I am mad-crazy sick right now, so it’s possible I will blow through this mother faster than usual. Just warning you. I can’t breathe through my nose and it’s doing that really alluring thing where the skin is starting to peel. Aren’t I delightful? In fact, I sort of feel like this:
Except Olivia isn’t sick of anything except celibacy and having sex dreams in which she’s thrown around like a rag doll, although they might actually just be sex memories. She wakes up discombobulated and upset. Dream Rowan has just yelled at her to wake up, and what’s more, she can’t figure out why her bedroom is so hideous.
Abby has no answers for her on that front. She just stayed over to make sure Olivia slept okay; she is not there to consult on interior design.
Scandal is still taking its new toy out for a spin every week. This time, it’s Fitz sitting out on Snack Balcony, icing the bloody and swollen knuckles he used to make stew out of Jake Ballard’s face. He’s surprised that Mellie is dressed in something that employs a zipper, and that she doesn’t smell of overcooked feet. Mellie explains that she has a state funeral to plan: President Cooper, this show’s version of Reagan, is dead, and somehow the First Lady is the one who’s stuck figuring out where to put all the doilies. Is that true? I feel like Washington probably has a Presidential Parting Manual and a whole committee of people on Old Dead Dude duty, so that no one person can put together something accidentally inappropriate. Like if Mellie decided on funeral music written entirely by Taylor Swift.
Mackenzie Astin is back to tell us all about the dead prez, who was famously nearly assassinated by Brian Benben. I wonder if this was Stephen Collins’ big episode, and they called in Mackenzie to fill in, as he’s played a reporter on this show before (but not, I don’t believe, an anchor). Regardless, I’m happy to see any and all Astins.
By the way, if you think I was kidding about Brian Benben:
The bullet from the assassination attempt remains in the president’s skull. Now that Coop is too dead to protest, Brian would like the bullet removed and entered into evidence, because he knows it will exonerate him. Because he was FRAMED, of course. And he calls the one person in town who knows how to fish around inside dead people and find things: Quinn.
Well, not really. Technically he calls Olivia, who puts on her awesome black checkered coat to speak to this man with a checkered past. And he woos her onto his side by quoting her line about the truth and being in the sun, which this show is so unreasonably proud of that it even makes Quinn grin about it, and Olivia agrees they are going to get that damn bullet and get him back his life. But apparently dead presidents have a lot more security around their corpses than your standard morgue, so unfortunately for Dr. Quinn, her scalpel has to stay in her tool belt this week (but you know that for a hot second she thought, “Oh, YES, BRAIN MANGLING!”). Instead, they decide the bullet was the cause of death — maybe Coop wouldn’t have had the stroke if not for it being lodged in his head — so they arrange it so David Rosen charges Brian Benben with murder, thereby making it necessary to get out the bullet. David Rosen seriously cannot escape being somebody’s puppet. I hope he slowly loses his mind and then one day Abby walks into his office and he just has a Muppet of himself sitting at his desk.
Cyrus is trying to Pretty Woman his man-hooker, right down to setting him up in an apartment and giving him some money for nice new threads. Michael noodles through Cyrus’s phone and tells Portia de Rossi that there was an email about Fitz possibly closing a couple military bases, essentially offering to be her spy for more cash. This appeals to Portia, and also, frankly, she should be a bit embarrassed she didn’t stop twirling her carefully waxed mustache long enough to think of it herself. I’m weary of Shenaniganizers. We still have Rowan Pope stomping around and jacking with everyone’s skeeze, showering them in the salivary byproduct of his disdain. Portia is one layer too many on the cake.
She goes on the air with Mackenzie Astin and talks about the rumors that Fitz is closing bases, as if this isn’t the first anyone will be hearing of it. Cyrus is enraged that this got out, and orders Abby to find out where the leak came from, because she’s hanging onto her job by a thread. Seriously, if they all hate her so much, FIRE HER. Or if they’re all so awful, QUIT. Abby seems eminently employable. Why does she want to hang out with these jackwagons so badly?
Fitz still isn’t returning Olivia’s calls, and when Abby challenges him on it, he rather shirtly calls her “Gabby” as the three lights in his desk lamp start blinking in Morse Code, “Fitz Is The Worst.”
Abby drops the trump card that only she has heard Olivia Pope wake up from a nightmare, and far from being anthropologically interesting and/or something she enjoyed with a trace of jealous Schadenfreude, it was terrible and traumatic for her and so Fitz needs to make it better. I like that she stood up to Fitz, but I did NOT care for how the show had her fumble and stumble and bumble her way out of the room like someone who just poked a jungle cat with a stick made of gazelle meat. Abby has a spine, and from what I remember, it’s made of actual bone and not just wadded-up Kleenex. Regardless, she says her piece, and I guess that’s something. Even though her piece was basically, “I know your son is dead and you think you found his killer, but OLIVIA IS NOT WELL-RESTED.”
