Scandal takes an interesting approach to how it deals with its winter finales. While some series will save its massive cliffhanger for that last episode in December and leave fans to wait weeks or longer for the series to take its next breath. Scandal takes a slightly different approach. Last year, the penultimate episode of the half-way point of the series delivered the cliffhanger. I am, of course, referring to the sight of Huck standing near a smoking gun moments after the president was nearly shot to death on his birthday. The winter finale picked up in the aftermath of that, taking the series to a more manageable tension before breaking for the hiatus. Tonight’s episode, “The Door Marked Exit” was the exhale after last Thursday night’s gasping shocker. Sally killed her husband!

She really killed him too. This isn’t one of those times when we’re made to think she did it and then, surprise, he was stabbed to death by a knife operated by remote control, while Sally’s being set up. No, Sally totally killed her husband. We saw the scene play out through a spattering of clips showing Kate Burton’s scary side as Sally tore into her husband. Daniel made things worse when he tried to take credit for her success. She passed a lot of judgment, lost her mind and stabbed him in the back with a letter opener. Horrible.

It was interesting to see the difference in reaction between Cyrus and Mellie. Granted, Mellie never had to see Daniel’s body on the floor of Sally’s office. She wasn’t the one to call in B-613 to clean up the mess and get Daniel in his bed where they could make it look like a heart attack. She wasn’t the one to talk Sally out of turning herself in. That was all Cyrus. But that’s Cyrus. He and Mellie are both take-charge kind of people, but i’m not sure Mellie would have been as quick to find the necessary words to get Sally to hand over her sin, confess her misdeeds to God instead of the police and stay the course. He even got her to keep the medical examiner from looking too closely at Daniel’s body. I guess a good once-over will suffice for that doctor. Had he gotten Daniel's shirt off and flipped him over, he would’ve seen the stitched-closed stab wounds.

Cyrus took care of business, but not before vomiting the toilet. And he spent most of the episode looking like he’d aged a year each second that passed. Cyrus thinks he's lost his soul. But if he really was soulless, I don’t think he would feel nearly as remorseful as he does for his indirect involvement in Daniel’s death. He didn’t kill the guy, nor did he sanction it, but he set the course for it. He played a part in the chain of events that led to Daniel’s death, both when he set James up to be hit on and then when he showed Sally the photos. Now, I don’t think Cyrus should shoulder the blame for what Sally did. She did that. But the fact that he feels responsible for it shows his humanity, much more than say, Mellie, whose major concern was using the situation to get Sally to back off her campaign ambitions.

Speaking of which, it was looking like Sally was going to back off and forget her goals. But then she went off about Daniel to Leo, tipping him off that she killed her husband, and tipping us off that she’s still just as enraged over what Daniel did as she was before she stabbed him. And if she’s really that mad, is she really all that remorseful? Or is the shock of what she’s done wearing off? I’m thinking it is, or it will, and now that Leo knows, he can proceed to lure Sally back toward the political race. He knows her deep dark secret, and I’m less inclined to think that he’ll try to use it against her as I am to think that he’ll figure out a way around the situation for Sally. Maybe he’ll get something on Mellie or Fitz that he can keep in Sally’s pocket to protect her against any threat that Mellie or Cyrus might use to leak the truth in an effort to wreck her campaign. Whatever the case, I feel like Leo knowing is a big part of whatever happens for Sally's political future.

Meanwhile, one of the twists in tonight’s episode came in the form of a woman who showed up at David’s office with a recording of Sally’s phone call to Cyrus saying she committed a sin. That by itself probably isn’t all that incriminating but it's much worse when combined with the conversation David had with James earlier, during which James urged David to look into Daniel’s death, believing the man was murdered. Because it was just too coincidental that Daniel would die of a heart attack so soon after Cyrus confronted James with photos. Of course James would suspect. David brushed James' words off, still angry over what James did to his career to want to hear him out, but now that he's heard Sally's phone call, I’m thinking he’ll start sniffing around.

James seems prepared to stay with Cyrus. Their marriage is a mess, but he asked Cyrus to let him be White House Press Secretary, and I think Cyrus will make that happen to keep his husband from walking out on him for good.
In other news, Fitz and Rowan went head to head when Fitz had Rowan brought to some basement and stripped down to his underwear, in what was obviously a power-play move, after which Fitz tried to get under Rowan's skin by talking about how good Olivia is in bed. Maybe he was trying to get a rise out of him. Maybe he thought he could get Rowan to give up information about Olivia’s mother. Or maybe he just wanted to show Rowan how in charge he was. At that point, Fitz hadn’t been filled in on the fact that Maya is actually a terrorist or some other kind of criminal. Olivia’s people were working on that, while Fitz was saying icky things about Olivia to her father. Rowan came out on top of that conversation though, as we saw another demonstration of where Olivia inherited her ability to deliver a fast-spoken monologue.

Rowan called Fitz out for being a rich guy who’s desperate to get off the track his father set him on since birth. Rowan says Olivia is his exit strategy. I hate to admit it, but maybe the Rowan is right? We do sometimes see Fitz seeming so desperate to abandon everything and run off with Olivia. And there are times when the whole Vermont dream seems romantic but other times when it just seems like insecurity and frustration, like he's trapped in his own life and unable to take charge of anything. It's those moments that come back to me when I think about what Rowan said to Fitz. I do think Fitz loves Olivia, but Rowan might not be wrong to question the guy’s motives and insecurities.

Fitz got the last laugh though, as he somehow got Rowan fired and replaced with Jake. Maybe that disproves Rowan’s comments about being above the President’s pay-grade, but I’m really not sure what to think of that, to be honest. It seemed almost too easy for Fitz to unseat Rowan and put Jake in his place, so we’ll have to wait and see where that picks up. Meanwhile, Jake's all suited up and in charge of B-613 and that means his relationship with Olivia is over.

And obviously, Quinn didn’t kill Rowan or stab him with the needle, which wraps up another one of last week's cliffhangers. Rowan was called away in the nick of time. Meanwhile, Quinn has apparently inherited Sydney-Bristow-like spy resourcefulness, as she used a paper towel dispenser in a public bathroom to remove the tracking device Huck put in her tooth. Then she ran off and hid with Charlie. Then she returned to confront Huck at the office, who said he wanted to peel her skin off, then she went back to Charlie. No clue where any of this is going, and I’m not sure I want to think about it. But I agree with Charlie, Quinn shouldn’t change her hair.

Maya disappears in Mongolia and pops back up in Washington DC, making a mysterious “I’ll be seeing you” burner call to her daughter while looking cleaned up and gorgeous. Olivia may have gotten her speech-delivery superpowers from her father, but she inherited her ability to look chic in white from her mother. Loved Maya's coat.

Maya being back in DC is a twist, as we were surely assuming she was hiding out in some remote area. We’ll have to wait and see when and where she resurfaces. In the meantime, that’s where the episode left us, and we won’t know what’s next until late February when Scandal returns for its shortened second half.

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