Back at the White House, things are as rotten as ever between Fitz and Mellie. In a delightful change of pace from seeing surly, scotch-soaked Fitz snapping at Mellie and Cyrus, we got to see President Fitzgerald Grant as the country does. He gave a public address regarding the death of Graydon Osborne and then did an interview with Mellie to remind the public that they're still everyone's favorite first couple. Of course it's all artifice, but boy was it great to be reminded that he is, probably, a great and beloved President. Public Fitz is charismatic, eloquent, and commanding.
And as if we needed further reason to feel creeped out by Jake Ballard, Scandal overlays the press conference audio with footage of Jake removing the security cameras in Olivia's apartment in anticipation of Huck's routine sweep of the place. So, while we're watching close-ups of Jake's face all up in the security cameras, we're hearing Fitz say: "It's unfortunate for me to say that a man I appointed, a man I trusted, was secretly and actively working against this country in hopes of destroying it. But he did not succeed...our intelligence community is stronger than ever." More than a little chilling, right? (Also, random aside: I love that Huck does a sweep of her apartment and that he's teaching Quinn how to do it too, but are we surprised that he doesn't randomize his schedule?)
Fitz and Mellie have a heartbreaking episode. Their unhappiness is so all-consuming, Mellie can barely even sit up straight let alone look Fitz in the eyes with any of the earnestness she used to be able to fake. In prepping them for their "we're a happy couple" interview, Cyrus describes it perfectly: "They don't want you. They don't want this. This is Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, this is Macbeth. They want the fairy tale." And, so it's a fairy tale they give. In the interview, Fitz and Mellie laugh and touch and remind us all that they have chemistry lingering somewhere. Of course Olivia's watching it all on television with her signature glass of red wine. She seemed fairly poker-faced during the charming, sweet first date story that they tell -- probably because she knows it's apocryphal -- but it can't be easy to watch the man you love even pretend to be so enamored with someone else.
performance interview is over, Fitz finally says something real to Mellie. It's hurtful, and cruel, and obnoxious, but he must believe it. He reminds her that he basically married her for his father because she was well-bred. But when he realizes that Mellie truly believes that marriage is all pretending anyway, he shows her some of his humanity. It's a gorgeous moment, but they stop short of reaching any sort of revelation.
In a great contrast to the somewhat public (at least to the staff) misery of Fitz and Mellie, we finally get to check back in with Cyrus and James after the big confession and almost murder. And things are not good. Cyrus is still living in a hotel and James basically wants nothing to do with him. But, in the same way that Mellie and Fitz let their emotions consume them and spill over into their professional interactions, Cyrus is clearly the better one at compartmentalizing his anguish. Mellie doesn't even know things are remotely bad for them. This might actually be more of a testament to her selfishness, but Cyrus is a pro. He'd never cry to FLOTUS. But somehow Fitz knows, and actually says something unselfish, helpful and thoughtful to Cyrus about love being the thing that matters. Is Fitz himself again?
And Cyrus uses Fitz's advice and confronts James about what is really going on. He recognizes that perhaps James isn't just simply mad that Cyrus is a liar who rigged a national election. James is broken because he willingly perjured on behalf of his family and he can't reconcile that decision with himself. He betrayed his own moral code. James admits that he wishes Cyrus had lied. His own journalistic instincts demanded the truth, but as a man and a husband, he recognizes that he'd just rather not know. Cyrus does a pretty good job of entangling decent people into his own web of ethical complexity and convincing them of its merits, but it seems like James cannot handle it. It makes you wonder who James thought he was marrying, and how aware he was of Cyrus's manipulative side, or the Machiavellian aspects of his personality.
NEXT: The Ballard Offensive...