Huck’s whole story is that he’s blowing off work to play video games, and it turns out he’s pretending to be a kid and playing remotely against his son Javi. Yes, he’s catfishing his own offspring. Also, it’s nice to know that his wife has bounced back so nicely from the trauma of seeing Huck nearly choke out the therapist she brought in for the intervention, and that the therapist didn’t notify the cops that a dangerous throat-squeezing rageaholic was on the loose.
Quinn, meanwhile, has to take Stomach Key from The Case We Care Even Less About Than We Did Last Week and try it in every locker in the tri-state area or whatever. You’ll be thrilled to know that she succeeds very quickly and finds inside the locker a folder of photos of Olivia Pope. So whatever the murderous ex-cop was killing young girls to protect, it involved Olivia. It all comes back to Olivia. It couldn’t be ANYTHING ELSE INTERESTING. It couldn’t be, say, a storyline for Quinn, or for Abby (one that didn’t involve nobody caring what her name is, or her having crippling Liv Envy)? No. All roads lead back to Vatican City.
And indeed, later that night, Olivia is at home wearing another really sterling wine cardigan. It’s soft and drapey and cosy-looking and has cape-like tendencies; it’s really almost like a wine blanket. I was going to call it a wanket, but that’s a different kind of home accessory altogether.
Fitz will need one of those later to cope with the anguish of seeing Olivia again. The two of them have a very mutually unsatisfying conversation in which he calls “Gabby” a bitch while the fibers of Olivia’s wine cardigan twitch and spell out FITZ IS THE WORST along her collar. Olivia challenges him on this, saying that women get called the worst names for asserting themselves, and an argument about Jake ensues in which Fitz almost calls Olivia a bitch. This is so boring to me. He acts awful, she is not much better, the Secret Service guys probably roll their eyes and make rude hand motions in the hallway because of how tiresome these visits always are, and then it’s over until we have this exact same conversation another week.
I almost think they need to stop giving Kerry Washington prop wine. Or at least make it something harsher-tasting than grape juice. She chugs a generous pour of cabernet with a gusto I have never seen in a living human. Not even one who really loves wine. And I have known my fair share. People really, really do not chug wine. And yet Olivia Pope does. We are one stock-market crash away from her lying on the floor and just opening the valve on a box of wine directly into her mouth.
Also: One big issue I have with this story, which I’ve mentioned before, is that Kerry Washington doesn’t play any nuance in it. She treats Jake and Fitz with equal measures and flavors of longing. I can’t tell what the difference is in her feelings for them. I don’t THINK we’re supposed to believe she loves them in the same exact way, but she plays it identically. As if there is no hierarchy, or at least, no distinction between them. Which in turn makes it hard to understand what the hell she actually wants, and why, and who, which therefore means I’m checked out of rooting for ANY of them, even if both dudes WEREN’T completely awful. The fact that they ARE both completely awful is another unfortunate complication.
Portia asks Mellie to give a public statement denying the base closures, which will paint Fitz into a corner. Mellie refuses to play that game with Portia, because she has more pressing Wig Management Issues to deal with right now. Mellie can probably be forgiven for being rusty at her Power Hair, though — remember, she only just rekindled her affair with hygiene.
Mellie’s main assignment this week is to plan Coop’s funeral and hang out with former First Lady Bitsy Cooper, and Bitsy, of course, turns out to be a real kick in the Hanes. She plays the role of the doddering old dowager in front of the media, and then as soon as the door closes, she calls them both “bitches” in a congenial we’re-in-this-together way and then tells Mellie she’ll handle the planning: “You go crochet or vaccinate fat kids, or whatever silly hobby makes you feel like you’re making a difference,” she says, semi-comfortingly. Far from being offended, Mellie seems relieved to find someone who thinks First Lady is as pointless and stultifying a gig as she does.
Obviously these two end up bonding, with their identical smiles and flesh-colored hose. Bitsy snorts at Mellie’s complaint that Fitz has a woman he bangs who isn’t her, because Coop nailed everything with legs, including the deliberately homely secretary she made him hire. Mellie is also moved to hear that Bitsy essentially pulled all the strings in the White House during her husband’s terms, and how bitter she is that she’ll be remembered as the woman who was married to a really effective president, when in fact she was the really effective president (my words, not hers, although I kept waiting for her to say it that way and she never did). Mostly, I want these two to become the Statler and Waldorf of Scandal, sitting out on the Chicken Balcony and drinking martinis and discussing who truly is The Worst. Spoiler: It’s almost always Fitz.
