‘Scandal’ Season 3 Episode 8 Recap: “Vermont Is for Lovers, Too”

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It sure is, isn’t it? Fans who recognized a callback to Olivia and Fitz’s escape to Vermont, make jam, and have babies fantasy from earlier this season may have suspected that this episode would bring Scandal‘s central couple together. What we (or maybe I should just say “I”) didn’t expect was a lovemaking (and that is the only word that can be used to describe this soft-focus barrage of positions) scene straight out of a cheesy ’80s romance movie.

But “Vermont Is for Lovers, Too” was full of surprises — not many of them good, I’m afraid, and several more difficult to believe than the Mellie rape storyline from last week. First, I suppose, we’ve got to talk about Olivia’s just-revealed-to-be-alive mother, Maya, whose name I have trouble remembering because I’m so excited to see Khandi Alexander. And boy did she get to exercise her acting chops last night! After Rowan tells her that Liv has been asking too many questions about her mother and he needs to move her out of the country, Maya begs to see her daughter first. When he refuses, she chews her own wrists until she bleeds profusely. Well, that’s something Shonda’s never shown us before!

Maya wakes up in the hospital, where Rowan has brought her a collection of news clippings about Olivia. When Mama Pope asks why he doesn’t have any photos of her from family gatherings, an argument ensues about his parenting (or lack thereof). “Don’t forget whose fault that is,” Rowan tells Maya at one point. This suggests she isn’t totally innocent in the “Omar Dresden” affair. So when will we find out What Maya Did? Well, the next episode (which airs in two weeks; no Thanksgiving Gladiators for us, unfortunately) is the midseason finale, so that’s not a bad guess.

Meanwhile, in Gladiatorland, Quinn has begun working as a B613 mole. She’s got an odd, still quasi-romantic “How was your day of spying for our top-secret government assassin crew, dear?” relationship going with Charlie. And this week, she’s dead set on making sure her colleagues aren’t able to identify her in any footage of the security-guard murder. Of course, Huck eventually picks her out of the pixels, and we leave them on the verge of what I can only assume will be a Very Serious Conversation.

Then there’s the Josie Marcus campaign, which brought forth a kind of lame storyline about a stolen laptop. Josie’s sister/daughter/employee Candace is eager to pin the theft on the Reston campaign… and what do you know? That is, in fact, where the computer is found. Weird thing, though: it doesn’t actually have on it all the important documents Candace claimed it did. Of course, seasoned Scandal viewers could spot this subplot’s punchline a mile away. Yes, folks, it was Candace who planted the laptop and framed the Reston campaign. But, still racked with guilt over all those years of lies about her daughter’s parentage, it’s Josie who decides to take the fall. Just like that, she’s out of the presidential race. I suppose this mean that’s all for Lisa Kudrow on Scandal — and I’ve got to tell you, I find that disappointing. In what has been a pretty strong season overall, Kudrow’s Josie Marcus only really got one shining moment (the sexism speech!), amid a lot of gimmicky, perfunctory storylines. We were just starting to know and like this character, and I wish Rhimes et al. would have given us at least a few more episodes with her.

Anyway, there is a small silver lining to this week’s Josie Marcus swan song: Harrison! In bed with Candace! Oh, sure, it’s just a few moments — and a delightfully bitchy parting of ways — but we never get glimpses into Harrison’s personal life. More of this, please. (I’m hoping that business with his former employer will come back to bite Harrison sooner or later, and we’ll see a lot more of him in the second half of the season.)

My favorite of this week’s many scattered storylines was Cyrus fixing up James (poor, apparently quite stupid James!) with the opportunity to interview Sally’s husband, Daniel, in attempt to catch the Second Man (SMOTUS?!) on tape making a pass at his own husband. Mellie cautions Cy that he’s playing with fire, but he assures her that his spouse is more faithful than hers. And he is — until Daniel lets slip that Mellie intimated to him that Cy and James’ marriage is open and he figures out that Cy is using him as a pawn. Then, as we discover when the steamy photos hit Cyrus’ phone, James gets back at his husband by going for it with Daniel. I have no doubt that the power balance will have shifted by the end of next week’s episode, but for now, James has at least reclaimed a bit of autonomy.

And finally, I guess I can’t end without checking back in on Olivia and Fitz. He calls her and calls her and calls her. She smashes her phone. Jake tells her that Fitz is going to find a way to get to her eventually. He is, after all, the president. And, of course, he does, when one of his minions shows up with a photo of Liv and Rowan together. (Here’s hoping the White House is kind enough to make a copy for Maya!) Then she’s whisked off in a helicopter to Vermont, where Fitz has built that haute-rustic cabin they dreamed about. Sure, sitting presidents commission love nests for their sometime girlfriends all the time!

First they’re fighting. Then Fitz makes the big revelation: “This house is yours. Ours. I had it built for us.” Then she’s running to him, and they’re kissing. And then: the lovemaking! So much of it! So silly! Almost cheesy enough to be just perfect! Of course, Liv doesn’t leave without the two of them talking business. “Your father has to be shot,” says Fitz. “Do what you need to do,” says Liv. Thus parts Scandal‘s central couple — and one whose on-again-off-again romance is becoming deadly boring and predictable. Fitz’s conversation with Mellie after his return to the White House suggests that we’ll soon see her in that campaign manager position. But is there possibly any new ground to cover in this love triangle?

This brings us to the end of the episode: Khandi — sorry, Maya! — has pulled off a last-minute escape from the hospital, stabbing her doctor with the syringe he was going to use to sedate her. This is dramatic, sure, but it also suggests Maya has some next-level combat skills. In the final moments of “Vermont Is for Lovers, Too,” we see Maya approaching Liv, calling her name, and the shock of recognition on our heroine’s face. Looks like this is where we’ll be picking up next week (if Shonda can resist half an episode’s worth of teasing misdirection), in a midseason finale that I can only hope will improve on this messy chapter.