'Scandal' recap: Guess who's coming to dinner?

Kelly Woo
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Warning: This recap for the “Pressing the Flesh” episode of Scandal contains spoilers.

Push it … push it real good, Olivia Pope.

“Pressing the Flesh” centers around a big state dinner, where Mellie is hosting President Rashad of Basran. You know, the country that captured the CIA spy last week and Olivia had to Pope the hell out of its ambassador. Mellie wants to sign a nuclear treaty with Rashad, but, of course, he’s playing hardball. That he comes from such a conservative country while she’s a woman doesn’t help. That he tries to mansplain things to her really doesn’t help.

Olivia is willing to use B613 tactics to get Rashad to sign, but she may have just found the one guy in the world who won’t back down to La Pope.

Meanwhile, the gladiators and friends are dealing with their own mini-crises at the dinner. Like they say, opposites attract, and on Scandal, sometimes that can lead to explosive results. Not literally explosive — more like oh-no-#smh-this-is-gonna-be-deliciously-bad explosive.

Here’s a rundown of this week’s episode, including our live tweets:

Post-coitus Olivia is getting dressed after her rendezvous with Curtis Pryce, who is trying to charm and flirt his way into another meeting. She gives him the classic “I’m super-busy with work” line that has been used to ghost dates for years and leaves.

The thing is, she really is busy! There’s the state dinner that evening with President Rashad, with whom the U.S. has a tricky relationship. Mellie needs to persuade him to sign the nuclear arms treaty, but when they meet in the Oval Office for a photo op and tour, he pretty much dismisses her. He’s not willing to lie down to the Americans’ demands.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is really annoyed by the seating chart and whines to Olivia about being placed next to Fenton Glackland (the great Dean Norris of Breaking Bad). Fenton is a tech billionaire with bad manners, but Liv reminds him that he could be very helpful to Cyrus should he run for president someday.

At Attorney General David Rosen’s office, Abby is begging for four tickets to the state dinner so the gladiators can drum up some new clients. David is exasperated, but agrees to help her.

As they get all gussied up for the dinner, Huck looks like he’s going to bail. He isn’t one for small talk (yeah, that’s an understatement). His version of small talk is torturing people with power tools until they confess. Then he asks Abby if she misses life in the White House. A thoughtful expression comes over her face. Yes, she misses having power and affecting so many lives. But she wouldn’t change a thing about where she is now.

Over at the White House, Mellie is also getting ready for the dinner. She, like Huck, doesn’t want to go. She suggests hitting Georgetown bars and picking up some hot guys. Mellie needs to get laid, stat! She complains as a female POTUS, she’s a “human chastity belt.” She can’t even go out to buy a vibrator, dammit!

That sets off both women into hysterical giggles, as they imagine how documentarian Ken Burns would treat Mellie tending to her “lady bits.” We can picture the artful black-and-white shot of her Rabbit now.

Just as the dinner is about to begin, Liv visits her new B613 lair — built in FDR’s old pool. She orders Jake to dig up dirt on President Rashad to use if he refuses to sign the treaty. Yes, ma’am!

She returns to the dinner, and spots Curtis in attendance. “What are you doing here?” she whisper-yells at him, then tells him to leave. He smiles in that vaguely smarmy but cute way and reminds her that it would cause quite the scandal.

The gladiators work the room. Quinn comes up with an alter ego for Charlie — ”Kevin,” who plays water polo and is a California Dunwoody and went to Stanford. LOL. Huck, though, is super-uncomfortable, until Abby suggests he talk to the military types in the room. He does, but while bonding with one military guy, Huck spots his medals and freaks. When the guy asks if Huck served, Huck flees to find shrimp cocktail.

Cyrus is barely able to restrain rolling his eyes as he squires around Fenton, who loves churros and big helpings and buying super-expensive art. He apparently just purchased a very expensive Cézanne painting. But Fenton doesn’t care about art — he just uses it as a means of impressing/intimidating people who see it in his office. Now that does intrigue Cyrus. As does Fenton’s declaration that he’s interested in running for governor.

At dinner, Mellie and Rashad whisper-fight about the treaty. He notes that if he signs, he’ll be considered weak by his countrymen and be exiled at best, assassinated at worst. “I’m afraid your dream is thwarted by reality.”

Jake has dug up some dirt on Rashad, with which Olivia confronts the president. Turns out he sent his niece to Dartmouth under a false name. She’s an English major with a minor in gender studies — not the kind of thing his people would like. Clearly, he may spout one agenda but holds other values. “Do for your country what you’ve done for your niece,” she pleads.

This angers him. Actions speak louder than words, Rashad says. And Olivia’s own actions against his ambassador (and the ambassador’s kid) say everything about Liv’s character. He adamantly refuses to sign the treaty.

Cyrus gives Fenton a tour of the Oval Office, but Fenton ruins their moment by sitting in Mellie’s chair and then musing that maybe he’ll spend an extra few million and run for president. The veep blows his top. Cyrus calls the billionaire ignorant and entitled. Sitting in that chair is an honor and privilege; it’s not for a rich dude who is bored and wants to shop for a political office. Offended, Fenton stalks away.

Another awkward encounter takes place between Abby and David. As they listen to a stirring Stevie Wonder cover, she seems giddy. So, he takes her hand. She immediately drops it and moves away. Party foul!

She finds Huck, who is still freaking out over that military guy from earlier. But it’s not because of his own past — it’s because the guy was wearing his medals in the wrong order. That guy was never in the military! So who is he?

Turns out he’s an assassin hired by Rashad’s radical opponents in Basran. The guy manages to corner Rashad in a private room and pulls a gun on him. He accuses Rashad of “groveling for American approval while your own country burns.” But just as he’s about to pull the trigger, Jake and the Secret Service storm in and save the day.

In the Oval Office, Rashad takes a breather, and Mellie gives him one last pitch for the treaty. He admits he isn’t afraid of dying, but of failure and letting his country down. She replies that the treaty could be his greatest achievement. Rashad finally agrees, but with a caveat — his country’s rival nation must also sign. Mellie vows to make it happen.

And then they share a drink and he reveals that his niece has a poster of Mellie hanging on her dorm wall. “You’re extraordinary,” Rashad says, and they exchange a heated look. They look on the verge of kissing … when they come to their senses and conclude their meeting.

Abby confronts David about the hand-holding moment. At first, he writes it off as “being in the moment” but then he observes that the two of them could be good together. Nope! She walks away, leaving him in the friendzone (for now).

Back at QPA, Charlie decides to have a Talk with Quinn. This whole Kevin charade made him realize that the new Boss Quinn doesn’t need Charlie, she needs “Kevin.”

She slaps him and accuses him of dumping her while she’s pregnant. He denies it, saying she clearly is breaking it off with him. “I love you, I’m marrying you,” Quinn insists. And Not-Kevin had better marry her immediately or risk another slap.

When Cyrus returns to his office after dinner, his assistant informs him he got a package. It’s the Cézanne painting, the one Fenton bought.

Ooh, baby, baby.

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

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