Just for fun — as an experiment — I’ve decided to do this recap as a ranking, somewhat a la The Good Wife. In this case, it’s a Suck Index, although that’s rather blunt so maybe it’s just a Worst of the Week scale. Because everyone is bad, but who is just meh, and who is SINCERELY THE WORST? Let me tell you, it was a tough call. I may have punted.
Mellie is not as rotten-to-the-core as she’s been in previous seasons — although she’s a bit put-upon for someone who has authored some of her own personal demise, like faking a miscarriage for PR reasons — and this week, she is Taking Action, as you can see by her power-red outfits. They are red like her beating heart and the heat of her lust. Mellie is going to SEX YOU UP. If you replace the word “you” with “Jon Tenney.”
See, Jon here was finishing up at a function when his car blew up, which the government suspects to be the West Angola Liberation Front (not to be confused with the Liberation Front of West Angola, which prefers to threaten people with uncomfortably long hugs and a relentless stream of clickbait titled things like, “Someone Told This West Angolan That He Couldn’t Sing. His Reaction Will Make You Applaud”). Mellie was so scared that he’d been blown to unhumpable smithereens that she had to run to see for herself — and then she clears the room and jumps his relatively intact bones.
Later, right when you think he’s going to tell her it’s Too Late, or Not A Good Idea, Mellie tells him that she pulled away from him because he chose the vice-presidency over her — I believe this refers to him dumping her at Fitz’s douchey behest — and then when Jerry died she recoiled from everything and everyone. She tells him that she’s experienced losing someone prematurely,without getting to say and feel and do everything you want to, and that it sucks. “When that bomb went off, I woke up. My body woke up,” she says. Translation: She wants to reap the veep. And I for one think Mellie deserves a harvest.
14. David Rosen
He’s a very nice man who is becoming ineffectual to the point of obsolescence. Scandal does not need him anymore. Here, he is only trotted out as part of the plan to Get B-Indomitable Once And For All. Jake has told Fitz and Olivia that he has all the Super Secret Files in a space at his local Public Storage, or whatever. What he does NOT tell them is that he had originally given them to David, who used them once and then returned them in a self-pitying alcoholic haze. Because he’s sort of nice, if also fundamentally wimpy — the hallway throw-rug of Scandal. Anyway, they want nab Rowan and do a private trial, kind of like a military tribunal — something questionably legal, and kind of pointless, really, because if they’re going to bend the rules to get him convicted, they might as well just bend them even further and throw him into jail and not tell anyone why. Or, hi, have Huck make Rowan a Torture Hole — seriously, use his means back on him! NO ONE will find the Torture Hole if you do it right. I’m sure these are all terrible ideas, but basically, this whole plan is awful for reasons that we will discuss in a minute.
So, the plan proceeds: The files are to be moved to the Pentagon, where David and his team of people we’ve never heard of before are going to comb through them and try to find all the things they need to illegally convict him in an illicit secret court, or whatever.
But when David opens the files, they’re all blank. We know this because there are shots of him opening binders and boxes and looking harried, while some UNFORGIVABLY BADLY ACTED wild lines play: “They’re all blank… they’re all blank… They’re all blaaaank!!” It feels like someone gave a note that viewers wouldn’t understand that all the files had been replaced with empty pages, and so the show made Josh Malina come in and record some lines, and they sound SO TERRIBLE. Exactly like it would sound if you were acting opposite a wall and told not to shout too much but also to emote. Poor, sad David. You’re not very good at your job, or at having a spine, but you’re not The Worst.
Cyrus is mostly a sadsack this week. Things come to a head because Portia de Rossi’s phone is acting strangely, and she takes it to Liv for help sussing out the problem; Liv and Huck figure out that it was bugged by Cyrus. When she confronts Cy, he confesses to Liv that he’s sleeping with a whore. His word. He says James was real, and his very real daughter Ella thinks he’s a stranger, so he wanted something totally false and weird and alien, and Michael filled that void, and also an orifice or two. He plays the We’re Old Friends card with Olivia to make her help him with Portia, and she counsels him to avoid Michael the Hooker in his current mood. But, alas, Michael the Hooker comes to find him because he’s “worried” that Cyrus canceled on him, and Cy snaps a little and orders him to bend over, then shoves Michael’s face down and takes him roughly in the living room while Baby Ella slumbers nearby. It’s angry sex. It’s not EVIL, but I think basically this week Cyrus comes to terms with the fact that his judgment is The Worst.
