Let’s get right to what everyone is wondering about:
Yes, the OPA conference table DOES still look good with a mostly dead body lying on it. And let us also compliment the work of Russell, who not only stomped the yard right out of Jake, but then cleaned it up so that Quinn could arrive at work, meander through the building, turn on some lights, read the papers, and not even SMELL the coppery stench of O-positive until she turns on the light. Not even when she WALKS IN THE ROOM. No, she notices nothing until it is illuminated — this, from a person who once helped make people leak death. Say what you will about Huck, but had he been the one to walk into the office, he’d have smelled the aphrodisiac in about ten seconds.
Seriously, it is immaculate in there. No signs of a struggle or anything, except for the forty five marks on Jake’s torso that are leaking beet juice. However, in a wonderful turn of events, Quinn nearly blows off Huck’s face, because when he bursts in she thinks he might be the assailant and fires wildly into the air. Olivia’s neighbors must REALLY LOVE HER. Actually, they MUST, because nobody reported the gunshot. I typed “gunshit” first, which also feels true.
Quinn decides, after feeling up the table and taking out Jake’s phone, that he’s totally dead. But Huck actually touches the body and concludes he is only MOSTLY dead, and rams the Scandal equivalent of a miracle pill down his throat: He hauls off and cracks Jake on the chest to kick-start his heart. It works. And every single person in the world who has ever taught CPR is going, “OH MY GOD DO NOT SLEDGEHAMMER SOMEONE IN THE STERNUM.” I assume. I mean, I guess if times are extreme and your ex-boss and ex-girlfriend’s father has hired a lackey to slay you and then leave you for dead on enviable handmade wood furniture.
Soon, everyone is there ministering to Jake’s wounds. David Rosen wants to call an ambulance, because David Rosen never learns anything. David Rosen might be the dumbest man alive, for the simple fact that David Rosen actually thought the words “I’m calling 911 because in America we don’t [blah blah blah]” would actually apply in ANY situation involving Jake, Huck, Olivia, Rowan, or B-OVER IT.
Sure enough, Olivia & Company drag Jake’s OOZING AND MOSTLY DEAD BODY out of the office to a nondescript warehouse, where bleaching agents run less risk of damaging the immaculate wood finish. I need to point out right now the sheer number of times Olivia leans directly over Jake’s liquid form without getting a SINGLE spot of blood on her ANYWHERE. Not on her hands — which might have been rather stirringly symbolic — and not on her coat. Nowhere. In fact, none of them seem to, even though David Rosen and Quinn were packing gauze onto his stab wounds. Maybe there is REALLY good soap in this warehouse. Like, an OxyClean faucet.
And look at Liv. It’s just darling that she ran right up to Jake WITH HER PURSE, right next to his makeshift death slab. She fears no DNA. She also proves yet again that she has no knowledge of how her father works. She insists that one major reason they can’t take Jake to a hospital is because it will put him back on Rowan’s radar…
… but Rowan, of course, knows Jake is alive precisely BECAUSE he has heard nothing. He tells Russell that if Jake were truly dead, he’d have gotten a ragey vengeance-swearing call from Olivia, and he is completely right. And like… how many times does he have to be a step ahead of her for Olivia to FIGURE OUT HOW HE WORKS. Or even figure out how SHE works. If she wanted to trick him, she should have called him and excoriated him for leaving Jake dead in her office, fostering a lie that would give them cover. The show wants us to think Olivia is so smart, but it makes her stupid at every turn. This happens all the time. She CONSTANTLY underestimates her father’s ability to fit two puzzle pieces together.
Meanwhile, Mellie is back on the campaign trail, and — unlike on The Good Wife — her election story so far is giving Scandal some of its strongest recent moments. It might be an unfair comparison, because TGW was in the unenviable position of coming off both a good season 5 and a strongish first half of the current season, and Scandal has been maddening for ages and so the Mellie stuff represents a return to the political jockeying that used to be enjoyable.
