After kicking off the second half of its third season with “Ride Sally Ride,” an hour loaded with revelations surprising (Sally Langston’s running for president while remaining vice president) and not-so-surprising (Fitz and Olivia shacking up yet again), this week’s episode, “We Do Not Touch The First Ladies,” focused most of its attention on two; the brewing-Publius/James-Daniel Langston scandal and Mellie’s potential fling with Fitz’s new running mate Andrew Nichols.
Mellie’s plot was by far the more intriguing, as it gave more tragic insight into the current state of the Fitz marriage, adding one more piece to the puzzle as to how Mellie transformed into the stone cold political animal she is today. In the wake of last fall’s “Everything’s Coming Up Mellie,” there was some concern in online quarters that Mellie’s rape at the hands of Fitz’s cretinous father was, like Mama Pope eating her own wrists, simply done for shock value, and the full impact of it would be swept under the rug. “
We Do Not Touch The First Ladies,” should put such fears to rest. A series of flashbacks show the beginning of the end of Mellie and Fitz functioning like a loving couple; A huge fight erupts over Mellie’s new frigidness and her refusal to attend a ceremony honoring Ftiz Sr. Not knowing the truth, Fitz assumes he did something wrong, then lashes out at her when she won’t reveal what’s happened. As with Olivia, Mellie long ago decided the greater good—in this case being her husband’s political career—was more important than any personal pain or cost she’d have to pay. What she (or Liv for that matter) didn’t anticipate was how it would destroy her life, breaking down she and Fitz’s marriage until it became the bitter, hollow shell it is now.
Taking out the whole “upholding the republic” angle, Mellie’s silence on the rape could also be seen as an act of love (albeit a misguided one), a wife trying to protect her husband from learning yet another horrible truth about his father. Which both makes her current situation all the more tragic and Fitz’s behavior, at least some of it, more plausible. His wife suddenly doesn’t want to be anywhere near his father’s presence and shrinks at his touch, all with no explanation. At some point, confusion would turn to anger, then curdle into resentment, creating the perfect storm that Liv, with her plethora of abandonment/daddy issues, strolled right into.
All of this is deftly linked to the present, when word comes that journalist Carla Steele is running a story about drug use in the Fitz administration during his days as governor. Andrew spins a pretty believable tale about copping some prescription meds to cure his ailing back, but we learn it was actually Mellie who swallowed a bottle full of pills in a suicide attempt. Andrew saves her life and keeps the incident a secret. When asked why she tried to take her own life, Mellie gives one of the series saddest, most straightforward lines. “My father-in-law forced himself on me, and I don’t know if my son is his. And sometimes it makes me not want to be alive.”
Later, in the midst of another Olivia-related tiff, she asks Fitz what it’s like to want someone so badly you’d risk your life’s work. She could be talking herself as well, because try as she might, she clearly wants Andrew, and makes out with him under the watchful eyes of former first ladies. Judging from the way she ran off, the days she can hold her “I kept my knees together” status over Liv may be numbered.
The night’s other major story was James/Publius continual leaking of details on Daniel Langston’s death. James spends much of the episode freaking out to David Rosen, terrified Cyrus is going “to cut his throat,” once he learns of his betrayal. However, he manages to maintain his poker face enough not to arouse suspicion, working some verbal voodoo to keep Cyrus at bay when he requests he give Vanessa Chandler, who he’s been secretly sending information to, an exclusive with Fitz to soften her up. Things almost go very south when Charlie and Cyrus hack Vanessa’s phone and intercept a text about a meeting between her and Publius (who in this case is David Rosen) and plan take him out.
James tries to warn David the gig is up, but isn’t able to reach him before he gets stuffed in a trunk. Fortunately for David, his captors are Huck and Abby, and he lives to fight another day. Thank goodness for super suspicious girlfriends with friends who know how to hack an e-mail. But if we know anything about Cyrus, it’s that he almost always wins; James and David are going to have to step their game up if they want to keep their throats in tact.
Harrison’s Andan Salif saga got a new wrinkle this week. Everything’s all bedroom fun and games until Salif whips out a briefcase of cash she wants Harrison to launder, bringing up a past misdeed involving something called Clearwater. He balks at her threat at first, but later makes a call to Fitz’s campaign to make a donation. We’ll see where the money trail leads, but for now it’s going anywhere interesting.
However, the real twist comes at the end, when Salif, all dolled up, goes to a fund raiser and persuades Cyrus to take her on as a donor. Little does he know Salif’s bank rolls are coming from none other than Mama Pope.
What is she planning exactly? Marie has no ideology, no beliefs or sense of duty to the republic. Which of her the wildest card on a show stacked to the ceiling with them.
–Huck’s creepy coffee gifting lead to a spot-on speech about Olivia’s role in Quinn’s leaving “home” for B6:13. Okay, referring to yourself as monster is more than a little self-loathing, but Huck is right in that he only did for Quinn—training her to become a spy and a cold-blooded killer–and to her what he has been trained (and in some cases, requested to do by Olivia herself) to anyone else. Just because he’s not catching Z’s at a subway station or working for Eli anymore doesn’t mean he’s free of his darker impulses. He’s just changed bosses.
–It’s been so long sense Olivia truly went off (remember the Edison ‘countdown’ read?) that I had to type up her diatribe to Fitz:
“I didn’t do this for you! I did not do this for you. I did this for me. So I could work on the campaign. So I could walk down the street and not be whispered about. So I could stop being known as the woman who screwed the president. So the scarlet ‘A’ on my chest could be invisible. So I’m not a joke! I am person. I am not a hen, I am not a prize. And I have a business a run, people to support, a life to lead, a desire to wake up and face myself in the mirror everyday. And oh! Once, I fixed a presidential election, and I’d like a chance to right that wrong. Your wife may be many things but on one thing we are united: I cannot honestly win a presidential election if I am your public whore. This is not about you. My whole life is not about you. I have goals, I have dreams. I did this for me. Jake by my side, is for me.”
–David to James: “While I’m always up for a good blacksmith metaphor, I’m not sure there’s anything I can say that’s going to make you feel any safer.”
–Quinn: “I’m violent now. Or haven’t you heard?”
–“I love it when you go all Girl With The Dragon Tattoo on me.”Good one Charlie, but I still think you and Quinn together are a big ol’ bowl of ick.
–“What kind of name is Publius? Latin for dweeb?”
—Jake’s right in that Liv needs to stock up on groceries if she’s gonna have a fake boyfriend (or maintain a an actual diet herself). Though in her defense, Fitz likely has an army of chefs at his disposal, so she’s really never had to worry about taking care of home.
–Huck: “People get people coffee when they’re sorry. I could get you tea instead.”
–If the vision of her dead husband’s bloody corpse weren’t a big enough clue, Sally’s starting to crack. Leo better stock up on the Valium.
–Sad Mellie Moment: Mellie verbally smacks Liv down when the latter tries to relate her affair with Fitz to whatever she believes is going on between her and Andrew. Mellie’s right (at least before she kissed Andrew) in that their stories are not the same, but Olivia has no way of knowing that. Just as Fitz or Cyrus or anyone other Andrew has no way of knowing. Mellie’s pain and anger are real, but because she can’t/won’t share it, they are invisible to almost everyone around her.