Later, Liv tells him that Michael had access to a lot more damning secrets than the U.S.S. Roosevelt thingy, and he gave Portia none of them. She calls this “the good news,” as if Cyrus should be super delighted that his manstitute actually thinks he’s pretty swell. I mean, he IS in business school. Julia Roberts hadn’t even gotten that far and she changed Richard Gere’s life. Be stoked, Cyrus!!!! Olivia has fantastic taste in men and so you should definitely listen to her and lock down this shit.
Or, drink. Or, do both. Whatever you need to do. Maybe you can take the man out of the hooker AND the hooker out of the man. Whatever that means.
12. Cyrus’s Hair
I feel sort of bad about this, because what if this is all Jeff Perry’s hair, and that’s just the hand he was dealt? But they have professional stylists on this show, and so I can’t figure out why it’s DIFFERENTLY crazy every week. I mean, it almost looks like they painted it on in post-production. The worst. But not The Ultimate Worst.
11. This Guy
This man, Kubiak, is imported from the horrible and limply strung-along Case of the Week (which is now a Case of the Unending Abyss) wherein Penny from Lost slept with her dead stepdaughter’s boyfriend, and got arrested, but didn’t do it — because this guy did. He’s the crooked ex-cop in D.C., he killed the girl and her friend, and caused the dad to shoot himself, all because they had A Great And Terrible Secret that involves a folder of photos of Olivia Pope. Because of course. I hate summarizing this case and I might just refer to it FOREVER as Case of the Unending Abyss and that will be our shorthand.
We see Kubiak thusly because Quinn is staking him out, waiting for a plot to arrive for herself. For the fact that he spends most of the episode chowing down on donuts, Kubiak might have earned the title, “The Best.” But he’s a little murdery, which is not ideal for one’s moral resume.
Quinn has parked in a garage opposite Kubiak’s window and is sitting there staring at him with binoculars. All day. Every day. In blue eyeshadow and pink lipstick. She could not be less covert, for a hundred reasons, even down to the food detritus on her windshield that suggests she’s spent a long time in that car. And she can’t be THAT far away if all it takes is binoculars to see him clearly. The way the show set it up, it looks like he could just glance out the window and be like, “Oh, check it out, somebody’s watching me. And I have no privacy.” Quinn, at surveillance, I suspect you are The Worst. Also, you let Huck touch you with his soft parts, and his wet ones. But you’re also not a terrorist, so for now, you’re not the ultimate Worst.
9. This Transition
Right after this meeting between two women, the editors transition to a quick pan from a reflecting pool to this:
Yep, via that move, the show rammed a giant phallus right up between them. It actually made me laugh, in an eye-rolly “OH COME ON” kind of way. It’s The Worst in the sense that I can’t believe they went there, and yet I can.
8. Portia de Rossi
Cyrus needs smut on Portia to blackmail her back, to ensure that the Michael the Hooker photos never see the light of day. Huck uses her phone to learn that she has a love nest, so they spy on it; just as a random man enters with her, Quinn actually storms in and accuses Huck of stealing her job (instead of, you know, keeping AT her job). Turns out Random Man is Kubiak, and he’s been hiding there while Quinn watched him, day in, day out, and now her gig and Huck’s have merged. Portia is in-cahoots with this murderer, and is blithely discussing with him Dead Dad Who Shot Himself In Front of Quinn, and all that, so the Olivia folder must have to do with her whole political blackmail scheme. Apparently she’s divisive within the Republican party because she’s not raising enough funds anymore and Fitz has gone off the rails, so… REVENGE. She is a conniver. She is Nearly Adjacent to The Worst.