It ALSO facilitates a return to Sally Langston, TV Host, which is this show’s current greatest achievement. Look at that wonderfully smug face as she tells the world that a First Lady in the Senate would be an unforgivable ethical crossing of the legislative and executive branches. She also hates Mellie’s prepackaged, field-tested — per Portia de Rossi — sound bite about how being First Lady is a privilege, not a job, and informs her viewers that this is disrespectful of the hard work of OTHER First Ladies. And I DO think it’s astonishing that any campaign adviser allowed Mellie to go out there and say that the First Lady does nothing. I think she could say that her function as First Lady remains important to her, and is manageable in the event of a successful campaign thanks to her excellent staff, but that the work she’s done there has opened her eyes to the magnitude of what she could do in other positions and incited in her a desire to keep doing more. Done. The “oh, it’s not a job” thing sounded bone-headed. OF COURSE people are going to take issue with that, even if they secretly agree with it.
I just wanted to share this again. Sally Langston is my everything. She is GREAT television, and it’s a completely savvy repurposing of a character and an actress who was an elegantly vicious foil for Team Fitz.
Jake needs a doctor, so Quinn summons Charlie, who brings in some Russian dude who keeps his mobile medical unit in the trunk of his car. He cheerfully agrees to perform semi-sanitary surgery on Jake, in exchange for a favor from Olivia: He has a friend who is a legendary KGB agent, who needs help with an assignment. Olivia agrees. Yes, Olivia Pope agrees to help A TERRORIST just to keep Jake alive for what could be even just one day. Jake himself would be like, “This is BULLSHIT.”
The doctor does then call David Rosen “scared man with glasses,” which is perhaps the most apt description of David ever to be uttered.
Anyway, the KGB agent — Black Sable — turns out to be a delightful and classy old lady who lives with her grandkids (we learn later that her husband and daughter were killed by a drunk driver). I wonder if Scandal got this idea from The Americans using Margo Martindale as a KGB handler, which was a brilliant use of a good actress, and also had a very jarring quality because she is super motherly and yet she was fostering brutality. This actress, Rondi Reed, even also plays a mom on a CBS sitcom — Mike & Molly — just like Martindale did on the short-lived We’re The Millers. Extreme symmetry there. Very tidy.
Being an ex-spy has given her a very nice house. With a very open floor plan and lots of sound bouncing off the walls and wood floors, which makes it extremely irritating when she shoos her grandchildren into another room and then lays out a pretty loud and extremely precise description of her background, how she came into spying, how she got out by default because the KGB doesn’t exist anymore, how she doesn’t want to get back into it. If those kids — who came to the door and know Grandma has strange new friends — can’t hear her, it’s because they are incurably incurious.
And also, the show neatly excises any moral complications for Olivia’s choice. Because the Black Sable doesn’t want to do this new mission with Putin’s newly awakened KGB. She wants out. She’s on the side of good. HOW CONVENIENT. So nobody has to call out Olivia for effectively agreeing to collude with a terrorist — mission unknown — in exchange for a rushed and potentially ineffective sewing job on Jake’s carcass. Way to neuter it, Scandal.
This is not the confident face of a kick-ass press secretary.
Mellie and Fitz and Portia are stewing about the recent polls that suggest Americans think the First Lady shouldn’t even be allowed to run for office. (A quick call to David Rosen, who is trapped in the Warehouse of Doom, confirms that no constitutional objection exists — which he says is only because at the time it was so unfathomable to think a woman ever might try. Abby dryly points out that she can’t believe misogyny is her friend in this situation.) There is a lot of strategizing about how best to handle this, including the suggestion that the Grants should admit that their marriage has been over and they lead separate lives. Later in the hour, Mellie rejects this idea, saying she and Fitz “came in as a team and we’re going out as a team.” She also suggests it’s lying to the American public, which it is not. But whatever. Mellie may need to lie to herself on that one. Also, she probably needs Fitz to get further than the Senate run, if his approvals are high enough when he leaves office, not that anyone thinks to mention that.
Abby suggests that they should get someone on TV with Sally Langston. A man, making the pro-feminist argument. “Can’t be me,” Fitz says, with something that almost reads as relief. The two of them swivel around and look right at Cyrus, who HATES THIS IDEA but gets screamed at by Fitz — in a scene that feels more Broadway than this show normally does — until he submits.
Jake needs blood. Liv turns to Quinn, who is all, “Right, blood,” and just goes and gets some. It’s that easy. I assume that’s because this is the Salvatore Brothers’ stash and she has a key card.
