Before I begin, let me remind readers that my recaps involve spoilers. I wait a day to post these so you can watch the ep for yourselves, and then read.
So let me start with the very beginning of this ep. Last week, we wondered who tried to assassinate the Prez. I thought that was going to be the main question of this episode. But as I begin to grasp Shonda Rhimes storytelling style, I understand that this isn't about who, but why.
In other words, we know these characters are ruthless. But we don't know why they are this way or how far they're willing to go.
Judge Thornton arranged the Prez's assassination and that's revealed within the first two minutes. That's the "who". The why was that after her death, she didn't want her legacy tainted by the shadow of election-rigging. To protect that beyond all reasonable doubt, the Prez needed to die.
When the Judge bluntly revealed this to him in a snark-infested deathbed confession, the Prez promptly suffocated her.
In this episode, there's a semi-comical, somewhat sensuous scene where Cyrus and James strip down to assure each other they're not wearing any listening devices. Aside for the practicality of the stripping, there's also the vulnerability. Cyrus finally, truly bares himself to James. He admits he stole the White House for the Prez, but his original intent was to actually be the President. But since he didn't have pretty boy looks and the "right" orientation, he had to settle for being the man behind the President.
But that's not all.
Cyrus puts out a hit on James, y'all. That was some next-level, old-school gangsta shit. He actually sends Charlie to shoot James on the steps of the courthouse. Cyrus calls it off last minute, of course, but it lets us know just how far he's truly willing to go. To keep James from testifying about election-rigging, Cyrus was willing to have him killed. Which is so sad considering how James, in turn, lies to the grand jury to save his husband.
In case the hacks in Hollywood are wondering, this is how you write a villain. If Cyrus doesn't make the Top 10/100 lists, someone will be getting an earful.
When Scandal first aired, some bloggers were cynical about Harrison's phrase "gladiator in a suit." They said it would never catch on and that it was a tacky catch phrase. I don't think Rhimes ever intended it to be a catch phrase, but rather a concept.
In this episode, Abby gets upset about her coworkers' meddling in her love life. Harrison apologizes for nothing and basically tells her to take her tears somewhere else. In his best speech so far, he explains what it really means to be a gladiator. Gladiators don't get to have tears. Gladiators don't get to be ride or die "sometimes." Since Olivia's gladiators are fixers by trade, if it ain't broke, they don't fix it. They don't even pay attention to it because it's irrelevant. Gladiators don't get to take off the suit; they don't quit when it gets hard or inconvenient. Gladiators are gladiators 24/7.
Huck also gives Quinn a similar speech when she offers to pay him to kill Hollis Doyle. I like seeing these men of color tell these women to cut it out with the WWT - gladiators don't WWT. If you're gonna shed WWT, you need to pack yo' shit and get the hell out.
The episode ends with both Abby and Liv being scorned women. David Rosen dumps Abby for betraying him (again) and the Prez brutally dumps Liv now that he knows she rigged his election. The preview of the next episode shows Liv possibly moving onto a brand-new guy (finally), and the team moving back to cases of their own rather than obsessing over White House drama (thank God).
Mellie and the Prez seem to reunite and reforge their alliance (which was smart for the Prez, considering what Mellie planned to do had he divorced her). David Rosen's career is most likely over, Hollis Doyle's in the clear and most likely to return, and it'll be interesting to see where the rest of this season takes us.