Scandal Season 4 Ep. 11 Recap: 'Where's The Black Lady?'

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Well that was unexpected. After last week's superb “Run” ended with Olivia following her warden Ian back to her makeshift prison with a dead-to-the-world look on her face, you'd be forgiven for thinking Scandal was going to squeeze more prison torture drama out of our girl's current situation. But with one conversation—in which Olivia convinced Ian to sell her on the black market--Shonda said “bump all that” and pressed the fast forward button, pushing the show and her heroine into new, tantalizing territory. While being sold isn't the same, as you know, being free, it puts some power back in Olivia's hands, displaying the resourceful, ruthless pragmatism we've come to expect from her.

It wasn't just Olivia though. “Where's The Black Lady?” was an hour chocked full of characters, even loathsome ones (well, most, if not all the characters on Scandal have some pretty loathsome qualities) refusing to be victimized and striking back at forces trying to control them.

The force is in this case being Vice President Andrew Nichols, who is officially running thangs in the White House now that Olivia's in captivity. Andrew's actions have left Fitz is island unto himself, unable to trust anyone in his own administration. Everyone from the secret service down to the maid is “supporting” Fitz, by making sure he doesn't try to find Olivia so she won't be killed and he will follow through on starting a war with West Angola. It's not just West Angola though; Andrew's planning on riding this all the way to his own presidency, at one point putting his feet up in the Oval Office and talking about all the policies Fitz will reverse his position on to shore up lost Republican support.

Fitz does get one wish granted when he demands proof Liv's alive. Andrew complies, and we see a devastated Olivia trembling as she reads from a cue card explaining she hasn't been abused or hurt, but may be in danger if Fitz doesn't declare war within 48 hours.  We've seen Fitz fall apart before, but the fact that Andrew's scheme has crippled him not only personally, but left him utterly useless professionally, made me root for him for the first time in a long time.

“Where's The Black Lady?” finds the dynamic of Mellie and Fitz's uber complicated relationship
has shifted yet again. While getting ready for an event, Mellie blithely reveals to Fitz she's back to banging Andrew like she's talking about going to the market for oranges.  According to Mellie, she and Fitz have reached a new phase where their marriage is less a romantic love story than a political and professional partnership. Andrew makes her happy the way Olivia makes Fitz happy, or so her logic goes; except Fitz doesn't have Liv, so Fitz goes all cold, puts a finger to her lips and says “stop talking.”  So much for keeping it 100 hundred about your infidelity Mel.

However, the partnership Mellie refers to snaps into place during a scene where Fitz tells lets her in on Olivia's kidnapping. He pretends to engage in an intimate moment, pressing his face to hers and leaning in as if they're about to kiss so he can whisper his mistress is in danger and his vice president has staged an epic political coup. But as Mellie takes the news in, something happens between the two of them. Suddenly, their own authentic, twisted intimacy bubbles up to the surface. She encourages Fitz to declare war in order to spare Olivia's life, but only out of a sense of perverse pride that all of the turmoil has to be about another woman her husband loves, not a tryst with a random trollop. These are not two people in love (or if they are, it's buried somewhere deep under all the years of anger and resentment), but if they are bonded together by anything it is secrets, lies, grief and the sheer will to uphold Fitz's legacy, and ensure Jerry Jr.'s death will not be in vain.

Fitz also manages to pull Cyrus into the mix and passes along Olivia's video to Jake, Huck and Quinn after some subtle prodding from Tom. Despite Olivia's best attempt to give clues to Ian's identity—who knew you could be so crafty with a drinking glass?-- though, their efforts to find her whereabouts turn up nothing.

But OPA does get a visit from Rose (Marla Gibbs—hey Flo!) who is “looking for the black lady,” because her friend Lois is missing. Rose drops some relevant knowledge when she explains Lois lives across the hall from Olivia. We know of course, that Lois is the poor woman who was murdered and whose body was used as a decoy to hide her neighbor Olivia. The crew puts two and two together and are back in business, finding the ring Olivia left behind in Lois' apartment and identifying Ian.

Given the list of fake names reeled off, Ian's not new to this international criminal shit. When Huck locates his cell phone, the signal settles on one locale before bouncing randomly across the globe, meaning there's a better chance of finding Carmen Sandiego than Olivia Pope.

Fortunately for our crew Mellie takes one for the team, giving Andrew some, then snatching his cell phones while he takes a post-coital nap and handing them off to Liz, who happily turns them over to OPA to get Huck, who has put his humanity on the backburner again, off her back (literally, if the mangled flesh she flashes to Mellie is any indication). They eventually find Liv is shacked up somewhere in---wait for it—Pennsylvania. Not Pakistan, not Beirut or frickin' Sri Lanka, but Pennsylvania. Anywho, Jake goes to David Rosen, who authorizes their operation while telling him more than once to remember he is saving Olivia Pope.

Except Olivia is long gone. Exercising some supreme mental jujitsu, Olivia exploits Ian's lust for power and money, asking if he wants to babysit her for the next three years until he has to kill her or if he wants to be a boss and sell her to the highest bidder.  And no sooner than she could find a good flat iron and a change of clothes than Liv is flying on a private jet with Ian, saying a quick hello to Fitz over the phone before Ian takes the lead and explains the rules of the game.

Letting the bidding begin!

Other Thoughts:

--Tom sure can beat a reference to death can he? No sooner than Fitz takes the offer of a pardon for killing Jerry Jr. off the table than he's trotting out the Olivia-Helen of Troy comparisons. You'd think with all those hours spent in a cell he'd come up with some new references, hey, at least he was generous enough to give Fitz a hint that Jake was the only person he could trust.

--“I want an Orange Creamsicle for dessert. That's important to me.”

--“Do you see this hat? Use your imagination. I'm wearing a ten gallon white hat.”