This show likes symbolic images. Here, Olivia is smack in between the two men who are fighting over her, and if she wasn’t enjoying this, she would tell one of them to shove off. Or both of them. Instead, she just looks pained yet slightly aroused by the whole thing. Honestly, that’s what it is for me, I think — I don’t buy genuine indecision from her as much as I think she’s turned on by the fact that two people want to plant their flag in her earth. Not that it’s a CONSCIOUS thing, necessarily; I don’t think she’s DELIBERATELY awful on this front. I just think it’s one reason why she is so freaking ineffectual about it. She has a savior complex with Jake right now — well, actually, no, with BOTH of them. Fitz treats her like his salvation, and then in this case, she actually DID act as the agent of Jake’s. The result is frustrating.
Here, she essentially uses her feminine wiles to get Fitz to stop trying to lead a Fancy Government Operation that will only serve to beef up his manhood, and Jake to agree that HIM full-on storming the castle with his former B-Stealthy operatives is ALSO not the way to bring down Rowan. Because — and this is true — the second Rowan finds out Jake has been released, he’ll know why. And the jig will be up. It’s a pity they didn’t use this logic to RETHINK THEMSELVES, because if Rowan is that plugged-in, then clearly Rowan will figure out that the cavalcade of armored cars going to the Pentagon is Up To Something and the dominoes will fall.
Then she and Fitz leave their first meeting with David Rosen, and she’s got on a decent shirt, so that’s something. Fitz tries to be all playful and tells her they need to go to Camp David together later for some privacy. She flinches and looks over her shoulder to the room with Jake in it that they have just left, more as if she’s afraid he’ll see somehow, than really caring how he’d feel about it. Because she can’t be alone, so she needs her side dish piping hot and ready in the event that she and Fitz still have to keep their distance. (Honestly, though, that is not the worst idea. I’d RATHER see her do a little independence, as opposed to having to be with people who treat her obsessively, but I also understand her wanting to keep her sexual pipeline churning.) Fitz sees this flinch and is jealous, so he starts begging her to kiss him. Because they are alone. There are no cameras (really? With NO Secret Service in sight, there is also no camera?). And of course she does it. She leaps when he snaps.
This hair is The Worst, for sure. Her side-bangs look like they themselves are a piece someone clipped to Kerry’s actual hair. It’s a really, really bad week for the Pope Swoop. Perhaps the more shriveled her resolve about Fitz becomes, the more shriveled her bangs become?
Full marks for this drama, though. It’s amusing that she wears this creamy white ensemble when she catches Huck hanging out with his kid, because she both Good Cop AND Bad Cop here. She tries to scold Huck for dragging his spawn around without his mother’s consent or knowledge, then turns around and orders him to break client confidentiality by telling her everything Michael gave Portia about Cyrus, and more besides. She’s not wrong about the kid, but Huck objects to the other order, because their word is their bond or somesuch. He also probably has a point about that. When HUCK is your arbiter of morals, you are WAY in contention for being The Worst. You just got schooled in manners by A DUDE WHO LIVED IN A HOLE AND LICKS PEOPLE AND DRILLS INTO THEIR BODIES. CHECK YOURSELF.
After that conversation, she grays it up, which feels right. She still has on The Worst Of All Pants — always too long, always too baggy — but that short, swingy coat is a delight. Liv wears it to saunter into the bunker, where Jake is hanging out all the time now I guess, and listen to him and Fitz squabble about her (even if they are not directly discussing her, it’s about her, and we all know it). At issue is how to lure Rowan out of the darkness so they can publicly arrest him. The show tries a really lame trick to fake us out for a second that I am not even going to dignify; the end result is that Olivia realizes that, as with everything, SHE is the prize. SHE will get him to come out of his hole, so that they can safely arrest him. Which, by the way, IS JUST HIS HOUSE. HE HAS BEEN LIVING THERE. YOU KNOW THIS. JUST GO TO HIS HOUSE AND HAVE A SWAT TEAM BEHIND YOU. HOW HARD IS THAT.
