It’s the Lena Dunham episode, ladies and gents, and it is all about the bang — both the ones on her wig, and the sexual kind.
Lena plays a brilliant former chemistry major turned ex-EPA employee who has decided to have kinky sex with all the Washington power players she can, and then write a tell-all. It’s like Hannah Horvath Goes To Washington, except without the science brain, and also, Hannah would maybe sleep with just one person and then overthink the rest of it. So let’s call it Bizarro Hannah Horvath Goes To Washington. And this shot of Lena in her lab goggles – from her Car Wash montage — is hilarious to me. She looks so menacing. Like she’s either cheating, or checking to see if Fred has taken a sip of his soy latte yet, because it includes a little surprise she whipped up last night. And the wig. What is there to say about Wig? It begs, “Don’t get distracted. This isn’t Lena Dunham. It’s a character.” But instead, we hear, “WIG ALERT. WE ARE AT WIGCON 1.” But it’s not even at its worst here. And look at me, giving you a cliffhanger like that. Okay. Ready to dive into the Kink Zone? Right-o: The episode opens with Abby being enraged, breaking off a piece of her mind and hurling it like a throwing star at Paul Adelstein’s neck:
It’s one of those vague monologues meant to make you curious about what he did to her, but I’ll spare you: Paul (shoot, I was going to start calling him Leo, wasn’t I? Maybe next time) is in Lena’s book, the draft of which is either making the rounds or was given to Abby surreptitiously. His code name: The Dustbuster. There is some discussion as to whether his fetish makes him disgusting — it mostly involves Abby shrieking, “DISGUSTING,” so it’s not the most intellectual of debates — and Abby insists that if the book gets out, everyone will know the boyfriend of the White House Press Secretary enjoys… I’m going to pretend that “dustbusting” involves Lena moving him around her apartment wheelbarrow-style while he sucks up crumbs from her floor. Anyway, Abby is convinced she will get laughed off the podium. So she stomps off to make Olivia fix it.
And she does so in a giant Chanel scarf, which seems a lot flashier than Abby traditionally would be. Like, even since she became the press secretary. This feels very, “All of a sudden, Abby is into logos.” But I guess that’s how it happens. You stick a toe in and suddenly your whole leg is in the quicksand.
Olivia actually has on a cute and semi-colorful jacket. If this is what a scrambled mental state does for her, then is it wrong to hope she stays messed up for a bit longer? So, Olivia tracks down Lena Dunham and surprises her at the door:
And much like in real life, this Lena is an Olivia Pope Megafan and is so excited to invite her inside. She also wears the most hideous of Wig’s incarnations, which looks like it was ripped off the head of a Madame Tussaud’s exhibit about the forgotten orphans of Annie. (Pepper totally became a spy, right? Yeah.) Olivia savages Lena, threatens her six ways from Sunday, and orders her to destroy the book or else PAY A TERRIBLE PRICE and be RUIIIIINED. While Wig quivers a bit from shock, Liv asks if Lena is the kind of person who will destroy the lives of men just for having casual sex with her, or if she herself would like to be destroyed. Olivia, I think, can’t read a room. When you have a drooling fangirl lapping up your every word, maybe try to catch that fly with honey, instead of talking down to her.
And so of course, right on cue, Lena drops by Pope and Associates to tell everyone that she’s going to publish the book anyway — unless, of course, they want to give her $3 million. Am I the only person who heard that total and thought, “Three million? That’s IT?” Once Olicia Pope is involved, you know all the heavy hitters are frantically trying and failing to de-wad their undies. Aim higher. Ask for $10 million and see if Liv negotiates. In other words, if you’re going to sell your vagina, REALLY sell it.
Olivia leans down and growls more threats at her and slut-shames her — very disappointing from Olivia, actually — but Lena doesn’t bat an eye. It’s actually a relief to me when Lena tells Liv exactly where to stick it, delivering a cool and measured speech that’s dripping with disdain — the kind of thing most of the other actors would have delivered too fast, and too frantically, and with the usual substandard cadences. It’s actually nice to hear real people talking in the Scandalverse. And Lena has no patience for Liv putting her down, or asking her to cowtow. “When did you become so afraid of life?” she asks, and it’s a key pivot point for Olivia, even if it feels unearned, because I don’t think “Let’s not ruin lives” and “Rethink yourself” and “My friend is going to get hosed by your book” are the mantras of a person who’s afraid to LIVE. They’re the mantras of a person who thinks your book project is embarrassing and sad. But somehow Lena gets credit for an insight into Olivia’s soul.
