I have to say, I think Scandal would be well-served to limit itself to fewer episodes EVERY season. Because, as rushed as it was to find ourselves on the doorstep of the presidential election — without even a word as to who Sally Langston’s running mate even is — I am glad we didn’t have four more episodes on top of these. It felt like a lot of water-treading as it was, the number of times Olivia would let out a shaky breath and realize that she does horrible things in service of horrible people who pretend they’re America’s heroes.
So, last week, we left off with Harrison being romanced by Adnan Salif’s pistol, Rowan Pope brutally stabbed and bleeding out all over Olivia’s office floor, Squick setting records for being the Foulest On-Screen Pairing in the Universe on account of how they make out like they’re horny cannibals, and Cyrus being willing to vaporize a bunch of innocent people — and Jon Tenney — just to make election night easier for him. We pick up with Fitz rehearsing his eulogy and Cyrus becoming increasingly agitated, because he has realized that maybe, just maybe, the karma police like to throw you in solitary with moldy bologna if you effectively mass-murder a Church full of people just so you can keep your fancy office.
Meanwhile, Mama Pope, one of the most wanted women in the WORLD, is standing outside the Church she plans to bomb — a Church crawling with Secret Service and other security personnel because the people inside are all government types — WITHOUT WEARING A DISGUISE or even sunglasses and a kicky but inappropriate hat. No, she’s just merrily chatting on the phone about how Fitz will show up, for sure, no problem, and they can blow that joint into holy smoke, while NOBODY NOTICES THAT THE TERRORIST WHO THEY KNOW WANTS TO KILL THE PRESIDENT IS STANDING THERE IN PLAIN SIGHT CLAD IN GLOWING GREY AMID A SEA OF MOURNING BLACK. COME ON.
This blurry shot of Jon Tenney is one of VERY few we get of him in this episode, which is a shame, because the show went to all that trouble to set up emotional stakes for him and Mellie and then just wiped that off like they’re a dry-erase board. I can’t remember at what point they decided to cut the order to 18 episodes from 22, but perhaps not with enough time for them to cut down their planned arc for him in a way that made sense, and as a consequence, he got left with nothing. ANYWAY: Jake Ballard interrupts just as Cyrus is about to confess to Fitz about the bomb, and more or less doesn’t point the finger at Cyrus, which was nice of him — or at least, any implications he makes seem not to concern Fitz in the slightest. Instead, they clear out the funeral.
And then, while they’re in the bunker, and Jake Ballard is swearing up and down that there REALLY IS a bomb and they will not end up looking foolish…
… the bomb goes boom. And I hope Fitz thought to himself, “Well, boy, I’d sure rather have looked foolish.”
Sally is fine, but Paul Adelstein recognizes a chance to rise from the ashes, so he sullies her skin and rips her dress and sends her back there to be the phoenix. Actually, I believe he tells her to go be Jesus. And because she is TOTALLY INSANE, she is like, “Oh, right.” I mean, he’s not wrong that she can use this to her campaign advantage, but if a guy looks you in the face and tells you quite seriously that you need to go play Christ because he is pretty sure that will WORK, you should sit down for a while and consider that you are not that different than a character on Orange Is The New Black and maybe you should rethink yourself before you end up with teeth like hers. Although clearly Sally Langston doesn’t spend her night bingeing on Netflix shows, because she’s too busy streaming all those old seasons of Murder, She Wrote, futilely looking for clues on how NOT to confess one’s misdeeds after only the gentlest, most proofless prodding from a kindly old busybody.
Wombouflage #35: Old Dude’s Head. Liv tells Fitz that he needs to get on camera in front of America, because not being at the site of the bombing is going to harsh his campaign buzz. So he does…
… but all the news channels split-screen it with footage of Sally ministering to the wounded, and — despite Liv’s barrage of phoned-in threats, both in the literal sense and in the sense of them not being all that intimidating because really, what can she do — they all eventually dump Fitz and go full-screen on Sally, who finishes her ascendance with a speech from high atop Mount Smugmore that is full of no small amount of religious-speak. If only Cyrus had a mole in her debate prep team, he’d know all about the flavorful, deep-fried delights of YUM YUM CRISPY PIGGY, and I’m actually sad that never happened, because they could’ve named it Porkgate, or the Aporkalypse.
