Scandal 5.2: Deeper Into the Scandal of “America’s Mistress”

Let’s all welcome back our newest NGN Team member, Laura, who returns this week with thoughts on the latest episode of Scandal!

Source: ABC/Eric McCandless

Source: ABC/Eric McCandless

As a member of Team Jake, this episode was the ultimate tease! And I don’t mean that in a good way. Still, I have to give Scandal credit—it was compelling TV, as always. The photos stir up the predictable media madness. While Fitz wants Olivia to stand by his side to make a statement, Olivia would rather get the hell out of town. And Liv usually gets her way, as her friends in lighter moments at various times point out. Abby explains to Elizabeth North, “The president’s about to get Poped,” and Quinn (when answering to Jake why she let Olivia take a case) said, “You don’t say no to Liv. And, besides, she took my car keys.”

Mellie Grant
Mellie has, by far, the best speech of the episode when she goes to see Fitz in the Oval Office. Her take on living in the spotlight that is the White House is a brilliant piece of both writing and acting:

“You placed Olivia in a dangerous position. You outed her. You thought by throwing me out of the White House and moving her in you’d be making this grand gesture. Finally she wouldn’t be just a mistress anymore. But the minute she stepped through these doors, the minute she moved in here, she became what we all become when we live here. And what is that? Yes. A statue, inhuman, viewed from every angle, discussed, exposed. She’s not just a mistress now. She’s America’s mistress. History will preserve her as such. Oh, honey, you made a horrible miscalculation, an error in judgment. You didn’t realize, which is why I’m here. You can apologize, I can accept, and then I’ll take care of everything.”

Mellie probably could have put all the rumors to bed, if Fitz (and then Olivia) had let her. Whether she should is an entirely different question.

Cyrus and Abby
Luckily, Cyrus remains a character on this show, and this episode seemed to set up how he’ll remain actively involved, since the scenes for next week show Mellie telling him she wants to destroy Olivia Pope and Cyrus cackling gleefully. In this week’s episode, though, he shows his characteristic strategic genius while coaching Abby on how to handle the situation, telling her to “Be the adult.” It’s interesting to hear the President of the United States described as a child who must be told what to do, but in some cases I’m sure that’s scarily accurate.

Abby becomes a more formidable character in this episode than we’ve previously seen. She listens to Cyrus’s pretty damn good advice and starts to smooth things over with the press by saying Fitz and Mellie are still a strong team. Then she gets the ultimate ammunition to thwart her rival, Elizabeth North, when she learns Liz leaked those photos in the first place. Instead of making Liz her “bitch” (as Liz colorfully expects her to do), Abby demands nothing more or less than equality. She wants to be part of the team rather than subservient. It’s a brilliant, and honorable, move. Maybe the president deserves to know who gave Sally the photos, but compared to some of the things Cyrus pulled in his tenure, leaking photos of Fitz and Olivia looking like a cute couple is relatively minor.

Olivia and Jake
Am I the only one who caught how much Liv’s face lit up when Jake walked into that casino? The chemistry between those two is palpable. Their simple dialogue exchange—with Olivia saying, “Nice to see you” and Jake replying, “Figured you might need some help”—somehow speaks volumes through their expressions and body language. They have a tangible connection, and way more sparks than Olivia has with Fitz, in my opinion. Do you agree?

Then, there’s the scene when Jake lies down beside Olivia, although they continue a conversation that started earlier.

Jake: Look, at some point you’re going to have to leave this place. Face the music. You wanted to be with him. You wanted to be with him so much that I— What’s changed?
Olivia: (incredulous) What’s changed?

At that point they’re interrupted by Gavin, Olivia’s case-of-the-week. Later, we get to the wonderful scene when they’re lying in bed together.

Olivia: I keep asking myself. ‘When did it happen? When did I turn right instead of left? What choice was it that decided? When exactly did I do the thing, the… the one step? What flap of the butterfly’s wings brought me to this moment? How did I get here?’ Because I can’t seem to retrace my steps.
Jake: Liv…
Liv: I’m scared.
Jake: I know. That’s a good thing.
Liv: I’m scared, and I don’t know what to do. I don’t have any answers. How is that a good thing?
Jake: Well, we’re at our best when we’re scared. Your instincts are heightened, your adrenaline’s right beneath the surface. Everything’s crystal clear and your focus becomes like a laser. And you just know what comes next. You know what to do. You know the answers. And you just act.
Liv: Did my father teach you that?
Jake: You really want to know?
Liv: Can we… Would you mind if…
Jake: No. No, come on.

Olivia wants Jake to hold her, that’s what she’s not quite able to ask. He does, spooning up against her while keeping his head propped up on his elbow so he can continue to look at her. And the look she gave him while asking for that physical closeness… priceless! Again, I personally think you can feel the heat between them, and that she does still love Jake. Love shouldn’t make you feel shame, which Olivia expresses when talking to Jake about the photos.

