“Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes successfully conducted a symphony of whats, oh my Gods! and sharp gasps across the living rooms of America last night with the show’s second episode of Season 3.
Centered largely around Olivia Pope’s relationship with her menacing father, Rowan/Eli Pope, the episode – appropriately titled “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” – was a dizzying ride between Liv’s present day life and illuminating flashbacks.
The show kicked off with a scene from five years ago, where Liv promises to bring homeless Huck (still sitting in his “7:52” subway station) her doggy bag from dinner with her dear old dad. At dinner, we learn that a very non-enthused Liv has agreed to dine with pops on Sunday evenings, in exchange for him paying off her law school loans. Rowan attempts to apologize for his past behavior after they “both lost your mother.” He regales Liv with tales of his (cover) job at the Smithsonian, where he’s studying the mastodon – a cousin to the mammoth – and explains that “the mammoth gets all the glory, but the mastodon was the far more dangerous beast.” (Foreshadowing, anyone?)
All in all, Rowan seems to be “trying,” leaving Liv hopeful. She praises his paternal efforts in a phone call to her then-boyfriend, Senator Edison Davis.
On her way home, Liv is attacked by two men in a would-be subway station mugging, but is saved by homeless Huck, who springs into action and later spills the beans to Liv on how he learned to kill and his past with B613.
Meanwhile, back in the present, Fitz (President Grant) calls Liv and says he has fantasies in which they are married, have four kids, and he’s the mayor of a town in Vermont. Liv says she “makes jam” in this scenario (cue an uptick in jam recipe searches on Pinterest). Fantasies aside, Liv is going after the White House for their attempted sacrifice of Janine Locke and she’s “going to go for blood.” Fitz supports this plan, saying, “Go for the jugular.” Liv holds a press conference condemning the WH and their so-called “anonymous sources,” and asserts Janine’s innocence.
More flashbacks reveal our girl Liv didn’t used to enjoy wine (the horror!), until daddy dearest forced her to try “fine wine” at one of their Sunday dinners. She wonders if he’s ever heard of a CIA thing called B613 (“From my lofty position at the Smithsonian? No.”). She asks him to check with his FBI friend. Rowan insists it’s not legitimate and that Huck is obviously “mentally ill,” and was, in fact, recently arrested. Enter David Rosen, who is busy dealing with a busty prostitute named Licorice (thank you for that one, Shonda) when Liv introduces herself. David says Huck’s fingerprints are not in the system and that she’s definitely been lied to. Liv puts the pieces together and realizes Daddy Dearest is the diabolical leader of B613. She confronts him at dinner, where his eyes turn cooooooold – like, get your pea coat cold! – and he warns her in no uncertain terms that he’ll straight up ditch dad duties and put on his murder face if she gets in his way. Liv leaves dinner. Good move, girl.
In order to save Huck, Liv pulls a fast one on dad and brings Edison, her now-fiance, to dinner. Daddy Dearest is displeased, which results in the reluctant release of Huck on the condition that Liv breaks off her engagement to Edison, who has now creepily been the victim of a serious car accident.
Back at the present day White House, Cyrus has informed Fitz that he needs to “grow some Presidential-sized balls” and start telling the press he slept with Janine. Fitz has other plans, instructing Mellie and Cy to reply to media inquiries by stating the WH owes poor Janine an apology.
Mellie: “And if we don’t?”
Fitz: “TRY ME.” (slams door, dramatic win.)
At OLA, Quinn is power-drunk with her new hacking skills and has clearly gone crazy. She’s done the unthinkable for a Gladiator – hacked Olivia’s email. When Huck demands to know why his out-of-control mentee has crossed the privacy line, Crazy Quinn nonchalantly states, “Because I can.” Through her inappropriate probing, she discovers Liv made a deal with Daddy Dearest to free Huck from his B613 past. Huck is… derailed by the news. Daddy Dearest makes a surprise visit to OLA, where Quinn (still in the dark regarding his true identity) is surprised by how “normal” he is. Rowan demands Liv give up on proving Janine’s innocence if she ever wants to see Jake Ballard again.
During one of Liv’s nightly trips to the morgue (she checks corpse faces to make sure they’re not Jake), Mellie gets her claws into Janine. The pair make a deal – Janine will confess to an affair with Fitz in exchange for two million.
As Liv desperately tries to flip Janine before she admits to a fake affair and sells her soul on live TV, the President schedules a press conference, informing Cy that if Jake isn’t released, he will immediately blab to the press about their attempted affair cover up and they’ll be evicted from the WH. If Jake is released from B613 hell, Fitz will instead tell the press he slept with Janine. “How Presidential are my balls now, Cy?” Cyrus pulls it off and Fitz makes his faux adultery apology to the press on live TV, preempting Janine’s would-be 15 minutes of fame and screen time.
Liv then encounters an off-the-rails Huck on the way to her car. He demands to know if she made a deal with Rowan for his freedom, before lunging for her neck and choking her against a car until she admits daddy dearest is B613’s nefarious “Command.” He leaves. This can’t be good.
Back home, an exhausted and rattled Liv (enjoying a glass of her now-treasured wine) gets a phone call from good ole’ pops, who tells her to open her front door. Outside stands an emaciated, bloodied and badly-bruised Jake, who manages to utter a weak “Hi” (so reminiscent of Olitz’s sexually charged one-word greeting!) before falling to the floor. Cue Daddy Dearest through the phone: “Dinner. Sunday. My house. I’ll choose the wine.”