This episode was much better — it felt like a step back to the Scandal of yore, albeit slightly marred by the fact that it’s HARD to backtrack when just last week Huck was cutting the throat of a young woman so casually, for selfish motivations that he made sound so urgent (and yet also so appalling). Cut bait on B-Exhausting, y’all, because your characters flourish more when they’re not under that weight.
It focuses on Cyrus. If you’d wondered how things were going with his contracted concubine, the answer is: not well.
It would seem that Michael is becoming a self-sabotaging drunk. He got caught on camera getting frisky with another man at a bar, which pokes holes in the story that Cyrus and his prostitute fell in love and are deeply committed to making him the male Julia Roberts.
Michael seems somewhat apologetic, but Cy is enraged, and the two of them spit all kinds of insults at each other because Cyrus wants no part of Michael AT ALL — not in James’s sacred bed, nor his sacred closet, nor his sacred bathroom if at all possible — and Michael feels trapped and bored and unloved and REALLY freaking envious of this awesome boardroom table, which he now knows he cannot live without. Me too, Michael. Me too.
Liv’s fix is to move up the wedding. Immediately. I’d like to note here that I think this is not a particularly clever fix. “Rush through the wedding” seems like an obvious ploy that draws more attention to the story than if they just sort of rode it out with a statement that Michael was at a bachelor party (also part of their tactic) and then sent these two to couples therapy (not part of it, but it should be). But Liv ups the ante by ordering Mellie to throw their wedding at the White House. Mellie tries really hard to be like, “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE,” but Olivia hits her with a typical Olivia speech that strokes her ego and talks all about how she could revolutionize her party and her platform and whatnot by extending a hand to same-sex marriage — especially when Fitz’s views on the subject “are unchanged,” per the official statement, which is their way of covering that Fitz actually believes in it but can’t admit it for political reasons because POLITICS IS THE WORST and it makes hatefully one-sided caricatures out of human beings.
Olivia, though, looks great. Which is no small feat, because she’s also having nightmares that combine her sprint to short-lived freedom down the prison hall, Fitz taking her on his desk and doubling down on all her erogenous zones, and her hurling his ring back at him. Jake features nowhere in these dreams, and if that’s not the show’s way of clearing him away and making him totally disposable to her, then I don’t know what is. Short of actually firing him.
So, the Gladiators get to work: They have to shut down all leaks from the bar and the other patrons where Michael was decidedly NOT actually at a rowdy bachelor party, and figure out if he’s been hooking up with anyone else.
It’s a good thing Huck slipped the bartender some cash — IN FULL VIEW OF OPEN WINDOWS — because anyone who asks me for a favor with that face gets 911 called on them real fast.
Cyrus, meanwhile, strolls down memory lane to his first and second weddings.
He proposed to Emily Bergl while on the campaign trail to be Comptroller of Somewhere, even though they’d only dated a few months. They got along well, she supported him, he felt safe with her, and so he just got down on bended knee and blurted it out and they were very happy except for the part where he is gay.
You also need to know that the show basically said, “Screw it, we’re not even going to pretend to make Jeff Perry younger.” Instead, they taped some kind of refried Sam Rockwell wig onto his head and called it Forever Ago.
I MEAN. It’s laughable, unless he has been drinking the blood of ripened virgins since this time. Before his wedding, he has to tell “the guys” that he’s not “playing racketball” anymore, because happily married comptrollers don’t “play racketball,” and if that’s a problem then JUST DON’T COME KNOCKING ON HIS DOOR WITH YOUR BALL AND YOUR RACKET EVER AGAIN. Fortunately no one extends the metaphor with references to how often and vigorously the ball bounces while racketball is being played.
Cyrus’s first marriage ended fifteen years later with Emily Bergl drunk and sobbing in their closet, telling her oblivious husband that she will not stand by his side while he runs for Congress because she’s miserable and lonely and having an affair, and he is a homosexual who has no use for nor knowledge of her ladybuttons. Cyrus is upset and lost without her, and never does make that Congressional run, so maybe that’s when or why he decided to take a back seat? I don’t know.
But he has bigger problems. Because someone has figured out that Michael lied to them, and has been regularly dating someone on the sly.
