This week's Scandal picks up in the middle of the first Republican presidential debate, with Hollis Doyle serving us his best Donald Trump impersonation—an all-you-can-eat buffet of deep-fried racism and sexism. Sen. Mellie Grant holds her own, but Vice President Susan Ross, still reeling from her breakup with Attorney General David Rosen, performs so poorly that President Fitz Grant says that she appears to be having a stroke.
After Fitz gives Susan a middebate pep talk, however, she comes back strong and clinches the victory with a stirring speech about how her husband, a soldier, died in Afghanistan protecting one of Hollis' companies, which inspired her to want to be America's keeper (or something powerful and moving like that).
Olivia crosses the line. Naturally, Mellie has a full meltdown after losing the debate to Susan, but Olivia Pope is confident that they will win the presidency … especially since Olivia has learned from Alex Vargas, her Democratic opponent's campaign manager, that Susan was never married to the soldier who died in Afghanistan. In fact, Quinn Perkins finds out that the soldier wasn't even the father of Susan's daughter, Casey. Olivia goes back to Alex for more dirt, and in exchange for giving Alex a source at the rehab facility where presidential candidate Edison Davis checked in years ago, Olivia learns that Casey's father is Susan's high school sweetheart, Ronnie, who is currently in prison for drug charges.
Olivia offers Ronnie an early release if he takes a paternity test, but when Ronnie refuses to do something that would harm Susan's chances of getting to the White House, Olivia goes into a blind rage. She foams at the mouth. She throws chairs. She even threatens to plant drugs on Ronnie! With no other option, Ronnie takes the paternity test. Even Quinn and Huck, both former B613 agents who have tortured and killed people, by the way, thought Olivia went too far. Huck refuses to make the results public because he doesn't want to rip Susan's family apart, and Quinn tattles to Abby Whelan that Olivia has replaced her "white hat with a black skull cap."
The next thing you know, Fitz is at Olivia Pope & Associates "keeping it real" with Olivia. He warns her that she should try to win this election fair and square, as opposed to how they played dirty and rigged Fitz's first election win: "We don't have to be those people anymore." Defiance dies hard, guys. Fitz also convinces Susan to come clean with America, but before she can, Ronnie hangs himself in prison. *slow tear*
It was such a sad moment, but no one seemed fazed. Olivia doesn't even blink, even though it's totally her fault! In fact, we don't even get a response from Susan. Instead, she continues on with a series of interviews with David, who begs for her forgiveness, to which Susan replies, "You're a prop, David. That's all." Then Fitz and Olivia agree to run clean campaigns and toast to it in her office. Can we get a moment of silence for Ronnie, though??
Cyrus always comes out on top. Over the objections of his brother, presidential candidate Frankie Vargas, Alex confirms with a source at Meridian Point rehab facility that Edison checked in there to treat his pain-pill addiction. Later, when asked by a reporter if, in light of the news, he feels that Edison is qualified to be president, Frankie simply says that he's glad Edison got the help he needed.
Of course, Edison is livid about Olivia revealing his addiction secret and foolishly says as much to Papa Pope, who reads him for dirt and debris. He warns Edison that should Edison forget who he is again, Meridian Terrace will be the least of his worries. "Keep out of my sight and keep my daughter's name out of your mouth."
Later, the woman who confirmed that Edison checked into Meridian Point backtracks on her story and calls out Frankie for speaking out of turn about unsubstantiated claims. It's clear that someone got to her after Alex did, and as it turns out, it was Cyrus Beene, who sent Tom Larsen to make the woman retract her story. Of course, her doing so makes Frankie look like a fool, when he told Alex that he didn't want to play dirty in the first place. As a result, Frankie demotes Alex and officially promotes Cyrus above Alex as his new campaign manager. Cyrus had been plotting all along about how to get Alex out of his way so he could run Frankie's campaign, and Cyrus plays to win, guys. This is chess, not checkers.
Mellie reads "Mean Tweets." After losing the debate, Mellie feels as if America hates her, so Olivia assigns Marcus to take Mellie to Los Angeles so she can read “Mean Tweets” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! At first Mellie doesn't understand how reading insults can help her image, but Marcus humbles her by letting her know that he doesn't even like her, and he's paid to like her! He also shares a few mean things that people have tweeted about him, like calling him "high booty." Ultimately, Mellie decides to go for it, and she's a hit! And I think I caught a spark between Mellie and Marcus. This is how it starts …
In the meantime, RIP, Ronnie. I care, even if nobody else cares.
Akilah Green is a recovering Washington, D.C., lawyer-lobbyist-politico turned TV and film writer and producer living in Los Angeles. She currently works for Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show, Chelsea. She has also worked as a staff writer for Kevin Hart’s production company, HartBeat Productions, and as a consultant for Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO. In addition, she co-wrote and is producing Scratch, an indie horror-comedy feature film, and is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow Green’s adventures in La La Land on her blog, Twitter and Facebook.