This show made a couple curious choices that make me wonder whether this episode and the one prior — or even the two prior — had the deck shuffled on them a bit. One: Later on, Liv wears the EXACT same outfit she had on midway through the previous one. Two: This show opens with a lengthy segment about the case-of-the-week from TWO weeks ago — The Statutory Rapist Who Did Not Kill Her Stepdaughter — and since NOBODY CARES about that storyline, and even Scandal itself seems ambivalent right now, that’s a very strange thing to do after a strong ending to last week. Now, some of the pieces this week ARE inextricable from each other, and maybe it was just a wardrobe accident or emergency, but I’d be curious to know what (if any) pieces got moved around in the edit. ** Two commenters brought up that maybe this was the result of cutting out the Stephen Collins guest stint? I had forgotten that was supposed to happen (although he was only recurring as a news anchor, so I don’t know if his part would have been THAT major?). He tweeted about it Sept. 23, so it might be a LITTLE tight for it to have been in these episodes, too, and yet anything is possible. Let’s dispose of it quickly and then get to the better stuff:
As a refresher, they found video of Dead Stepdaughter being harassed in an elevator at her father’s workplace. Now Liv and Quinn are staking out the same workplace, I think — seriously, no one cares — and it’s only interesting because Quinn is a bit nasty to Olivia about why she’s suddenly in there doing the dirty work with them. Olivia responds, “My boyfriend is avoiding me.” Quinn gives her this look as if to say, “OMG, you too? PEOPLE AVOID OLIVIA POPE?” It made me laugh. It’s almost as if Quinn started to like her more in that second. And soon, they see a man appear and fight with a girl they recognize as Stepdaughter’s best friend. He smacks her. The girl reels backward but does not try to escape, grabbing instead at her face, and then the man executes her. They ID the man as a famously crooked ex-cop in D.C. who now does private security for firms like the one owned by Stepdaughter’s father, and the man menacingly tells the FIRST dead girl’s dad that he killed them BOTH to protect some key. But of course, the key is still missing. Why?
Because the dead girl swallowed it. Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, figures this out and goes to the morgue and CUTS IT OUT OF HER STOMACH. I have notes. Is a morgue ever totally empty? People die at night, too. Is that REALLY a nine-to-five kind of gig where you can show up and count on it being totally deserted while you manhandle a corpse’s viscera? Also, since when is Quinn competent enough to find a bowel key? When did she become so well-versed in human anatomy that she can cut into EXACTLY the right spot to fish around and find what the girl swallowed? And finally, they already established on Shonda’s MUUURDER show that dead bodies expel their waste after a period of time. This scene with Quinn happens a good way into the episode. Might not the body already have ejected the key? But mostly, this bit was totally disgusting and also unintentionally hilariously awful. I am SO SURE Quinn could pop in and have a quick intestinal dig and hit pay dirt. Stop it, Scandal. You are very nearly in the comedy Emmy category. Because this is also a joke:
It seems as if everyone is confused about what to do with Cyrus’s head, or what is being done to it, or what has been done to it. I am pretty sure this hair used to belong to Sandy Duncan. Fitz is wearing everyone out because he won’t go home and sleep. He claims he doesn’t want to be anywhere Mellie is. “Respectfully, she’s probably drunk and in a food coma from eating too much fried chicken, so you’re safe there,” Cyrus tells him. Fitz doesn’t want to leave until Jake confesses, which Cyrus points out he won’t do because of B-AsementTortureHole. But Fitz refuses to go the unconstitutional way, because the show needs to give him some moral ground he can later desecrate.
Liv is leaving Jake messages in what appears to be a run-of-the-mill wine cardigan — your basic fate-tempting white backup sweater when your actual snuggly top choice is still at the dry cleaners. But then she gets a knock at the door…
… and for a moment it appears she is wearing a WINE SWOBE, which elevates Wine Cardigan to an art form that’s actually almost a heinous betrayal of the medium.
But in fact, this may just be an actual robe, because what’s underneath it looks like white satin pajamas. If so, may I say that from a lounging perspective, adding the robe is total overkill unless the PJ shirt is short-sleeved. There is a delicate balance, see. You want to be cozy, but not damp at the armpits. What follows is an impossibly warm scene between Olivia and Rowan, in which he swans in knowing full well what’s happening with Jake, and tells Liv he brought nice wine because his day was insane: “I have two rare bird exhibits going up, both at the same time!” As much as he’s entertaining when he’s shooting enough spittle to clean an Escalade, I really enjoy Rowan when he’s a cheerful sociopath. He asks Olivia what’s wrong, because “you drank a whole bottle of the cheap stuff by yourself.” Olivia lets a smile out: “It’s not cheap, it’s just not snobby.” This is a mantra by which to live. The stuff of t-shirts, really.
