"The president's been shot." That is perhaps the most heart-stopping sentence anyone can hear.
But for Olivia Pope, it's much worse than that.
The love of her life has been shot -- and may not survive.
Olivia always tried to separate the personal from the professional, but after President Grant is critically wounded from gunfire, the two sides merge. She has to keep her cool and try to keep the administration from imploding, all while dealing with her turbulent emotions of love, guilt, fear, and heartbreak.
With this shooting, everything is coming together in a huge pile-up -- her affair with Fitz, the nefarious Defiance plot, Lindsay/Quinn's set-up, and even Huck's shady past as a black ops agent.
For dear old Huck -- Olivia's best pal -- seems to be the one who shot Fitzy!
At the pleasure of the president
As a dazed Olivia wanders through the hospital after the shooting, she finds Fitz's bloody flag pin.
It triggers the memory of when she gave it to him, just before his inauguration as president. Mellie interrupts (boo!), and he goes off to take the oath of office.
Later, as Fitz and Mellie dance the night away at inauguration balls, Olivia roams the halls and overhears Cyrus and James fighting. Seems that Cy isn't really out of the closet yet, and he dismisses the incident to Olivia as a tiff with "some reporter." Ouch.
Olivia is checking out the Oval Office when Fitz enters. He ditched the balls so he could be with her. "We can't," she says breathlessly as he begins to kiss her.
"We can't stop. I can't," he replies. "You're the most important person in my life. I can't just stop. Can you?"
No, she can't. They proceed to have sex on the Oval Office desk!
Back in the present, Vice President Sally Langston commandeers a helicopter and lands on the South Lawn to give a statement that she is in control. Cy is furious -- only the president can do that ... and "you are not the president."
Olivia takes over the communications staff, since the press secretary was also shot, and assures them everything will be OK. But from her expression, she isn't too sure.
Dissension in the ranks
Flashbacks show that Sally Langston has always been a thorn in the administration's side. After the inauguration, she demands her quid pro quo: nominating a Supreme Court justice. This doesn't sit well with Verna, who reminds Cy and Olivia what she did to help them in Defiance.
Fitz is preparing for his first State of the Union address and is using a speech-writing getaway to get it on with Olivia. And then Mellie shows up, all perky and "did I interrupt anything"-y.
Her appearance rattles Olivia, who tells Fitz they can't keep the affair going. She doesn't want to be that person anymore, and likens their relationship to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Oh, snap!
Later, an aide tells Olivia a reporter is asking about voting irregularities in Ohio. Trouble! She tells Hollis, who promises to "take care of it." (Even worse trouble.)
Fitz and Olivia meet in "their place," the Rose Garden, where he calls the Jefferson-Hemings reference a low blow. She says she can't keep smiling at Mellie, while sleeping with her husband. And she's tired of always waiting for Fitz, watching for Fitz.
He then issues this incredibly romantic declaration. "I love you. I'm in love with you. You're the love of my life. My every feeling is controlled by the look on your face. I can't breathe without you. I can't sleep without you. I wait for you, I watch for you. I exist for you. If I could escape all of this and run away with you, there's no Sally or Thomas here. You're nobody's victim, Liv. I belong to you. We're in this together."
How can you not be in love with this man?
We the people
In present day, Edison calls (remember him ... Olivia's new/old boyfriend?). He warns her that the VP is rallying Cabinet members to sign over presidential powers to her.
Olivia must deploy her only weapon: Mellie. The pregnant first lady can gather up public support by giving a statement.
As Olivia gets an outfit together for Mellie, she lovingly touches Fitz's clothing. But the sight (and smell) of his Navy sweatshirt causes to her to break down sobbing for the first time since the shooting.
Flashback time again: Just days before the State of the Union address, Fitz and Olivia visit the National Archives, where they view (and touch!) the Constitution. They marvel at such a world-changing document, and Olivia affirms that she loves him.
Meanwhile, the VP gives Cyrus her name for the Supreme Court spot, but Cy's got some dirty tricks up his sleeve. He gives James the inside scoop that the potential nominee has a juvenile record.
Langston is pissed and says that Fitz's administration used her for the ballot and never intended to keep their promises.
Olivia learns about the Cytron bombing, which killed seven people and is being blamed on a woman named Lindsay Dwyer. Horrified, she confronts Hollis, who says they can't "turn away if things get a tad messy."
Even Cyrus -- who's back with James and engaged to marry -- shrugs. There's nothing they can do, and Lindsay Dwyer will just give up her freedom for the good of the country.
Later, just before the State of the Union address, Olivia runs into Mellie, who found Fitz's missing flag pin. Turns out the Secret Service found it at the National Archives, where Mellie thought she'd be the one to view the Constitution with Fitz. She knows.
As Fitz gives his speech ("I dedicate this presidency to bringing integrity back"), Olivia realizes she truly can't keep doing this. She drops off the flag pin and a resignation letter on Fitz's desk.
The powers that be
In present day, the doctors inform Mellie (with Olivia overhearing) that Fitz made it through surgery. But they don't know when -- or if -- he'll recover and wake up. Olivia gives Mellie the cleaned-up flag pin she found on the hospital floor. They may not be friends, but they both love this man.
A heartbroken Olivia runs to Cyrus, who's trying to keep his administration from falling apart. But "it's over," she tells him, and a devastated Cy destroys his office.
Sally Langston is sworn in as acting president (gulp).
A news report identifies the shooter as a man of average height and build, with a buzz cut and wearing a red hoodie.
Flashback to the shooting: The red-hooded man packs up his gun and clears the remaining evidence, and turns to leave. It's Huck!
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"Scandal" airs Thursdays at 10 PM on ABC.