Tell me, Fug Nationals: Does this disclaimer always/often run in front of Scandal?
Because I watch it next-day on Hulu, and this is the first time I’ve noticed it there — or at least, the first time in a while. It certainly wasn’t present during some of the more awful recent episodes, which means I was steeling my stomach for some cruel and unusual gnarliness in this one, and that’s saying something in a show that had a woman eat her own wrist and fetishizes both murder and in particular the slaying of families. But in the end, what happened was no worse than usual. That said, I am so, so sorry that my Grossitude meter is calibrated to these settings.
Anyway: Florence Popeindale is hard at work nursing her patient.
She isn’t doing the most tender job, but that’s because she no longer wants to have sex with him (my editorializing — their scenes now have all the heat of a cold shower). She DOES wheel in a TV and give him the remote, so she must at least still LIKE him as a human being, because if she didn’t she would set that thing to Dr. Phil and then put the remote in the fridge.
Across the hall, two horrible people are being abusive to another horrible person. It’s a Bad Triad.
Quinn, who has seen Huck trip his MUUUUURDER wire and begged him not to go insane, is across the hall in the still-vacant apartment that I assume OPA is now paying rent for, or else surely the landlord would be popping in to check for damages. Russell learns he is going to be poked and prodded with the very best Home Depot has to offer, until he sings like a canary about Foxtail. At some point Huck realizes Russell has a suicide pill conveniently located in his mouth — what, like, glued to his molar? Is he not worried he’ll crack it on a cashew by mistake, or it’ll dissolve one night in his sleep? What if he’s a grinder? Anyway, Huck finds it before Russell can end this torture. His own, and ours.
Liv also drops by to remind Russell that this is going to suck. There is also some expository blah-blah about how Command checks in every ten hours, and they have three hours left to make Russell talk before… look, there is no way they’re going to trick Command into thinking everything is hunky-dory, so the countdown clock is pointless. Nonetheless, it will surprise NO ONE that Huck and Quinn, the idiot jailers of the Beltway, totally screw this up. The phone rings, and Huck exposits that all they need to do is keep Papa Pope on the line for twelve seconds and he can trace it. HUCK. IF YOU KNOW THAT, THEN COMMAND KNOWS THAT. Also, you heavy-breathing buffoon, COMMAND CAN MOVE. The Earth does not expel tentacles that bind you to its crust the second anyone successfully locates you using GPS.
And of course, Command stays on the line for eleven-point-whatever seconds, which is at LEAST four more seconds than anyone normal would have when they call someone, it’s answered, but then nobody talks. (He actually even says Olivia’s name at one point.) Huck and Quinn are the worst. LET IT RING.
The best: vice-president Susan Ross.
She’s visiting an aircraft carrier , doing her usual Powerless Figurehead duties, when she stops dead at the sight of a bruise on the wrist of a female officer. And because Susan Ross rules, she finagles it so that the officer shows her where she sleeps, with NO other chaperons, so she can confront the girl.
The officer is played by Emily Rios, whom I recognize from Quinceanera, the Sundance-winning film by Still Alice’s Wash Westmoreland and the late Richard Glatzer (RIP to a great, smart man). I got to see an early cut and so I’ve never actually seen the final version, but at one point — they made that film while Richard and I were still coworkers — they had me record the role of That Computerized Voice You Get When You Call A Number That Doesn’t Work Anymore. I think I’m still in it? Anyway, fun fact.
But it’s not about me. Emily’s character Ensign Martin was raped, and Susan Ross realizes that, but Martin is reticent about coming forward because of what the episode deals with the rest of the way: the lack of protections in place for sexual assault victims in the military, which creates a dangerously permissive culture of people getting away with it or being too afraid to report it. About which everyone is, justifiably, indignant and appalled. In this case, of course, Martin’s tormentor is no less than a four-star admiral, played by my favorite Secret Service agent from 24. Meaning, the only one who ever seemed to Get What Was Happening. If you are good with Jack Bauer, you are usually good with me. But not tonight.
Susan basically drags Ensign Martin off the boat and brings her to the White House, which a flabbergasted Cyrus and Fitz point out is tantamount to kidnapping. Fitz points out that his hands are tired, even as Commander in Chief, and Cyrus gets to deliver a spittle-tinged speech about how useless her role is and that it’s extremely frustrating to him that she seems to want to accomplish anything. Susan, of course, is the Everywoman who just wants to help people and has not learned to subsume her human reactions in favor of the politically expedient ones. BLESS. ROSS FOR PRESIDENT.
This yields a funny scene:
The Secret Service shows up at OPA and Liv turns around and gets this flash of complete sexual excitement and girlish jitters before she puts her game face back on and turns around, at which point she realizes Fitz has NOT decided to storm the fortress…
… but instead, Susan Ross wants her help, because Susan Ross knows that Olivia bats a thousand in situations that require lots of oddly paced public oratory.
