Well, Scandal delivered on its promise in last week's previews for the March 16 episode — it revealed who shot Frankie Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) on election night, though a big part of that is still a mystery.
Papa Pope (Joe Morton) killed Vargas, which is not a surprise because Eli seems to be behind nearly every bad thing that happens on this show.
What is a surprise is that he didn't do it for the reasons we thought he would have done it, and he also did the shooting himself, rather than ordering someone to do it for him.
We had assumed that if it turned out to be Eli, he would have assassinated Vargas solely to win the election for Olivia (Kerry Washington) and Mellie (Bellamy Young). He also wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere near the deed itself, because he knows how Olivia would react if the assassination could be traced back to him.
Wrong on both counts. Eli used Olivia as cover to rig the election for Mellie, but the real reason is because some unnamed organization blackmailed him into it. Sarah (Zoe Perry), the mysterious woman in red from last week, works for said organization. They sent a woman from Eli's past, Sandra (Tonya Pinkins), to get close to Eli and order him to ensure Mellie wins the election.
The first method was rigging election machines in very specific counties, but Olivia and Huck found Eli out and undid the B-613 hacking. Cue the back-up plan — assassinating Vargas and framing Cyrus (Jeff Perry) for the crime. So that's just what Eli and his accomplice did.
In a brilliant little detail, the accomplice is Nelson McClintock (Larry Sullivan), the "white supremacist" the FBI fingered for the shooting in the first place. Jake (Scott Foley) is in on it, "torturing" a confession out of Nelson, but Eli knows this will never stick. It’s the too-obvious red herring that then points the finger at Cyrus, with a little help from Jennifer Fields (Chelsea Kurtz), who is also in on it.
It's quite the plot — and Olivia kind of knew what was up all along, but she couldn't prove anything and she's not as conniving as her father, so he always manages to outsmart her.
It was an interesting episode, because the new footage was pretty much entirely focused on Eli, Sandra and the mystery organization. The appearances from other Scandal cast members were all shown via flashback to scenes we’ve already seen. It felt a little disjointed from the rest of the season, but it was a succinct way to let viewers know exactly what was going on with Vargas and Cyrus.
There’s also still a host of things to uncover here, especially now that Olivia and Co. know that Cyrus didn't have anything to do with Vargas' death.
What is this organization that wants Mellie in the White House so that then "the real work begins"? Who is running the show over there? It's certainly not Sarah or the old guy who likes to pretend he's in charge — there has to be more to it than that. It seems like even Papa Pope doesn't know who exactly he's up against, which makes us wonder if Scandal is introducing a new player into the mix. Because who is left of the core cast members to have masterminded President Mellie — Fitz? That doesn’t seem like him, but…Scandal has done crazier things.
One thing's for sure, though — Eli straight-up shot the woman he loved to protect himself and Olivia. The man is hardcore, and next week, Olivia and Co. are going up against him, specifically Huck (Guillermo Diaz). Can't wait.