Scandal Watch: Welcome Back, Gladiators

"You’re skipping around in a field full of bombs and mistaking them for daisies."

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While the Northern Hemisphere froze during Scandal’s glacial two-month hiatus, Fitz and Olivia’s relationship certainly wasn’t put on ice. Within the first few minutes of the show’s return, we saw that things have progressed to the point that the two are making out with reckless abandon in the Oval Office like hormonal teenagers who don’t care who sees them — including Mellie who walked in on the two horndogs. (I mean, what’s the worst thing that could happen, right?)

But we’ll get back to their codependent relationship later. Let’s start with a look at the lady for whom the episode, titled “Ride, Sally, Ride,” is named: new presidential nominee Sally Langston.

At least Jesus loves Sally Langston

Sally might have murdered her husband, literally stabbing him in the back, but that’s not going to stop her from running for president. The episode opens with a press conference in which everyone expects Langston to resign and announce her candidacy against Fitz. If only things were that easy. Unwilling to relinquish any power, or opportunity to undermine the Commander in Chief (God bless America!), Langston instead announces to the American public that she is, in fact, staying put. Rather than resigning, she’ll run against Fitz from within the administration. We expected nothing less dramatic.

And so begins the Langston smear campaign, which largely revolves around her gender, because “crazy lady” has such a better ring to it than plain old “crazy.” Cyrus wants to expose Sally for the “pro-life homophobic bitch she is.” When Mellie hears smear suggestions that play off of Langston’s irrationality as a mourning widow, the First Lady grins: “Sexist. Perfect.” Sally’s right hand man Leo Bergen gives her a pep talk that even though the administration will try to make the public see her as a woman “suffering from hot flashes,” she can overcome the stereotype. After all: “You know, Jesus loves you.”

New Fitz is much like the old Fitz: Needy and quasi-irrational

Fitz calmly reacts to Sally’s refusal to resign by chucking a scotch glass at Cyrus’ head and then pouring himself a new one before its predecessor hits the ground. Even Olivia can’t calm him down. “Fitz, you need to stop drinking — it’s not even lunchtime. What if Iran declares war on us?” Olivia says. “Why don’t you ask Sally,” whines the President of the United States. (Ugh.)

Fitz pouts and then announces that his new vice presidential nominee will be his old single white male pal from California, who will give the unpopular president no more political capital, in spite of Cyrus, Mellie, and Olivia’s protests. Because Fitz wantsta. He then kicks Olivia (the woman in whose throat his tongue just took residence) out of the office because of their disagreement. Sally sucks, but it’s going to be a struggle to root for this guy’s reelection.

Meet Andrew Nichols, SWP (Single/White/Playboy)

This episode introduced us to Fitz’s California crony, Andrew Nichols, who has dated half of Hollywood. “But he’s an age appropriate playboy for the most part so, y’know, props for that,” Abby says. This guy has been with CEOs and supermodels — no, wait, just one supermodel, one swimsuit, and one runway. “The fact that you know the difference is a problem,” Olivia says, who is unimpressed not only with the VP hopeful but with his lame rationalization that he hasn’t settled down because he falls in love with women who also love their work. After Pope pushes his buttons — saying you’re gay or a mama’s boy would be preferable to these talking points! — Nichols reveals that his one true love rejected him, so he decided to marry the job. Who can this mystery woman be? In classic Scandal style, the last minute of the episode reveals that Nichols only has eyes for Mellie. The first lady could use some loving, so we’re pro-this storyline.

Sex Scandals, Amirite?

Even though Fitz and Olivia are locking lips around the White House, we all thought that their risk of being outed was so 10 episodes ago. But when Abby makes a TV appearance (!) debating Bergen, Langston’s right hand man decides now is the time to resurface the Pope-Fitz affair rumors. Which are totally ridiculous! Except not at all. While Abby, shocked, says that those rumors were “put to bed” long ago, Bergen retorts to the show’s host, “‘Put to bed’ is an interesting choice of words, am I right, Ashley?” Ugh, because Bergen is totally the “Amirite” guy.

