Let’s! Do! This! Scandal’s first episode of season seven opens with a cable news host (who is, oddly, not Sally Langston) telling us that Cyrus has been sworn in as VP and that Mellie has “come out swinging,” pegging the free college bill Frankie Vargas ran on her as a target in the first 100 days.
Shonda comes out swinging, too: Olivia enters to the strains of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” runway-strutting down a West Wing corridor in slo-mo intercut with footage of a standard issue stodgy old white man trying to filibuster and bluster the future into submission on a news program.
OLIVIA. IS. A. VISION.
Her hair has a life to it that makes me want to praise-shout. The camera cannot stop peeping her sharp-toed stilettos. They’re white with gold trim. She’s wearing a black suit with white piping and a white camisole underneath. She’s got a Camry-sized white purse on her arm. The whole ensemble is the costume designer telling us, with regard to Olivia’s moral compass, “You think you know, but you have no idea.”
Kerry Washington looks so good here it’s ridiculous. Also ridiculous: at one point, while walking through the West Wing, some random staffer (let’s call her the Undersecretary of the Interior) full on checks Olivia out. Like a full body survey. I half expected her eyes to bug out of her head while she howled like a cartoon wolf. Shonda, why do you do this to me?
Waiting in Olivia’s office is the standard issue stodgy old white man who’s doing this whole “no matter what you say, I’m voting no” thing. Olivia opens a safe and retrieves an envelope that might as well read, “BLACKMAIL. JUICY! SEX STUFF AND ETC.” It’s worth noting that this safe is full to bursting with similar envelopes.
Meanwhile, at the newly minted Quinn Perkins & Associates, the gang is haranguing David to get them clients. Apparently no one in D.C. knows who Quinn, the coffee-making assassin, is. Eventually a random woman walks in and asks them to help her find her father.
Speaking of dads, Olivia and Papa Pope have another white tablecloths and wine dinner. He’s salty because he thinks she’s watching his every move. She’s like, “Nah, man.” But she clearly is, right? Like, we’re going to get a shot of her in her Batcave with a wall of video cameras showing her father from different angles, aren’t we?
Papa Pope is pissed. “You are like looking into the window of my past. All I could create was me. There is a reckoning coming for you, Olivia.” And that, folks, is our thesis for this season.
We jump to Olivia, who is on the talking head show from earlier opposite a delicious contrarian snack named Curtis Pryce. He’s against free college; Olivia basically destroys him. This scene serves two purposes: one, allows Shonda to make the case for free college and two, confirms to us that they’re going to bang.
Back at QPA, they’re looking for a man missing in Bashran. Huck does his Huck magic and finds the guy in seconds. (Is this really how computers work? How is it that my GPS has trouble finding the nearest Krispy Kreme but Huck can find clear video camera footage of a missing man in Bashran like he’s searching for cat videos?)
Turns out the guy is a spy. Quinn bumps it up to Olivia, who bumps it up to Jake who is between bumping and grinding sessions. Jake tells Olivia that since the spy’s been captured, they’ll need to kill him so he doesn’t talk. Olivia (who is wearing all-black in this scene) is hesitant about it.
Cyrus meets with an Elizabeth Warren-type who tells him that she thinks he should start planning his run for president in four years. She rattles off all his details: gay, ran with a Latino Democrat, serves under a Republican woman, adopted a black daughter, spent time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. She describes this as “the liberal dream,” which feels kind of like a read, to be honest. Like, good for Cyrus that people think he’s not a political poison but I just don’t see it. No shade but Cyrus Beene is not the liberal dream, honey. The liberal dream is 1) Literally anyone who can beat Trump or 2) Michelle Obama.
Reality aside, Olivia now has two men in her life who are chafing under her leadership. Cyrus doesn’t like being treated, well, like a Vice President and sent on missions to whip votes and meet girl scouts. What did he expect this was going to be? Also, Cyrus needs to sit on his hands. He murdered his husband and he’s never going to be president. He is no Michelle Obama.
And Jake is pissed that Olivia won’t kill the missing spy. He goes behind her back and convinces Mellie that he needs to be taken out. Mellie agrees. At the last minute, Olivia goes to the Bashrani ambassador and threatens to have Huck kill his son unless he releases the spy. The plan works and the ambassador has the spy delivered to the American Embassy in Bashran just before a SEAL team takes him out. Olivia manages to get from the Bashran Embassy to the Situation Room in the time it takes a Navy SEAL team to knock down a door. What can I say? Her strut is powerful.
That evening, Jake drops by Liv’s place to apologize for undercutting her with Mellie. Liv tells him that she let him get too comfortable and kicks him to curb, sexually-speaking. “Go home to your wife, Admiral Ballard,” she says. Oh snap! I forgot that he had a wife. What a mess, girl. Go call that shiny-haired snack from the talking heads show.
The hour ends with a showdown in the Oval between Olivia and Mellie, in which Mellie challenges Olivia’s authority. Mellie doesn’t want to be a puppet. Olivia’s like, “But ya are, Blanche. Ya are!” Olivia rounds the office, facing Mellie from behind the Resolute Desk, as “It Takes Two” begins blasting on the soundtrack.
“You have to stop thinking of me as an employee and you have to start thinking of me as what I am,” Olivia bellows.
“And what is that?” Mellie asks.
“The boss.” Olivia replies.