Scared Man With Glasses has to do phone interviews defending Mellie’s right to run for Senate, while everyone is ferrying around blood and cutting and stitching and whatnot, which means he’s on live TV when Huck runs in and shouts, “BLOOD.” Poor Scared Man With Glasses.
Liv and her totally unbloodied coat and purse take Huck to go see Mary “Black Sable” Peterson’s Russian handler, a butcher — an actual butcher — who basically tells her that he’s going to get killed so, so hard if he allows Mary to go free. The arrogance of Olivia here is astounding. She offers this man the moon — her CIA connections, everything — and he’s like, “Silly woman with clean cloat!” He probably could have killed them both right then, or traced her and done the job, but that would have been inconvenient so instead he does nothing to cover himself. She then gets the idea to trade him Command’s phone number, or whatever, for Mary’s life. So Liv basically sics Putin’s KGB on her father, hoping he will be killed, using terrorists for her own gain. All for JAKE.
For his part, Rowan is peeved that Russell can’t get Olivia to reveal anything, so he shoots Russell in the arm. Russ then crawls to Olivia and gives a statement that he knows, to her ears, will sound like Rowan went after him. It works; she hauls him to the Mob Doctor. This is also patently stupid, because Liv has NO REASON not to let Russell go to the hospital. It costs her nothing for him to give his statement to the police, because even if the story is true, clearly Rowan wasn’t ACTUALLY going to kill this random person, and Liv letting him turn up in an ER would suggest he’s a useless pawn and that his dead body wouldn’t be worth a damn as leverage ANYWAY. I don’t know. It’s just… the whole thing feels like wrongheaded decisions in the name of plot.
So, Jake is done being operated on, and told to keep still and not burst any of his stitches. Naturally, he opens his eyes and looks to the side and sees Russell there, recuperating. Russell sneaks up and slashes one of his wounds — or pulls out a tube or something — and Jake starts to bleed out, but everyone is alerted and they mostly get Humpty Dumbass back together again.
And then. GLORIES OCCUR.
This entire scene was… I wish it had gone on forever. Sally and Cyrus smoothly, cheerfully, stabbing each other with daggered words and insinuations is way better TV than all these other yahoos slashing people with real knives. Cyrus basically drips with inauthentic respect when he takes apart Sally’s anti-feminist assertions that Mellie is reaching above her station and that she is The Mother Of Our Country and therefore should not take on any other job (although I am surprised Cyrus didn’t flatly ask her if this means she thinks all working mothers are terrible). Then Sally waits a beat and coos, “You sound bitter, Cyrus.” As she encourages the camera to push onto his eyes, she deduces that he is secretly enraged because he thinks HE deserves to be the one running for Senate, and tries to trap him into snapping. Just when you think he’s going to, he dredges up poor old Daniel Deadlas, and whether Sally would ever have told him HE could not work outside the home. “Rest his soul,” Cyrus adds with the slickest air of concern. The tension and hatred, yet seeming mutual respect for each other’s dirty blows, is just delicious. I wish we’d seen what happened after the cameras went off.
Also, this was a great way to get at the heart of what’s eating Cyrus. Because Sally is totally right, and I think sometimes it does take one to know one. We know Cyrus thought his time was coming long ago, before his wife left him. It follows that he might have assumed his loyal service would be rewarded with a chance to go back into politics… although frankly, Cyrus knows exactly what skeletons are in his closet and I cannot imagine he would really think a run for office would not dredge up anything unpleasant. Can he truly have covered his life’s tracks that well? Maybe, since so much of it is classified. I don’t know. I guess he married his prostitute, so there goes that one. I do think that’s a big part of where Cyrus’s disinterest in Mellie comes from, and I like that Sally was the one to unearth it. It’s a LITTLE weird that Fitz never thinks to pause and ask Cyrus if there’s merit to any of it, but for all we know, Fitz only watches the Spike channel.
The interview doesn’t work, though; the polls in America still indicate that nobody favors Mellie running. So Fitz calls Olivia to ask for her opinion, as he’s not super keen on busting open his chilly marriage, and is incapable of coming up with any ideas on his own. Olivia tells him to flip the script: Stop selling Mellie to America and start selling her to Virginia, making them feel special for being in the unique position of being repped by a senator who has the president’s ear, and any number of other orifices.