WELCOME BACK, Sally Langston. I massively love Kate Burton in this role and missed her TERRIBLY. She has a new show called The Liberty Report, and is using it to drop truth bombs like her interview with Michael’s paramour that she believes will blow a hole through Cyrus Beene’s false relationship and hooker-paying ways. She is at her crackpotty oratorial finest and it is a GIFT after all the sweat and panting of the previous stretch of episodes. Scandal is so much better when there is less casual murder.
Portia de Rossi doesn’t have much to do, but she does get really stroppy about Mellie taking advice from Olivia instead of her, and throwing this wedding on Liv’s say-so instead of hers, etc. It’s like Mellie is suddenly Fitz and Portia is Mellie.
Mellie has on her most curmudgeonly sweater set as she cuts Portia off at the knees and explains she will Do As Mellie Says, because she’s an employee. We’ll see how long THIS marriage is still convenient.
When Sally Langston has information only an insider could have known, Abby correctly traces it to Leo (hey look at that, I’m using it!), because he was inhaling Chinese food in her office while she discussed the whole kerfuffle. Leo totally owns up to leaking it to his former client, and tells Abby that, frankly, it’s totally her bad. She shouldn’t be blabbing about stuff in front of people who are friends with the enemy. She was indiscreet. And I have to say, I agree with him. I also concur when he points out there’s a hypocrisy in getting angry at him, because Abby or anyone else in that White House would have done the same if Leo had been loose-lipped in THEIR presences.
Abby gets back at him by poking through his phone and stealing an email chain between him and Sally. Which…. is less legit because it’s more criminal than simply eavesdropping, but also, Leo, don’t leave your phone in your jacket. Rookie move, son. You must be newer to love and war than we thought.
Speaking of both those things:
Cyrus remembers lying to James on their wedding day. James got cold feet because he wasn’t confident Cyrus could separate James’s work from their marriage, and he didn’t want one to affect the other in any underhanded way. Cyrus basically pledged to James that he loved him too much ever to manipulate him professionally, and then recalls a time when he did just that — one of many, in fact, that tainted his union with the love of his life. So, Cyrus’s first two marriages (as he later notes) were christened with lies, although they seemed to be well-intentioned ones, and both were imperiled by his true nature being irrepressible (his sexuality, with Emily; his cunning, with James).
Liv is having a flashback of her own:
She was busy sprinkling rose petals on her friends’ marital bed, when Fitz snuck in wearing a sweatshirt to talk to her. At this point the two of them are clearly in a place where they’re in love but realize it’s doomed, so they’re trying and failing to avoid each other. Or rather, she’s trying, and he keeps slithering in to find her because he’s pretty sure her resistance is weak and he can sneak some tongue somewhere.
Liv is wearing a truly awful dress whose back darts are just as bad as the ones in the front:
I think it’s entirely possible she left the dress in her car on a hot day and it melted.
Fitz tells Olivia and her Youthfully Earnest Bangs that he has a present for her:
It is his grandmother’s ring, which apparently goes by the nickname “Sweet Baby.” We recognize that as the ring Liv always wears, which Huck told us and Jake she wears for Fitz, and which she hurled at Fitz in anger over him starting a war to keep her alive. In the flashback, Fitz tells Olivia that even if she hates him, he would love it if she’d wear it, just so he could feel connected to the fact that she is alive and well and existing in the world. She kisses him and then buries her face in his neck in a long hug and whispers that she could never hate him, and… look, I have a lot of problems with this relationship. But these actors play these moments of longing SO WELL that even when I know I shouldn’t be rooting for it, I still enjoy it and catch myself being happy for them when they can steal a second together. It’s as if Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn have decided that no matter what else is written or with whom, they are each other’s One True Thing.
Back in the present, Olivia wakes up from this dream — which segues into one of her nightmares — and frantically turns her house upside down looking for the ring. Which we all saw her throw at Fitz, so… she must be banking on the fact that he had it put back in there somewhere. Or am I forgetting a scene where he returns it to her person? It’s kind of creepy to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your boyfriend had someone sneak into your apartment — so recently violated by kidnappers — to hide your special ring someplace. She finds it in… I don’t know. A vase or something. But she doesn’t put it on. Instead…
… she shows up at the Oval to ask a favor for Cyrus that Fitz won’t like. Fitz doesn’t even really look at what it is, and signs his assent, while noticing Olivia is not wearing the ring. He then gives her props for going around him and getting Mellie to agree to throw the wedding, so it’s nice to see him enamored of Liv’s brain again and not just her sex organs. That was getting tiresome.
