So, apparently, now that the sun isn’t shining and thus no one can go stand in it, Shondaland needs to make a new phrase happen. Unfortunately, they chose “little bitch baby,” an epithet Connor spat at Michaela in episode two of How To Get Away With Murder, and which Olivia Pope picks up here and she and Cyrus use it in one scene approximately eight hundred times (give or take), always at top volume. I want to scream. Do the writers of those shows work in the same building, as with Vampire Diaries and The Originals? Because this feels like the most obnoxious inside joke. Why are you people so proud of “little bitch baby”? Are you twelve?
We begin with the fallout from Rowangate:
Special Forces has located the torture hole. Or, in clickbait terms, “When One Man Decided To Shut His Hole, You Won’t Believe How He Meant It.”
You’ll be pleased to know that Mama Pope looks exactly the same as the last time we saw her, despite spending so many moons living underground in a box. I would be SCREAMING for my prison-issue bologna sandwich, but then again, Rowan Pope probably poured $30-a-glass wine down a tube into her mouth, because to him that’s the cheap stuff. So she probably ate low-level caviar down there. And now she’s happy because she’s just sure Olivia will tell Fitz and Jake that they can’t keep her because she hasn’t been charged with anything.
Olivia’s response is basically, “Okay, then charge her, lock her up, and then KILL THE HELL OUT OF MY FATHER.” Mama Pope seems surprised by this. I can’t think why. Perhaps there were some ill-effects of Torture Hole, like common-sense erosion.
It LOOKS like Huck peering tragically through his wife’s window, but it’s actually a promotional poster for Hallmark Channel’s new seasonal treasure, Homicide For The Holidays. It co-stars Marley Shelton, Jonathan Lipnicki in his first adult role, and Betty White as the North Pole Chief of Police.
Huck’s ex answers the door and the two of them do the Bug-Eyed Tango: She wants him to go away, he wants Javi, she says Javi isn’t there, and Huck says he traced Javi’s cell phone to his room. Miraculously, this does nothing to make Ex-Wife believe Huck is telling the truth about being a spy. I feel like someone accurately tracing another person’s cell phone — and then trying to choke out your family therapist — is a decent indicator that something is afoot beyond mere delusion.
So, Fitz’s veep just got attacked on American soil by West Angola, and Fitz doesn’t know what to do. Fitz never, in fact, knows what to do. And because Fitz is incapable of being a good president, he asks Cyrus to give him the answer. Cyrus, his Chief of Staff, and not any of his foreign policy advisers or any one of the MANY MANY people around whose jobs are to tell the figurehead what to do about West Angola. Just Cyrus. He sits in his office playing Bubble Witch and then thinks, “Guess I’d better have Cyrus tell me what to do about Angela West or whatever.” Cyrus doesn’t have a plan yet, sadly, so Fitz ACTUALLY SNAPS AT HIM, “Come back to me when you do.” My notes here read, “UM YOU ARE PRESIDENT ASSHOLE.” I wrote it on my iPhone notepad so I didn’t bother with punctuation. It’s a stand-in for, “Um, excuse me, but YOU are the president, you asshole,” but calling him President Asshole also works.
I like this shot mostly because the unsightly act of charging one’s phone almost NEVER happens on TV. Like, that takes at least 20 minutes. That’s half an episode of 24. What would Jack Bauer DO with himself? I guess he could finally take that bathroom break.
While plugged in, Liv gets a call from Quinn, who serves as the Exposition Fairy this week. She fills Liv in on Portia de Rossi and Jon Tenney — omitting that Huck’s kid witnessed him hanging a dude on a shard of glass — and notes that she saw them hooking up with her own eyes, and “it was gross.” Quinn, meet the kettle, which you just implied was tarnished beyond repair.
Then Portia herself shows up to tell Olivia that she took her phone to another expert for a second opinion. And, indeed, she now knows Liv lied to protect Cyrus. “There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t support other women,” Portia says, smugly. And, bless her, Olivia retorts, “There’s a special place in Hell for people who use that kind of quote to justify their bad behavior.” SING IT, OLIVIA. My very least favorite argument is this idea that women are genetically required to support everything another woman does. It’s actually undercutting the cause, in a way, because it suggests that if a woman disagrees with another woman, she should shove her opinion deep down inside and swallow it whole and paste on a smile and cheer — essentially, be a puppet or a prop — simply because they have the same genitalia. We run up against that criticism sometimes, about how we shouldn’t be tearing women down by ragging on their crazy worn-for-public-consumption outfits, and I always think to myself, “Just because I am also a woman doesn’t mean I have to smile and pretend I like that person’s pants.” Wouldn’t that be awfully pandering? A vagina is not a social contract. And it’s not about tearing down a woman; it’s about tearing down hideousness. Which, in this case with Portia and Liv, is hideousness of the SOUL rather than hideousness of the trouser.