This goes swimmingly (and also, someone appears to have hired Mellie a new graphic designer since last week’s lowercase debacle). The thing is, this seems like really BAD advice to me. They’re basically TRYING to imply that there is a massive breach that will happen in the desired separateness of the government branches. And later, Cyrus lays out for Abby exactly why they shouldn’t be self-satisfied about this “brilliant” approach: because it tells the world the president is The Worst. It neuters him politically. It shouldn’t matter that much for Fitz himself, as he’s a lame duck, but Cyrus says it means all their careers are dead in the water because it robs Fitz and his team of any combined political capital they’ve amassed. They’ll be made irrelevant and unhireable, and I think THAT ties into Cyrus’s other bitterness about how his own aspirations have taken a backseat to Fitz’s. He gave all that up, for someone who he thinks effectively just gave HIM up for someone nobody even likes that much. In short, Cyrus thinks Fitz owes him everything, yet Fitz is acting like it’s Mellie to whom he’s indebted.
In case you’re wondering, also, Olivia totally talks about the island.
“We have to go back, Jake,” she says. “We have to go back.” No, not really. She DOES say they never should have left, though, and she talks about how unfair it is that he’s saved her life so often and yet she is struggling to return the favor. But it’s all delivered with a clinical remove that suggests to me this show has already said goodbye to this prong of the love triangle.
And then Liv is called away because no one can find the Russian handler and nobody has any idea what he did with Rowan’s phone, so she pops by Black Sable’s house:
And there she discovers that Mary and her two grandchildren have been executed — and so has KGB Butcher. Rowan did it, in the spacious and well-appointed living room, with the revolver. And it really grosses me out. It’s not the first time this show has killed kids, but … I sat back and looked at the shots of their bodies slumped against their grandmother’s, each of them with neat bullet holes painted onto their foreheads, blood everywhere. And I thought about having to direct these kids: “Okay. You’re snuggling up on the couch, watching TV with your beloved grandmother, when you are executed in bold blood by a bullet to the forehead. You collapse against her but you don’t look scared because you totally didn’t feel anything. Your brains flew out of your head before you even knew what happened. And so then just lie there while Kerry Washington walks in and retches at the sight of the violence. Also, you only get like three lines total in the episode because we don’t want to pay you that much for all this, but we totally want to milk the senseless tragedy of your deaths. Got it? Great. GOING AGAIN, EVERYONE.”
It’s f’ed up, is what it is. Although this sort of stuff is obviously not unique to Scandal, this show does seem to delight in its acts of depravity more than most other ones — or at least, most other ones I watch, which is probably why this pinged me so hard. I just hate that the itch to shock and horrify the viewers turns this show into something less than it could be.
And of course, to ice the cake with more poison, Rowan calls to taunt Liv about it.
So, Olivia informs everyone loudly of what Rowan did, and tells them to drop it and run. Scared Man With Glasses nobly tries to cling to their Grand Jury thingy which I guess was supposed to be THAT DAY somehow, and Olivia assures him over and over again — super loudly, even though Russell is lurking back there listening, which should have been everyone’s first clue that this was all bullshit — that they need to walk away to live. She basically tells them that they’re all going to dump Jake at a hospital, leave quietly one at a time, and pretend that none of this ever happened.
And she takes Russell home, leaving long enough for him to report back to Rowan, who says, “Ok, cool, forget about killing Jake. Let’s just plow right into Operation Foxtail. Not mad at you anymore. Have fun boning my offspring!” (Seriously, it is gross that Rowan basically hired someone to have sex with Olivia.) There is NO WAY Rowan would ever just forget about killing someone who clearly still will want to kill him, just on someone’s insistence that everyone decided to forgive and forget. It would NEVER HAPPEN. Rowan Pope doesn’t leave loose ends. COME ON.
And naturally, Olivia has deduced that Russell is the reason Rowan knew about the Russians, and jams a gun into his temple to try and get information from him. Russell, so far, is a terrible B-Arbarian agent. In fact, I kept expecting to find out that he was secretly on Olivia’s side, because they made a big deal out of how all ten thousand of his knife strikes missed major organs except for one that nicked Jake’s lung. In fact, though, he just might be really shitty at his job. Professional incompetence is the strongest undercurrent on this show, isn’t it?