'Scandal' season finale recap: A new deal and burning questions

scandal-finale

Image Credit: Richard Foreman/ABC

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched Scandal‘s season finale, stop reading now. If you have, dig in. 

• Do we care as much about Quinn as we’re supposed to? Maybe it’s because I feel like everyone has seen enough TV procedurals to remember, even when you’re in shock after finding your lover dying on the floor, that YOU DON’T REMOVE THE SCISSORS FROM HIS NECK because he will bleed out even quicker. But Quinn did, and after some notable splatter, Gideon died. Naturally, she called Olivia first. Quinn wanted to call the police, but Olivia told Quinn they couldn’t because the police would find out who she really is. Olivia deemed Quinn the client and told the other reluctant associates they were cleaning the crime scene because Quinn could not be photographed, booked, or fingerprinted since her real name isn’t Quinn Perkins. In addition to breaking the law themselves by cleaning the crime scene, they’re all but guaranteeing Gideon’s real murderer will never be convicted (by a jury). They took Gideon’s Amanda Tanner files, his laptop, the murder weapon, and his cell phone.

I get that they would have been redialing everyone Gideon had phoned the night before, but I feel like once Olivia saw Billy go on TV and knew he was the killer, they should have been smart enough to turn the phone off since they no longer needed to find out with whom he’d met. Instead, U.S. Attorney David Rosen waltzed into their office following up on a neighbor’s report that Quinn had visited Gideon the night of his death, and dialed Gideon’s cell. He heard the ringing and confirmed they had cleaned the scene. Off Quinn went. Eventually, Olivia told David the full story about Amanda Tanner, Billy, and the President, and he believed her, but he wasn’t going to arrest Billy just to stop him from doing press. What David didn’t understand is why everyone was so determined to keep Quinn out of the system. He brought her dinner, and told her either she tells him who she is or he’d run a DNA test on her fork. He then took her back to Olivia’s and said it was a good thing he ran the prints himself because otherwise, half a dozen U.S. agencies would be looking for her. He was breaking the law bringing her to Olivia, which we know he doesn’t like to do. “Do you want to tell them who you are, or should I?” Olivia asked Quinn. And that was the cliffhanger. Don’t get me wrong, I’m curious to hear who she is, and, I imagine, David brought her to Olivia because he’ll have to turn her in but wanted Olivia to have her as a client (still). But we didn’t get to know Quinn well enough in the first season for me to be really worried about her — yet. You?

• Suddenly, Mellie is my favorite character! I pretty much despised the First Lady after last week’s flashback revelation that she faked a miscarriage during the campaign to help Fitz win the election — it made her a brilliant strategist but a horrific human being. I still didn’t like her when — after Billy broke into a live press conference to come clean about his affair and pregnancy with Amanda Tanner, and to accuse the president of abusing his power to take sexual advantage of her in the Oval Office – Mellie couldn’t understand why Fitz wouldn’t JUST LIE and say he doesn’t even know who Amanda Tanner is to save what they’ve worked 15 years to build. But then, something happened during Mellie’s deal-making scene with Olivia, who’d come to the conclusion that Fitz couldn’t resign as he was considering doing (more on that next), so she had to get Mellie to stand by Fitz. Mellie’s cold, calculating, confident, and controlled demeanor — while arguably evil — is also surprising and entertaining as hell. Mellie said she and Olivia used to be on the same team because they both wanted Fitz in the Oval Office. “I just don’t understand what happened…. You let that girl get into his pants!” she yelled at Olivia. “You left the team, Liv. You fell down on the job. You broke his heart, and you left him open and vulnerable and helpless, and that is how that snake Billy Chambers got that shiny red Amanda apple right into Fitz’s hand. I do my job. I smile, and I push him, and I make sure he has what he needs. I. Do. My. Job. Why couldn’t you do yours?” I assume Mellie inferred from Olivia’s silence that it’s because she actually loves the President, which is something you don’t tell the woman you’re trying to get to stay with the man. Perhaps that’s why Mellie trusted that Olivia would agree to anything that would save his presidency. “You want to deal? Fine. Let’s deal,” Mellie said. “For starters, I’m gonna need to take my husband back, because clearly I have to do everything myself from now on.” I wanted to slap her and applaud her at the same time.

Fitz came in later and was surprised to see Mellie not on her way to Santa Barbara. She told him that she and Olivia had figured out both a plan of attack for the media and who the woman on the tape is: They’d tell 20/20, who was coming to interview the First Couple in an hour, that it was Mellie. Mellie said she’d express how outraged she was that the left-leaning mainstream media played their private moment — especially at such a delicate time, when she’s newly pregnant. She said Olivia told her to be vague about far along she is, so it’d give them a few-weeks buffer to actually get pregnant. “We’ll have to start trying right away, of course,” Mellie said. “Of course,” said a stunned Fitz. “Well, Olivia can fill you in on the details. Like I always say, if you’ve got a problem, get Olivia Pope on it,” Mellie continued, shooting darts at Olivia. “You could look a little happier, honey. We did just save your presidency,” she told Fitz. “Well, I’m off to hair and makeup.” AMAZING. I’m not 100 percent sure Olivia had any part in coming up with that plan. She still seemed speechless.