They have an awkward father-daughter moment where they’re not sure if they’re comfortable discussing her relationship woes, and then Rowan digs in deeper by saying that Jake reminds him of him at a young age, where he was lousy at relationships. “Sometimes you have to let a young lion roam free,” he purrs. I know Rowan is Old School, but this show has such a messed-up view of women in relationships that even though I know we’re supposed to wince at his Lame Dadness, I wince anyway for other reasons. And also at what a high-quality creep he is. He’s smoother than whipped cream. Olivia’s face does fall when she says she can’t tell if she’s becoming boyfriend-clingy, or if her gut is telling her that she should be out there saving Jake from something.
Jake, of course, needs saving from something. He’s being interrogated, and is being obnoxious to his interrogator, because he knows it’ll get to the point where Fitz steps in personally. He’s refusing food and water, and retreating into his memories of Olivia and Boney Island. “Save me,” he thinks, and the language is no accident. Ugh. Are we supposed to think she and Jake have some searing soulmate connection now? Can’t she have psychic mind flow with someone more worthy? Where have all the dreamy ones gone?
David Rosen is turning into Drunk Charlie Brown. And without being able to tee off on the B-Convenient files, he might as well have Lucy yanking the football out from under him, and he knows it. Abby is too busy for him, and not that interested, so he just shlubs around his office in a pitiful glump, without even a haughty pet beagle to keep him company.
While working on the Case That Won’t Quit with Quinn, Liv learns from Huck that Jake was last seen at the White House. So she calls Fitz, and Fitz can’t deal with anything except inhaling the vapors of his own self-pity, so he hangs up on her without telling her anything. Because what Fitz really wants is for Olivia to pay more attention to him and to need him for something. Instead, she calls Cyrus — no dice — and then Abby, demanding that she help crack this. “I’m hearing a lot of I need,” Abby says, pointing out that they are no longer friends. Which is great, and it sucks that she deploys this little home truth at a time when Olivia actually does sort of need information. It would’ve been a lot more satisfying if she’d gotten to say it as a mic drop and then swan out of the room in a fabulous coat. In fact, there’s a part of me that wishes Abby had kept OPA running in Liv’s absence, but bigger, better, stronger, and Olivia had returned and the office looked KICK-ASS and the table was the gleaming centerpiece of a room with actual concealed wires instead of a dilapidated shed, and Olivia had to learn to be bottom-dog for a while. Instead, nobody got to move on and any headway Abby made on her own is entirely illusory because nobody even knows her name, and it’ll come to pass that Olivia is the glue that holds everyone together and nobody else gets a win. BOO. Oh, and yeah, that s the recycled outfit. Bad pants, cheap jacket, and all.
I am fairly sure it’s the same one. It definitely looks it, but if it’s not, then Olivia really, really needs to go shopping. Because why is she in this old thing again? It’s not part of The Limited collection, is it? Are they obliged to have her wear it a certain amount of times? And the thing is, this part of the show is tied very tightly to Jake being at the Pentagon already. If it had been the Sonya Walger/stepdaughter storyline, you could make the argument that it was ported from another episode, but unless their structure before was unbelievably wonkus and/or a lot of ADR work and reshoots were done… All I know is, NOT PENNY’S BOAT.
Fitz does indeed drop by Jake’s cell, and acts all friendly and makes Jake eat, so he does. They even sing Otis Redding together. It’s strange. Like, sing The Spice Girls or nothing, fools. Because what Fitz wants, what he really really wants, is Jake’s sig-a-sig-ahhhh. By which I mean, his signed confession. Thank you, Spice Girls, for letting me make the worst wordplay in history. Jake realizes, because he has ears and eyes and a mostly working brain, that Fitz is blinded by jealousy. So he stokes it, which is stupid. He says he realizes that “I put my hands where you think they don’t belong.” But he says that they should each know the other is a decent guy, for the simple reason that Olivia loves them both. This logic is flawed, and arrogant, because it assumes Olivia is incapable of having taste in men that’s as bad as her taste in pants. She might just be a Lover of Irredeemable Jackwads.
Meanwhile, Drunk Mellie and Smelly Mellie are jointly infuriated that Fitz has missed their standing 2:30 p.m. motorcade date to Jerry’s grave. She hisses and snarls in Secretary Lauren’s face — “What’s suddenly more IMPORTANT than our DEAD SON” — and Lauren reacts as if Mellie has no particular hygiene problems at all, so I’m not quite sure where we stand now on the DefClean scale.