Instead, Team Fitz realizes the election is lost. And Jon Tenney pockets what I presume was a nice per-episode paycheck to stand there for one second and act like it’s all really sad, and show no particular feeling whatsoever toward Mellie, despite the fact that no presidency, and no need to cooperate with Fitz anymore, means theoretically they could go nail each other in a coat-closet somewhere — which might have added some excellent emotional stakes to everything that happens later, except I guess their loins are dead now.
Plus, she is hammered. She angrily spits that she wants her money back, because they hired Olivia Pope to win the election and she did not deliver them a victory. This is a decent point, although it’s not exactly Olivia’s fault that somebody nearly blew up the vice-president instead of the president, and also, it’s PROBABLY best not to wish Fitz had been there. I thought the bitterness that pushed her into the booze benders began with Fitz putting the hypocritical kibosh on her relationship with Jon Tenney, which made her vengefully want to reveal the paternity thing; if she’s STILL bombed and bitter, you’d think it’d be because she still thirsts for good old Fritzie up there, and yet they seriously act like they’ve never touched before and it’s a bummer.
Rowan is alive. Liv is pleased, or at the very least, not displeased. Wombouflage #36: one of those pink hospital pitchers. MEMORIES. I had two of those, one for each bean, and I BELIEVE at least one of them is still alive and stashed safely in a dark cupboard in my kitchen. We used them to warm up bottles. Anyway, Rowan sympathizes with Liv’s life problems and the fact that she couldn’t win an election without cheating — although technically she MIGHT have if Mama Pope hadn’t cheated in the other direction — and she wonders why he cares; he points out that while he doesn’t like Fitz, he does love Olivia, and ergo he doesn’t like it when she’s sad or when she doesn’t win. So they cuddle. And she is completely non-suspicious of the fact that suddenly he wants to be Daddy McSnugglebug, when a) he once told her he was going to ruin Fitz’s life — or even end it — regardless of whether she was collateral damage or not, and b) the last time she asked him for fatherly advice, he gave her a speech and then spat, “Am I done being your father?” and hightailed it out of there. Memories, Olivia. Get some.
Harrison has made a deal with Adnan that he lives if he helps her get out of this mess scot-free. For Reasons, she accepts this deal, even though she seemed to be doing just fine on her own getting out of sticky situations. So he and Abby arrive at the office at the same time…
… and stumble in on Squick, one bending the other over that gorgeous conference table, going at it like rabbits next to a puddle of Rowan Pope’s blood because his leaking veins apparently reminded them of all kinds of sexual imagery, and the ensuing mutual genital throbbing was so intense they couldn’t even pause to take a Lysol wipe to the floor. In other news: GET A ROOM. IN A DEEPER CIRCLE OF HELL THAN THE ONE WE APPARENTLY CURRENTLY INHABIT WITH YOU. To Abby’s eternal credit, her reaction is, “MY EYES,” and she angrily tells them to PLEASE pause the coitus and clean up the mean man’s blood with an absolute minimum of tongue play.
David Rosen begs Jake Ballard to help him blah blah morality; Jake Ballard points out that he killed three people right in front of David, and so David should know by now that Jake isn’t one of the good guys. As a nation of viewers rejoices that someone has finally pointed out that Jake is no hero, David intones that he thinks Jake IS truly one of the good guys, and the aforementioned nation of viewers searches for a piece of brain matter to hurl at him to remind him that two forehead bullets and one dead James do not a nice person make. I kind of wish David had just come over to ask Jake for a casserole recipe, but alas.
Quinn dumps Charlie because she’s in love with being spat on and chewed on by a feral man. Charlie gives her a parting gift: a file folder with the thing Huck wants most in the world, knowing that either decision Quinn makes will haunt her. Or at least ruin her day for a second until another erotic pile of viscera finds her.
Wombouflage #37: Fitz’s desk and some little souvenir on it. These two are having a relaxing evening in, writing his concession speech for the election and wondering what to call their new jam-making enterprise in Vermont. My vote: Fitzjelly Grant. Or The Condimentstitution.
But seriously, an indeterminate number of people are now in pieces beneath Church rubble, and Fitz is all, “Well, whatever, we can move to the country and have two children,” and Olivia is like, “Yay, I love toast!” I assume. I mean, that IS the face I make when I’m confronted with the prospect of toast. And as much as the bombing doesn’t necessarily have to ruin their day because they weren’t there, and they’re alive, and yada yada yada, Fitz’s rubber band has snapped back awfully fast. Not that he ever seemed particularly concerned about people before; he was just going on TV to look presidential. Anyway, Fitz starts bad-mouthing Mellie as a cold internally dead shrew who never loved him and only ever married him for power; Olivia realizes she can’t let him get away with that, and breaks it to him that Mellie did indeed love him and that she pulled away when Barry “Jerry Senior” Bostwick raped her. (Our commenters have pointed out that daughter Karen is younger than son Jerry — the Grants were, indeed, childless when Mellie got pregnant in that flashback — so the rape causing their dead marriage doesn’t quite track.) Fitz, understandably, feels like a massive dumbass. It should not be the first time.
