Tonight’s episode of Scandal finally reveals who shot Frankie Vargas. It opens with Rowan Pope sitting in on his old friend, Sandra, giving an interesting and poignant lecture about how sometimes the predator can become the prey. Just remember that concept, because it’s a running theme this episode. Sandra is a fellow paleontologist (and the one who got away), and she called Rowan to come see her because she’s working on some new research with regard to the fossil world and wants him to be her partner. He’s into it…and Sandra too. Later on Papa Pope discovers that the research site is being secretly surveilled. He’s no fool so this definitely a problem. No one spies on Rowan Pope and gets away with it.
Rowan decides to seduce Sandra to get answers. He gets her alone at the research lab, and woos her over a bottle of wine and some Marvin Gaye. Just when Sandra is starting to soften up and allow him to kiss all over her, Papa Pope pulls out a gun and demands to know who she’s working for. Sandra, scared and teary-eyed, says she doesn’t know these people, but she is afraid of them. All she knows is that they wanted her to lure him there, and that “they’re everywhere.”
Finally, the agents, or whatever they are — two men and a woman — reveal themselves, and Papa Pope is livid that they have the nerve. He’s so livid that he threatens to kill them if they don’t give him answers. They call his bluff because he doesn’t know who’s in charge, but he bucks up and kills one of the men at random. That only impresses them, so you know these are sick people, and it comes out that they want Mellie Grant to be president. Papa Pope is confident that Olivia will get it done, but they’re not convinced and they definitely want him on the job, so they threaten Sandra’s life. Papa Pope makes the deal in order to spare Sandra. It’s obvious that Papa Pope is in love with Sandra, which means her life is in danger no matter what, but it’s always nice to see a slightly more human side of Rowan here and there. Whatever situation Rowan has found himself in is so dire that he tries to get Sandra to go to Zanzibar for a little while just to protect her until this blows over, but she refuses, which means she is officially on borrowed time.
Papa Pope rigs voting machines, thinking this is the stress free solution, but Olivia finds out and confronts him. She’s adamant about winning an election the right way. Rowan wants her to just let it fly and forget about it, but Olivia informs him that she already fixed the situation with the machines.
Finally, on the night before the election, the woman from the mysterious trio, now duo, demands that Rowan Pope that he better kill Frankie Vargas or else Sandra gets lullabied. We still don’t know who these people are, but they have Rowan scared, so you know that’s major. It also brings us back to Sandra’s lesson in the beginning about how sometimes the predators become prey. Rowan Pope has been bumped down the food chain.
On election night, Rowan Pope sets up shop under the podium and shoots his shots as Frankie delivers his dynamic speech. In addition, there was another sniper at a different angle who fired off shots to make it seem like the shots came from a different direction. After the deed is done, Rowan delivers a message to the other shooter whom we recognize, because this is the man who turns himself in as Nelson McClintock, the official Frankie Vargas assassin.
Rowan returns to the mysterious agents and demands that they free Sandra and get out of his life. They free Sandra and then have Jennifer make the call about Cyrus killing Frankie, but they’re not done with Rowan. The male agent, is so impressed with Rowan that he wants him to do more work for them. He didn’t put it so nicely. In fact, he was very condescending about it, which sent Rowan into a fit of rage. Rowan, read the man for filth. You know how he usually does with the reads, but it didn’t go over this time because now they know that Sandra is his weakness and in short, they feel like they own him.
Rowan steps his anger up and shoots Sandra himself just to be done with this. But in that moment of rage, another weakness of his due to pride, he forgot that his real weakness — the weakness of all weaknesses — is Olivia. As crappy of a dad as he can be sometimes, he does love her and wants her to be protected so when the inform him that they also have eyes on his Olivia and can put a bullet in her brain at any moment, he falls in line. Again, the predator has become the prey.
Cut to that scene where we saw Olivia confronting Papa Pope about whether he shot Frankie Vargas or not. Rowan denies this and goes on a rant about Olivia being weak, trying to deflect, and he also tries to get the whole, Cyrus-as-the-killer-shtick to stick. Ironically, this particular Rowan tirade is different. For the first time ever, it’s almost as if Rowan is talking to himself as he finishes his lecture with the fact that the game is about survival of the fittest. He mourns the loss of Sandra when Olivia leaves, and actually cries. It’s not clear whether he’s crying over Sandra, or the fact that everything he has worked for — which is not having to answer to anybody — seems like it has fallen apart.
In related news, Olivia doesn’t buy that Cyrus is behind this and she will ask Huck to do something major—kill Rowan Pope, but you already know that Rowan being dead puts Olivia in so much more danger. This is bananas!