Or, maybe I’m President Asshole. Well, technically, CFO Asshole, here at GFY HQ.
Portia then warns Liv that The Time Has Come, and Liv tries to get to Cyrus in time…
… and she is wearing an Escada ensemble that is familiar to anyone who watches The Good Wife. Alicia Florrick beat her to it. OR LOANED IT TO HER, because after the last episode of their Blabernet Sauvignon podcast, Olivia was like, “Ugh, I’m TOTES going to have to dive back into politics pretty soon and I have nothing to wear,” and Alicia was like, “You do not even KNOW how much I feel you and I can help,” and Liv was like, “You’re the best, Alicia, let’s go stand in the sun,” and Alicia was like, “Yeah, whatever, I have an election and a murderous drug dealer to handle first,” and Liv was like, “My dad likes murder. Wanna trade?”
Who fabbed it more:
- Olivia (18%, 102 Votes)
- Alicia (44%, 245 Votes)
- Too close to call (33%, 184 Votes)
- NEITHER (4%, 21 Votes)
Total Voters: 552
Scandal has so many bees in its bonnet that it might as well call it a hive. Now it’s in love with this effect, originally seen in the main titles and replicated with MENTAL MELLIE, and now here: CHIEF OF STAFFS. And:
I just wanted to show you that photo again. This time we get big, bold, beautiful color while Cyrus rides Michael like a carousel pony.
Mellie manages to keep her face RELATIVELY impassive when Olivia tells the room that Jon Tenney is boinking Portia de Rossi. Liv lays out the entire sordid story for Fitz and Ethan and Abby and a couple other staffers who are just stoked to be there and hope that maybe JUST MAYBE Fitz will ask THEM what to do in West Angola because Lord knows he’s not going to figure it out himself.
Fitz does agree to fight this for Cyrus, so he sends Abby out to the press corps to deflect them and say the administration is “investigating” and whatnot.
I guess a day passes, then, and Olivia puts on a lovely blue jacket and sits down with Cyrus and Michael, outlining a plan wherein they will Pretty Woman this situation. It will involve Michael getting a million bucks a year (from whom? America?) in exchange for marrying Cyrus for at least three. Cyrus greets this idea thusly:
He looks kind of like Tony Geary here, no? (Luke on General Hospital, and randomly, I just watched an episode and he was hallucinating himself in jail/a psych ward, or something, and it was excruciating — that dude seriously never met a piece of scenery he didn’t chew a hundred times before swallowing.) Anyhoo, Cyrus grrrrowls that he was a closeted man for forty years. “FORTY YEARS between the thighs of women,” he adds, in Scandal’s classic style of saying at least one thing too many because it’s in love with its own speechifying. He then notes that he’s only slept with two men: the love of his life, James, and now a manstitute. “I will not marry this PERSON,” he sniffs, because it will be an insult to James’s memory. Nowhere is there a cutaway to Michael’s reaction to any of this, suggesting that perhaps the actor did not bring good Listening Face, and NOWHERE does Cyrus say, “Also, that might confuse the hell out of my daughter, who already hates me.” I’m really nervous about this show rapid-aging poor little Ella into a wiseass. Then again, this show has very little interest in anyone else’s kids, so we might be okay.
I guess Jake is out of prison. How do you feel, Jake? Are you relieved? Did you walk out and squint up at your precious sun because you didn’t think you’d ever see it again? Yes? No? Care to circle one, at least, so that we know? Because we sure didn’t get to see this emotional moment. Did you… see Olivia that night? Did you two decide not to have reunion sex? What … ever.