Speaking of Fitz, sometimes I wonder if he has amnesia. Because he not only allows Rowan in for a warm and congenial whiskey, but he lets Rowan counsel him on what to do about Jake. It wasn’t THAT long ago that Rowan and Fitz were facing off, and Fitz was taunting him with disgusting details about what he puts where on Olivia’s naked form. Now he’s accepting advice from Rowan like he’s the kindly old grandpa with a comforting voice and a snappy way with words. They start the conversation with Fitz saying he wants to prosecute Jake by the book, and Rowan somehow manages to agree with this and then make Fitz think it’s his idea to turn Jake over to Rowan for a swifter, more discreet disposal. Rowan is truly a wordsmith. No, he’s a mindsmith. And since Fitz is the worst, he’s more than willing to let other people solve his problems for him so that he can go back to not doing anything at all with the country itself.
Rowan also convinces Fitz to let Olivia see Jake, because — and he is actually right about this — the longer they’re kept apart, the more of a martyr Jake somehow becomes to her. So what does Olivia do, after all this sound and fury about needing to see Jake? Stand there and look at him sadly while he tells her the number and password for his Cayman Islands account, so that his mother can have his money. Oh, and she accepts his monologue about how it’s completely okay with him if she chooses Fitz over him, or some shit, which he’s only saying because he’s sure he’s going to die. And Olivia doesn’t even talk to him, really. She just pouts and looks worried. What was the point of seeing him if all she was going to do was say “Jake” three times and then furrow her brow?
This is a shot of Olivia looking very smug because she got exactly what she wanted in court: They’re going to go grab that bullet from Coop’s brain. I just thought you’d like to see her black and white jacket. There’s some malarkey with enlarged lapels on there, but it’s kicky. You can tell she is pretty sure everything’s coming up Pope.
So imagine her surprise when the bullet comes back a perfect match for Brian Benben’s gun, and it turns out he used her. He was thoroughly annoyed that it was never conclusively proven that he belonged in the history books with Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth, so he came up with this plan to get the ballistics tested, and now he gets to cement his murderous legacy. Olivia is shocked SHOCKED SO SHOCKED that a man she believed in turned out to be a cold-blooded killer, because of how that’s never happened to her before except in 100 percent of her current male relationships.
Speaking of which, Rowan drops by to tell Jake that he’s taking possession of him again, and therefore, he’ll get to watch the life ebb from Jake’s eyes when he gets away with MUUURDER (crossover!). He talks at length about how effectively he played Fitz — I kept waiting to find out somebody was taping something, or Fitz was hiding in a corner disguised as a cinder block. But no. Then Rowan says, “You don’t take Command. Command takes you.” How come Command has totally lost interest in Huck, by the way? Command has a brainwashed maniac at his disposal. Command needs to pay more attention to his assets, and perhaps in general less attention to his child’s sex life.
During Coop’s funeral, Abby pulls Fitz aside to give him a message…
.. that Olivia is waiting to see him. Because she couldn’t wait until AFTER the important state function? Why anyone wanted Fitz re-elected is beyond me. Olivia has witnessed first-hand how little he does, and how easy it is to pull him away so that they can talk about the stirrings in their loins. All of that is Exhibit A for why he has no business in the Oval. Anyway, here, Olivia was obviously in a hurry because she didn’t take the time to do anything good with her bangs. That is an aggrieved Pope Flip if ever I’ve seen one. She begs Fitz not to turn over Jake to her father, and basically, Fitz isn’t going to listen to anything she has to say until she admits there is hope for them still. Because as her vagina goes, so goes his presidency. Once she says it, he’s like, “Okay, cool, yeah, I’ll stick Jake in prison instead, no prob.”
Mellie, inspired by Bitsy, stops outside the funeral and decides to play the game. She tells the press that Fitz would never dream of closing those bases, and then she and Bitsy head for the car as Bitsy suggests they smoke a fat joint that’s in her purse. Oh, Bitsy. You’ve come to the right snacker. You can have so much fried chicken with your high-grade pot.
Cyrus needles Abby about why she hasn’t figured out where the leak came from about the base closures, and she smugly tells him that there was no leak, and proceeds to implicate whatever man-friend is living in the one-bedroom in Georgetown that Cyrus just rented. She clearly enjoys driving that knife into his gut…
… and Cyrus clearly is realizing that he was stupid to think his hair would have any real power over a man of Michael’s musculature.
And Olivia, on a nighttime swim that mirrors the dream she had at the beginning of the episode, pops up to see Rowan standing there. For real this time. He’s enraged that she intervened and saved Jake’s life, and Olivia hisses at him that she has weapons he couldn’t even BEGIN to understand. Like, say, the clitoris.
I am confused about something. Everyone seems to agree Rowan is super hot to kill Jake Ballard. Why has it occurred to NONE of them that perhaps there is an agenda here? Why do they all think Rowan couldn’t possibly be manipulating the situation? The only precedent for that is EVERY SITUATION EVER. I’m so impatient with all these knobs. HE’S EVIL. He could only be more flagrantly evil if he screamed MWA HA HA at the end of every scene and ate his steak raw with a pitchfork. You might be a good handler, Olivia, but as an observer goes you’ve got some work to do.