We open right where last season ended, with Liv's dad, Rowan, dressing her down for sleeping with the President. Actually, he's more disappointed that she aimed to be First Lady instead of a position with actual power. And he puts Olivia on a plane with a new identity and tells her she'll be hanging out on an island for eight months and then relocate somewhere overseas permanently.
Olivia gets on the plane, but borrows the flight attendant's phone and calls Cyrus to say goodbye. Cy convinces her to get off the plane, because otherwise Fitz will think Cyrus had Olivia killed and Cy won't have the access he needs to save the president from himself. So Fitz is still a child with no agency. Got it. Cyrus also promises that the White House isn't going to throw Liv under the bus on this. Anyway, Liv gets off and gets her mojo back, telling her dad off in the meantime.
Cyrus and the VP get in an argument when she refuses to take over all public appearances until the heat is off. The Veep refuses, due to her religious beliefs, and manages to throw in some homophobia and racism while she's at it. Fitz throws the handlers out and admits to Sally that he committed adultery and then asks her to help him buy some time to get his family ready. She agrees.
Liv makes it back to work to find that all of her clients are firing her. Mellie finds out that a tipsy Hal the Secret Service Agent is the one who admitted the President was screwing someone, although he didn't give a name. And then the news gets cell phone video of Fitz leaving Olivia's place, so the White House's original strategy of denial is out the window.
Cy orders his underlings to "start a kill folder on Olivia Pope." That means we get some backstory on Liv: her mom died in a plane crash when she was twelve, and she went to the best boarding schools and Ivy League schools. After her mom died, she never lived at home again. Her dad's cover story is that he works at the Smithsonian as a curator. And she had a series of relationships with older, powerful men, which Cy notes sadly (but kind of not sadly enough?) is enough to paint her as an ambitious slut.
Rowan returns to convince Liv to get on the plane, but she refuses and wants to know what happened to Jake. Dad will only say that Jake refused an order, so Liv calls a mysterious number that activates a flotilla of town cars to fool the paparazzi camped out on her doorstep, and Liv meets up with Fitz in some sort of bunker.
After Fitz is done yelling at Liv for "pulling the fire alarm" to get into the bunker, since it was a one-time-only deal and now she's screwed when the nukes fall or an asteroid hits or whatever, Mellie pops up because Liv invited her so that the three of them can figure out how to handle this publicly. Mellie is bitter, of course, and even more so when Fitz and Liv think they should handle this by telling the whole truth. Mellie is like, "Hell, no" and they seem to be at an impasse until Liv and Mellie negotiate how much truth they should tell and they all get their stories straight. Mellie leaves and Fitz hugs Liv and she finally cries for about ten seconds before rushing from the room… er, bunker.
Fitz tells the Veep that she should publicly condemn him so that she can be the moral center of the Republican party.
Mellie isn't really on board with the plan, and she gets Cy and the gladiators to work with her. What's their plan? They leak a video of a communications aide, Jeanine, (the redhead who's been acting as press secretary?) calling the President hot and then get multiple White House sources (Cy and Mellie, probably) to confirm that she's the one the President had "a brief fling" with. These are awful, terrible people. They just ruined that girl's life. I love this show.
Fitz is livid (heh) that Jeanine has to take the fall and is all set to clear her name, but Mellie stops him and snarkily says that she knows he leaked Olivia's name to the press via his Secret Service agent. And she's right. But what she's wrong about is how long the President had planned this; when he laid his head on her lap last season, it was all a charade to gain her trust so that he could leak Liv's name and keep Mellie from having that information in reserve to hurt him in the future. DAMN, SON! That's a long con.
Liv gets back to work after Harrison tries to assure her that she's free now, and her first client is Jeanine. Meanwhile, Cyrus has a secret meeting with Rowan. You know how Fitz and Jake Ballard are super tight buds from their Navy days? Turns out they flew a mission together, and something HAPPENED on that mission, and now Cyrus knows what it was, even if we don't. And it shocks even Cyrus.
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We start up right where last season ended; Olivia's cover has been blown and the media is reporting that she's is Fitz's mistress. The story was broken by the Style reporter at the Washington Post, an unusual person to get such an important scoop. So who was her source? That's way too important a plot point to find out in the first minute of the episode, you guys! All the reporter will say is that there's only one source, but it's a good one, and very high up in the administration. I'm surprised her editors would let her go public with only one source. That's more like a blogger thing to do. As the reporter gives details, we see shots of how our various players are reacting to this news going public. Cyrus looks disappointed. The gladiators at OPA are busy SHUTTING IT DOWN. Fitz is pinching the bridge of his nose. Mellie is curled up with a phone, talking to someone. Was she the source? It's still the first minute of the show! They're not going to tell us yet!
And now we cut to the continuation of the last scene from the finale, with Liv and her dad in the town car. Apparently after saying, "Dad?," she didn't talk at all for twenty minutes, and then finally spoke up to ask why her father tried to have her killed. He claims Jake Ballard was the target. Well, I guess that's possible? Because the assassin came to Liv's apartment when Jake was hiding in there, "protecting" her. Liv looks like she doesn't quite buy it, but they've arrived at their destination.
Which is a private airplane hangar, filled with a private jet. Olivia sees it and immediately says no. Have I mentioned how amazing Liv looks, even in workout clothing? She's wearing black yoga pants and a white warm-up jacket (colors are important, y'all) and looks better than I have ever looked, even on my wedding day. And I looked great on my wedding day. Anyway, her father rattles off a big speech about how Olivia spread her legs and "gave it away" to a man with power, and now she thinks the White House will save her, but they will surely just throw her out like trash as soon as possible. Liv starts out defiant, all, "He would never!" but her father's words (and we see where Liv gets her gift for dramatic speeches) start to wear her down as she realizes that they may contain some truth. Plus, he's just a big dude who talks loud, and he's her dad, and Kerry Washington somehow reverts to a child the longer he talks. I mean the unmade up face and pulled-back hair help, but it's also some great acting.