Oh, but Jake does survive an assassination attempt from a dude carrying this. It’s a Kill Card, and it’s a sign that Rowan is dismantling B-PokerFaced by having his operatives pick each other off one by one. I find this absurd. I know there were decks like this that made the rounds with al Qaeda and stuff, but they didn’t belong TO AL QAEDA. If you are the world’s foremost and scariest Super Secret Organization, do you really have a novelty deck of cards printed up with all your Super Secret Operatives on it — and IDENTIFIED BY NAME? It just seems like a whole lot of trouble to go to for a group that shouldn’t want a paper trail. Then again, an entire warehouse worth of files is ALSO strange for a group that shouldn’t want a paper trail. I think B-Inconsistent is just really, really confused about itself right now. This is basically puberty for poor B-EcomeAMan.
Now that Jake has helpfully told Quinn and Huck what the cards are, she warns Charlie. Because she likes him. He puts the moves on her — Imminent Death being life-affirming and whatnot — and strikes out once, twice… but the third time he hits a homer. They do it right there in the car, and Quinn rather hilariously struts back into the office with a jaunty smile on her face, all but shaking the hay out of her hair from rolling in it.
Then she has to get serious.Because it’s time to pretend we care about The Case of the Unending Abyss. Huck and Quinn know that the LAST time Portia, Jon Tenney, and Dead Kubiak were all in the same room, it was at The Law Firm of Who Cares — the same night Whatsherface died. Quinn snaps her fingers and says if they can figure out who the client was in that meeting, THEY WILL KNOW IT ALL. Liv is like, “OH HEY GOOD IDEA,” because I guess… she wouldn’t have thought of that extremely obvious thing on her own? Is she a broken fixer? Quinn puts on her best suit and swans into the office and flirts with the security guard with her eyes, so that she can skate through the fingerprint scanner…
… with THE DEAD MAN’S FINGER. She and Huck casually snipped it off and she stuck it in a box for handy identity-theft purposes (pun intended). Because I guess they hadn’t bothered to dispose of Kubiak’s body, even though at least one day if not two has passed and it’s starting to expel its intestinal gifts. Right. Where was the thing, anyway? Still in the van? Did they toss it in Harrison’s old office?
Doesn’t Quinn look bored in this elevator? That’s because she’s only there so that she can have flashbacks to what they know — Girl Stole File, Girl Got Dragged Out Of Elevator And Killed — because even Scandal doesn’t think anyone cares enough about The Cast of the Unending Abyss to remember the details.
Jake pops by Liv’s office to give her a gun. As if he wasn’t just in prison for a long time. As if he isn’t thirsty for a papal blessing. He hands her a gun and tells her that her father is probably going to kill her, or try to, because she knows as much as any operative about B-OverWithAlready. “I’ve gone my whole career without needing [a gun,” Olivia says smugly. Hey, me too. Let’s go bowling.
Basically, Jake wants an excuse to stand behind her and wrap his arms around her and smell her hair. He then tells her that they could close Pandora’s box and “go back to the sun,” and RIGHT as I scream, “A POX ON YOUR INFERNAL SUN,” Olivia says to him, “The sun went down a long time ago and it’s not coming back up.” If this were a rom-com, or even a rom-trag, it would end with Jake crooning “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” outside her apartment window. Alas. Now, it’s unclear whether she means Jake should buzz off and stop blabbing about Vitamin D, or that she’s in the depths of despair about the world again. Either way, Jake leaves ,which constitutes a win in my book.
Speaking of books, Fitz is reading an in-house publication called So You’re Not Sure What To Do About West Angola? but because it was written by someone in the defense department with actual qualifications, he yawns and puts it aside and picks up A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford.
Cyrus is waiting for him in the Oval. It seems awfully wrong that Fitz could stroll into his office from the reception area and have NO IDEA someone is lying in wait there for him. Fortunately, Cyrus only wants to deliver a long, rambling speech about Nixon’s resignation and how Fitz is going to fire Cyrus so that he can spin this into something positive for the presidency. “Thank you for your service, Cy, it’s been an honor,” Cyrus prods him to say, over and over, as Fitz’s resistance crumbles. God, Fitz can’t even handle THIS without someone else giving him orders. Eventually he lets Cyrus go with a sniffle, depressed because he’ll never get to ask him questions about what happened to his hair recently, and whether to declare war on anybody.
David Rosen, meanwhile, is doing his due diligence investigating the Cyrus photos for Reasons. It’s just an excuse for the show to have him find out about Abby and Paul Adelstein in the most embarrassing way possible: on the record, during an interview. He seems like a very sad puppy about it. I recap this show and yet I genuinely don’t remember when or why they broke up. Any takers? Did it happen in the off-season while she was closing up OPA and joining the Fitz administration?
