We open on Amanda Tanner in Pope Associates’ office. Per normal, the team is watching her from behind a glass wall. Olivia pronounces, “We are not voting.” Amanda is their client. Meanwhile, Sandra Harding, a powerful CEO, for whom Olivia handles business matters such as mergers and acquisitions, is begging Olivia to handle the case in which her son Travis is being accused of rape.
Across town in the presidential master suite, Fitz has slept in and missed his call with Nelson Mandela, all because Mellie let it happen, “You were pacing ‘til 4 AM. You needed to rest.”
Things get complicated when the reporter Gideon shows up at the office expecting a meeting with Olivia. Olivia lays out the consequences of what will happen to this aspiring cub reporter if he tries to run a story about an intern having sex with the president of the United States. Basically, all the big guns will rush in and his scoop will be scooped from beneath him, so she gets him to promise to keep quiet, stop calling Amanda, and she’ll reward him in good time.
Back to Amanda Tanner at Olivia’s apartment and Olivia asks what she asks all her clients, “What’s the end game?” Olivia can make pretty much anything she wants happen… money, job, relocation… but Amanda wants only one thing. “I want to see the president.” And that’s our Oh! Sure enough, commercial break.
Cyrus and Billy are lunching at a restaurant when Olivia walks in and forces Billy to leave so that she can talk to Cyrus privately. This pushing-around of Billy is minor business that will pay off with big results in episodes to come. Cyrus announces, “He isn’t sleeping.” Olivia replies, “Not my problem.” Olivia goes on to deliver the message that Amanda wants ten minutes alone with the president. Cyrus says fondly, “We made a president together,” as if he and Olivia are actual parents, adding, “I miss you.” Message delivered, Olivia gets up to leave and Cyrus repeats, “He’s not sleeping.” As she walks away, she says, “Neither am I.”
We then have a montage of the client’s case, with Olivia stating, “It all comes down to perception.” She attempts to get info from the DA but her charms fail as he categorically states, “We are not friends.” Back at the office, Olivia’s team kicks into high gear. Huck learns that the jury is set to hang Travis as a date raper. Abbey’s research shows that the rape victim is a saint. Little Uh Oh! Olivia urges the mother to settle. At the settlement conference, the victim refuses, pointedly asking Olivia how much her peace of mind would cost… would $10 million do it? Ouch! Commercial break.
We return to the White House where Fitz is in a photo opp thanking Vets for their service. When they leave, he comments to Cyrus on the prosthetics that obliged them to use their left hand in order to shake his hand. Cyrus says, “I wish you were a cynic. It would make my job easier.” He delivers the message, “Amanda Tanner wants a meeting.” The President asks, “Will Olivia be there?”
At Pope Associates, Olivia is urging her team, “We do not give up. It’s my name on the door and I do not give up.”
Harrison helps Travis get dressed for court. The suit is cheap polyester, in an attempt to make him look less like the spoiled rich brat he is. Travis questions, “Does it matter? They always take the money in the end.” This leads Harrison to investigate Travis’ financial history.
Meanwhile, a sex tape featuring the president shows up at the White House. We assume it is with Amanda Tanner. Cyrus, “Olivia is blackmailing you.” The Big Uh Ohhh! Commercial break and we return to the same scene. Fitz, “This isn’t Olivia.” Cyrus and the president fight.
Abbey is on the trail of a rape kit, while Quinn calls Gideon for a date. She is so appallingly bad at it that Huck calls her weird, but “Weird is good.”
Olivia receives a call from the First Lady, claiming there’s been an oversight and that Olivia should have received an invitation to a state dinner that night. Harrison cuts in, “You’re going to want to see this.” A photo montage tells the story of the victim’s best friend being raped and paid off by Travis. A conference with Travis and his mother ensues. Travis admits it was a one-time thing and he handled it. Unfortunately, the girl killed herself. This is a moral dilemma for Olivia, the Oh No! We cut to commercials.
While the case is being tried, Olivia (dressed in grey) sits in the corridor talking to the mother, who bemoans how she was never there for her son. Olivia soothes her, “It’s not your fault.”
Ordering a Margarita at a bar, Quinn is surprised by Huck, who tells the bartender to give her virgin drinks and double up the liquor in Quinn’s date’s drinks. He tells her to let her hair down, take off her jacket.
At the state dinner, Mellie and Fitz are in a receiving line when in walks Olivia, stunning in a white gown. The president is transfixed. When Olivia dances with Billy, Mellie intercuts leaving the president to dance with Olivia. He can’t take his eyes off her, all the while she tells him to look away as they are in public. He tells her, “I love you,” not once but three times. Olivia asks, “What about Amanda?” The president tells her to meet him in their spot in ten minutes. Olivia tells him that he can’t leave his own event. “Watch me,” he replies.
At the bar, Gideon is seriously buzzed while it’s obvious that though she’s had the same amount of drinks, Quinn is stone cold sober. He has not called Amanda; he has kept his promise. Quinn has a drink and it’s now a real date.
Walking along a White House corridor, Olivia is circumvented by Cyrus, who tells her, “I don’t take kindly to blackmail. I never took you to be the hell hath no fury type.” He goes on to call her the president’s whore… all very dirty and best-seller. The meeting with the president is off. He orders her escorted from the building.
Olivia shows up at the mother’s house and delivers a 30-second speech, “I was wrong. It is your fault. You love him, but you can’t fix everything for him. You can’t. He’s playing you because you let him. You give him everything he asks for and you clean up his messes and you believe him even when he lies to you and that is, that is not love. Love is making him face who he is. The best thing you can do for him is to do the best thing for him. It’s not your fault what he did, but letting him get away with it, that is your fault.” Now, to whom do you think Olivia is really talking? She could have driven home, or faced herself in the mirror, all the while talking to herself, but instead, the message is delivered in conflict and given as advice to a client. This is absolutely brilliant writing.
The president is in the White House Garden mooningly gazing at the stars. Cyrus arrives, “She’s not coming. She cancelled the meeting with Amanda Tanner. She’s playing with you.” The president leaves and we end on Cyrus. The Twist-a-Roo!
In Pope Associates’ conference room, Travis is whining, “You want me to turn myself in?” Mom has already taken care of the matter. Police show up to arrest Travis. The DA tells Olivia, “Maybe we can be friends.”
At the White House, Mellie asks her husband if he’s okay. He asks, “Why did you invite Olivia?” It’s clear from Mellie’s response that she knows about the affair and that he needed to see her in order to get a good night’s sleep.
Olivia gives Gideon a better deal than talking to Amanda; he gets the exclusive interview the CEO who just turned her son in for rape and who will announce her retirement tomorrow. Quinn tells Olivia that Gideon kept his promise, her gut tells her Amanda is not telling the truth.
At Olivia’s apartment Amanda is still insisting on 5 minutes with the president. Olivia lays out the situation. If she’s to help Amanda, “I need to hear all of it.”
And so we end on a new problem! Now, this differs from Ms. Sandler’s formula whose Ah! is a resolution that returns all the characters back to the so-called normal that they were at the beginning of an episode. And this differentiating factor, which is huge, may be the thing that makes Scandal addictive and audiences coming back for more.
So, still no premise, but I have identified a structure and a button that seems to apply.