Despite ABC’s nonsensical attempt to market the past two weeks’ episodes as some kind of two-part midseason finale “event” (I assume that, soon, at least 50 percent of every TV show’s episodes will be given some sort of “finale” label), “A Door Marked Exit” stands on its own as Scandal‘s final statement until February 27. And that’s a relief, because the last thing I wanted to see before the hiatus was more of the Huck-and-Quinn-and-Charlie torture porn that all but ruined last week’s episode. Instead, Scandal focused on its most pressing — and mind-bendingly tangled — storylines, and even delighted with a few twists that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Before we get to the good stuff, though, let’s acknowledge that there was a bit of Quinn drama this week and quickly get it out of the way. In the final minutes of “YOLO,” she’d finagled a meeting with Rowan and was poised to stab him with her syringe-of-death. Of course, her plan is foiled immediately and Rowan’s off to the airstrip and Quinn is left to extract the tracking device Huck planted in her mouth with her bare hands in a public restroom before taking off with Charlie. The pair make a cameo in Sally’s house, cleaning up the body and crime scene. Later, safe(ish) in their sociopathic love nest, she laments to him, “I used to be normal.” This is not true. Quinn has always been twitchy, hyper, and obsessive — now she’s just channeling those symptoms into practical things, like hacking and torture.
The thing is, her heart isn’t in B613; it’s with the Gladiators. And so Quinn slips out of Charlie’s apartment, appearing back at the office, to the surprise of her colleagues. She appeals to Huck, but she’s dead to him — he says he isn’t sorry for pulling her teeth out. He wishes he’d peeled off her skin and killed her, too. After all, she betrayed Liv! It’s not exactly the homecoming she expected. By the time the hour’s out, she’s back at Charlie’s, having finally picked a side. Or not. Honestly, she’s flip-flopped so many times over the past few weeks, and I care so little about all three of the characters involved in this subplot, that I would just as soon see Quinn get killed off in February as endure another half-season of her wishy-washy life as a spy with two equally horrifying love interests.
I feel precisely the opposite way about Cyrus — constantly in the running against Mellie for the title of Scandal‘s best character — who’s tasked this week with picking up after murderous holy roller Sally and her dead, gay husband.
In case it wasn’t clear in the final moments of “YOLO” that Sally had stabbed Daniel to death, “A Door Marked Exit” opens with the positively bananas scene of the couple fighting like a pair of Real Housewives. Daniel reads his wife like a book, insisting that she knew he was gay all along, and didn’t care because he was a good-looking man who’d put up with “shrill Sally” and her political ambitions, all because he needed to hide his true identity from his family. Sally has, by this point in her hysteria, begun speaking solely in the kind of epic, biblical language practiced by street-corner preachers who have spent some time in mental institutions. “You are my cross to bear,” she barks at Daniel. “You are my original sin.” He says he’s leaving, she stabs him, the camera transforms into a strobe light, signaling to us that this is some kind of psychotic break for Sally.
“We had a fight. The devil came in,” she rants to Cyrus when he arrives to help her cover up what she’s done. He springs into action — well, after a moment of gratuitously graphic barfing — and between calling in B613 and manipulating the doctor who arrives to examine Daniel’s freshly stitched-up and tucked-into-bed body, he manages to get the veep off the hook. Well, for the time being.
But his conscience is still ailing him the next morning, when Mellie comes waltzing in with the good news about Daniel. “I am the devil,” he tells her, confessing everything. (I love these two as diabolical confidantes.) Mellie’s admirably ice-cold response: “Pull it together.” Still, it’s a softer Cyrus we see throughout the rest of the episode, as he lays the future of their relationship at his husband’s feet. It takes James a while to figure out what to do (he is, remember, not so bright), but in the end he decides that he would like to be the White House’s press secretary and makes that the condition for staying in the marriage.
In any case, Sally and her co-conspirator don’t end up entirely in the clear. Although David mistrusts James when he shows up with the real story of Daniel’s murder, David’s new tech-wiz sidekick is able to recover audio from Sally’s panicked phone call to Cyrus. And he isn’t even the only one who figures it out. Hearing Sally rant (“Daniel Douglas is in hell… yadda, yadda… godless… yadda, yadda… sodomite”), Leo realizes that she killed him — and, helluva guy, is just mad she didn’t call him first instead of Cyrus.
Meanwhile, the saga of Olivia and her parents and Fitz and Operation Remington continues. This week, the president finally gets some quality time with Rowan/Eli, cutting him off as he drives to the airstrip and plunking him down in a bare room at the Pentagon for the duration of Maya/Marie’s flight to Hong Kong. As frustrating and controlling and creepily misogynistic as I find Papa Pope, it was pretty cathartic to hear him say everything I’ve ever thought about Fitz: “You are a boy”; “You love that [Olivia] is a door marked exit”; “Don’t use the person I made to make you into a man.”
As this is going on, the Gladiators are learning about Maya/Marie (thanks, David! Please stop talking about putting parts of your body inside parts of Abby’s!). She turns out to be an international spy sent to the US to steal national secrets from Rowan/Eli. And when Jake and Huck manage to locate him and Fitz, Liv regales them with her hypothesis about Remington: her father pulled her mom off the plane, but his interrogation revealed that there was still a bomb on board. That’s why Fitz had to shoot down the plane, even though Maya/Marie wasn’t on it anymore. Wait, no! It occurs to Liv that her mother was a mercenary, not some ideologically driven suicide bomber. She wouldn’t have been planning to die on that plane. What Liv’s left with is the realization that her mom lied. She told Rowan/Eli that there was a bomb when there wasn’t one; Fitz shot down the plane and killed all those people because Olivia’s father was duped into making him do it.
It’s a brilliant theory, the one we’ve been waiting for all season. Too bad Papa Pope refuses to tell his daughter whether she’s right. Too bad that when she calls him later, he says he’ll never give her the answers she’s looking for about her mother and what happened on that day when she was 12. Since I’d sure rather see Liv end up with him than Fitz, it’s also too bad that Jake — fresh off a goodbye kiss and a heartfelt “I love you” — finishes off the episode occupying Rowan/Eli’s desk as the head of B613. I’m a bit puzzled that (unless I missed something) usurping the throne was so easy, not to mention doubtful that Jake and Fitz will continue to play nicely together now that they’re the two most powerful men in the world. But, since this is Scandal, what bothers me most is watching Olivia just transfer her daddy issues from one boyfriend to the next.
All that aside, Rowan/Eli is hardly the parent “A Door Marked Exit” leaves us thinking about. Because, guess what? Maya/Marie may have slaughtered everyone on her private plane, but she hasn’t actually left DC. Yes, there’s Olivia’s mother placing a call to her daughter from — where else? — the street in front of the White House. “Don’t worry, sweetheart,” she says. “I’ll see you real soon.” That might be true in Scandal time, but those of us watching the show will have to wait an excruciating two and a half months to witness this reunion. I’m betting we don’t even know the half of the Pope family’s story yet.