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Scandal Recap: Playing With Our Heads

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal (Richard Cartwright/ABC)
Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal (Richard Cartwright/ABC)

Peus and Sarah are still dead. All of the drones have been dismantled. Fitz and Olivia are back (in bed) together. Mellie Grant and Luna Vargas are preparing to take over the White House. Quinn Perkins is trying on wedding dresses and everything is good in Scandal land ...


... until David Rosen decides that he needs to know Sarah’s true identity. So Rowan hands Rosen a box with Sarah’s head in it and tells him to have a ball. David, naturally, takes the box to Abby Whelan’s house to put it in her freezer until Jake can come by and swab Sarah’s mouth for DNA. This should go without saying, but friends don’t bring the severed heads of their exes to their friends’ houses.

Meanwhile, it’s Fitz’s last week and a half in office, and he wants to go out with a bang. He needs to pick a high-profile person to pardon, so Olivia asks the gladiators to pick a person for Fitz to pardon while she goes off to vet Mellie’s Cabinet picks.


Quinn is worried that Olivia is going to ditch Olivia Pope & Associates for the White House. Nonetheless, she, Huck and Charlie’s presidential-pardon pick is Sean Campbell, a black man who is in prison for the murder of a white supremacist who killed a bunch of people in an act of domestic terrorism and was later acquitted by a jury of his peers. One night when Sean was drinking at a local watering hole, Domestic Terrorist (“DT”) and friends came into the bar, so Sean left. The next morning, DT’s body was found hanging from a tree, and DT’s buddy said that Sean was responsible, so Sean went to prison for it despite there being no evidence of his involvement.

Quinn, Huck and Charlie pay a visit to the bar where DT’s buddy works, and Huck accuses him of revenge-killing DT himself because DT took all the credit for their terrorist plot. The caricaturally racist guy confesses, but the gladiators still don’t have any evidence. Then everyone in the bar pulls out their guns, and Huck slams the buddy guy’s head on the bar for calling him “Nacho.”

Back in Washington, Olivia is having a farewell dinner with Rowan before he rides off into the sunset to fish, read and travel. She begs him to stay, but he warns her that he’s leaving for her own good because the only way she can maintain her position of power without risking it all is to forgo happiness, love and family.

When Quinn returns from her visit to the bar, she tells Olivia that they should pardon Sean, but Olivia wants to know 1) why Quinn is in her office and 2) why Quinn wants Fitz to ruin his legacy by getting involved in this racially motivated powder keg with no hard evidence of Sean’s innocence, just Quinn’s gut feeling. Quinn reminds Olivia that she doesn’t work for the White House, so Fitz’s legacy shouldn’t be her concern, but Olivia shuts her down and kicks her out of her office. The future of OPA is not looking bright, but Charlie tells Quinn that just because Olivia has traded in her white hat for the White House doesn’t mean they have to stop gladiating.


So Quinn gets Marcus Walker to arrange a meeting for her with Fitz, and despite trembling with fear and awe at her first visit to the Oval Office and first real interaction with Fitz, Quinn tells Fitz that he has to pardon Sean Campbell. No, Olivia doesn’t agree with her. And, no, she has no hard evidence of Sean’s innocence, just her gut, but it’s the right thing to do. Fitz thanks her for her time but says if Olivia thinks doing so is a bad idea, he’s not going to do it.

Quinn says nope and not today, saying Olivia isn’t Olivia anymore. She’s more concerned with protecting optics and maintaining relationships than working for the people and doing the right thing, says Quinn, adding that she isn’t leaving the office until Fitz signs those papers. It’s a pretty impressive showing on Quinn’s part, and Fitz agrees to hear her out.


During Fitz’s final interview as president, he confesses that he could have done more to help the nation’s most vulnerable communities, so he’s kicking off his final week in office with a series of presidential pardons, including that of Sean Campbell. Go, Quinn! He adds that reviewing these cases shows him just how unfair the criminal-justice system is, so he’ll be working on reforms, and he’s just getting started. What the hell was Fitz doing for the last eight years? No, seriously. What the hell was he doing?

Olivia returns to her office and tells Quinn that the whole pardon situation was a test to see if Quinn could run OPA even if it meant that sometimes she would have to go up against Olivia and the White House. Quinn has proved herself, so Olivia officially turns OPA over to her. You guuuuys! Remember the very first episode of Scandal when Harrison recruited the young, green Quinn to become a gladiator in that hotel lobby? Look at how far we’ve come. *Tear.*


Finally, Jake returns with some information based on Sarah’s head swab. Sarah’s name was Gertrude, and she and Peus were taking orders from someone else ... someone they need Rowan to help them take down. So Olivia stops Rowan on the tarmac just as he is about to fly off into the sunset, and brings him back to the White House. Who is this mysterious person? None other than Olivia’s mother, Maya Pope.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Akilah Green is a recovering Washington, DC lawyer-lobbyist turned TV writer-producer living in Los Angeles.

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