Also enraged: Huck’s awful wife, although she has a point. Huck has been listening in on her conversations — to the point of stealing the office parabolic mic, meaning it’s not there when Quinn and Liv needed it for their stakeout — and parking outside her house and sitting there like a total stalker. To the point where she notices, and comes out and screams at him, and I wonder if these two ran lines and honed their characters with each other because she appears to be adopting all his best eye-bugging techniques. Also, it bears repeating that Huck is ALSO the worst; it’s not just Fitz’s province. He is awful. He is back from the dead, and making this woman totally uncomfortable, and yet he persists, because he’s upset she didn’t believe his stories about being a super spy in a torture hole. (Would YOU believe anyone who breaths ONLY through his nose? If you’re stuck in a torture hole, don’t you STOP using your nose so that you can’t smell it? Wait, let’s hope no one can answer that.) Dear Huck: Maybe she didn’t believe you because YOU CAN’T EVEN STEALTH-STALK YOUR OWN WIFE. Wouldn’t a super-spy know how to do it so that she doesn’t see him, and come screaming at him in the middle of the street?
Jess and I were discussing that there are some sympathetic things ABOUT Huck, theoretically, and that if the ENTIRE Squick storyline hadn’t happened — especially the face-licking — then maybe we’d be able to feel sad for him. And also maybe if Huck were played by an actor with an ounce of subtlety. But then we also agreed that at THIS point, there is NO actor who could take on that role and have it work. It’s past the point of no return — or recast, if you will.
Huck’s ex-wife does, however, agree to let Huck see their son, if it means he’ll stop the madness. Quinn catches him trying to wrap a present for Javi, and steps in to help, because Huck probably shouldn’t be allowed to use tape dispensers.
Naturally, it’s a ruse. She’s actually trying to get Huck psychiatrically evaluated. And when he freaks out, her eyes strain to remain inside her skull.
And his strain even harder. He even almost chokes out the doctor, before catching himself and fleeing the scene. I really hope these two actors sat down together and he said, “You have to go full eyeballs on this, because the backstory I invented for Huck is that he never did it until he was in the Torture Hole, and he started making his face do that to feel closer to you, and then it froze that way because Rowan shot a wind cannon down into it.”
Cyrus, instead of calling, drops by to tell Olivia that her puppy killed Jerry Grant and then ran off to plug Harrison. He says he witnessed Tom’s confession, given to Rowan, and that it was clean. Did he miss the part where the confession didn’t COME until Rowan stood behind Tom and squeezed his shoulders? Did EVERYONE miss that part? Rowan Pope is not a squeezey kind of guy. He’s not one for PDA, and when I say he gives a mean massage, I am using “mean” in the “unkind” sense. Cyrus also spits that he knows Jake Ballard killed James. “He did,” Cyrus spits. I looked this up, and yes, Cyrus ran into the Oval screaming at Jake about this, in Fitz’s presence. Everyone else seemed to write it off to grief, maybe, but also, nobody seemed to CARE whether it was true or not. Including, to a point, Cyrus. Here is what concerns me: I am still unclear whether OLIVIA knows this. There was a point last season where it seemed like she did, but which also made it pretty unbelievable that she’d run off to Stand In The Sun with Jake. In which case, you’d expect THIS to be the first time she found out, and that she might care or react. But no.
What does resonate with Olivia is Rowan’s name. Rowan is ready for this. Rowan has never met a lie he wasn’t ready to tell. He pretends to be upset that she found out, and then says Jake did it because he was obsessed with giving Olivia everything she could want, and then blamed it on Mama Pope to drive a permanent wedge between them. And that he only allowed Olivia to bring Jake to Jamakeout with her because he knew Jake would not hurt her, despite being (by his false estimation here) an unhinged biological terrorist. I feel like the man who says “I knew your insane, obsessive boyfriend would never hurt you” has not watched enough Lifetime.
Quinn finds Huck huffing and puffing, but with no house to blow down, so she just pats him on the shoulder.
