Thanks to a bout of strep throat, you get two episodes of Scandal in one blog post: both last week’s episode “Paris is Burning” and this week’s “Dog-Whistle Politics.”
By far one of the funniest dialogue exchanges occurred in last week’s episode, when Quinn asked Huck, “You were gonna turn off the Internet?” And he calmly replied, “Well, no, I was going to erase the Internet.” If only dealing with a scandal like being the president’s mistress was that easy.
So let’s take a look at how Olivia’s simple “Yes” has changed things for everyone, and what this might mean for the upcoming season.
Olivia Pope and Associates Has a New Member
Jake forced Quinn and Huck to face reality with his brilliant arrival at O.P.A. last week, reminding her two associates of exactly who Olivia is and always has been: “Liv did not ask for your help. She does not want your help. She did this. You know why you don’t know about any plan? Because you are not part of any plan. The plan already happened. The plan was Olivia Pope standing on that sidewalk and with one word obliterating any life she’s ever known. The plan was Liv requiring the same thing of herself that she requires of her clients. Standing by the one thing, following the only rule that matters to her, and what is that? Do not lie. That was it. That was her plan. The plan is done. Liv finally stood on her own, and we are done.” When they ask him what he plans to do next, he says with his usual calm demeanor, “My plan is to sit here and drink the majority of this vodka and get remarkably wasted and watch the world end. Care to join me?”
This also led to one of the cutest moments in the two episodes, when Quinn confessed to her love for martinis, and Jake reassured her, “Every new spy does it. I did it.” It’s always nice when the super spies show their human side, especially after some of the more violent rampages we’ve seen them all embark on.
This week, with Jake off fighting a different battle, Quinn and Huck tried a different tack: hiring a new gladiator in a beautiful mirror of the pilot when Quinn first joined the team. Only instead of eagerly accepting the job like Quinn did, Marcus Walker adamantly refused and walked away, at least at first.
Fortunately, Marcus proved his worth before the end of the episode, refusing to listen to marching orders and instead fighting back with his “dog-whistle politics” strategy, leading to…
An Interesting Discussion on Racism and Sexism, for a Change
Personally, I like the fact that no one on Scandal makes a big deal over the fact that Olivia has had two white boyfriends in recent seasons: Fitz and Jake. Interracial couples shouldn’t be a big deal anymore. Yet racism and bigotry certainly still exist in the world—no one is denying that—and the show does have a unique opportunity to address it at times in an interesting, relevant way. Marcus’s strategy shines a bright spotlight not only on the media in the Scandal universe but also our own media, pointing out the key terms that often get used and overlooked like “urban,” “thug life,” and even the mild-sounding “articulate.” As Marcus retorts to one member of the media, “She’s usually so well-spoken for a black woman, isn’t that what you meant?”
Sexism also gets addressed here, not only regarding how men versus women involved in affairs get treated, although that’s certainly a large part of it, but also by looking at gender roles in a larger context. The Senate Women’s Caucus discusses the old boys’ club that’s still alive and well in Washington D.C. The men drink, have their cigars, and make back-room deals that exclude the female senators. To even the playing field and maintain their own voice in world politics, the women have formed a caucus of their own. They seek to impeach President Grant instead of handling the affair with a wink and a nod as most men do with their male colleagues (albeit in this particular case, in which the men seek to confront Fitz with an agenda of their own). Of course, in the world of Scandal, the women need Mellie’s help.
One of the most underrated actresses on TV today, Bellamy Young, delivered exceptional performances in both episodes. Last week, Cyrus forced Mellie to get past her immediate desire for revenge to declare her ultimate goal: the Oval Office. In one of the best speeches of last week, Mellie also gave us a subtler glimpse into one form of sexism in Washington: the role of the First Lady. As Mellie eloquently explained to Olivia, “Your wants, your needs—nobody cares anymore. All that matters is him [the president]. You will make so many sacrifices and compromises you won’t even feel like a real person anymore. You will be unrecognizable. Think you’re going to be able to keep that little business of yours up and running? That group of thugs you got working for you? What, are you going to find a place for them here on your staff in the White House? I don’t think so. You forfeit all that the moment he takes your hand and presents you to the world. You get dropped in a cage, and you are trapped. The amount of bile you will force yourself to choke down… But like I said, that’s what this here liquid gold [her hooch] is for.”
