like the umpteenth time by going to D.C. U.S. Attorney David Rosen with information about the cover-up surrounding the death of the Vice President’s husband. I like James as a character, but I actually think his relationship with Cyrus is more interesting when it revolves around typical married-people problems, rather than, you know, government espionage. If nothing else, I just wish he would pick a side and stick with it.
There was also some stuff going on with Quinn and her kind of boyfriend/spy instructor Charlie last night, where it appeared that he may be training her as a part of B-613 against Commander Jake Ballard’s wishes. But I’m sorry, Quinn has just been so all over the place this season, I can’t spend another minute talking about her painfully boring storyline.
“Ride, Sally, Ride” ended with a “big” reveal about potential Vice President Andrew Nichols. After telling Olivia earlier in the episode that he never got married because he blew his chance with the one woman he loved, we learned in a rather unsurprising last scene that this woman was the First Lady, Mellie Grant. It wasn’t hard to see this coming because a) we already knew that Nichols was close to the Grant administration, and b) there’s no way a show like Scandal would drop a detail like that without revealing who Nichols’ long-lost love actually was. I, for one, am totally on board with this direction. Mellie is too interesting a character to underutilize, and as this season has continued to explore her backstory, it only seems right that she be given a proper love interest. After all, if her husband is going to spend all his time trying to grope Olivia, why shouldn’t she have some passion in her life too?