How far will Olivia go on Scandal to get Mellie elected president? That’s the question at the center of this episode as the first debate ends with Vice President Susan Ross as the clear winner.

Olivia is willing to go to some dark, dangerous places to win, reminiscent of Fitz’s first campaign when they rigged the election in Defiance. Thankfully, by the episode’s end, Olivia isn’t trading in her White Hat for a Black Skullcap, but that decision comes with a casualty.

The Great Debate

The first act of the episode is all about the Republican debate. Hollis Doyle is a politically incorrect misogynist in all of his Trump-like glory. Mellie Grant goes after him hard, desperately trying to point out the many reasons why he’s a total joke.

Susan Ross starts off awkward and bumbling, but then she gets her big moment. She tells the emotional story of her husband in the military who was tasked with protecting an oil pipeline in Afghanistan that helped businesses like Hollis Doyle’s make money, and then he was killed by a Taliban sniper. In one speech, she makes Hollis look like a war profiteer while making it clear that she believes she should’ve been her husband’s keeper, unlike Mellie who distances herself from Fitz.

Olivia Tries to Take Down Susan Ross

Olivia decides to use the dirt on Susan she got from Alex Vargas to tear down the vice president in order to guarantee Mellie the Oval. It seems Susan and her husband weren’t really married and he isn’t actually the father of Susan’s daughter.

The real dad, Ronnie, is in prison on drug charges. Olivia offers to help get him out in exchange for confirming the story, but Ronnie refuses. That’s when Olivia goes to the dark side, threatening to plant drugs in his cell to get him a longer sentence if he doesn’t do what she wants. He agrees and the paternity test proves he is the father.

However, Huck refuses to leak the information and convinces Quinn not to do it either because Olivia is crossing a line. Quinn goes to Abby for help to make sure Olivia doesn’t trade her White Hat for a Black Skullcap. That’s when Fitz shows up.

Fitz goes to OPA to appeal to Olivia’s sense of decency, trying to get her to run a more honorable campaign to erase the stain of Defiance. But she doesn’t seem to budge.

Fitz and Olivia Work It Out

Fitz warns Susan about what’s coming, but wants her to tell the truth and run a better campaign than he did. As proof, he even tells her all about Defiance. The next day Susan is ready to make a decision, but tragically, it’s out of her hands.

Ronnie committed suicide in prison. I guess Olivia pushed him too far. As a result, Susan’s secret is safe and she goes on, pretending to be in love with David to help her candidacy. Olivia seems to have learned her lesson about not playing dirty and the episode ends with her and Fitz sharing a drink in her office, toasting to a clean campaign. May the best woman win.

Mean Tweets with Mellie Grant

After the debate, Mellie is upset that America hates her. Marcus is tasked with accompanying her on the road to an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. They want Mellie to read mean tweets about herself. She hates the idea, then Marcus yells at her about how relentlessly annoying and unlikeable she is.

Marcus gets to Mellie and makes her realize she needs to let her guard down and become more likeable, so she reads the mean tweets and the crowd loves it. I also think I may have been write six weeks ago when I wrote an op-ed suggesting that Mellie and Marcus should start hooking up, because they appear to have some chemistry.

Cyrus Always Wins

Alex releases the dirt on Edison he got from Olivia about his time in rehab, though Cyrus isn’t sure it’s wise. Edison is upset that Olivia leaked it and demands that Papa Pope handle it. Bad idea, dude. We get another awesome, over-the-top speech from Rowan about how he’s the real boss. The scene is made even funnier by the fact that Jake just sits there eating some chicken the whole time while wearing a cute vest.

Cyrus was right as the rehab center nurse refutes the story, making Vargas look like a liar. The candidate loses faith in his brother and commits to Cyrus as his #1 guy, which is exactly how Cyrus planned it. It wasn’t Papa Pope who got the nurse to lie, it was Tom.

Next week on Scandal: The show promises a shocking, OMG moment on par with Fitz getting shot and Olivia getting kidnapped. That’s a high bar for crazy.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.