Olivia, thinking she understands Mellie, started to nod, “To feel numb.” Yet she’s got it backwards, as Mellie clarified, “Oh honey, no. Living here, in this prison, that is what makes you feel numb. This is what makes you feel alive. When you go back to the Oval and you sit next to Fitz, I hope you know what you’re really fighting for. And whatever hooch you dig up around here… consider it my parting gift.”
Mellie has given up a hell of a lot to help get Fitz where he is. While Cyrus may have manipulated Mellie last week, the flashback she had while walking to the interview certainly did have merit. She was raped by Fitz’s father; her son was murdered; she’s been humiliated, abandoned, and sidelined; she sacrificed her own career—all for Fitz. It’s no wonder she didn’t want to do the interview to save him.
In this week’s episode, Mellie at first didn’t want to lead the charge to impeach her husband. Yes, she’s been hurt, as Young portrayed beautifully in the touching scene of Mellie and Fitz playing with their son Teddy. But only once Fitz broke his end of the deal by taking Olivia out in front of the world, further hurting her after they’d agreed to try to stop doing that, did she change her mind. After seeing the news story, then she went back to the women of the Senate to agree to help impeach Fitz. Until then, she sought to take the high road and keep her dignity.
Cyrus, the formidable enemy of last week, overplayed his hand hugely this week. He certainly earned my sympathy last week in his scene in the Oval Office with Fitz when he begged for his job back. I think he was absolutely sincere when he said, “I have your back. Forever. Always… Let me serve at the pleasure of the president, as it is my honor to do so.” Yet it didn’t move Fitz in the slightest. In one of the coldest tones of voice he’s used on the show, he calmly told Cyrus, “You do not work here anymore. You can go.”
Then this week, Cyrus and Mellie had their final (for the moment) falling out. Mellie, rightly so, pointed out the difference between her and Cyrus: “When my heart is broken, I can get up and dust myself off and walk away with some dignity. Dignity’s a good visual.” That’s when Cyrus, in his desperation and hurt, crossed a line that should never be crossed: “That’s what you think the difference is between you and me? No, the difference between you and me is that your heart was never broken because you never loved him. You needed him, used him, co-existed with him, but you did not love him. I would have died for that man. I loved him as my son, as my child, as my soul. That does not end. That never ends. It just rips a hole inside of you that never closes. Your child is dead…. My child is breathing and talking right down the block from me at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but I can’t see him. I don’t know how he is or what he needs or if he’s even okay. He’s surrounded by vultures who want to pick the flesh from his bones but he doesn’t know it and I do, and I’m not there to shelter him from the storms….”
Mellie rightly kicked Cyrus out at that point. He does have some nerve equating Fitz with his child, and saying Mellie can’t understand since her child is “safely dead.” He’s done nothing but manipulate Fitz for years now. Whatever true friendship and love may have existed has gotten buried under an avalanche of political bullshit. I’m not sure Cyrus knows the meaning of love anymore.
Jake Isn’t Jake? And He Had a Wife? One Who I Suspect…
As a small “Team Jake” side note, I do have to point out that when Olivia felt desperate last week, she immediately called Jake to tell him she thought she made a mistake. And Jake, as always, didn’t hesitate but offered to drop everything and swoop in to get her. Just saying. But apart from that…
At the end of last week, Jake surprised us all by going to visit Papa Pope in prison to point out that the Louvre was on fire, and we heard the first elusive reference to Lazarus One, along with Pope’s typical enigmatic smile as he said, “And Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” At the beginning of this week’s episode, Jake elaborated on what all of this means: Lazarus One was Pape Pope’s baby, a backup plan to earn billions of dollars replacing real paintings with forgeries in order to rebuild B613. Jake tried to learn more, but Pope, as always, refused to give an inch. “Power—true power—is never lost,” Eli told Jake. “I am always free. No one will ever cage me.”