And then Olivia turns kind of insane. Liv decides they need to pay the $3 million by stealing the book, decoding all the other pet names, and asking all those implicated to kick in some cash. So basically, she’s condoning extortion. It’s a pretty terrible plan, because there is NOTHING stopping Lena from releasing the book anyway or going on Dr. Phil or chatting to Anderson Cooper or otherwise having her day in the sun. But, Liv’s mind is made up, and in order to get Lena out of the house, they look up her online kink-site profile and match her up with a “date” who is in their pocket:
Oh, Charlie, how I’ve missed you. This scene was actually quite funny. When they get to talking about what they do, Charlie is a little too honest. Lena thinks Charlie is purring sweet pervy nothings at her when he talks about torture, and asks how he would do it — and then he explains that, no, he actually literally WOULD nail her feet to the floor. She bails. Huck was never in danger of getting caught at her house but it was a funny comic beat for the episode.
Here is the book, by the way. Fresh off her typewriter. (BACK THAT THING UP, LENA.) The title is so terrible: Sexual Perversity in Washington sounds like a Masters thesis, not a juicy tell-all, and also, Washington State might either be offended at the implication or get upset that it’s not actually included. (“Hello! Plenty of sexual perversity up here in the Pacific Northwest!” the business community will chirp hopefully.) Still… I mean, Lena herself probably just came up with ten better titles. Tied Up On Capitol Hill. Spanker of the House. Minority Whipped. ANYTHING. [Edited to add: Of course, smart Fug Nationals recognized what I did not, which is that it’s a reference to David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago. Which I forgot existed until right now, and he’s the father of her co-star Zosia Mamet, so I’m sure Lena wholly approved of this message. I tend to think theatrical productions, though, can get away with titles that sound like theses, and books can’t unless they actually ARE published theses. In other words, I stand by Spanker of the House. -H]
The Gladiators basically have no trouble cracking the codes, except for one, The Doctor. But as Abby listens to his resume, she pales and realizes “doctor” means “DR” which means one David Rosen.
And this is bad news for several people: Abby, because now two of her lovers have slept with the Kink Mistress and had their proclivities splashed across a typed page, and Huck because David was going to give him advance immunity for taking down B-goneAlready with his fancy testimony (a deal which David said would probably alert the Bs that they were coming, but Huck doesn’t care, and you don’t disappoint a person with Batshit Eyes). Huck doesn’t want that to go away. He keeps rasping, “I WANT TO GO HOOOOME.” Hasn’t he already more or less been home? He has been eating dinner there, escorting his wife to and fro… I mean, I guess… I don’t know. I can’t crawl inside that thunderdome and expect to come out alive.
Abby decides this means she must resign. The scene where she types her letter is an excuse for a lengthy speech to Paul Adelstein about how everything he does affects her, because people are sexist and no story about her ever doesn’t include the identity of her boyfriend, or what she was wearing, or whether she needs to touch up her roots. It’s a pretty speech, but the one thing I take issue with is her description of herself as awesome at her job. Because since when? Most of the early season episodes seemed to suggest she was in over her head, and not much has happened since then to change that opinion except that she did a little media training on Susan Ross. I WANT Abby to kick ass up there on her platform, but not a lot of that has been going around this year.
Cyrus accepts her resignation boredly, then meets up with Liv with a suitcase full of cash. Liv thinks this means he wants to fix it for Abby, but she quickly realizes that what he wants is the book itself so he has dirt he can use on their foes. “This town,” she spits. Well, Liv, there’s a solution: MOVE. No one is forcing you to live here. Go fix something in New York or Los Angeles or Billings, Montana. I hear there’s a swan up there who plays the trumpet and could maybe use an agent.
Liv’s coat for this scene, by the way, has a giant sash on it. Because I guess she’s a black belt at telling Cyrus to shove it up his dustbuster.
David Rosen heroically puts the kibbosh on the extortion plan, although not until AFTER Olivia dragged all those men INTO HER OFFICE for a meeting. So she basically revealed them to each other and then asked them all for money for a payoff. Wouldn’t it be easy for an intrepid person to figure out that a very specific set of 12 or 15 people met up in Olivia Pope’s digs on a certain day? And might this not ruin any reputation she has for discretion? Do you not think all those people want to burn down her building right about now? Olivia is not giving this her mental all.
