By Arturo R. García
Welcome back, Scandalizens, as we embark on what Shonda Rhimes and company are billing as the all-killer(s), no-filler portion of the season: eight episodes, all in a row, telling what promises to be a three-sided war within the Pope family, with another conflict brewing within Fitz’s administration, despite Cyrus’ best efforts to (nearly literally) hide the bodies.
So before mounting up tonight, let’s play catch-up under the cut. SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON.
1. Can Olivia stop her mom (and/or dad) from doing something really bad?
When last we left our gang of (largely) amoral antiheroes, O and her gang had finally figured out that, as bad as her father is, her mother is even more dangerous now that she’s been sprung from her clandestine imprisonment.
Mrs. Pope left little doubt as to her intentions, calling Olivia from near the White House. As the commercial above shows, Rowan may be de-frocked as head of Command, but he’s still around to warn her of the impending danger. Olivia’s challenge doesn’t look to be just facing her mother down — it’s managing to do so while saving Fitz from a threat that is decidedly non-political and avoiding having her name connected too closely to both parties.
2. What will Sally do?
The title of tonight’s episode, “Ride Sally Ride,” points toward some focus on Sally’s crisis of faith after she not only killed husband Daniel Douglas, but managed to cover up thanks to Cyrus. As we wrote at the time:
Unfortunately for Daniel Douglas, we see how badly Sally snapped when confronted not just by what appeared to be another lapse on his part, but the implications for her nascent presidential bid. But she barely has time to process what she’s done before she’s beset upon by demons on all side, whether it be Cyrus asking to play her personal Sin-eater, Mellie not-so-subtly nudging her into the White House’s fold, or Leo doggedly nudging her back out.
Leo’s not wrong, if only because the show needs at least one potential opponent for Fitz — more on that later — who isn’t just a guest-star. (Lisa Kudrow, we hardly knew ye.) But what will it take for Sally to summon that kind of steel, and what would it take from her to do so?
3. Will Shelby Moss make her do it?
The biggest wild card on the deck so far. All we know is what she’s told David: She’s a National Security Agency contractor, and she has proof Sally called Cyrus in as a “cleaner” following her crime.
Assuming she’s on the up-and-up, here’s what we don’t know: Why she went to David and not her superiors; how she ended up on that detail; what else she’s “overheard” during her duties. And for an even more acute angle, consider this possibility: Maybe she’s actually one of Jake’s operatives.
4. How far will Cyrus fall?
The most surprising development in the fall finale was Cyrus risking becoming a casualty of Daniel Douglas’ death. For the first time, the “monster” is left wondering where his humanity is. He might not like the answer in the end.
Cy’s crisis of confidence is a threat on multiple levels. If Ms. Moss has the goods on his phone call with Sally, who’s to say that won’t lead to evidence he set David up with Daniel Douglas, the impetus for the whole tragic chain of events?
And if Sally does decide to run her own campaign, would Cyrus even be in a position to help Fitz counter the attack? After all, he can’t tell the truth about what happened without implicating himself and potentially ruining David’s career.
5. Can Harrison escape Adnan Salif?
According to the Scandal Wikia, Harrison made a fortune working with Salif, an inside trader. But thanks to Olivia, Harrison only had to serve a six-month sentence for their crime, while Salif had to spend eight years in prison. As Maya demonstrated last year, that’s a lot of time a person can use to plan their revenge.
As is his wont, Harrison’s been playing this one pretty close to the vest; apparently Cyrus knew the most about the situation, and used it as a point of leverage against him. But when Harrison didn’t play ball, Salif was apparently let into the country. Will the rest of the Gladiators be able to help Harrison — heck, will he even tell Olivia in time?
6. Who will pay the price in the Huck/Quinn feud?
After Huck tortured Quinn in “YOLO,” she went back not only to B-613, but to Charlie, Huck’s apparent nemesis. Worst of all, what apparently started as a rebound of sorts for Quinn has turned into something as close to a real relationship as somebody like Charlie can digest. But can Quinn ever be trusted again? And how long can this psychologically unsteady triangle co-exist? Remember, Quinn owns a gun now, and the rules of Drama tell us somebody’s going to have to use it.
7. Can Fitz trust Jake?
As stunning as it was to see Rowan taken down from his perch high atop Command/B-613, it was an almost bigger stroke of genius for Fitz to install Jake in his place. After all, both of them wanted Mr. Pope out for Olivia’s sake.
But, with Rowan out of the picture, how long can this alliance really last? What does Jake plan to do with the capabilities now at his disposal? And just for kicks: What is Huck going to do when he finds out his former comrade is now in charge of the agency that damaged him for life — and Quinn’s boss, no less?
8. Can anybody stop Fitz from being re-elected?
We’ve speculated for awhile that part of the endgame for the series would involve Fitz losing office. As “Vermont Is For Lovers” showed us, Fitz seems to believe that being an ex-president would grant him and Olivia the freedom to seek a life together, since he’d be spared of his responsibilities to both the country and his family. (Make of that what you will.)
But in order for that to happen, he has to be beaten. With Rep. Marcus apparently out of the race, the Scandalverse’s Democratic front-runner would appear to be Gov. Sam Reston, the man who really should have defeated Fitz in the last election, were it not for that pesky Citron card. Reston’s bid to usurp Sally’s place as vice-president was quashed in the Season Two finale, but he resurfaced this year getting faced by Rep. Marcus. But Marcus is out of the race now, barring a Kudrow comeback. And we haven’t seen a viable alternative to Reston emerge.
The other potential contender is Sally from the extreme right-wing of this Republican party, depending on how she handles her own battle. But even with Rowan gone, Fitz is the most vulnerable player of all on the board, with multiple attacks just waiting to uncoil. He’s deathly lucky not to have a Frank Underwood to beware, but that might not be enough by the time the series wraps. Still, would he even mind losing anymore?