The second he approaches Mellie with anything resembling compassion, she realizes that Fitz knows, and hisses, “Olivia Pope can’t do anything right.” This should be on Olivia’s business card. Mellie assures Fitz that she did a paternity test and Jerry was his, but he wasn’t concerned about that, and just quietly holds her as she lets a little vulnerability out. It’s a nice moment for them even though their interpersonal drama feels choppy and overly revisionist. But then again, Fitz is really just acting like a human being OUGHT to act.
Meanwhile, poor Abby is out there shilling for Fitz against Paul Adelstein, and her hair is clearly crumbling under the stress. What does anyone claim her title is, again? It’s really weird that they’d put their B-hitter against Paul Adelstein, especially because he beats her every time. Including this one.
Quinn parks outside Huck’s family’s house and tells him all about then. When he figures out what this is, he gets enraged with her and storms away, ignoring her totally implausible declarations of love, which whistle cheaply through the large holes in her mouth WHERE TEETH USED TO BE.
Wombouflage #38: Hospital equipment. Fitz is about to give a big speech — the last ditch effort of his campaign — and so naturally he and Olivia need to have YET ANOTHER conversation about how Vermont, and how Jerry and Liv’s Country Jamboree, aren’t ever going to happen. Because, per Liv, Fitz can’t leave Mellie “yet” now that he knows about the rape. And Fitz agrees. Has anyone checked with Mellie about this? Would anyone like to see if, say, now that they aren’t going to win the election, she might want to own her emotional independence and NOT stay with a man who is once again with her out of perceived obligation and pity? CAN SOMEBODY GIVE HER A VOTE? Other than the one she is probably going to cast for Sally Langston? There was a point this season where it stopped making sense for Mellie to want them to win the election, because she hated being First Lady and would be much freer to live the life of her choosing if Fitz were sent packing with his wolf tail between his legs. But other than having her drunk and bitter, they never actually went there, and so her motivations became too muddy.
Wombouflage #39: More hospital supplies. Mama Pope shows up for a second, just long enough to tell Olivia that if she’d wanted Rowan dead he would be — her knife missed his heart by this much — and so that’s where I thought maybe we were going to find out THEY were working together this whole time. But no. She just uses it to imply their whole lives were only PARTIALLY built on lies, and then swans out of there, daring Liv to stop her, and of course Liv doesn’t, because Liv is the worst and HER whole motivation for anything is muddy now too. Wasn’t she just recently a crusader for all that was good and fresh in this world? Right.
Meanwhile, on the dais, Jerry the Third sneezes, and blood shoots out.
I have to give Tony Goldwyn credit for this completely agonized, disbelieving, traumatized, befuddled expression as he carries poor oozing Jerry out of the venue. Except SURELY the paramedics would have done that. SURELY they would’ve had Jerry on a gurney inside the building, or handed him off to a Secret Service agent or ANY security detail, rather than having Fitz lug him down the stairs. Which I THEN thought was going to turn out to have been a deliberate act of campaigning on his part, but no, I guess it just… happened. I’m sure he wasn’t thinking that hard about it, but he also wasn’t exactly hustling.
Wombouflage #40: a podium in front of a green screen. Liv has apparently become the new family spokesperson, because a sign of a well-oiled administrative machine is its inability to replace its press secretary. And she announces that Jerry Grant died of bacterial meningitis. Which is sad but would’ve been a lot more affecting if, like on The West Wing, we actually knew and cared about Jerry as anything other than a convenient plot device (for the rape, for the paternity, for that other episode he was in that was really not that memorable, etc).
Liv and Cyrus admit to each other — in another nicely staged scene, cut entirely without music, so that it almost felt like a play — that their first thoughts upon Jerry’s death were that now THEY were going to win the election, and they wonder which came first: their base jobs, or their baser impulses. It’s a fair question, and one to which there is no ready answer except that their egos came first and the rest of it followed.
