The episode begins in DC. A harried young brunette — Quinn Perkins— rushes into a crowded restaurant, intent on telling her blind date, Harrison Wright, that she can't actually stay. But wait: It's not a date at all! Harrison explains that he's actually there to interview her for a job. Except it's not really an interview. More of an offer. And not just any offer. It's the offer. To work with the Olivia Pope, which makes Quinn go literally slack-jawed. If she says yes, she can be “a gladiator in a suit” Will she take it? Of course! Why? Because she wants to be a gladiator in a suit. Who's this Olivia Pope person, and what's so great about her?
She's a sharp-dressed woman with the uncanny ability to talk armed Ukrainian mob members into fleeing the country with only half the money they were promised — and she manages to badger her employee about getting engaged at the same time. Quinn is escorted into Olivia Pope and Associates headquarters, where we're swiftly introduced to our cast of characters. They are: Huck: Tech guy, former CIA. He doesn't like to talk about that latter part. Stephen Finch: The one Olivia thinks should propose. He's a litigator. Abby Whelan: The team's investigator. Quinn gets all wide-eyed and fawning when she's introduced to Olivia, who apparently used to work for the White House. Olivia explains that her crack team may include lawyers — that's Quinn's role, too — but it's not a law firm.
What is it? Well, they solve problems, manage crises, save reputations. Also, as a side note, it turns out those mob guys had kidnapped some ambassador’s baby and Olivia got it back. A man stumbles into the office at just this moment. It turns out he's some famous conservative war hero named Sullivan St. James, a beloved public speaker with the potential to run for office one day. The problem? Someone just killed his girlfriend, Paige, and he was on the scene and touched a bunch of stuff there, like an idiot, so the police think he did it. But he swears he's innocent — she was his best friend! He'd never hurt her! — and he needs Olivia's help to keep him out of jail, save his reputation. So, does our team take the case? Well, yes. They ostensibly vote about it, but really Olivia's opinion is the only one that matters. They take Sully on even though everyone else says no, because Olivia's gut says the guy is innocent, and her gut's never wrong. She has one rule for her clients: They have to tell her everything. No lies. After deciding to help Sully, the team jumps into action. Olivia wakes the US Attorney, David Rosen, up in the middle of the night and threatens him into giving her 24 hours before he arrests Sully. They clearly have a long history of this sort of thing, and he says she's annoying.
Meanwhile, Abby goes and checks out the crime scene (by,blackmailing a policeman with the knowledge of his stripper-loving ways), Stephen convinces some morgue worker he once slept with to fast-track the autopsy, and Harrison explains to Quinn that for Olivia and co. it's not about solving the crime or following the law, it's about getting rid of the problem. Period. Also, they never sleep or have social lives. Olivia gets a call from Cyrus Beene, who is some sort of White House bigwig. Turns out the President needs her help. An aide named Amanda Tanner is claiming he's sleeping with her, and Cyrus wants Olivia to shut her down. Olivia's response? “I need to see him.” Him being the President. When Cyrus argues that he's too busy, she adds: “I do not work for him anymore. So, you tell the President of the United States to make time.” So Olivia goes to meet the President of the United States for a little chat, but not before once again telling Stephen to propose. Abby makes faces in the background during this little scene because apparently she's into Stephen.
Olivia shows up at Camp David, makes nice with the First Lady, and then goes for a walk with the President. He manages to convince her that he wasn't sleeping with the aide by looking in her eyes and being all soulful. “You know there's only one person I love,” he declares. Meanwhile Quinn manages to find an old friend of Paige's, who spills to Abby, that Paige was screwing some other guy, which means they have another viable suspect in the Sully case. Olivia makes Quinn learn everything she can about this Amanda Tanner person, and then takes her along while she “handles” Amanda, which involves running into her while she's walking her dog and then making her cry in public with the power of words alone. Quinn is justifiably freaked out, and starts to question whether this new job is actually an appropriate way for a moral person to make a living.
But then Huck gives her a pep talk in the bathroom about how she, like all of Olivia's employees, is broken and needs Olivia to fix her and give her life meaning. Back to the Sully case. Abby has some bad news: Not only does Paige's boy toy have an alibi, but it turns out Sully knew Paige was sleeping with him, giving Sully motive. Olivia is not amused, but she's won over when Sully gives another impassioned speech about being innocent. New goal: Make his alibi stick. But first, Olivia tells Stephen that she's already made a date for him and his girlfriend, and she's also brought him a selection of engagement rings to choose from. Like Huck said, she fixes her employees, by brute force when necessary. Abby is still silently upset about Stephen's entire engagement plan. Amanda shows up at the office, ranting about wanting to see the President. Then David shows up, and suddenly they only have 40 minutes to solve the Sully case before he's arrested.
Fortunately, that puts a fire under all of their butts, and a well-placed bribe brings up secretary footage that shows Sully was with someone who can verify his alibi. The problem? That someone is his male lover. That's right: Mr. Conservative is gay, and he allows himself to be arrested rather than tell Olivia the name of his boyfriend. “I honor the uniform!” he shouts. “I'm a hero. I. Can't. Be. Gay.” Huck tells Quinn that Amanda is in the hospital after trying to kill herself. Quinn runs off to deal with it. Olivia shows up at the hospital and continues to insist Amanda is a liar until Quinn, mentions that Amanda wants the President to come to her and call her “sweet baby.” Suddenly, Olivia is all kinds of pissed, and it's not at Amanda or Quinn. It's at the President of the United States. So she goes to see him.
In the Oval Office. All it takes is one look at her face for the president to clear the room and confront her alone. “Sweet baby?” she gasps at him.“Sweet baby?” These two are former lovers it turns out. Apparently she left him (and her job with him), so he could devote himself to his wife and running the country and being a good person — not so he could bang some aide. The President backs Olivia up against a wall even though she asks him not to touch her, and gets all in her space while she tries to get him to admit he was sleeping with Amanda. He tells her he loves her and she slaps him, yelling about how he clouded her judgment and made her mistrust her gut. And then he kisses her, and she kind of kisses back, and then Cyrus walks in on them and Olivia leaves, ashamed.
Olivia was clearly upset, angry, and disgusted with the President, and he basically forced himself on her even though she was clearly telling him not to touch her. Olivia apparently isn't willing to let her own personal drama get in the way of fixing everyone else's problems. She stops by the restaurant to give Stephen one last pep talk about how he has to give marriage a shot or he'll regret it (she does almost break down crying in the closet after he proposes, so clearly her run-in at the White House affected her). Then she goes to Sully, and gives an impassioned speech about love being important and not living a lie.
She claims she knows how he feels. “Who you are, who you love, that shouldn't be a secret,” she says. Fortunately, Sully is convinced, and his story ends on a happy note as he comes out on TV, surrounded by fellow Marines who stand by his side. At headquarters, Stephen gives Abby a one armed hug — he thinks they're bros. She has a great “man, I need to get over this guy” face. Quinn, meanwhile, tries to wrap her head around the fact that in this job, we really don't care who committed the crime as long as the client's problem is solved. And, Olivia is taking Amanda as a client. The episode ends at this point.