In this episode of Scandal, the cat is out of the bag after Mellie’s sit-down interview with James, revealing to the world that Fitz is having an extramarital affair. For Cyrus, this news means absolute havoc in the press briefing room, as reporters shout questions about the President’s whereabouts, his communication with the First Lady, his statement on the allegations, and on and on and on.
For this part of the episode, the writers gleaned inspiration from the press briefings of Michael McCurry, the press secretary for President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky era. In a video recording of McCurry’s briefing from January 21, 1998, McCurry navigates a flood of questions about the President’s alleged affair, having to repeat himself over and over again and insist that he won’t “parse the [President’s] statement” about the allegations. The writers looked to this video and other recordings of McCurry’s press briefings as they crafted this episode.
And what an episode it is. As news of Fitz’s affair breaks, everyone in Scandal-land has a reaction. David, unsurprised that the President cheated, points out that the President could be in deep trouble if he gave his mistress a job to keep her quiet, or gave the company she works for a contract they didn’t deserve – other cues taken from the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Meanwhile, Mellie takes on her own fixer, another Olivia Pope type who comes in with all kinds of plans and tips for Mellie. But despite Mellie’s confidence in her new fixer, she refuses to give him the name of Fitz’s mistress (Olivia’s name, of course), because she still can’t let go of the idea that her husband will come back to her and back to their political future. She knows her husband, she tells her fixer.
But despite Mellie’s faith in her husband and Cyrus’ attempts to soothe the situation by telling the press that Fitz is seeking spiritual guidance, Fitz prepares to go on national television to declare that he won’t be seeking a second term. It seems America’s most powerful man is finally choosing Olivia over running the nation.
Back at Olivia Pope and Associates, Harrison wants to fix the affair scandal for Olivia, to be her gladiator and take her on as a client. But Olivia’s less concerned with confronting the scandals of her love life and instead instructs her people to focus on finding the mole – who the team now thinks is Sally Langston.
Unfortunately, after some tricky digging, the Associates realize that Sally was nowhere near her computer when certain files were accessed by Albatross. And Sally Langston becomes one more dead end in the #WhoIsTheMole investigation.
As word of Fitz’s impending speech circles around the White House, Cyrus is ready to give up, and asks one of his communications staffers to pull Fitz’s Statement of Candidacy papers. Much to the surprise of Cyrus and of Olivia, it turns out Fitz hasn’t even filed the papers yet.
Olivia smells a rat as soon as she hears about the candidacy papers. She confronts Fitz, accusing him of giving up on his presidency because, after the Defiance reveal, he’s afraid he doesn’t have what it takes. Olivia wants to be with him, but also doesn’t want to deprive him of the chance to run on his own – and to win.
And so, run Fitz does. The President gets up in front of the press and definitively lets them know that A – his marriage is none of their business and B – he’s absolutely planning on running for a second term. Turns out Mellie does know her husband, after all.