If you’re a longtime reader of PurseBlog, you know that we’ve recapped lots of different shows over the past five years. Starting today, I’m trying my hand at one of my personal favorites–Scandal. We originally picked it because Olivia Pope has such a stellar handbag collection, but unfortunately, our girl Liv spent most of last night’s mid-season premiere in a cell without proper access to Prada.

Since we’re hopping on to this midseason, I suppose it’s important that we figure out where we’ve been before we can really figure out where we’re supposed to go. (Also, real talk: a little review seems in order for a show so complex that it makes daytime soap writers dizzy.) (I mean that in the best way possible.)

When we last saw our hero Olivia Pope, she was being kidnapped silently out of her own apartment just before banging the newly free and perpetually shirtless Jake Ballard. That’s both cruel to her and to those of us who were all het up to watch one of Scandal’s signature Beautiful Men Worshipping Olivia Pope Sex Scenes (TM), this one potentially ON A PIANO. Shonda Rhimes builds us up only to knock us down.

Olivia was snatched so suddenly that she actually spilled her wine instead of pouring it straight down her gullet, as she surely would have if she had had even a split second to think before she was dragged out of her apartment. It was the same fancy stuff she had shipped to the island, after all. You don’t just waste a glass of that stuff. There’s a finite amount of it, first of all, and second of all, it’s going to be a bitch to get out of the sofa.

After briefly flashing to Liv running wild-eyed, wild-haired and gun-toting through some sort of bunker and directly at what appeared to be a very secure door, we flashed back to the scene in her apartment and saw her kidnapper, such as he was. The dude was smart and experienced enough to successfully kidnap Olivia Pope, so he didn’t exactly show up in a silk bomber jacket with his name embroidered on the back.

The process of getting Olivia out of the building past a mostly naked Jake, who was running wild through the streets in his underwear in an apparent attempt to stop her captors with the sheer power of his semi-nude body, involved killing a kindly old neighbor lady and shoving Olivia in a body bag. First, though, Liv’s captors ominously intimated they might torture her, as if someone’s not tortured literally every week on this show and she might not have considered it’d be a potential tactic.

Then they pulled a Dexter and shot a syringe full of stuff into her neck, and when Liv woke up, she was in a cell in some as-yet-unidentified Muslim country with an American dude who had clearly been there for a hot minute. Despite the deplorable conditions, our heroine still had the self-respect to line the toilet with paper before she relieved herself. If she can’t have her dove grey cashmere around-the-house sweater, she can at least have her two-ply.

In addition to the somewhat surprising presence of toilet paper in the very dive bar-looking bunker bathroom, the food Liv and her cellmate were given didn’t look terrible. I’ve definitely eaten more questionable stuff from crappy midtown Manhattan delis, and I paid $12 for the privilege. And when the camera pulled out for the wide shot of Olivia embracing her cellmate and telling him she would eventually save the day, it sort of looked like the whole tableau was taking place inside an Anthropologie catalog. It didn’t look like that when she arrived, though; Olivia elevates the interior decor of a room simply by existing in it for a little while.

The next time we see Liv, we are supposed to understand that time had passed because of the deteriorated state of her blowout and because she no longer bothered putting toilet paper down before she pees. On one of her many trips to the bathroom, she made an ill-fated escape attempt through a window that likely would have been too small to get through, using her underwire to pick the lock. She got caught, of course, and because her captors couldn’t hurt her, they killed her cellmate instead. Down one roommate and with only one supported boob, things looked grim indeed. If I were her, though, I would have abandoned my bra long ago. To me, that she was still wearing it was a sign of good morale.

After that, I ceased knowing what in the hell was going on for several minutes. At first I thought Olivia was dreaming, because sexy Jake Ballard busted in with Seal Team Six and that seemed like it might not be a real thing that happened, but then Olivia woke up in a sunny bedroom in Vermont and showered with Fitz, and it seemed like perhaps her entire kidnapping and imprisonment might have been the fabrication. And then she was walking a golden retriever, which I really hoped was not a dream, and instead that we had introduced a dog character to the show who we would get to see for a scene or two in every episode. A fixer service dog of some sort.

Alas, Olivia was dreaming within her dream, which I think was once the plot of a Leonardo DiCaprio movie. Soon she was back to eating her not-so-bad food out of one of those super 80s wooden salad sets inside her cell, just as she had been before. Her giant, inconvenient spoon made her angry, though, and she decided it was time to try her luck with her second (and last) underwire.

She requested another bathroom break, but her too-tiny-to-escape-anyway window had been bricked up. After sobbing on the floor briefly and remembering something Ghost Abby told her in her dream, though, she dismantled part of the sink, left the bathroom and bludgeoned her potty time escort with a pipe.

Liv then stole his gun and keys, which is when we revisited the scene that opened the episode–she ran toward the door with everything she had. Her other guard stopped her, though, and after some dithering, Liv shot him in the head, mostly because he told her the gun was a man’s weapon. When she pulled the trigger, I actually hollered in glee and triumph. You can kidnap Olivia Pope and stick her in a cell like an animal if you want, and that might not get you shot, but implying that she can’t do something because she’s a woman definitely will.

That feeling was short-lived, though, because once Olivia found the right key and busted through the door, it was clear that she was on a soundstage of some sort, set up to make her think she had been whisked away to a stereotypically lawless foreign country. Her cellmate hadn’t been a fellow captive at all, but instead, he was the man who was directing the rest of her captors. He had posed as a prisoner to get Liv to confide in him, which she did before her hair was even messed up. For all the trouble her captors went to, she didn’t exactly make this dude stick it out for the long con.

Apparently the nugget of information that her fake cellmate was looking for was that the president loves Olivia. I’m not exactly sure why he had to imprison her on the set of Homeland in order to get that information, particularly since the Fitz-Olivia love affair has to be one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington and he didn’t extract any concrete proof of an affair that can be used at a later date. After all, simply knowing something to be true doesn’t have a lot of currency in the Scandal universe.

So far, we don’t know exactly who it was who ordered Olivia’s kidnapping; although Ian the Fake Prisoner was the head kidnapper, there’s surely someone further up the food chain who sent him in to snatch Liv. My money’s on the Vice President, but this episode has left me so disoriented that I cannot explain why I believe that. It just feels right.

Tune in next week to see which premium cable prestige drama Olivia will be imprisoned in next; my guess is True Detective.

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