Fitz told Olivia they weren’t doing this, and she said it was the only way. “What are you thinking?” he said, grabbing her and pulling her close, as if the crash of his body against hers was supposed to snap her out of this insane idea. It was hot, but it didn’t work. “Who are you right now?” he asked. “The woman who got you elected. So go be the man I voted for,” she said. When it was time for the interview, Olivia stopped Fitz to remind him to lean forward during the denials of the affair and to always look at Mellie when she was talking. “I know how to fake it with my wife,” he said. Ouch! “You taught me well.” Olivia left, handing the security guard who’s always happy to see her because she makes everything okay for Mr. Nice President her badge. I don’t think she expects to be back. But of course, she will be. Because the best thing about this show is the chemistry between Washington and Goldwyn. Which brings me to…

• The Oval Office kiss: At first, Fitz, Cyrus, and Olivia thought they could win this battle. Olivia told Fitz to continue to work — thank goodness for that cult standoff in Georgia — until they could find out what Billy was up to, besides a media tour. But then the Vice President told Fitz she was going to stay as far away from this as possible, and Olivia saw how gone Billy was shouting into the mirror in the men’s room that he didn’t care if he went down for murder because Sally Langston would be the best president the nation had ever known and that’s what matters. Man, why wasn’t Olivia wearing a wire? At that moment, Olivia thought their only play was for her to come forward and say it was her on the tape. Fitz wouldn’t be tied to Amanda’s suicide, which is how it was ruled, and he wouldn’t be impeached. “Oh, wonderful. So now we’ve got a slutty president problem. He slept with two women,” Cyrus said, wondering if there’s another option. There is, Fitz said. He resigns. With this hanging over his head, he’d be lucky to get a Parks and Rec bill passed during his remaining three years in office anyway. (Fitz watches Parks and Recreation, I bet. Swoon.)

He told Cy they’d go become regular people, and a good 60 percent of me was hoping Cy would have a heart attack right then and there. But he just stormed off (“I can’t adopt a baby!” Ha!) to give Fitz and Olivia time to have another scene we’d be rewinding. Olivia said she was sorry, but Fitz said he wasn’t. “A man who isn’t president has options. A man who isn’t president can divorce his wife…. A man who isn’t president can have a life, the life he wants, the life he’s always wanted, with the woman he loves,” he said, meeting her in the center of the Oval Office. “The cameras?” she said, making us flashback to the pilot when they moved to a wall before kissing. “I don’t care,” he said, and they kissed. Again, totally hot. You felt the passion of two people who thought they’d said goodbye forever thinking they were getting another chance.

Of course, Cyrus had to ruin it. He was waiting in the hallway, looking at his favorite painting of Alexander Hamilton, a brilliant political thinker who knew who the country needed when they needed it. He said he didn’t doubt Fitz could lead the normal life he wanted, but it would be a waste of his talent and leadership, diminish him, and hurt the country. “He can talk all he wants about a normal life,” Cyrus said. “Some men aren’t men to be happy… They’re meant to be great.” Olivia was still on the fence, but Stephen sealed her decision when he told her he was going to tell his fiancée that he’d been cheating on her. Olivia had told him if he failed at commitment, it wouldn’t be on him. But it is. He’s a cheater. It’s on him, and it will always be on her. “You can’t do this,” he said. “You can’t have him.” 1) How long has Stephen known about the affair? And 2) I took that as him saying the guilt, whether self-inflicted or from the public, will doom the relationship no matter what — as well as her career.

“Normal is overrated,” Olivia finally said. After a fragile look, she stepped back to the group and went into full Olivia Pope mode. That’s when she decided she’d need to cut a deal with the First Lady and find something the president could use to blackmail the Vice President into publicly denouncing Billy Chambers and showing the people that focusing on the president’s sex life was bad for the country. That tidbit turned out to be the fact that the conservative Veep’s teen daughter had an abortion. “Thanks, Sally. That will be all,” Fitz concluded, nonchalantly. Cut to her giving a press conference calling the lies Billy’s been spreading ridiculous. Having seen that, Billy may actually have committed suicide for real given the chance, but we saw him be joined in his apartment elevator by Charlie, the hired gun who’d killed Amanda. Huck had told Olivia he’d get rid of Billy if she asked, but Olivia made him promise he wouldn’t. (Kerry Washington looked appropriately nervous about the monster Olivia’s awakened.) I think she meant don’t have anyone kill him, but Huck convinced Charlie that Billy could turn on him (or so we thought), so he needed to make it look like a suicide with a note saying he’d been lying. We didn’t see what happened, but I assume Billy died. The twist: It’s not because he hired Charlie to kill Amanda, it’s just because Charlie’s afraid of Huck. At the end of the episode, we saw Charlie show up at Cyrus’ house. Cyrus had hired him to kill Amanda, after all. (The president didn’t know, right? That’s my assumption.) Now Charlie wants the rest of his money so he can get out-of-town, like he told Huck he would. You think Billy is definitely dead, right? That faux suicide note will read awfully convincing after the public humiliation.

• Is Fitz a manipulator, a victim, or both? That’s the question I care most about going into season 2. Why? Partly, as I’ve said before, this character’s penchant for sexy silence and dirty talk has finally allowed me to forgive Tony Goldwyn for what his character did to Patrick Swayze’s in Ghost. So I just want to make sure Fitz is worth it. And partly, it’s because the more you rewind Fitz’s sexiest moments, the more you realize they could be douchey if his demonstrative nature with Olivia (“Take off your clothes”) is at all a part of a power trip. Hearing the First Lady’s speech to Olivia about how she let Fitz down, she made him sound weak. But this man will blackmail the Vice President. This man does agree to go on national TV and lie to save his presidency. He has cojones. Should we believe he’d have the strength to walk away from it all for Olivia if he really wanted to? Or, is everyone handling him, so he simply has to play the cards they deal him? Did he and Mellie ever love each other, or was it always more of a business arrangement because they wanted to end up in the same place — the White House?

Let’s put some burning questions to a vote.



Follow: @EWMandiBierly

Read more:
GALLERY: ‘Scandal’ joins readers’ picks for TV’s 24 sexiest scenes
‘Scandal’: Who’s STILL talking about last week’s sexy flashback episode?
EW’s season finales HQ with calendar, walkups, recaps, and postmortem interviews

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