Sally Langston is hosting the first major Republican debate between the party’s top three presidential candidates. Olivia doesn’t like the ground rules so she pulls Mellie from the event. That doesn’t last long. The network caves to her demands. No need to get into too many specifics, but there will be a light and a buzzer.
David wants advice from Abby about his love triangle. That doesn’t happen. What does happen is Liz’s plan to let the world know that Susan and David are dating. The veep is thrilled about this until Abby clues her in on the fact that David is juggling two women. Susan is suddenly less-than-stellar during her mock debate practice session. Liz orders David to fix whatever is wrong with her. He does. David dumps Elizabeth and declares that he’s in love with Susan Ross.
Focus groups show that the general public believes Mellie is aloof and out of touch. She’s too smart for her own good. So, it’s time to dumb things down. It’s also time to head over to Gettysburger for a Double Lincoln with cheese. Things are going well until Mellie makes a faux pas while describing her false past excursions to scarf down a serving of Freedom Fries. It’s Burger-Gate 2016!
Cyrus is taken aback when Governor Vargas’s brother takes over a strategy meeting. Alex Vargas is a mover, as evidenced by the dirt on Susan Ross he offers to Olivia. In exchange, he’d like some intel on Edison Davis, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. That’s nothing that’s considered initially, but Burger-Gate has Liv wondering if it’s now an option. Papa Pope lets his daughter know that she’d be hurting someone who never did anything but be nice to her.
Jacqueline Horton introduces herself to Vanessa Moss as being an old college chum. Jacqueline Horton, by the way, is actually an undercover Quinn. She discovers that Jake may be using Vanessa’s bank accounts to fund a Super PAC for Edison Davis. Olivia let’s her ex know that he’s getting in bed with a monster. Edison corrects her saying that he’s getting into bed with a monster’s daughter.
Susan asks the president why he cheated on his wife. She does this because she has doubts about David. Fitz lets her know that if she believes that someone is cheating then they probably are. Susan lets this sink in for a moment. Then she answers a debate prep question the president posed. It’s a spot on response. Susan Ross is back on her game. She’s ready to debate albeit with a heavy, broken, heart.
Olivia confronts Jake about the bank accounts while seducing him. She has a message for her father. She wants Jake to tell Papa Pope that whatever game he’s playing that, in the end, she will win. Jake is left breathless in mid-seduction. Hopefully he’ll remember to tuck his shirt back in before returning to dinner with Vanessa. As for Olivia, she opts to swap dirt findings with Alex, who now knows Edison spent some time in rehab.
The time for the great debate has arrived. Susan dumps David during her pregame cigarette break. She gave up smoking years ago, but things change. For instance, David was sleeping with two women. Now he has none. The press already knows he’s to join Susan on stage after the debate. So he still needs to at least look like he has a girlfriend. Susan heads out to the debate stage unaware that Olivia has just opened the envelope Alex Vargas provided.