Warning: This recap contains spoilers.
There’s a scene in the season three finale of ‘Scandal’ in which Fitz, reeling from an unexpected turn of events, reaches for his trusty decanter with shaky hands and starts to pour himself a drink. But all he can really manage to do is sit on the floor.
That’s kind of how I feel after watching the finale, which was dizzying and satisfying in the most unexpected ways. Let’s talk it out.
We’ll start with the finale’s obscure body count. There are people who are definitely dead, people who might be dead and people who probably should be dead, but aren’t. Sorry Quinn haters, Baby Huck lives.
The episode opened with a restless crowd at Sen. Hightower’s funeral and Fitz practicing his eulogy back in the Oval Office. Cyrus (who David “Got Jokes” Rosen later dubs Voldemort) struggles to do the right thing and tell Fitz about the bomb at the church. Turns out he doesn’t have to — Jake swoops in and alerts the president. Teams are assembled and the church is evacuated, though some are caught in the eventual blast. After a moment of obligatory tension, Andrew Nichols and Sally are both confirmed to be safe.
Olivia sees news reports of the blast from the hospital, where she’s waiting to hear about Rowan’s condition after Maya stabbed him in OPA headquarters. Liv teleports over to the White House, where she advises Fitz to address the nation. Fellow fixer Leo Bergen senses the opportunity and tells his candidate to “go be Jesus.” Sally tends to the wounded and becomes the media’s darling, edging out Fitz in the polls and giving hope to Independents everywhere.
Olivia heads back to the hospital for some good news — Papa Pope is going to pull through! Liv tells Rowan that Fitz is going to lose and Papa Pope says he wishes he could help. “I do not like him, but Olivia I do love you,” he reasons. Olivia confesses that she was scared to discover he’d been stabbed and the two share a genuine father-daughter moment.
Harrison and Adnan also share a moment , with the latter holding a gun to the former’s back. Harrison manages to smooth talk his way out of the hostage situation, pledging not to reveal the dirt he has on Adnan.
Harrison meets up with Abby at OPA headquarters and the duo catch Quinn and Huck, getting it in as if no one had just, you know, been stabbed there. “Oh, dear Lord, my eyes!” says Abby (and Twitter).
Everybody is acting like seeing Huck and Quinn is as traumatizing as walking in on their parents. #Scandal
— Crystal (@pinkpodster) April 18, 2014
Unlike Huckleberry Quinn, David Rosen is having trouble compartimentalizing the bloodshed. He’s particularly troubled by Cyrus’s inaction on the bomb front and taps Jake to help him bring justice. But Jake is in full civilian mode, opting instead to drink beer and “watch the Redskins lose to the Cowboys.” Submitted without comment.
Also resigned to civilian life is Fitz, who starts penning his concession speech under Olivia’s watchful eye. There’s talk of jam and Vermont and then…Mellie. Olivia tells Fitz that Big Jerry raped Mellie back when Fitz was running for governor of California. Fitz goes to find and comfort Mellie, who tells him the results of her paternity test — Jerry is Fitz’s son.
As Fitz prepares to make a speech on the eve of the election, Fitz and Olivia agree that he cannot leave Mellie “now.” “I wouldn’t want you if, knowing what you know, you left her now,” Olivia says and Fitz looks like he’s about to ugly cry.
I should have known something was up when I saw Jerry and Karen creep into the background, but I didn’t think anything of it…because that family dinner went so well. The Grants exchange witty banter before Fitz takes the podium. Somebody play “We Are Family”!
Just as sneakily as Mama Pope made her way into Rowan’s hospital room, where Maya tells Olivia she set the bomb in the church because she wanted to give Olivia “the chance to be free, to be happy” the ‘Scandal’ writers pulled off the biggest surprise of the episode. As Fitz addresses his supporters, Jerry collapses. Fitz stops his speech and carries his son out. Efforts to save him are in vain — Jerry dies of bacterial meningitis.
It’s revealed that Jerry died of a substrain that’s only available at Fort Detrick. All signs point to Maya Pope and Fitz gets an unlikely ally in his quest to find and kill her — Rowan. “I may not be your friend Mr. President, but I am a father,” he says. “I know what I would do if someone hurt my child.”
As Olivia predicts, Jerry’s passing proves beneficial to the Grant campaign — (a distraught) Fitz wins the election. Fitz tells Olivia that despite her mother’s involvement, it’s not her fault. It’s of little consolation to Liv, who offers a shoulder to someone else who needs one: Huck. Points to the person who can tell me when Huck last spoke at a regular decibel and not whispers soaked in vulnerability.
To be fair, Huck has a reason to be emotional. Thanks to a jealous Charlie, Quinn discovers where Huck’s family (as in his wife and child) lives. She tells him she wants him to know because she loves him. Liv convinces Huck to go and he eventually knocks on the door. His wife answers and is shocked to see him standing there, setting up the first of several cliffhangers.
In his quest to reconnect with his own estranged wife, Rowan forces Harrison to disclose what he knows about Adnan. Rowan reveals that Adnan is dead and Harrison confesses that he knows where Maya is going to collect her payout. Thanks to Harrison’s intel,
Rowan has armed men meet Maya just as she’s about to abscond with her cash. He tells Fitz that Maya Pope is dead.
It appears we’ve reached that point in the narrative when one of the characters inevitably acknowledges they’re in on the joke and they say the name of the film, TV show, play etc. Olivia — in all her guilt about her mother’s evil deeds and how well she and Cyrus aka Voldemort seem to work together — decides that she is the common denominator in all the bad things that happen to the people she loves. “I’m the thing that needs to be fixed, I’m the thing that needs to be handled. I’m the Scandal.”
Olivia asks Rowan if his chartered plane — the one from this season’s first episode — is still available and announces her departure from Olivia Pope & Associates. No one takes the news harder than Abby, who pulls out all the stops — “Olivia Pope doesn’t quit!” “Over a cliff, Liv, over a cliff!” When Olivia tells Abby that Rowan will be taking care of the gladiators, Abby warns her not to trust him. “He’s my father,” Olivia says.
Abby isn’t the only one who doesn’t trust Rowan. Harrison confronts him at the “Smithsonian,” where he learns that B613 is back up and running with — guess who at the helm. “This all worked out great for you,” Harrison tells him, noting that in addition to resuming his command duties, Rowan is free from the scrutiny of Olivia, who is on a plane with…Jake!
And then the villain reveals his secrets: Maya didn’t murder Jerry — the bacterial meningitis was delivered by none other than Tom the Secret Service/B613 agent on Rowan’s orders. His logic is seriously twisted: He promised not to harm a hair on Fitz’s head. And he ensured that Fitz got four more years in office. Then the kicker: “He took my child, so I took his.”
Of course, Harrison presents a liability for Rowan and an armed Tom is nearby to eliminate it. It’s not clear whether Harrison is killed, but it certainly adds to the speculation of actor Columbus Short‘s fate on the show. What Rowan didn’t reveal: Maya Pope is very much alive. She’s in the hole, but she’s alive. We’ve come full circle to what Papa Pope told us earlier in the season: “I am the hell and high water.”
It’s fitting that the episode ended with a plane taking off, destination unknown. I don’t know where Shonda’s taking us, but I’m on board. As long as I can sit next to Jake.
Lingering questions: Where are Jake and Olivia headed? Is Harrison still with us? How will Fitz and Mellie cope (or not) with Jerry’s death? What are we going to do about Quinn?