Her master plan is to call Rowan and sob to him that he was right, that Fitz and Jake are awful users, that he’s the only one who’s there for her anymore (which she does, ably, and he appears to appreciate). Then, she asks him if they can take another stab at dinner and make a date at a particular and very unlucky restaurant, and snipers get into position all around the place. And not ONE of them stops to think about the fact that if Rowan has people everywhere, and would be SO plugged into Jake’s whereabouts, and follows Olivia around all the time, that maybe JUST MAYBE Rowan already knows. Or would know as soon as the files move, or knew the second Jake got taken to the bunker and Olivia started going there in four different outfits. Scandal is very selective about when Rowan Knows Everything — I suspect this is because it has gotten itself into trouble with all this omnipotence so the answer is just to ignore it and hope we do too — and Olivia is COMPLETELY an amnesiac about it. To suggest moving a bunch of documents, when they were perfectly safe and guarded and NEVER FOUND BY ROWAN where they were, and then to figure that she could show up at dinner and act nervous and he wouldn’t notice, and FINALLY to assume that she’d have hidden anything from him successfully… You guys. THIS PLAN IS THE WORST. Also, if you are doing a private military tribunal of dubious legality, why are you arresting him — OR WOUNDING HIM WITH A SNIPER RIFLE — in a public place? His house in suburbia would be way quieter and easier. It’s 99 percent possible I’m missing a brilliant nuance of the plan because it was super boring listening to them discuss it, but… I hate your plan. In fact:
6. The Plan
It’s real bad.
5. These Photos
Are also real bad.
This is what Michael got for Portia de Rossi, for use in blackmailing Cyrus. And they are wonderful blackmail material for his facial expressions alone.
I MEAN. I really think this one is missing him waving something over his head, like a sombrero, or a necktie, or a Terrible Towel. It will look lovely on his piano though, or on this year’s holiday card.
4. Jon Tenney
After his big speaking engagement about foreign policy or somesuch, Jon heads for his car and then doubles back to meet-and-greet the cleaning staff, and to apologize for the fact that they were told to wait outside during his speech. In that exact moment, his vehicle explodes. And the second THAT happened, I said to myself, “He knew that was coming. This is a setup to make sure he isn’t actually hurt.” Nobody confirmed this or not, but here’s why I still believe it:
Because while Huck and Quinn are squabbling, Portia’s love nest gets another visitor: Jon Tenney. Between this and Portia’s lecture to Mellie about getting involved in foreign policy, I think she and Jon are setting up a fake foreign policy crisis that either a) Fitz and Mellie will botch, or b) Jon Tenney will step in and save, which sets him up to be the next party-approved Republican president. If true, it feels very premature, because Fitz JUST got elected and you have FOUR MORE YEARS. Fold in the Olivia file, though, and maybe Portia’s big plan is to get Fitz removed from office and have Jon Tenney installed NOW.
Jon tells Kubiak he shook his Secret Service by making them wait outside “because I’m having an affair,” in a very sarcastic tone. Then he makes Kubiak leave for twenty minutes…
… so that he and Portia can have an ACTUAL affair. Is he playing her, or is he playing Mellie? Is he having sex with Mellie as PART OF the scheme, or as a bonus bang? Either way, yeah, sure, Jon Tenney is deceiving people and hanging out with a MUUURDERER, but he’s The Worst because CAN’T MELLIE GET SOME SINCERE SEX PLEASE? This is why I ranked him as worse than Portia. Jacking with West Angola is one thing, but with a woman’s sexual liberation? Unforgivable, sir.
This guy is genuinely a terrorist, of sorts, and yet he’s less The Worst than two prongs of the central love triangle on this show. Chew on that.
First, Rowan calls Olivia and drones on and on about how she skipped dinner, and you don’t do that to family, even if you are angry. You Do Not Abandon Family. Is he forgetting that she stopped showing up for YEARS before he was cast on this show? This whole speech feels like it was written by someone who thinks this guy was always in the picture. He then spouts on about how “those boys” may claim they love her, but they don’t; they just want to be the victor and enjoy the spoils, before going on to fight on another battleground. As usual, Rowan gives Olivia no agency, and no credit. It’s all about how the men want to use her, and when they’ll dispose of her, because she’s a thing. No wonder all of Liv’s relationships are bonkers.
Then, later, when she calls him later all sniffly and eating crow about Jake and Fitz being mean and competitive — “They just want to fight. It was never about me at all,” she sniffs, which should be the first clue she’s lying; it’s always about Olivia and she has never known any different — he consoles her by saying it was all his fault because he sent her away to school too soon. “It’s my fault. I damaged you,” he said, and the way it comes out, with that emphasis, is as if he’s saying, “I knew SOMEONE damaged you because you are CRAZY HELLA DAMAGED. but I guess it was me. OOPS.”
