In a late summer interview, showrunner Shonda Rhimes revealed that Season 5 of Scandal would mark the return of The Gladiators doing what they do best. If tonight’s action-packed season premiere is any indication, we’re in for some heavy-duty — and most welcome — gladiating in the weeks to come.
Of course, Shondaland is always teeming with seemingly limitless streams of crazy plot twists. We usually love them, mostly embrace them, and fully expect them. And because Season 4’s closer left so many in a world of hurt — Mellie and Cyrus getting the White House heave-ho, Rowan finally behind bars (but for how long?), Quinn holding a gun to Huck’s head — it was especially intriguing to see if Thursday’s’s action-packed premiere lived up to Shonda’s pre-season promise.
The episode opens with a deliciously fire-breathing Sally Langston — filled with the righteous indignation of a ‘true American’ — updating us via “The Liberty Report.” Fitz is throwing a lavish state dinner in honor of the marriage of Prince Richard of Caledonia’s to princess Emily (a humble Iowa girl!), but Langston complains that it’s really just a ruse to butter up Queen Isabel in order to get a U.S. naval base built in Caledonia.
Cue sizzling hot scenes of Fitz and Olivia’s romance playing alongside the narrative — all soft porn lighting and pre-dinner hanky panky — as Langston warns viewers the President wants Americans “to skip with him down the road to Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Meanwhile, Mellie stews because she’s banned from the dinner (“I don’t have the flu!”) and Abby and Liv get caught gossiping about princess Emily, who catches them in the act, then recognizes Olivia and pours her heart out. “To them I’m not human, I’m just a spectacle … I don’t think they would say half the things they say if they knew there were hurting an actual person, do you?”
Then, the night’s first shock: Olivia’s called to the scene of a terrible car accident — shades of Princess Diana here — where Princess Emily lies dead, the paparazzi’s flashbulbs lighting up her bloodied corpse. A horrified Olivia covers the body with her coat. “Have some respect!” Game on, Gladiators!
Olivia meets with Queen Isobel and Prince Richard, who ask her to “represent their issues” and get the grisly photos returned. Enter Quinn (but what happened to Huck?), and they both agree it’s time to throw stacks of cash at the problem. That said, Prince Richard saves the day, by agreeing to pose for photos with Emily’s body in the morgue. Of course, one snafu remains: who’s the mysterious, helmeted faux photographer (actually a hacker assassin) who fled the scene?
Meanwhile, a bitterly betrayed Mellie tries to lay down the law with Elizabeth, resulting in a delicious catfight. Elizabeth not so subtly reminds Mellie of her newly isolated status, saying, “I was never loyal to you … You don’t matter to me, and now you also don’t matter to the most powerful man on the face of the earth. But guess who does? Me.” Snap, round one, Elizabeth!
While Abby tries to keep the ever-suspcious Sally at bay, Olivia and Fitz debate his attending Mellie’s swearing-in ceremony. Fitz ends up making a cameo (blindsiding Elizabeth in the process), but then blindsides her by handing the newly-elected Senator divorce papers. But will Mellie sign?
David confirms Emily’s death was an assassination, and Quinn and Olivia suspect the Prince is behind it, which puts her at odds with Fitz, who wants his naval base, darn it! Doors slam, battle lines are waged, and… there’s already trouble in paradise.
Later, Olivia discovers Huck (finally!) holed up in her apartment waiting for her to “fix” him. Through tears, she tells him, “You need a much better plan than me.”
Elizabeth and Abby mull over how to keep Fitz and Olivia’s romance a secret (good luck with that, ladies!), while Mellie enlists Cyrus to get back into the White House. “I’m not helping you anymore,” says a weary, scruffy-looking Cyrus, as Mellie resorts to a full-scale meltdown to win him over.
Then, the night’s next bombshell: The princess was pregnant at the time of the accident (from an affair with her bodyguard), and Olivia goes to the Queen with the news. But she’s hiding the next shocker: The Queen did it! “Not all fairytales have happy endings, my dear.”
But wait, some episodes of Scandal do! There’s Prince Richard, watching his wife’s casket being loaded into a plane, telling his mum the gig’s up and he knows everything (thanks to Olivia, of course). Then, the best line of the night: “The next time I see you … will be at your funeral.”
The episode ends with Huck showing up at — third shocker of the night! — Jake’s door, while Fitz and Olivia have it out on the Truman Balcony about going public with their love story. “They will destroy us,” she reminds him. “That’s reality, Fitz.”
But before the screen fades to black, Sally drops the last bombshell when she breaks the Olivia/Fitz romance news to the public: “These are not merely rumors,” she insists. “These are facts.”
So, what did you think of the episode? Grade Season 5’s opening hour in the poll below and then elaborate in the comments!