Olivia takes the case, because obviously. And she knows a good backdrop for an eight-microphone statement when she sees one. There is a nice scene before this where she and Abby are having lunch in Abby’s office, and Abby realizes Olivia is about to ruin her day with a big showy display, and she grumbles about it with both affection and a hint of pride. It’s nice that their friendship is not just redeveloping but evolving. I didn’t like it when everyone treated Abby like garbage earlier in the season. Yes, I wish Abby had kept OPA running with extreme success in Liv’s absence, but she ISN’T Olivia and it’s probably better that she didn’t try to be, and that anyone held that against her is mean.
Of course, the show gives Abby YET ANOTHER scene in which the press is clamoring to ask her questions, and she totally fumbles all of them and actually makes Derp Face. Worse, even the press corps does not appear to have any respect for her, because right before she makes this face a reporter shouts at her for giving a lame answer. It disappoints me that for all her speeches about how amazing she is at her job, we have never seen this in action.
Quinn, boring into someone’s kneecap will do terrible things to your drill bits. Think of the poor power tools.
Also, they should’ve had Huck do this. Why? Because benching him isn’t fixing the problem of how much I dislike him; it’s just making me dislike Quinn with equal fervor. They are both gross enablers of each other’s wretched predilections.
However, the show’s staffing issue is starting to rear its head, because Quinn moves with confusing, unrealistic seamlessness between torturing Russell and helping Liv with the Ensign Martin case. I read somewhere that they’ll be beefing up OPA next season, possibly with some familiar faces, and my theory is that Charlie might be made full-time. Unless they can turn Russell, which would also be okay, as Mr. S. T. Yard is not unpleasant to behold.
Mellie’s plot: She needs a segment of votes she’s not getting, and apparently they are only to be had if she stumps in Springfield, the same town in which Jerry was killed. Understandably, Mellie is not thrilled about this, although you’d never know it based on her hair, which is possessed of an almost inhuman volume. You would never know she lives on Pennsylvania Ave and not Knots Landing.
I know a lot of people love Dan Byrd from Cougar Town, but I was never able to watch that show without cringing (which then led to me and my husband coining the phrase “Cougar Towning” to describe the practice of viewing only the portion of a show that your DVR accidentally records — at the end of the thing you actually watch –because you want to see if it’s as bad as you remember). I liked him in Aliens in America on the CW, little-watched but critically enjoyed, and Easy A. If you know him from NONE of that, then it’s possible you just don’t know him, period.
Here, he plays Virgil Plunkett, the JAG attorney assigned to the case, who is a bumbling rookie whose very mien screams SABOTAGE on the part of the military. And Ensign Martin? Pregnant, and desperate to have an abortion, even though admitting her pregnancy could lead to DNA evidence that she’s telling the truth. Liv holds her hand during the procedure, which we see in carefully shot pieces that nonetheless make it clear what’s happening and with what equipment. This feels significant. I don’t know how many televised abortions there have been that include showing the actual whirring of machinery and a woman in the stirrups. I don’t recall seeing much written about this after the fact — maybe I just missed it — which gives this an air of having hit a major milestone while nobody was looking.
Jake, meanwhile, has figured out that Liv is having Russell tortured — apparently, there are only two apartments on each floor of Liv’s building, because Jake says that Olivia and the flat across the hall also share a wall. They must be L-shaped. Ish. I may need to see a blueprint.
Anyhoo: Jake calmly tells Olivia that Russell will not talk. And he knows this because he is Russell and Russell is him — but better. Russell, like Jake, was dispatched to Olivia’s bed by her father as a means of control, because freaking Papa Pope has serious boundary issues and cannot leave his child’s sex life alone. But the difference between them, per Jake, is that Jake is in love with Olivia and Russell is not, so he’s basically the upgrade, like when Robert Patrick shows up in Terminator 2 made of liquid metal that can reconstitute itself, and SHIT’S ON NOW, SON.
After Olivia ignores his warning, Jake waits until she’s alone, and then has Huck pause in his slicing and dicing of Russell’s face so that he can bring Russ a beer.
I liked this scene very much. Basically, Jake is curious. So is Russell. Each has never met one of Rowan’s pets before, and they compare notes on how Rowan extols the impeccable virtues of their evidently infallible predecessors (which makes them both wryly admit to wondering how great they could’ve been if they needed to be replaced), and both men trade imitations of Rowan — Jake’s okay; Russell’s terrific — delivering his signature lines. It’s a fascinating detente, as both admit that neither will bend, but Russell gives Jake the respect of not screaming, and Jake reciprocates by tying him back up and not taking any shots at him.
