Scandal Season 4 Ep. 10 Recap: "Run"

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“Girl, you need to move on.” Those words were uttered by Maya Pope—international terrorist, world's worst mother, and tea clocker—in the middle of a rafter-raising rant by her daughter about needing her help to find her equally monstrous father Eli, a task she should be good at since, as Olivia explained, she likely possessed a “PhD in his crazy.” Maya went on to call Olivia and her former husband two sides of the same coin; obsessive, lonely workaholics with no life outside the toxic environment Washington D.C. politics.

Olivia took this not-so-motherly-but-generally-bitchy advice to heart in the mid-season finale “Where The Sun Don't Shine.” She stopped Jake from talking about Eli, put on some music and danced halfway decently while telling him she chose herself, Fitz, Vermont, and him, and wanted to celebrate by making love on a piano. At least before she was kidnapped by some masked man, spilling the good wine on her couch as she was dragged off to some unknown destination. In retrospect, it appears Mama Pope's other gif-worthy phrase—“Look around boo. I'm in a cage,” may prove to be more helpful to her child.

“Run,” the premiere episode of the second half of Scandal's fourth season, finds Olivia Pope becoming well-acquainted with the concept of captivity as she fights and schemes to escape from a prison. While much has been written and said—much of it by Scandal characters--about Olivia being trapped in the world of D.C. politics, it has, for the most part, been an emotional trap. No matter how high the stakes, Olivia has been able to pretty much come and go as she pleases; there was always another move, another secret to use for leverage, another bottle of wine or pants suit or door to power walk through to help her handle whatever crisis plagued her or one of her clients at the moment.

What “Run” does so masterfully over the course of its hour is have it slowly, terrifyingly dawn on Olivia that none of her accomplishments or high-powered connections will rescue her from this latest hell. Save for some much-appreciated shirtless, panicked running by Jake, the episode is all Olivia, filling in the blanks on just how she vanished without a trace before using the rest of its time to show just how bad her circumstances are.

After being sedated by her captors, Liv awakens to find herself in some godforsaken jail in what she thinks is Somalia. Liv's cell mate is Ian, a journalist whose wife (also a journalist) was killed by a car bomb in Afghanistan. Ian doesn't have good news for our gal; he makes up a tale that his previous cell mate Bradley was let go after his people paid his ransom, but later confesses he was likely shot and killed. Along with her captors, Ian makes a point to tell her more than once that there is no way out.

Liv being Liv, she does escape, only to run out onto a sound stage showing footage of the middle east. Turns out, she's been participating in some bizarre test set up by—surprise!--Ian, a twist that snaps the previous action into place. While it may have been easy to dismiss the other men's claims there was no way out as arrogant douchebag taunts, Ian presented himself as lost and broken. As he later tells Olivia, she truly feels she has to save everyone, and knew placing her with someone weaker than herself would spur her into action.

We don't learn much about Ian (if that's his real name) in “Run,” but he's likely connected to Andrew and Elizabeth, who are using Olivia to force Fitz's hand in the Angola conflict, in some way. We do know he has a Saw-like penchant for cruel, psychological games, and a shall we say, lax attitude toward human life given his non-reaction to Olivia killing two of his underlings. Being locked away in a cage is one thing, but Ian's head games add a whole other layer of terror to an already traumatic situation.

As a bottle episode, much of emotional heavy lifting in “Run” rests almost entirely on Kerry Washington's shoulders, and she nails it, portraying everything from Liv's gritty resolve at the outset and her growing desperation to her eventual shell-shocked resignation with arresting sincerity.

It was also a brave choice by the show keep Liv on lockdown. There was never a real chance Olivia would die. Aside from the explanation she herself gave to her captors-- that she knows they're merely workers, not the power players who decide her fate—Scandal has always been and will always be Olivia's story. Without her there is no show. However, all signs were pointing to a grand opening, grand closing situation, in which Liv's prison stint would be introduced and wrapped up within the hour, ending with her being rescued and returning to Washington, or at the very least escaping, finding a flat iron and/or rocking a fierce hijab as she hid in the surrounding city and tried to get home.

“Run” flirts with the first scenario, pulling a fakeout when a midnight rescue raid led by Jake turns into sexy shower time and making jam out of boysenberry in fucking Vermont with Fitz, who in this alternate universe, is a childless mayor with a non-existent ex-wife. Thank goodness dream Abby's there to call bullshit on the whole fantasy and tell her to no man's coming to save her, so she better get her shit together and rescue herself.

But Shonda and Co. seem interested in telling a different story, and in taking Olivia and Scandal to a deeper, darker place. Olivia will eventually get out, but not without more than a little suffering first. I could be wrong of course, but the last scene makes me think otherwise. As she walks back to her cage in a daze, past quotes from characters, including Olivia herself, tumble over each other in a voice over, providing a sad contrast to the gladiator thoughts that raced through Liv's mind as she ran for the exit just seconds before. The one that rings loudest (and last) comes from Papa Pope: “You are on are your own.”

Welcome back Scandal.

---Other Thoughts:

--Not that I necessarily want to give nefarious kidnappers props, but the fact they snatched Liv and took her not away in a speeding car, but right across the damn hallway, and got away with it was some ingenious shit. It's a move that sounds utterly stupid on its face, but one so unexpected it works brilliantly.

--Loved Olivia's breathy rebuttal to the guy who asks why she's not begging for her life or offering secrets or money for sale. She's smart enough to know none of the men in the ambulance are powerful enough to decide her fate, so bump all that. Put her in a body bag underneath a woman she just watched get murdered, but damn it all if it's going to keep her from firing off a good monologue!

--Gut Wrench moment: When Liv tries to escape through the bathroom window a second time, only to find its been sealed up and proceeds to have a complete breakdown.

--The second the dark-haired dude looked down at Olivia holding a gun and drawled“That's a man tool you got there,” I immediately I thought “You know you fucked up. Right?” And one shot to the dome proved me right. Never try to tell Liv what she can't do!

--“And your father is--Ike Turner?”