While Quinn and Charlie are shagging, she finds her own Kill Card in his stuff. COME ON. Did Charlie MAKE these? That’s the only reason why Quinn could possibly be the Queen of Hearts. I mean, among other reasons, she was with B-lackjack for about two hours. She’s clearly the seven of diamonds AT BEST. It might have been very entertaining if he came out of the bathroom and she was enraged with him not because he was going to kill her, but because her card was super low and she got all offended. Instead, they Mr. and Mrs. Smith each other while “Endless Love” plays in the background. Which is a hundred percent less good than the actual Mr. and Mrs. Smith scene, because that one is dangerous and sexy and full of sexual tension, and this one is just messy pummeling (even though it’s supposed to look adept, although when anyone thinks Quinn learned hand-to-hand combat is beyond me). And with all due respect, Lionel Richie is not very amusing when used ironically. New Girl just made Schmidt, Nick, and Winston sing plaintively along with “Hello,” and it was funny because THEY took it seriously. Lionel demands a true heart.
I did laugh a little at the end when Charlie told Quinn that his granny died, and she’s really sad for him, and he explains that he helped her along so she wouldn’t suffer. Quinn is like, “Well, of COURSE.” And then he says he was really on the fence about killing her and she says they should talk more. The thing is, I never like Quinn unless she’s with Charlie, because at least he’s an AMUSING psychopath. The closest she’s ever gotten to working is when she and Charlie are making it seem normal that they’re both insane.
And of course, right when Jake thinks he’s zeroed in on the safe house where Rowan is hiding, the show uses a classic and obvious misdirect where Jake is about to barge in, and Rowan is pouring a glass of wine, and WHAT WILL HAPPEN… and of course, Jake walks into an empty room and Olivia walks in on her father offering her a glass of something unspeakably French. Here is my question: Obviously Rowan wanted that misdirect. If he thought Jake should be dead, why not stick a bomb in the safe house? Hasn’t he seen Speed? Everyone knows you wire the dummy location with explosives to teach people a lesson.
Rowan would rather bloviate, though. So he starts going on and on about this Stevie Wonder album, “Songs In The Key of Life,” and how with family, it’s hard to wipe away the great memories even when they STUBBORNLY and INCONSIDERATELY forget that they owe their entire success to you. When she asks him to leave, he pulls a gun on her to force her to listen to his crispy-fried language — things like, “When you look in a mirror, I am what you see,” or whatever — and then he forgets himself long enough that this happens:
I suspect, however, she only THINKS she caught him monologuing, and that this was a test. Because after a lengthy face-off, in which Rowan entreats her to think VERY CAREFULLY, Olivia goes ahead and pulls the trigger.
It’s not loaded. And Rowan lets out a YELP and a snarl and booms — emotionally wounded — that he can’t believe she would’ve shot her own father. So I’m pretty sure letting her reach for the gun was a trap. He then tells the story of the Stevie album (which is just that he played it the night she was so nervous to start kindergarten) and insists, for what feels like the umpteenth time even if it’s the first, that Olivia sure will miss him when he’s gone. I wish he’d broken into “Cups” from Pitch Perfect. He could’ve given a monologue likening himself to the red Solo cup — more ubiquitous than you realize, more essential to your survival, more a part of your very fabric than you might ever realize, only to upend itself and bang its drum, at which point “red Solo cup” will become a new catchphrase and Olivia starts walking around yelling at people, “I don’t need another red Solo cup. I have. A red Solo cup. I Had. A red Solo cup. My father. Was the red Solo cup. And I will not. Be the ball trapped under it I WILL. Not. BE. the BALL. Trapped under it.” And then we will all scream and pine for the days when she just talked about the sun.
I guess after the act-out, Liv decides to go visit her mother to find out where Rowan might be, which… I wonder if this ever came before the other scene? You just had him IN YOUR HOUSE. YOU JUST HAD HIM. YOU DID NOTHING. You didn’t even club him over the head with anything. Liv makes her demands with her signature ferocity and elicits the most divinely glib response from Mama Pope, who sounds almost exasperated: “Baby, you’ve got to move ON.” APPLAUSE.
