It’s pretty clear by now what the casting process for “Scandal” is like: State your name, the character you are reading for, and which inspirational monologue you’ll be passionately reciting that will cause someone to snap out of whatever funk they’re in — just in time to save the day.
This shouted sermon has become a signature staple of the series, and while in the more recent episodes they’ve centered around people preaching revenge and lecturing on power, they used to be calls to heroism and good. Tonight, we got as close to a classic “Scandal” episode as we’ve been probably since Columbus Short got fired for being the opposite of a gladiator.
In “Dead in the Water,” (Apr 6) the search for Huck (Guillermo Díaz) begins at the instant the Gladiators at OPA realized he was missing. When Jake (Scott Foley) announces that Jennifer Fields (Chelsea Kurtz) is missing, everyone’s conspiratorial minds flies into overdrive to put all the pieces together: Jennifer is gone > Huck took Meg (Phoebe Neidhardt) to see her > Huck isn’t answering his phone, which he always does no matter what > Meg is the mole, and she must have done something terrible. Logical conclusions when you’re this deep in.
While Quinn (Katie Lowes) and Charlie (George Newbern) are off on the hunt for Meg, Abby (Darby Stanchfield) is back at the White House pleading with Samantha (Zoe Perry) of the Shady Agency to please tell her where Huck is, since he wasn’t part of the deal. No dice there; in fact, Samantha seems to cross Abbs off at least one mental list by the end of the conversation — which leaves Abby no real choice but to skulk back to OPA and confess what she’s done.
Olivia… Does not take this news well. In what may become the slap(s) heard ‘round Washington, Olivia takes out her pent-up frustration on Abby’s cheek, even evoking events back in Season 5 when she flew off the rails with Andrew Nichols (Jon Tenney), killing him with a chair in the President’s bunker: “What did I tell you? Do not cross me again!” Tensions are definitely high — Abby’s history of abuse is not something that Olivia would ever willingly evoke. But if anything would pusher over the line, it’s Huck.
But it’s once Quinn and Charlie finally track down Meg, torture her B-613 style, and then Quinn accidentally kills her in a fit of rage that we get the classic, old-school “Scandal” speech. Back in the OPA conference room, the mood drops when Quinn tells the group she killed their only lead. That’s it, everyone feels. It’s over, Huck is dead.
Retreating to her office to guzzle some wine, Olivia is in a rare spot: At a loss for next steps. Enter Charlie, maybe the one character who hasn’t had the opportunity to rally the troops, to inspire the impossible with a rousing homily, to do just that.
Alone in Olivia’s office, he implores her to not give up — and not wholly for Huck’s sake, or even the team, but for Quinn. “She’s going to want to see a body,” he tells her of Quinn. “You know her, she won’t stop until she sees a bloated carcass.”
He continues on about how everyone needs her now, that they all depend on her to do the impossible. She is the one person who can perform miracles, and when you’re a miracle worker you don’t get to take time off.
Music swells, Olivia puts her glass down, the two share a moment of intense eye contact, and then Olivia calls a meeting. They’re not done. They’re going to find Huck, dead or alive, and bring him home.
It’s a satisfying moment, no matter how bombastic: Almost everyone back together again, around the table at OPA. It’s been a while since our gladiators were all on the same side, working for what was presumably the greater good. To be honest, we’ve sort of missed watching the collective power of this team tackling the impossible, solving seemingly unsolvable mysteries for improbable clients by pasting maps and headshots onto the window, and asking that basic question, “Okay, what do we know?”
With the 100th episode of the series only a week away — which promises to explore an alternate timeline where Fitz’s (Tony Goldwyn) first election wasn’t rigged by the original Defiance team — we can’t help but look back on what made us fall in love with “Scandal” in the first place — its family — and wonder what’s next for them all.
“Scandal” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.