Scandal 5.17: “Thwack!”

It’s my pleasure to welcome Laura back for this week’s look at the world of Scandal!

Certain lines, once crossed, change everything. Olivia went to a place in this week’s episode that she can never come back from. For the first time, she has blood on her own hands—and face and clothes, for that matter. In this particular case, though, I found myself siding with Olivia. Her kidnapping ordeal knocked her white hat off. It’s hard to fathom the psychological repercussions of being abducted from your home, locked in a cell without knowing if you’ll live or die, and sold to the highest bidder. If someone did that to me, I’d probably want to bash his head in with a chair too, especially if he insulted me as horribly as Andrew insulted Olivia.

The things that struck me most in this episode, though, were the role Abby played and Olivia’s actions after she killed Andrew.

First, there’s Abby. Now, whatever you think of Olivia’s actions at times, she remains fiercely loyal to her friends and would do anything for them. I can’t think of a time she’s betrayed any of the gladiators. (If you can think of one please tell me.) Abby did her job for the president, but she threw Olivia under the bus to do it. Without a moment’s hesitation, she turned her back on her friend because she wanted to be the one with the power, the one in charge. As she said to Olivia, “I don’t work for you. You work for me.” Abby wasn’t part of the team that got Fitz elected—the one Olivia refers to as being made up of her, Cyrus, and Mellie. And while Olivia lied and cheated to win that election, she didn’t hurt any of the gladiators in the process. Abby knowingly, willingly, and without remorse stabbed Liv in the back to protect her own self-interests. She might have said she was doing it for Fitz, but her main concern when she went to Liv’s apartment was that she’d be cast out and stuck becoming an associate professor at some third-rate college. If Fitz could have taken the blame without hurting Abby’s career, then I doubt Abby would have had a problem with it.

Did Abby cross a line too? Will she be able to repair her damaged friendship with Olivia? She seems insulted when Liv tells her she’s not a monster and has never been a monster. In that moment, she looks determined to prove Liv wrong and become the ferocious monster she sees herself as. Abby, who tried to help Liv maintain her integrity and do the right thing last week, sheds all pretense of that same integrity this week.

Then, there’s the aftermath of the murder. Olivia calls Fitz first. No matter what’s happened between them, he still rushes to her side and holds her. He knows, more than almost anyone else, how much the kidnapping damaged Liv. There’s not a moment of panic or condemnation over what Olivia has done, only kindness and understanding for what pushed her to do such a drastic thing. And Liv—even though she broke up with Fitz and their relationship didn’t end on the best of terms—finds comfort in his arms. You can see it in her eyes as she clings to him, trying to cope with what she’s done. Unlike some of the other characters, Olivia can’t commit murder and blithely walk away from it.

Which brings us back to the lines you can never un-cross. When Olivia leaves the White House, she goes straight to a den of murderers: her father and Jake, who do kill to advance their own careers and causes and who will always say the end justifies the means. Does this mean she’s going to be more like them in the future? More willing to step on people, sacrifice them, and even kill if necessary? Her father seems to think so, as he says “Welcome home.”

Olivia also sees her father’s house as a place of rescue and salvation. She fantasizes the red door from her kidnapping, the one that symbolized her freedom, and in her mind’s eye she overlaps that image with her father’s door, which also happens to be red. It’s true Papa Pope would do almost anything to keep his daughter safe. Does she long for the security her father would give her as he welcomes her back into the fold? Is she accepting his methods and way of life? Does she feel that the kind of power he wields means she’ll never be a captive or vulnerable again?

It’s hard to say where Olivia will go for here. Personally, I can’t wait to find out. And if you have any theories, please share them. I’d love to hear (read) other people’s takes on this episode, whether or not you agree with how I see the characters’ actions.

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