In the battle for Olivia's heart, Team Jake just pulled ahead -- way, way ahead.
One of the most contentious issues among "Scandal" fans is whether Fitz and Olivia belong together. The show clearly wants us to think they do, but sometimes -- make that nearly all the time -- it's hard for us mere mortals to agree. Fitz makes Olivia do extremely stupid and morally indefensible things, like stealing elections, all because they have some kind of animalistic attraction to each other.
Sure, there's a nebulous sense that Olivia is driven to madness not simply by lust but by her belief in Fitz's political abilities, but whatever qualities of leadership she sees in him have not translated to the viewer. Mostly, Fitz seems like a wan puppet controlled and manipulated by Mellie, Cyrus and Olivia. Think about it: The boldest thing he's done so far is killing Verna Thornton, and his defining moment as president was when he got shot. Hardly a profile in courage, that one. It would be one thing if Olivia and Fitz were just civilians, but their disastrous relationship is a blight on the country and pretty much all of mankind.
Now, as if this couple weren't awful enough already, in "More Cattle, Less Bull," we learn that Fitz may have also killed Olivia's mother. Awkward!
There's something hilariously, fantastically ridiculous about this twist, as if the "Scandal" writing staff had a spitballing session to come up with the absolute most indefensible thing you could do to a romantic partner. You think your boyfriend is bad news? Well at least he didn't kill your mother along with 300 or so other people and then cover it up and use you to help get elected.
The timing of the discovery also heightens the effect. Olivia tries her darndest to resist Fitz, even throwing her super-secret burner phone into the trash. But in a moment of weakness, fueled by a few gallons of red wine and her burning desire to vet the president's jokes for the White House Correspondents' Dinner, Olivia answers the phone and is back under his spell almost instantly. She may be hopelessly attracted to Fitz, but only a complete lunatic would be hot for the guy who killed her mother.
Now, it's important to remember that this is "Scandal," after all, and Huck doesn't actually know for sure what happened -- only what he's pieced together based on three clues. This show has a habit of taking wild turns, so chances are there will be more to the story than it seems. Consider that just last week, it looked like Operation Remington involved something run-of-the-mill awful like killing a few civilians during a covert mission in Iran. Nope, turns out Fitz was (maybe) just using that as cover for the truly heinous thing he (maybe) did in, of all places, Iceland. At this rate, next week we'll discover that Maya wasn't really Olivia's mom and that she's still alive, drinking glögg on a fjord somewhere.
PHOTOS: Fall TV sneaks 2013
Or, more likely, that if Fitz did kill Maya, he had a compelling reason to do so. Given Olivia's antipathy for her father, it would be interesting if her mother was the real baddie in the Pope clan, wouldn't it? There are already hints that this might be the case. In the very opening scene of the episode, Olivia alludes to "the brave, outspoken girl my mother taught me to be." Rowan fires back, "How fascinating you think that's your mother's legacy being brave, outspoken." It's a great moment that, if I were to hazard a guess, is setting us up for the next whiplash-inducing revelation.
The predicament faced by Olivia's client o' the week, Rep. Josie Marcus, also hints at more mommy bombshells in the works. The Democratic presidential candidate hires Olivia to deal with the skeleton in her closet -- namely, that she gave birth to a baby girl as a teenager and gave her up for adoption. Olivia sends her team out to Montana to investigate, where they discover that Josie's sister Candace is -- no points for guessing -- actually her daughter.
Put on the spot during a debate in a way that seems highly improbable, even in our deeply nasty political climate, Josie follows Olivia's advice and admits that she gave birth to a child she later gave up. She doesn't provide details, but Candace is able to piece together the truth as, I'm guessing, the press corps soon will. The message, as I see it: Your mom ain't who you think she is.
PHOTOS: Celebrities by The Times
Olivia now faces a choice between working for Fitz's reelection campaign, something she clearly wanted to do right up until the moment Huck and Jake showed up at her door, or going with Josie and using what she knows to ruin him. A third option also presents itself. In an extremely promising development, Sally looks poised to pull a Perot and run as an independent candidate against Fitz, which, at the risk of hyperbole, would be the greatest thing to happen in television history. Whatever Olivia decides -- and, personally, I'm on Team Josie -- it's going to be juicy.
If only real-life presidential campaigns presented so many enticing options.
--It could be that Olivia's Cruella de Vil look at the White House Correspondents' Dinner -- asymmetrical hairdo and black and white dress -- hint at the tension in this episode between her passion for Fitz and her budding feelings for Jake. Or not. Whatever the case may be, she looked fierce.
--The Quinn-going-rogue storyline (this week she was "grounded" by Harrison and the others but bought a gun on the sly) is going to be very silly, and not necessarily in a good way.
--Harrison is long overdue for an interesting subplot of his own. Maybe something about where he finds all those snazzy plaid shirts?
--Olivia might be funnier than Fitz, as she claims, but that is not saying much.
--"We got Poped" = best line ever.