Scandal Season 6 Episode 2 Recap: “Hardball”

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Near the top of Scandal's episode "Hardball," Olivia (Kerry Washington) assures Mellie (Bellamy Young) that they are investigating the tip from Frankie Vargas' (Ricardo Chavira) campaign worker Jennifer Fields (Chelsea Kurtz), and Mellie remarks, "I'm reminded of a movie with two women who drive off a cliff together." First of all -- a Thelma & Louise-esque adventure starring Mellie and Olivia? Yes, please. Especially if there's a slightly different ending. Secondly, Mellie is not wrong, as Olivia and her dwindling team of Gladiators are the only people around who think Cyrus (Jeff Perry) is the one behind Vargas' assassination. President Grant (Tony Goldwyn) is most certainly subscribing to the "bros before 'hos" mentality in this case, and it really raises the question of whether he's doing it partially to punish these two strong women he once loved who have both left him? That seems exactly like the kind of dysfunctional, childish thing Fitz would totally do. What is more surprising is Abby's (Darby Stanchfield) unwavering support of Fitz. Sure, she and Olivia are not the BFFs they once were, but using Jake (Scott Foley) to torture a false confession out of suspect McClintock (Larry Sullivan) and then ratting Olivia out to Mellie regarding Marcus' (Cornelius Smith Jr.) press secretary job offer during the campaign? That is some dirty pool, and Abby going along with the "bros before 'hos" mentality is not a good look for her. But the most suspicious character in this whole situation is new FBI director Angela Webster (Saycon Sengbloh). Not only did the FBI call log mysteriously omit Jennifer's tip about Cyrus, but it turns out that Angela has the hots for Fitz -- and after Olivia kinda, sorta gave her permission, Angela wasted no time cozying right up to the president. But something is rotten in the oval office. Angela seems highly suspicious and if she had something to do with Vargas' death, it is most certainly in her best interest to keep pumping the "McClintock the white supremacist did it" theory, even though we all know that that theory is total crap -- and what better way for Angela to do that than from inside President Grant's bedroom? However, that may be a bit harder now that Olivia's team has uncovered footage of Vargas chewing Cyrus out, completely appalled by something Cyrus did and threatening to put him in jail the minute he's sworn in as president. That's pretty good motive to have someone murdered, on top of getting to be president yourself, of course. The only question we have is what did Cyrus do? Is it the Harrisburg shooting? As far as we know, Vargas never found out about Harrisburg. Now, he certainly could have found out, but what if this conversation, which is intentionally vague, was about some other horrible thing Cyrus did? Would that surprise anyone? Nope. Finally, in regards to the flashbacks -- we understand the need to A) pad the episode, and B) demonstrate how far Olivia was willing to go to get Mellie elected, but they didn't fit very well with the present-day timeline, especially since it was hard to really see Mellie's point of view in this case. Look, it's great that Mellie fell in love with Marcus -- Lord knows that woman deserves some love in her life. But the middle of a presidential campaign is not the time to start an affair with a controversial campaign staff member. Marcus is controversial because of his past affairs, but also because Mellie is running as the Republican nominee and Marcus is black. Wind of that affair getting to the press would have torpedoed her presidential run and Olivia knew it. No, not all Republicans are racist nor is the left free from that line of thinking either, but we all know how Mellie’s affair with Marcus would have played with a lot of GOP voters. Getting Marcus another job was actually the kindest move Olivia could have made. What's weird is that Mellie didn't see it as a great opportunity to get some distance from Marcus, stay focused on the campaign, continue to see him when she could and then actually be together once the election was over. That seems like something pragmatic Mellie would have absolutely jumped on, so it plays a little false when she dresses Marcus down so vehemently after he tells her about his new job. At least Mellie came around to see that Olivia was right about making sacrifices in order to be elected president, because Olivia was spot on. Everyone does it, but a woman is held to a different standard than a man and Mellie could not afford to slip up even the slightest bit. So, after all that runaround, Mellie and Olivia end up together, drinking and plotting how Mellie can seize the presidency. Which is great, but did we really need all the Marcus drama to get there? At least Scandal’s two most formidable, ferocious and fierce characters are reunited once more in a common cause. Cyrus and Fitz better watch out.
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