Conveniently, from his hospital room, Rowan Pope — why do I keep calling him that? I never knew if he was Eli or Rowan or Command or what, and I guess Rowan stuck — has traced the strain of meningitis to a break-in at Fort Detrick, and he can link it to Mama Pope. So now, Olivia’s mother is responsible for her lover’s son’s death. Fitz promises her he doesn’t blame her, but gee, she feels just terrible about it, except for how her resume will still be spotless. Nobody stops to wonder why Maya would do that, or HOW she would have done that so smoothly and suavely and so quickly, given that she was just eyeball-deep in planting a bomb in a church. And nobody stops to wonder why she’d bother killing Fitz’s kid all of a sudden when that would have the OPPOSITE effect of killing Fitz himself — namely, it would engender powerful sympathy, rather than powerful deadness. They all just decide this makes sense because she is eeeeeevil, even though EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this SHOW lives in a giant grey area and should have learned by now to look for those in other people.
Mellie grieves for Jerry by admitting to Fitz that she always kept him at arm’s length because she was afraid of the ticking time bomb of his paternity — but that, even if he wasn’t Fitz’s, he was always hers, and she didn’t treat him that way. Bellamy Young is quietly great in that scene.
You know who is not quietly great? Huck.
He arrives uninvited to Olivia’s place and unloads on her about the impertinence of Quinn showing him his family, and how they’re better off without him. Olivia comforts him, and tells him that maybe he should consider revealing himself because of how much they loved him. This is horrible advice. It’s going to be Nicholas Brody-style awkward when, in his homecoming, he reveals to his former bride that he’d really enjoy horking a wobbly loogie onto her neck and licking it off before he sucks on her chin.
Wombouflage #41: Huck’s back, which, symbolically, I’ll be glad to see for a while.
Liv later calls her father and asks him if his offer of a plane, and a new identity, both still stand. He is delighted and promises to arrange it immediately. Because if there is one thing Olivia could do that would make me EVEN MORE frustrated with her, it’s pack up and run away. So VOILA. I suppose this gives them the freedom to let Kerry Washington take some early-season maternity leave if she needs it, but ugh. Just go to Tahiti for a couple months as yourself.
Abby is enraged that Olivia is fleeing the coop. Abby, maybe Olivia just got sick of every scene being shot as if the person watching it is shitfaced out of their proper eyesight. Liv promises to take care of them financially and that her father will keep OPA afloat, or something, but the two Abbys just frown and rant and rave at her, because doesn’t she think they ALL want to escape the kitchy prison of Wonkusvision?
Rowan/Eli/Whatever uses Harrison to get to Mama Pope — by showing him photos of Adnan’s dead body. Harrison angrily tells him that he knows where Mama Pope was going to go for her next round of plot contrivances, and Joe Morton spends the entire scene leaning against something, which is what he does ALL the time. Seriously, there is no staging anymore — except for the hospital room — in which he isn’t speechifying at somebody while holding himself at an intense angle. That is the kind of geometry that gets you in debt to a chiropractor, sir.
Olivia, about an hour after having made the decision to disappear, has packed up most of her apartment. That is some ruthless efficiency right there. Perhaps her new identity should involve running her own moving company. HANDLED WITH CARE would be a catchy name. Also, riddle me this: If we can see the boxes behind Olivia reflected in that mirror then why can’t see any trace of HER? Or Jake? Are they undead? It WOULD explain why shit never sticks to her.
Anyway, Olivia has come to the INCREDIBLY self-involved conclusion that the world revolves around her, and ergo, so do everyone’s motivations and actions, and that she is the reason ALL of this happened and that if she disappears — or indeed, fixes herself — then so will the scandals and everything will be perfect. Instead of laughing at her and telling her that he’d much rather sleep with someone who has a realistic sense of her own importance, Jake is like, “TAKE ME WITH YOU,” because there is no end to his willingness to feed her ego. She even tells him, flat-out, that she’s in love with another man, and he’s like, “Ehhhh,” because of course she’s leaving Fitz behind. And Liv agrees to take Jake with her, because she’s apparently co-dependent, among other things, and can’t just be single and date a non-murderer for ONE SECOND. IMPROVE YOUR PROSPECTS, OLIVIA.
Mama Pope is swanning around doing all her freaking banking in public, and has the audacity to act surprised when she’s caught. IN BROAD DAYLIGHT. HOW ARE YOU A RESPECTED TERRORIST? RowanEli calls Fitz and tells him, triumphantly, that she was apprehended and disposed of — which you know is bull because there is NO WAY Scandal wouldn’t have shown us the de-frocking of this Pope in grody, adoring detail.
