Scandal’s third season finale did just about everything right. The end of a season has arrived, and it feels like the end of an era is over for Olivia Pope and Associates. As we watched Liv’s plane take off, we felt sure that a chapter was closing, but the look on her face also told us that it ain’t all the way over yet.
“The Price of Free and Fair Elections” moved very quickly through a few key things. Fitz starts losing the election after the bomb goes off in the church because Vice President Sally Langston does what any good politician would do and capitalizes on the catastrophe. This is a great scene because we see Olivia frantic on the phone with the media as they cover Fitz’s speech and Sally’s work at the scene of the detonation—it’s the media that’s winning the election for Sally. The way they choose to split the screen and show Sally during Fitz’s speech, and then the way they completely block him out—they show how Sally puts in work when Fitz is all talk. The portrayal of the two candidates on the news—this is what the American public is voting for or against. An entire election, the fate of the republic all boils down to a split screen.
Olivia and Cyrus have a tender moment together as they both realize it’s over. Fitz wanted a fair election and he got it—but he’s not going to win.
Back at OPA, Abby and Harrison get the shock of their lives when they walk in on Huck and Quinn in the throws of passion … maybe five feet away from the dried pool of blood left over from the attempt on Papa Pope’s life. Cat’s outta the bag now! But when Charlie finds out he leaves Quinn with a parting gift that promises to shut down whatever’s going on between Huckleberry Quinn. The “Seven Fifty-Two” episode comes full circle, and we watch as Quinn gives Huck a new family to watch—his own.
Little Jerry becomes the focus as we learn that many of us read last week’s episode incorrectly—Fitz is, in fact, Jerry’s father, but Olivia tells him about Mellie’s rape, and it changes everything. Of course, there had been more banal talk of Vermont and jam when Fitz thought he was going to lose the election. Now he’s got to stand by Mellie, and—for added drama—little Jerry gets poisoned and dies mid-episode! What the what?! Classic Scandal. Because now we know Fitz will win the election. His son’s death is the price he pays.
Everyone assumes Mama Pope is behind all of this, and Fitz enlists Papa Pope for help. The twist at the end is so delicious, it makes all of the overly dramatic, overdone moments of the season worth it. Olivia decides to take her Dad’s offer from the first episode of Season Two. She’s going to get on a plane and get the hell out of dodge. She feels responsible for the death of little Jerry, for Fitz losing the election. She’s done, and none of the Gladiators can stop her. But she’s not going alone—Team Jake, we win this round! Her runaway plan comes with a side of Jake Ballard, which is sure to piss off at least one person. (Hi, Fitz.)
As they fly off into the sunset, Maya Pope gets arrested, and Eli tells Fitz that he’s had her killed. Now, this is where our Papa Pope radar starts to go off. It’s way too easy, the way things are happening! And when Harrison learns that Eli is Command again, his radar pings, too. Olivia’s gone away from the President, Maya Pope’s gone, Eli got his old job back, and his old President back too (because, of course, the grieving father wins the election). In other words, Eli is the only truly happy person right now, and that’s because he was behind it all. He’d promised Olivia that he wouldn’t hurt her boyfriend, and he didn’t! He just killed his son. He told Olivia that he wished he could help Fitz win, and he did! By killing his son. Papa Pope’s been playing nice with Olivia, but now he’s completely returned to his true self—the self he’d kept hidden from her all along. (She should have listened to Huck.) And even though he’s so wrong, seeing him back as Command (whilst “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” plays in the background) feels so right!
—Well, given that Columbus Short has had a string of arrests recently and is, reportedly, an abusive husband, we kind of saw Harrison’s death coming. Drama on the show? Good. Drama off the show? You’re fired. Although, it should be noted that his death is kind of left up in the air. We don’t actually see a body, and on Scandal we need to see a body.
—One of the other final scenes of the episode showed Huck at his wife’s door. We are so not ready for this storyline.
—Mama Pope lives! She’s back in the hole, but something tells us she’ll chew through her wrists again if it comes down to it. Nice!
—Olivia ignores that phone call from the White House. Awesome, good for her. But she should probably go ahead and change her number if we’re going to take all of this seriously, which brings up another question…
—Where do you guys think Olivia will be when Season Four begins? Will it be like that one season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (post-Angel slayage) that started with her waitressing in some random town? Will we actually get to see Olivia and Jake living this new, scandal-free life? Do we want that? Or should the new season pick up with Olivia high-tailing it back to Washington, D.C.?
Favorite Quote of the Episode: “Try to protect your soul if you still got it. It’s futile, but try.” (Cyrus)
Shannon M. Houston is a New York-based freelance writer, regular contributor to Paste, and occasional contributor to the human race via little squishy babies. You can follow her on Twitter.