The psychology here was quite fascinating, with one fatal flaw: Jake has totally met Huck. So I guess we’re meant to think Huck is different because he wasn’t a) one of Rowan’s favorites, or b) sent in to screw his daughter? Maybe Huck doesn’t count because he spent so much time in Torture Hole. I don’t know. But the THEORY behind having these two PopeBots meet and study each other with curiosity and a weird, depraved sort of respect yielded a very nice moment. Even if I could see Russell’s erupting knee the whole time.
Oh, and Abby sneaks over to OPA to help with the Ensign Martin case, because she’s cool. It’s become the admiral’s word against hers: He claims he was not on the ship, and she says he raped her. They have to get security logs, but the military won’t release them, so Liv calls Fitz and excoriates him about how unfair this is and how gross it is that they’re not getting involved. I enjoy that we’re back to a place where Olivia either calls Fitz, or is called by Fitz, for the purpose of her telling him what to do or screaming at him for what he’s NOT doing. We are, in short, back to Fitz governing without a spine.
Even Mellie gets in on the act at some point, chirping to Fitz that surely he won’t stay silent and imply the White House isn’t concerned with sexual assault, although she’s also wrestling with the issue of being asked to exploit Jerry’s death for votes. And THAT yields one of the episode’s other nicest scenes.
These two are in a place where they can cuddle tenderly without it meaning anything, and Fitz can actually say, “Want me to tell you what Olivia would do?” and Mellie genuinely wants to hear it. This seems to constitute some emotional growth, and it’s nice to see them interact on that level. Fitz, by the way, says that Olicia’s advice would be to bypass the Jerry thing and take this rape issue and hang her husband the president out to dry. So basically, Fitz is saying to Mellie, “Make me THE WORST,” and Mellie is probably thinking, “SHOULDN’T BE TOO HARD,” even though in this moment he’s actually being great.
So Mellie gives a speech about how she is not going to stand around and tolerate the White House’s apparent indifference to sexual assault in the military, and how disempowering the legal channels are. It receives thunderous applause, and means she can MENTION Jerry — in a “but we’re not going to talk about that” way, which, let’s face it, scores the pity point anyway — without dwelling on him.
And Fitz also agrees to sneak Liv the security logs she needs, which is how she is able to storm into the admiral’s office and say that while his security card claims he was no ton the ship, his underling — who trails his every move — did not swipe his anywhere at ALL that night. She deduces that Underling gallivanted off with the admiral’s card to create an alibi, while he raped his ensign. All of which leads to Liv solving the case and saving Ensign Martin, with a sprinkle of Jessica Fletcher fairy dust (she says the word “surveillance” and suddenly CASE CLOSED), and back to work she goes. I do wish Olivia had been able to crack this nut without calling in a favor from her male overlord, but I guess the power pendulum swings back to her because he agreed to do it. Nobody seems to say the word “inadmissible” with regard to this evidence, either, even though Olivia admits she has it through mysterious and thus most likely improper channels. Whatever. Good triumphs, and it feels like the show kind of runs out of gas and is like, “Yada yada yada the heroes win.”
Liv and Quinn walk out and do a double-take when they’re looking in the photo case. For some reason, Virgil was not with them, and O HARK, SWEET CONVENIENCE, because these two see a photo of a man that’s labeled Virgil Plunkett, and it’s not our Virgil Plunkett. Let us review: This Virgil person was important enough that his PHOTO IS IN THE LOBBY OF AN ADMIRAL’S OFFICE, or even the JAG’s office if I have my location wrong, and yet NOBODY NOTICED in ANY of these meetings that the person calling himself Virgil was NOT ACTUALLY VIRGIL? What about the poor administrative assistant who had to put Virgil’s photo in there in the first place? I mean, come on. I don’t care how deep B-Sneaky runs. It should not be this easy. Especially when HIS PICTURE IS RIGHT THERE WITH A BIG ENGRAVED BRASS NAMEPLATE ON IT.
Where is the fake Virgil? Glad you asked:
Olivia had, in front of him, offhandedly told Huck at one point to check on things “across the hall,” at which point she covered clumsily that they were doing renovations. So of course this tipped off Fauxgil that Shit Is Happening over there, and he plays dumb with Huck long enough to clock him on the head and free Russell. He also calls (presumably) Rowan and says that Foxtail, like a Thunderbird, is go.
What is Foxtail? Well, Portia de Rossi ushers Mellie away from her podium to meet with a deep-pocketed donor…
… and it is Rowan. And I know this is very sinister and all that, but it also feels kind of like a wah-waaaah moment because shenanigans with campaign donations are not very sexy. I don’t want lots of murder, but apparently I don’t want a lot of finance, either. I’m impossible to please.