When Abby apologizes for being caught off guard, Olivia appears unbothered. “He went low, we have to go lower,” she says. Scandal is a game of moral limbo. And luckily the characters have Cirque du Soleil-levels of flexibility.

Mellie is the new Patti Stanger

Blamed by Cyrus for the renewed rumors about Olivia and Fitz, Mellie goes on damage control. She sets up a very public lunch with Olivia so that they can girltalk in front of the paparazzi. Mellie also provides Liv with a list, on official White House stationery no less, of eligible bachelors that Olivia is mandated to date in order to throw suspicion off her and the president. Unlike Millionaire Matchmaker star Patti Stanger, however, Mellie doesn’t have a two-drink maximum. “I know how you love your wine,” Mellie says with a raised eyebrow after ordering an expensive bottle to kill at the table. If Real Housewives had a Beer Summit, this would be it.

This tactic proves effective. Olivia threatens to resign to save Fitz, Fitz freaks and refuses her resignation (because he’d probably sell state secrets to keep sleeping with Liv), and then Olivia decides to set up a for-the-cameras romance with Jake. All it takes is Olivia to ask him, “Are you a patriot?” (is anyone on this show?) to become her fake boyfriend. But can it work? After all, they really seemed to like each other at one point. Team Jake!

Father-daughter bonding time gone wrong

Olivia wasn’t just sitting down with Mellie this week. She also sought out her father, who was doing some soul searching in his favorite spot: in front of Iwo Jima. It starts off as a vaguely endearing scene: Olivia says that while the quote “Uncommon valor was a virtue” written on the monument used to remind her of her mother — who, in case you forgot, was actually a horrible terrorist who’s now on the run — it now makes her think of her Dad, who let Olivia hate him to protect her image of her mother. While Olivia tries to comfort Rowan on losing his job as head of B613 when Fitz put Jake in charge, Daddy Pope isn’t having it.

“The married man you can’t seem to stay away from had me abducted and locked me up in chains and spoke to me about how you taste while he allowed the terrorist who snaked her way into my marriage bed to clear US air space,” he says. “The greatest weapon I can use against him calls me ‘Dad.’” Yikes. Other fatherly advice: “You’re skipping around in a field full of bombs and mistaking them for daisies.”

Rowan suggests his daughter takes flight instead because her boyfriend is awful (true) and will be the subject of his revenge. “Start grieving now, Olivia.”

Publius is the new Deep Throat

Lest we forget, Sally Langston murdered her husband, Daniel Douglas — although Langston tells Bergen that it wasn’t her, but the devil who possessed her body. Sigh. A reporter named Vanessa — who we really hope proves to be more Woodward than Zoe Barnes — gets a text from a source named Publius telling her to ask around about why Douglas’ autopsy report was never released to the public, which she then raises as a member of the White House Press Corps. This causes Abby and Huck to pose as Washington Post reporters to visit the coroner, who lies through her teeth about Douglas’ death. Why? Because Quinn and crazy Charlie kidnapped her child, ostensibly threatening his safety if she talked. Quinn, Gladiator you are not.

It only takes to the end of the episode to find out that Publius is actually James, who is now determined to work with David Rosen to take down his husband. “He’s a monster, he’s powerful, and he thinks he doesn’t have a weakness but he does. Me.”

Harrison gets a storyline

Harrison spent the episode freaking out about someone dangerous from his past named Adnan Salif. While we first thought it was some deranged male psychopath, it turns out that Adnan is a sexy woman. Then they have sex on a desk. Obviously.

Important Notes:

Total Oval Office make-outs: 2

Scotch glasses thrown at people’s heads: 1

Soundtrack used for this week’s scheming session: Charles Wright’s “Express Yourself

Call out to readers:

Fitz and Olivia’s relationship might be dysfunctional, but it isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Thus, for word count’s sake, we think that it’s appropriate to give them a Bennifer nickname. Should we go with Poptz? Folivia? Nominations are welcome.