And HOW IS OLIVIA LEAVING THIS TABLE?
Harrison puts on a saucily loud tie/shirt combo for the scene in which he finds out that, after apprehending Mama Pope, RowanEli — I will figure out what to call him next season, I promise; Wikipedia calls him “Rowan ‘Eli’ Pope,” but Mama calls him Eli, so THANKS GUYS — was reinstated as the head of the newly reformed B-EtYouThoughtWeWereDoneWithThat. Harrison realizes slowly that none of this makes sense. SLOW CLAP HARRISON. What’s Really Going On: All the dots connected too neatly, see, so he deduces that Papa Pope is behind a lot of this. And with the skill of a young Jessica Fletcher — see, life always comes back to Murder, She Wrote — he gets RowanEli to confirm the entire story: Ever since that early episode where he swore Olivia would get on that plane “come hell or high water,” Papa Pope has been conspiring to do just that. He played Olivia’s emotions like a violin to get her to a place where she’d hate herself and her life enough to want to leave it, including framing Mama Pope for the meningitis…
… which he actually stole, and forced former B-Utthead double agent Hot Tom to act: In a plot that felt ripped from a better episode of Sherlock, he had the meningitis on a needle he stuck to his wedding ring, or something, and so it went into Jerry’s body when he clapped a hand to Jerry’s back. He also shot Adnan and lovingly photographed it, so RowanEli could manipulate Harrison into giving him the ultimate prize: Mama Pope. And he did all this knowing that Fitz having a dead child pinned to Olivia’s mother, plus winning the election, would be the last thing that broke his daughter’s will. Rowan is like, “And I would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids,” and has Tom pull a gun on Harrison. (Edited to add the OTHER thing I meant to say, and forgot, until the comments reminded me: Harrison should’ve been smart enough to act like he didn’t know anything, get his ass out of there alive, and then tell Olivia and/or call Rowan for an exposition orgasm once he was safely hidden behind a wall of guns or something.) Which gives the show all summer to decide how serious Columbus Short’s legal and/or anger problems are.
Cyrus, whose heart is made of regurgitated tar, celebrates winning the election because he doesn’t care that much about dead children he once knew.
Jake sends David Rosen all his secret B-oo files. So wait, you’re telling me: a) The division, like pi itself, is a longer string of boring numbers that just gets appreciated for ease of use; and b) keeps all its files in HELPFULLY LABELED FOLDERS, despite being such a secret organization that nobody knows it exists nor can figure out how it’s funded nor had even the whiffiest whiff of suspicion about it and its absurd paper-company front? COME ON. Next you’ll tell me they have business cards and company socials and Friday lunches catered by the Olive Garden.
Huck decides to reveal himself to his former wife, which is potentially unfortunate, because bless her, this actress was not very good the first time she was on the show. However, if he decides to ride her off into the sunset, I will not be upset. I am rooting for the fall season to start with Abby as the hottest fixer in town — physically and mentally and financially — and a whole new team in place.
And of course, Mama Pope is being kept alive in the Torture Hole, which just ticked up a notch on Trip Advisor because it provides clean PJs.
Fitz wobbles dazedly around the Oval Office, wanting to think straight or take a crooked drink, and unable to do either one. Mellie tries to confort him, but baby wants his bottle, and says so, and thus Mellie has to kneel next to him on the floor and dial Liv over and over and over again…
… and she lets it go, because she is OUT OF THERE, Jake Ballard at her side, ready to embrace the fact that where she was once something of an empowered and smart female character, she now basically makes all her decisions based on which dude has told her he’d like to sleep with her in perpetuity. (Edited to add, because the comments reminded me, that her keeping the phone is INSANE and Jake should’ve left again the second he saw it, because as long as she has that with her, she can be found — and ergo, I think, wants to be.) I hope, like Kelly Taylor before her, she returns single, because Jake ditched her to go find Brenda Walsh in London; that Abby DOES become a beautifully coated D.C. power player; that Paul Adelstein gets a job in the Fitz White House, because they need a new press secretary, or a new Cyrus; that Squick are never heard from again; and that Columbus Short gets his shit together in life regardless of what happens here. Oh ,and that Mellie and Jon Tenney have LOTS OF OUTRAGEOUS SEX and force Fitz to DEAL WITH IT because it’s her turn, dammit. And that we get away from all this Diet Homeland with Alias stuff, because it robbed the show of the fun that used to live at its core.
What is your wish list for Scandal next season? Thank you for joining me for this one. WE MADE IT. TOGETHER.