Liv: I’ve spent so much time, years—ashamed, with shame pressing on me, suffocating me. And for just a little bit, I let myself breathe, and… then those photos come out. And… That’s what I’m running from. That feeling… The shame.
Jake: Liv, loving the president isn’t a crime.
Liv: And yet here I am being hunted and chased like a thief in the night.

The Vice President—Always Wonderful
I love Susan. She’s a breath of fresh air on this show that’s heavily laden with intense drama. Her insistence that the photos are doctored and that the president’s innocent gets quickly transformed into her being hilariously flabbergasted when the president admits it’s all true.

She can also often represent the voice of reason, like in this conversation with Fitz.

Fitz: I’m a flawed person, just like everyone else.
Susan: Mr. President, you don’t get to be just like everyone else. That’s not the job you signed up for.

Olivia and Fitz
Even though I think Olivia belongs with Jake and loves him, I’ve never doubted how much Fitz himself loves Olivia. He seems genuinely devastated when Abby points out that the photos the press captured of Olivia show she’s with Jake, and that she’ll never choose to live her life under the spotlight and scrutiny that would come with being the president’s girlfriend.

Abby’s statements will most likely come back to haunt her, though, after Fitz leaves the message on Olivia’s phone: “I don’t want you to throw away your whole life just for me. I love you too much for that.” Hearing that must have changed her mind, because it led to the show’s typical cliffhanger ending, with a reporter asking Liv, “Are you the president’s mistress?” and her final, simple, “Yes.” I’m sure “Olitz” fans cheered in delight over the two of them finally taking their relationship public; although it definitely dashed my hopes for Olivia and Jake.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Do you think Olivia made the right decision admitting the affair? What about Cyrus coaching Abby, or Mellie’s speech in the Oval Office? As always, I’d love to hear from you!

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4 thoughts on “Scandal 5.2: Deeper Into the Scandal of “America’s Mistress”

  1. Even though I respect your opinions about Jake and Olivia, I am going have to steer a little direction here. While I don’t see the possibility of a romantic future between Jake and Olivia, I do see Jake being a great friend for Olivia. One of the things I really loved about Jake and Olivia is their friendship despite all the things they went through. I also admired Jake for be willingly to let Olivia go for the sake of her own happiness. To me, he made the ultimate sacrifice which I respect greatly. Not a lot of men are willing to do just that.

    I just love how much understanding he has. Which, to me, is one of the important qualities of being a friend. Olivia has had a lot of shitty (pardon my language) friends in the past. She had to rely on herself. Her family is broken and even shattered into pieces beyond repair leaving her alone, creating the worst kind of isolation and loneliness that Olivia had to go through.

    Mellie confused me this episode. I get that she’s ambitious, but I am wondering why would she hold on to a man after so many years of loveless marriage, even after Fitz wanted a divorce? This whole dilemma is confusing me. If she had let him go, try other ways and continued be the Mellie I admired greatly in season, she would have gained a lot more, you know?

    One of my favorite scenes out of this entire episode was probably the motel scene where Olivia asks for Jake’s comfort. That scene just broke my heart, and I had never seen her so vulnerable and so scared. I finally understood why Olivia tried to push Fitz away. Then, Jake said two of my favorite lines of the season,

    “well, we’re at our best when we’re scared. Your instincts are heightened, your adrenaline’s right beneath the surface. Everything’s crystal clear and your focus becomes like a laser. And you just know what comes next. You know what to do. You know the answers. And you just act.”

    and

    “loving the president isn’t a crime.”

    I was just blown away by the amount of understanding and empathy he has for Olivia. By far, this is one of my favorite Jake-Olivia scenes since Scandal aired. So much depth, amazing performances, and yet it’s made to look like its a simple scene.

    • Thanks for your comments. I understand where you’re coming from on Jake and Olivia, and I do think he’s an incredible friend to her. For me, friendship is the foundation beneath any great love, and I feel like Jake has proven his friendship and devotion more than Fitz has in some ways. The fact that he did make the “ultimate sacrifice,” as you say, shows his absolute love for her and his willingness to do whatever it takes to make her happy. It’s the very understanding and empathy you mention in your comments that make me want them to be together, although I do agree with you that the way the show is going at the moment I don’t see how a romantic future with them would happen.

      As for Mellie, I understand it on a practical level. In politics, a divorce would be devastating. Mellie would never be elected the first female president after going through a scandal-filled divorce. As she points out herself in the episode, America will never elect a woman who can’t get laid. In the minds of voters and male-dominated world of politics, if she can’t keep her man how could she possibly navigate world affairs? Her marriage with Fitz became one of friendship last season, and they did make a great team. I think for both of those reasons she’s desperate to hold onto him. Does that make sense to you? Olivia admitting she’s the president’s mistress at the end of the episode will hurt Mellie politically, setting Mellie on a path to destroy her.

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