Ladies and gentlemen, we have a morality clause breach. Stay calm. Don't make any sudden movements. Pour yourself a big glass of $300 wine (or just drink it out of the bottle, we don't judge). And for goodness sakes, just tell Olivia Pope everything from the outset, ok?
Scandal, it has been too long, and we're glad to have you back - especially when it's an emotional and tension-filled episode that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat with a pit in your stomach. We'll even forgive you for making the entire 44 minutes pretty chaste.
"Top of the Hour" is about betrayal in all of its forms. Between husbands and wives. Between lovers. Between colleagues. And between friends. In brief, Olivia takes a case for an different type of party, and ends up doing that thing where she gives advice to someone else, but is really talking to herself. Fitz forges forward with his campaign to get the captives back to the US safely. Abby and Harrison have a sort of come to Jesus moment about their friendship. And Quinn and Huck team up to continue their own separate investigation of the suspicious CIA Director, which kind of makes me wish that they could exist in a drama and torture free universe where they could just be quirky buddy cops with smoldering sexual tension...but that defeats the point of Scandal, doesn't it?
Anyway, let's dig in.
The scandal of the week wasn't your run of the mill Olivia Pope assignment. News broke that Fitz's Supreme Court nominee Murray Randall had an affair with a married woman (Sarah Stanner, played by the lovely Lisa Edelstein) while he was her Harvard law school professor. In the Scandal-verse that we know and love, Cyrus would have called Olivia immediately and had her defuse the situation for their guy. She'd have gotten the case under control somehow -- paid the woman off, found holes in the story, painted her to be a seductress, and just generally would have figured out a way to reestablish the morality of the nominee. But Shonda Rhimes surprised me here. The woman got to Olivia first, and suddenly, she was the client of a relative nobody. A CEO, sure, but for Olivia, SCOTUS usually trumps C-Suite. This is awesome for a number of reasons. First, she is actively working against the administration's (read: Fitz's) Supreme Court nominee. Second, she's taking the side of the woman in the affair, who was not just diminished to mistress status. She's made into a full character with a high-powered career, and a family. And third, the situation becomes less about the Supreme Court nominee and the national scandal, and more about the effects that such a media circus can have on a family, and on a marriage.
We meet the Stanner family on what seems like a typical evening (in the insanely beautiful kitchen of my dreams), with work, healthy bickering, and anticipation of a pizza delivery. When the pre-teen daughter goes to answer the door expecting pizza, she's greeted by dozens of microphones and flashing lights and crazy-eyed reporters asking if she knew about her mom's affair. "DAAAAAAAAADDDDDD" is the correct response.
Also, side note: Reporters can't catch a break on this show, can they? The only good one in the bunch got murdered. And I'm not counting Perd Hapley. He's just there for exposition.
NEXT: "On the count of three, we'll all get naked together"