Holding out for a hero is a common trope on television, and well, we need to keep holding. It's a good thing Cyrus (Jeff Perry) is creating one for us, because there is not a single hero to be found in the regular cast this season on Scandal.
Sally (Kate Burton) sets the stage by reminding everyone it's election season, describing it poetically as "a shameful time when your nation's leaders offer you empty platitudes in exchange for your votes and your hard-earned cash." Just like in real life, Shonda's election season comes with a lot of drama, and very strange bedfellows. (Pause to remember that Putin and Trump can't help but compliment each other in real life.)
I asked for Rowan (Joe Morton) to return, so I blame myself for the first odd pairing. No one wants to watch Olivia (Kerry Washington) and Papa Pope bonding. After last season, it's hard to believe Liv could trust her dad for even a second or that she'd accept that he's OK being retired, wants her to succeed, and enjoys giving relationship advice. The amazing montage of every warning Liv ever received about her dad was the only thing that made sense during the Pope family reunion. When she later started to become kind of suspicious of him — thank you, Huck (Guillermo Diaz) — she still was so unfazed by his murderous, scheming history to add up to the Liv of seasons past.
They were not the strangest coupling of the show, however. Cyrus wants to create a new legacy, so he turned to...Tom (Brian Letscher)? Tom who killed his (former?) best friend's son. Tom who will always be more committed to Command than any country. Yes, that is who should shape the next president. No big deal.
Tom and Cyrus wanted their newest pet project, the Governor of Pennsylvania, to get national attention. How do you get someone known? You create a hero (it worked for Hercules), by setting up a shooting in the Governor's mansion, and letting a formerly unknown politician walk out with battle scars and a good story for national TV. The only hiccup? The shooter's son. So, Tom called Charlie (George Newbern) to help out, and Charlie brought Quinn (Katie Lowes) along. The question is — who is Command? Is Rowan still calling the shots? Is it Cyrus? Is it Jake (Scott Foley)? Or was Tom more powerful than we all thought?
And, I guess we can't ignore the current President of the United States, referenced not so lovingly as the "horny teenager" in this episode. I've never been under the impression that anyone was really a fan of Fitz (Tony Goldwyn), and this whole hooking-up with the journalist storyline isn't helping. Nor is his constant desire to fight with Abby (Darby Stanchfield) over national security. (Is there any episode where he doesn't try to fire "Red?") He slightly redeemed himself by calling Abby his best friend, but it will take a lot more to make up for his constant petulant behavior.
Finally, there's David (Joshua Malina), who could also fairly be called a "horny teenager." He's having sex with both a presidential candidate, Susan Ross (Artemis Pebdani), and her chief of staff, Elizabeth North (Portia De Rossi) in a misguided attempt to shape a future president. Yet David has always been the moral compass of the show, the person that reminds Liv how to locate the line between good and evil.
If Liv is too busy shacking up with (and by the looks of the previews, stalking) Jake, and David is too busy having multiple politically-fueled affairs, who is the moral compass?
That would be Governor Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira). Yes, even though he's being shaped by multiple people who could arguably be classified as insane, he's officially the new moral compass of the show. The hero we probably don't deserve. No worries, that won't last for long. At least, not if he spends too much time with anyone associated with the Oval Office.
Did the kid actually know Charlie? The boy called Charlie "Uncle Charlie" through the episode, but if it was all part of a scheme, then how could they have known each other?
Are they trying to set up an Abby and Fitz romance? There are already enough complicated relationships and love triangles on this show, we don't need Abby, Liv, and Fitz to be the next one.
When are the gladiators going to be gladiators again? The best part of this show was seeing Olivia Pope & Associates go out and kick ass. Now, they have no problem hanging out backstage, but OPA might as well close it's doors. And, no, stalking Jake next week does not count as progress.