Mellie lies in wait for Fitz, then accuses him of missing their Jerry date because he was screwing Olivia (her words). She pushes him to the brink and he explodes that he was off interrogating Jerry’s killer. It seems Mellie didn’t know it wasn’t just a random virus — that it was a terrorist act — and Fitz crosses to her and takes her head in his hands as she gives him that vulnerable look (seriously, both Kerry Washington and Bellamy Young are very good at putting twelve-year old girl emotions into their eyes when Tony Goldwyn gets near them). “It wasn’t an act of God,” Fitz says. “He was murdered as an act of terror. He was murdered because I’m the president. His murder won us the election. His death was…” “MEANINGFUL,” chokes Mellie. Fitz starts to back away. For him, Jerry dying gave him a reason to find meaning in being the president; for Mental Mellie, Jerry dying somehow IS the meaning of him being president. “It wasn’t random. It had a point. He didn’t just sneeze and die. He was a soldier,” Mellie rambles reverently. “Our war hero. He died for our sins.” I can understand why a grieving parent might find comfort in order, because the randomness of it all just makes you think you might lose everyone else you love. But Mellie turning Jerry into her own personal Jesus is sad — it almost comes off like she’s GLAD he died so that they might prevail, even though she clearly doesn’t truly feel that way — and Fitz is so disgusted with her that he tells her he doesn’t want to talk to her again, ever, until she goes back to being one of the Mellies he at least recognizes. I know Mellie doesn’t have a whole lot of control over her feelings right now, but as a general rule, when FITZ is grossed out by you, it’s time to check yourself.
Charlie Brown saunters in to try and get a lunch date with Abby, and then plonks down five cents because the Doctor is IN. He blubbers to her all about how he killed that one senator — effectively, anyway — by using the B-Relentless files. He says he was tired of losing all the time, so he used the information to get a win. Important wins. And it killed a man. (Well, technically, he made the decision to kill himself, David, but I feel you.) It boils down to this very good line: “I was trying to be Olivia Pope, and I killed him. Why are we all trying to be Olivia Pope?” It’s an excellent question, because as Cyrus essentially pointed out last week, she’s existentially miserable and also interpersonally miserable most of the time, and like, just go buy a nice new coat and call yourselves square.
Olivia’s front door is like Tetris. Which is weirdly apt, given that her whole job is putting a jumble of pieces together and selling them as a whole.
Abby shouts at Liv, “You RUINED David Rosen,” and rages that everyone who touches Liv pays the price, because Liv is poison. Abby does, in fact, have a great coat on, too, so right now she’s beating Olivia Pope at her own game.
Then, Olivia tells her that Jake killed Harrison. And Jerry Grant. And that as much as she can’t believe it, supposedly it’s true. “We were standing in the sun,” she sputters, for what I hope is the last time, because it’s not as cute nor catchy as Scandal thinks it is (add that to the long list).She’s falling apart, and you can tell because she uses a vital and uncharacteristic “um” in the middle of her speech. Olivia Pope NEVER drops an “um.” In fact, if anything, she and her father and half the people she knows are wildly OVERWRITTEN, to the point where words fly out of them in such a precise torrent that it takes your breath away how impossible it is to do that in real life. So what I’m saying is, nice um, y’all.
And of course Abby hugs her, because Abby is weirdly maternal with Olivia sometimes. Of course this is about Olivia’s grief more than Abby’s, also. Abby lost Harrison too. I guess her benefit is that she wasn’t just having sex with the man who supposedly killed him. But when they tell Quinn this, she’s going to spill the beans about Jake bringing her to Charlie, and somehow Charlie will be the connective tissue, right? Shortly before he ends up dead? How did he NOT end up dead, in fact? Rowan is dropping the ball. Charlie had better speak now before he forever holds his peace in an old Amazon box that’s delivered to Quinn with his head in it.
Mellie may still be mental, but she is no longer smelly. Jesus Jerry has given her the strength to confront water pressure anew.
Fitz goes into Jake’s cell and rolls up his sleeves. Jake needles him about Olivia AGAIN because he knows he’s totally screwed, and as Jake slips off into his happy place…
… where he is Standing In The Aforementioned Sun and lugging Olivia around (something that always seems fun on TV but in actuality probably lasts two minutes before both parties are like, “You know what, let’s just walk next to each other”)…
… and Fitz beats him to a bloody pulp. He keeps going and going and going. Jake won’t confess. Jake just thinks of Olivia, as the strains of “Lovely Day” play over his worst one. I’m sure it’s supposed to be a jazzily ironic ending to the episode — everyone is miserable, and only Fitz is getting a modicum of enjoyment out of ANYTHING in this second — but I rolled my eyes instead, which is probably not a great sign. On the plus side, with all her light-colored wine cardigans and her penchant for rich reds, you KNOW Liv has a dry-cleaner on speed-dial who can get that all that out without leaving a trace.