But otherwise, he totally sniffs out The Plan. And for that alone I wanted to make Olivia closer to The Worst than he is, because he owns all these pie-eyed fools.
But, he does kill a bunch of people — remotely — while they’re sipping their wine, and at least Olivia has never pushed an Easy Button that was homicidal. Well, not consciously. Rowan, naturally, blames their deaths on her, because she dared to defy him. He opens with a speech, delivered in his usual strangely metered, salivary way, about all the things he should have understood and asked and noticed about her but which he didn’t because he was too focused on making her excel. But then he assures her that he never put his job before her. “What I’ve done. ALL that I’ve done. Is because of you. I am who I am because of you,” he says. Then he pauses. “That’s what you were to me,” he says. “Now I am leaving because of you. … For the first time in your life you are on your own. You think the world is so terrible with me in it? Wait until you see what it’s like without me.”
And… I mean, these people are all worse than Rowan is for forgetting that he always wins. Always. They are SO DUMB when it comes to him. “Let’s go get him!” “No, let’s wait and come up with a plan and give him time to smell a rat and then transport a bunch of files instead of just reading them, and then once we transport them, let’s not check them first. Let’s just ACT. HE’LL NEVER KNOW even though he knows EVERYTHING and we don’t know where his operatives are although technically Jake ought to know because he used to be Command so you’d think he’d have lent a hand.” (It just occurred to me: Did Jake want this to fail so he could kill Rowan himself? Surely that wasn’t his play. But, he’s Among The Worst, so who knows.) The whole thing reminds me of that ad where the kids are escaping from a chainsaw murderer and the girl goes, “Can’t we just go get in that running car?” and everyone is like, “Um, NO, we should run into that super dark forest,” and she agrees. He is the killer and they are DUMB.
But, he’s a real, major, deliberate mass-murderer, so… that’s pretty bad.
Oh, he also says, “You think you’re standing in the sun. It has blinded you,” or somesuch. Which led me to…
2. Standing In The Sun
I cannot with this one. Scandal is IN LOVE WITH THIS turn of phrase and I want to punch it right in the solar system. Early in the episode, Jake throws it around and then directly INTO Fitz’s face. “It’s our catchphrase,” he says, smugly. Later, alone with Liv (which… you’d think HE would kiss her, or she would kiss HIM?), he asks her to promise that she’ll get him out of there even if Fitz comes up with another scheme to keep him in jail, and says, “You could let me rot in here… and you and that Fitz guy can dance off into the sun.” To which Olivia gets all moist-eyed and purrs, “Don’t ever talk about me and the sun and another man.” I will be glad when Scandal retires this. Maybe Rowan’s next move can be to BLOW UP THE SUN, because he’s cartoonish enough to do it.
We all know that Fitz is the worst. He is THE WORST. Almost always. One of his sins here is trying to shake Jake’s hand at the end of their first confab, saying, “No hard feelings.” Jake accepts this handshake, which is insane. NO HARD FEELINGS? RIGHT. I guess one could understand why Fitz wanted to believe in Jake’s guilt, and to take out his grief on someone tangible, but he DID still beat the guy into a wobbly pulp. So, you know, way to treat that with all the significance of football trash-talk, Fitz.
He also relentlessly argues with Jake, as they try and top each other’s volume, and is thus not smart enough to know that if he just took the high road and acted like THE LEADER OF THE FREAKING USA, it might make him look sexier and less like The Worst. But he does not. He just bickers and bickers, because everyone is lying about their genital measurements here and they’re all afraid to get called out on it.
He further begs for that Olivia kiss with a “You know you want to,” and the second she leaps at him in her moment of control, he jams her back against the wall. And THEN Fitz does the creepiest thing. When Olivia pulls away and looks flustered and asks him if he could please at least exit another way, he grins at her, “This is a bunker.” Discombobulated still, she turns and leaves, and Fitz just stands there staring after her with this face:
That is Imma Snack On Your Liver face.
