'Scandal' Tweet-cap: Play or Get Played

·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Warning: This recap for “The Fish Rots From the Head” episode of Scandal contains spoilers.

“The game is out there, and it’s either play or get played.”

That quote is from the infamous Omar Little of The Wire, but it applies just as much to the world of Scandal, where everybody has an agenda and they’re trying to push it on everyone else.

Scandal is a game of manipulation. Nudge someone this way to get them to do that. Move to the left, so your enemy moves to the right. Tell a (fake) heartbreaking story to make a guy run for president. Play or get played.

Related: Catch Up on ‘Scandal’ With Our Recaps

The best thing about Scandal is nobody is on top forever, and nobody is on the bottom all of the time. Olivia Pope usually rules, but right now, she’s a little behind in this game. She’s definitely thrown for a loop by Jake’s big revelation at the end of the episode, and she hasn’t yet figured out what his strategy is.

But never count Olivia Pope out. She might be a move or two behind right now, but just you wait — and she’ll checkmate you.

Here’s what went down on Scandal this week:

What women want

Mellie is showing off her new book cover to Olivia, before talking campaign strategy. Of course, Liv is still not officially running her campaign, because “bad optics.” But Liv can still give her advice, and No. 1 on the list is not to let Fitz endorse Susan Ross for president. He probably won’t endorse Mellie, but at least ask him not to support his VP.

Fitz, meanwhile, is enjoying his bachelorhood. No, seriously, it’s basically The Bachelor: White House Edition. A stream of ladies arrive at the residence, give over their cell phones, sign NDAs, and enjoy some private time with the POTUS. And Abby is there to make sure nothing goes wrong.

Something does go wrong, though, but with the Secret Service. They tell Abby a party got “out of control,” and she calls in OPA to handle it. Well, apparently “out of control” means there’s a dead hooker in their hotel suite. The agents tell Quinn that the escort, Megan, just fell dead, and her colleague Erin confirms the story. The gladiators find heroin marks on Megan and chalk it up to an overdose. Quinn takes over, wiping the suite of all traces of the Secret Service’s involvement. Job, complete.

Cyrus has lunch with Gov. Vargas, who’s getting all sorts of attention. Sally Langston wants him to come on her show, but he’s reluctant. He needs to get back to Pennsylvania to pass his education bill. Cyrus doesn’t much like that, and persuades Vargas to stay in town and meet with Fitz. It can’t hurt to have an ally in the president, right? (Or be the president, but Cy’s slowing his roll there.)

Elsewhere, Olivia is joined by Abby to spy on Jake and his girlfriend, Vanessa, who are having a totally normal, laughy date at a restaurant. It doesn’t sit right with Liv, though. “He’s up to something,” she muses. You don’t just kill someone to become the head of the NSA, and not be up to something nefarious.

Speaking of nefarious doings, David and Susan are in bed, post-coitus, and he’s encouraging her to ask Fitz for an endorsement. She’s not keen on the idea, because she knows what’s going on with Fitz’s parade of women. She doesn’t want to tie herself to that potential disaster.

But the next day, Lizzy Bear is not pleased at hearing that news. She orders David to make Susan see the light, then orders him to take off his pants. Yes, ma’am!

What men want

Vargas meets with Fitz, who scorches his education plan as “entitlements.” Ouch, what’s Cyrus going to think about that? Well, Fitz’s disapproval makes Vargas want to sell his plan on Sally Langston’s show, so actually Cyrus is very pleased. In fact, this seems to have been his plan all along.

So, that Secret Service dead escort thing is not, well, dead, because Marcus brings in the autopsy report. Megan did not die of an overdose, she suffered blunt force head trauma. He wants them to investigate further, because it’s like, “the right thing to do” or whatever, but Liv reminds him that they need to look out for their clients’ best interests.

On Sally’s show, Vargas is charming and likeable, and you can just see Cyrus salivating as he watches. Then, Vargas douses him with a cold bucket of water: He has zero interest in running for president. #Whyyyyy? Cy orders Tom to look into it.

Mellie brings little Teddy by for a visit with Daddy at the White House, and Mellie asks to talk to Fitz for a minute, probably to ask that he stay neutral in the primaries. But then another floozy walks out of the bathroom in a robe, and Mellie puts on her biggest, fakest smile and takes Teddy away. She tells him that he can screw as many women as he wants, but not in front of their children.

Meanwhile, Lizzy wants Susan to go on Sally’s show, too, to take down Vargas’s education plan, but Susan is squeamish about the idea. David comes by with some flowers, and he’s caught in the middle of their argument about it. In the end, Susan does go on “The Liberty Report,” and looks terribly unhappy about it.

Tom reports back to Cyrus on why Vargas won’t run — it turns out his young daughter has cancer. So sad! Cyrus sympathizes with the governor about it. He had a brother named Oliver who was terminally ill, and almost didn’t go to Harvard to stay to care for him, but Oliver insisted he go and maybe become president someday. Is the story true? Probably not, but if we didn’t at least entertain the idea that it might be true, wouldn’t we be just as cynical as Cyrus?

Honesty is the best policy

Olivia wakes up to find Jake looming over her bed. Girl, we’d scream if we were you! Jake knows she’s been spying on him — duh, he’s head of the freakin’ NSA — and then starts to touch her very inappropriately. Well, it’s appropriate to Olivia. She’s enjoying it very much, until she tells him to stop. He does, and leaves, saying a pretty final-sounding goodbye.

Liv and Marcus follow up on the dead hooker case by going to see her friend, Erin. She confesses that she lied about Megan’s heroin habit. She did hit her head, they covered it up, and they paid off Erin.

When Liv goes to Abby with the truth, Abby reminds her of OPA’s loyalty to their clients. But Liv shoots back that, technically, Abby is her client, not the Secret Service. What does Abby want?

Well, what Abby wants is whatever Fitz wants, so Olivia has to go to the Oval Office to see him for the first time since their breakup. And wow, is it awkward. We half-expected them to start talking about the weather and traffic in D.C.

She tells him about the Secret Service mess, and when he asks why Abby isn’t dealing with it, Liv notes that Abby is busy dealing with his “transgressions,” aka his floozy parade. He turns it around on her and asks about Liv working with Mellie. They shoot eye daggers at each other for a bit, and then Liv tosses out a quote: “The fish rots from the head.” Meaning, Fitz’s behavior is trickling down to the agents. “What kind of example are you setting for the people who work for you, for the country, for your son?” she asks.

The next day, Susan is summoned to the White House. Fitz asks why she went on Sally’s show and torpedoed Vargas’s plan when he knows she is in favor of it. Susan admits she felt cornered into it. He tells her never to lie to the American people again and that he plans to endorse her. She’s not sure she wants it, but she does promise to always tell the truth.

Fitz gives a press conference about the Secret Service incident, and Huck gives Marcus an “attaboy.” Awww, he’s a real gladiator now!

Cyrus is bidding Vargas goodbye, but Vargas asks for one last drink. Then, he reveals he wants Cyrus to run his presidential campaign! Cyrus’s story about Oliver really touched him. Of course, as Cy reveals to his husband later, Oliver doesn’t exist. Of course.

Olivia goes to her father’s house for Sunday night dinner. Papa Pope is surprised, since she never wants to eat at the house, but Liv is in full-on snooping mode. She hears a cork popping. Jake and Vanessa are celebrating, it turns out. Celebrating what? Oh, their engagement.

Jake is up to something.

Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.