It turns out Charlie wasn’t caught up in the cleansing of B613, so Jake took Charlie with him to Paris to investigate the Louvre fire and attempt to figure out what Papa Pope has planned. Yet we got a new surprise when Charlie’s contact “Elise” showed up and revealed she and Jake knew each other. She said to him, “It’s Jake? That’s what you’re calling yourself?” Elise clearly fits in well with him, considering Charlie described her as a legend with more kills under her belt than both Charlie and Jake put together. That’s a lot of kills!
When Jake visited Elise privately, we got more insight into their history together. At some point in the past, for some as yet unknown reason, the two of them missed a rendezvous at Grand Central Station. Jake revealed, “I thought you were dead. I grieved. I really loved being married to you. We were good together.” What???? A somewhat hesitant kiss followed his declaration, with trepidation obvious on both sides. Were they married for real? As a cover? How long were the two of them together?
In a later scene when Elise gets shot (a flesh wound—does that strike anyone else as suspicious?), Jake visited her in the hospital, leading to her confession that she deliberately didn’t show up at Grand Central: “We’re spies. There’s no forever for us. We both knew that.” Jake, having recently lost the love of his life, apparently decided that no longer has to be true and asked Elise to return to the states with him.
Now I, for one, am highly suspicious of Elise and think she could be working for Papa Pope as a new agent of B613. That seems like the kind of thing he’d have up his sleeve, especially for an agent he once valued as much as Jake. The fact that the video feed Jake and Charlie were watching cut out just before Elise got shot, her relatively minor wound as opposed to her contact’s fatal one, and her convenient resurrection when Jake’s at an extremely vulnerable moment—all that makes me think the other shoe has yet to drop.
Olivia Pope—Never a Damsel in Distress, but Fitz Rides to the Rescue Anyway
Kerry Washington’s performance in this week’s episode was outstanding, with incredible writing behind it as always.
No matter how terrible things get, Olivia Pope stays strong. Toward the beginning of the episode, she flat-out said to Fitz, “I told you, this is my choice to be made. I don’t need to be rescued.”
The ultimate scene came as Liv read the threats against her posted anonymously online, particularly the over 1,000 threats of rape she found on one site alone. Touching slightly on the themes of racism and sexism, she ranted that they’re mad she had the audacity to be born female and black. Then came her award-worthy speech: “Do you think if I told them that I own a gun and that I’ve shot someone, they’d threaten to rape me? Do you think if I told them that I’ve survived being kidnapped and tortured, they would get that their weak little misspellings barely make me blink, that I would welcome the chance to take out a little bit of PTSD on the next man who put his hands on me? …. I’m fine. I’m just… I’m losing it, but only a little bit. (laughs and sobs) I’m fine.” What a fantastic line: “I’m losing it, but only a little bit.” It’s a perfect summary of how Olivia Pope handles a crisis. She might lose it temporarily, but she rallies to come back even stronger than before.
Her reward for that strength came from Fitz, who reminded Abby that they don’t work for Liv and don’t have to follow her playbook. As a fixer, she has to be smart. But they’re in a different boat altogether: “I’m President of the United States. We work for the American people. The playbook is the constitution. In my office, it’s not about doing the smart thing, it’s about doing the right thing.” Fitz might face impeachment if he doesn’t cave to certain demands, like abandoning his legacy by repealing the Brandon Bill, but in that moment he doesn’t give a damn. He’s going to follow his heart and do what he thinks is right. For him, that meant going out in front of the world and taking his girlfriend out on a date.
What did you think of these two episodes? Is Fitz doing the right thing? What are your thoughts about Mellie’s decision to lead the charge for Fitz’s impeachment, Cyrus’s speech, and Jake bringing his ex-wife back to the states? Any theories on Lazarus One? How about the new O.P.A. hire? Any and all comments are welcome!