As soon as David leaves, though, Quinn remembers that Lena alluded to the book being “all [she’s] got now” and they then magically use Internet juju to conjure up the answer: Lena’s boss discovered what she was into, tried to break off a piece of it for himself, and fired her when she refused. He then, for good douchey measure, ruined her reputation and wouldn’t give her a good recommendation. So Liv arranges for Lena to tell that story and get the dude busted for his predatory behavior, then lines up a bunch of interviews for Lena at other places. Like The Washington Post. As a columnist. With no qualifications other than mobile typing fingers. But, it’s going to be a super happy ending for Bizarro Hannah Horvath and her extremely earnest bangs. Right? Wrong. Quinn and Huck go to visit her at her apartment for Reasons, and find her being assaulted at knifepoint by one of the dudes she’d put in the book. They rescue her…
… and then HUCK SLASHES HER THROAT INSTEAD. Blood spurts all over him as Lena slides to the floor and dies, just one more victim of this show’s most vile and irredeemable dipshit. See, Huck didn’t trust her. He just knew she’d talk. Someday. To someone. (No kidding, you FOOLS, this is why you make her sign an NDA in exchange for all your free help and those job interviews. Olivia might be barreling headlong toward Worstville, where Fitz is waiting with his pants off.) And he couldn’t risk David Rosen getting disbarred and ejected from his power position, so he flicked the knife across Lena’s neck and down she went.
I could not loathe this character more. Even last week, with the whole Down In Yonder Torture Hole monologue, the show cannot create any sympathy for his psychopathic behavior — and believe me, the effort in that desperate and melodramatic screed was obvious. They have totally ruined this person — who was never that great to begin with — and at this point nothing short of a lobotomy and/or total head transplant would make a difference.
Honestly, whenever this show takes baby steps back to its former self — away from kidnapping and the stupid Olivia Pope auction and all its other crimes — it trips over something Huck-size and falls flat on its face and breaks its nose.
Quinn doesn’t tell Liv what happened; she just says they found her there. However, Quinn is ALSO pretty lousy in her own right, so she can’t lie convincingly. Liv asks if she knows something about who did this, and Quinn is all, “Um… does it matter?” Gee, for whom might Quinn engineer a coverup… let me see… WHO IS THE PERSON IN YOUR OFFICE THAT SHE USED TO SLEEP WITH WHO LIKES TO MURDER PEOPLE? NY GUESSES, OLIVIA? HMMMMMM? That coat is as baggy as her mental state. Quinn also convinces her that justice for Lena will bring down a lot of people Liv loves, so she should just sit on it and stay quiet. Liv puts the flash drive with the book on it in her safe, where it can sit until the show gets bored of David Rosen — or needs Huck to get put away FOR A LONG TIME LIKE SAY ETERNITY — and wants to light the fuse. Moving to subplots:
Mellie is running for Susan Ross’s former Senate seat, Virginia. She’s stoked. And she hires Portia de Rossi to be her campaign manager, because a) Abby dissuades her from using Paul Adelstein because she thinks he’s about to get exposed as a Dustbuster, and b) Cyrus is back to trying to use Portia in nefarious ways, but she’s sick of it, so she pitches herself to Mellie very convincingly. Of course, this could just be all part of the scheme, but for now we’re meant to think Portia is trying to take back her life and take a woman straight to the White House.
Liv still keeps her gun close, but is sloooowly starting to shift back into some of her lighter wine cardigans.
Jake and Fitz spend their evenings together drinking scotch and talking about how Jake is following Olivia around, and how she’s doing, and whether either of them should be worried. They are spending so much time on these bromantical pow-wows that Jake misses entirely that Liv has decided to go out on the prowl.
Inspired by Lena, she decides not to fear life, and hits a bar in great makeup and a slammin’ leather dress, and immediately scores with an actor who can fill this show’s sudden Stomp The Yard void.
What’s up, old friend? Still reppin’ Theta?
Olivia freaks out in the bar’s bathroom, though, hallucinating that she’s back in her old telegenic prison. So she leaves… then goes back another night to find Stomp the Yard again, and sure enough, he’s there, clearly trolling all the same haunts, because that’s the sign of a supremely quality dude. Liv doesn’t care; she’s glad to see him, and he, her. So she takes him home.
BOOM. He strips his way to the bedroom, giving us a taste of some truly glorious and heavenly man-ab action.
And Liv swipes two glasses and a bottle of red and cavorts on in after him while Jake and Fitz pour out their scotch and puff out their chests about how they’re lookin’ after the little lady and making sure she’s healing. And she is, boys. She’s SEXUAL(ly) HEALING. DEAL WITH IT.