Jake makes THIS face at David Rosen when he pretends he is the one who is remorseful for never using the B-DoneWithThisSoonPlease files (as a way of twisting the knife, because of course Jake expected David to use them, and he didn’t, and Jake thus wants David to feel tacitly responsible for Jerry’s death). Jake is, in fact, insufferable here. I know he’s been in prison, and beaten, but Jake acts like a baby the whole time. He throws Standing In The Sun at Fitz and calls Olivia his girlfriend, and tries to get all macho about killing Rowan. “No one’s killing anyone,” Liv says. “Someone’s killing someone,” he snaps, and then later: “I don’t want justice. I want to kill your father, and I want you to let me do that.” Yeah, way to put that ENTIRE decision on her shoulders, you asshat. You would have killed him anyway, regardless, if you weren’t in jail, so don’t lay it at her feet.
And also, Jake gets REAL HUFFY about Fitz using his name and insists that Fitz can only call him Captain Ballard. Every time Fitz slips and calls him Jake — not to be petty, I don’t think; just out of habit — he gets the “Captain Ballard” retort. I am so frustrated that NOBODY ever is the bigger person on this damn show. I mean, here’s the thing: Even if you don’t mean it, PRETENDING to be the bigger person is often EXTREMELY SUCCESSFUL and makes you look cooler and taller and like your junk is super studly. My negative feelings about Jake stem largely from the way he tries to guilt Olivia into believing that he’s a hero, or her knight in shining armor, or her only true option. When in fact, he’s soulless and horrible and using just as much emotional blackmail as Fitz ever has. Fitz at least seems to know he’s messy. I think Jake believes he’s great.
What’s worse than one Huck?
THREE OR FOUR HUCKS, via this special-effect shot of Huck buzzing around Portia’s love nest planting surveillance equipment. Huck off, all you Hucks.
Now, to the meat of it:
Huck knows full well he is a crackpot, and yet is now sneaking around with his kid, unsupervised, and at a job where all kinds of crazy, stabby things happen. A job where his boss is being stalked for reasons as-yet-unknown, and his boss’s father is Evil Incarnate. GREAT place to bring your son.
Well, there is one place even better to bring him:
ON A STAKEOUT. WHERE YOU ARE PRETTY SURE YOU’RE GOING TO CATCH PEOPLE HAVING SEX ON CAMERA. And in fact, it bears out that Huck Is The Worst: When Portia and Kubiak arrive, Huck acts surprised, then flustered that Javi is going to see some low-rent porn. So he gives him cash AND SENDS HIM OUT INTO THE NIGHT UNSUPERVISED IN SOME RANDO NEIGHBORHOOD TO BUY ICE CREAM FROM WHEREVER. You’re in a VAN. There is a curtain blocking you from the front seat. Can’t he just sit shotgun for a second?
I figured Javi would disappear and Huck would have to tell his wife that he’d lost their child that he’d catfished. But then it became clear where this was headed. Quinn storms in to ask why Huck is on her stakeout, they realize the Portia/Kubiak thing, and then Jon Tenney arrives and THEY start tearing into each other. As Huck and Quinn watch agape and discuss how they should talk to Olivia, Kubiak breaks the window and grabs at Huck from behind. Because they were apparently parked right in front of the apartment, or whatever, and are stupid, and didn’t consider that the highly trained DC cop walking out of Portia’s apartment might know what a stakeout looks like.
Huck struggles with him and Quinn tries to stab him in the arm with a pen, or something, but eventually Huck — and I was NOT going to screengrab this — drives the guy’s neck down onto a shard of glass from the window. This makes him very dead, and he drops like a stone outside the van… just as, OF COURSE, Javi arrives back. He stops like a deer in headlights, and then Huck watches helplessly as he darts away.
WHO TAKES A CHILD ON A STAKEOUT? Welcome to The Worst of the Week. Well, except for one I just thought of…
0. Javi’s Mother/Huck’s Ex-Wife
WHERE DID YOU THINK YOUR KID WAS THIS WHOLE TIME, WHEN HE WAS GALLIVANTING AROUND DC BOTH DURING THE DAY AND IN DARKNESS? Maybe she works nights and has a babysitter, but… listen, somebody dropped the child-care ball on this one. Bigtime.