Cyrus isn’t sure what to do, because if Michael’s lover goes on Sally’s show and spills all his secrets, then their True Love cover story will go to seed and Cyrus will go back to being the Chief of Staffs and whatnot. As part of the loving facade, he and Michael agree to go to dinner with Michael’s parents, which is quite touching because Michael was totally on edge about his parents being included and is BEYOND thrilled when he hears they are coming.
He is like a puppy who thinks he’s being called to heel, eagerly asking them questions about the past decade or so he’s been excommunicated from their lives. But they coldly tell him that they’re being paid to sit there and aren’t interested in him or his life or his customer of a fiancé.
Michael completely crumples at the table and Cyrus has to talk him through putting one bite of food in his mouth after another so that it won’t show. But of course, now he sees Michael as an actual human being. One who is totally alone, which is what it feels like Cyrus was when he jumped into marriage with Emily Bergl, or else why do it. It’s not the most revolutionary way to chip away at Cyrus’s blackened, charred heart, but it’s extremely effective. The actor playing Michael also did a nice job being so excited and nervous to see his parents, only to crack when he realized they didn’t give even a quarter of a whit about seeing him.
Liv’s offer to Sally is that Fitz will make her Secretary of State if she just shuts down the damn interview. I don’t know why Sally wouldn’t just say this on air. They’re so indiscreet with that particular loose cannon. But, she doesn’t; she just throws the offer in their faces and tells them that her bully pulpit on broadcast TV is the godliest place of all and exactly where she is meant to reach all those Americans she wanted to help as president. What were they going to do with the existing Secretary of State? Send him or her to a farm upstate where he/she could run around and frolic with all the other former secretaries of state?
I’ve decided they put Cyrus in the brown wig to make us all appreciate his silver one a little more. It may have worked.
Anyway, Cyrus started feeling sorry for Michael, especially when Michael was super unnerved and jittery and vulnerable — but also defensive — at home after dinner. The parents humanized him, so Cyrus no longer feels like calling off the wedding is an option, because it throws Michael to the wolves. And then, like usual, the perfect idea and the PERFECT blackmail drops right into their laps. Well, that, or they totally fake it.
When it doesn’t work to threaten to reveal that Sally killed her dead gay husband, Liv says Michael’s client list reveals repeated dalliances with poor Daniel Douglas, and she’ll happily drop that like it’s hot right into the lap of a reporter. So Sally plays ball and goes on the air to give a statement saying her “source” about Michael was just a random opportunist and that she couldn’t in good conscience let that sully her program. Come back again soon, Sally. Your brand of bullshit is SO fragrant.
On their wedding day, Michael stares blankly at the pre-nup and tells Cyrus that he always dreamed of getting married, even once he realized he was homosexual and maybe wouldn’t be allowed to do it. He’s desperately sad that his dream is coming true and yet it means nothing and he will be every bit as alone as he is now. Cyrus sits down and opens a vein, and says that his first two marriages were founded on lies, so he’ll speak the truth here: He won’t act like they’re going to fall in love or live happily ever after, but that Michael is a good person with a good heart, and Cy’s daughter needs someone like that in her life (amen to that). So Cyrus says he will try his hardest, even if he struggles to succeed, to be the best companion for Michael that he can be. “You’re not alone,” he says, emphatically. And then Michael cries and they hug. And this is usually where people reluctantly fall in love, but this is Scandal, so probably one of them will end up dead by Huck’s hand in yet another murder that won’t bother Olivia.
And so: mawwiage is what bwings them togethaaaa todaaaay.
And Liv is wearing her Sweet Baby ring…
… and she makes sure Fitz notices. We end the episode on their eye contact, which plays as if each of them is finally exhaling a breath they drew a month ago. Actors with good chemistry can do wonders for a show, and it’s a testament to these two that I didn’t punch my computer screen when all this happened. Because Fitz is still THE WORST and half the time Olivia isn’t much better, but dammit, they can make a scene feel like the two of them only subsist on each other’s exhalations and it’s pretty freaking effective when it’s done with all this distant yearning.
I’m sure next week we’ll be back to all the murder and threats, but it sure was a nice reprieve while it lasted.