Liv is really hurt that her mother isn’t being super helpful, even though she encouraged Fitz to lock her up forever. Maya tells her that Rowan visited her every single day in that torture hole, and Olivia is just like him, running around with the covert boys and keeping her mama in a cage. Liv has this halting, gasping reaction as the tears start to come, because now both her father AND her mother accused her of being just like him, and MAYBE SHE IS, and the thing is… Olivia is so freaking suggestible it’s INSANE. Have some self-possession, Olivia. These people are manipulators, and you are the most pliant putty they’ve ever had in their hands. So after this jarring reaction, Maya acts like she’s going to try and reassure her, at which point Olivia recoils and Maya smacks the table. “Cry me a river,” she sneers. And then Liv hardens immediately and hisses, “GOODBYE MOM.” Khandi Alexander is entertainingly low-key and bored and exasperated in this scene, and Kerry Washington way, way overacts it. Which is a skill I suspect she developed from acting opposite Joe Morton so often, but the thing is, not every scene partner is Joe Morton, and not every scene NEEDS a Joe Morton. Even some of the ones with Joe Morton, as much as I like him, don’t really need a Joe Morton.
Next, Liv makes me insane. She takes herself and her good-looking coat to Cyrus’s place, where he is gazing sadly at James’s side of the closet and preparing for retirement. She decides to get forceful with him, and talk to him the way the Cyrus Beene she remembers would talk to him. And then she goes FULL HUCK.
Don’t pick up HIS acting tics EITHER, PLEASE GOD, I CAN’T HANDLE ANY MORE HUCKS. She spits that she’s so sorry the press is makng fun of him for banging a hooker, but TOO BAD, that’s how it is. And she’s so sorry James is dead, but TOO BAD, that’s how it is. And then: “The Cyrus Beene I know doesn’t hide in his half-empty closet and wet his pants like a little bitch baby.”
So then of course she gets up in his grill and shouts “LITTLE BITCH BABY” at him a bunch and he fires back, “I AM NOT A LITTLE BITCH BABY,” over and over, and I genuinely hope we’re witnessing the ENTIRE life cycle of this phrase: birth to death. Because I can’t. We’re probably supposed to think this is a super groovy pep talk, but I just want Cyrus to be like, “You ARE your father’s daughter,” and throw her out of his house. Everyone on this show is drowning in awfulness at all times. There is no break from this relentless barrage of rat-a-tat-tat obnoxious and hateful monologuing and so it all stops having any impact or meaning ANYTHING anymore.
Oh, but it works. Cyrus takes the marriage deal and goes on TV to tell the world that he’s sorry he broke the law, and he’s sorry for the betrayal of trust, but he simply can’t be sorry for falling in loooooove. We are seriously a heartbeat away from Sally Field grabbing the prison bars and sobbing, “Yes, YES, I AM GUILTY. Guilty of LOVE. In the FIRST DEGREE.”
Even Mackenzie Astin is like, “Slow your roll, Soapdish, you’re going to give yourself kopfegeschlagen.”
Olivia is watching this all go down in the kind of work outfit that suggests she KNOWS she will need a bottle of red back at her desk so she wants to be in the Wine Cardigan spirit already.
Fitz is very happy Cyrus hasn’t resigned, so that SOMEONE unqualified can FINALLY tell him whether to wage war with West Angola. No, seriously. He says, “I’ll pour you a scotch if you can tell me what to do about West Angola.” DID YOU ASK THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE AT ALL, FITZ? Or did you just sit in your office whispering at an 8-Ball and getting angry when it said, “Ask again later”? As he reaches for the tongs, the ice cubes in Cyrus’s office bucket twitch and rearrange themselves to spell Fitz Is The Worst.
Portia is in a very Alicia Florrick suit — it’s a Good Wife kind of day on Scandal. She is incensed to hear — as did we, on the news — that a bombing on American soil is no excuse to start a war. Per Fitz. This was Cyrus’s advice, I guess. Portia wants to needle Mellie about Fitz taking a passive approach to all this, but little does she know, Mellie has a few bullets in HER gun and it’s cocked and ready to rock.
She beamingly notes that just because they’re screwing the same person, it doesn’t mean they have anything in common except potentially a couple STDs. (Those were, in fact, her words.) She tells Portia to turn tail and scurry in wonderfully seething-through-a-smile fashion. Portia, Mellie will EAT YOU ALIVE.
High on getting Cyrus back in office after the “Ich Bin Ein Not A Little Bitch Baby” speech, Olivia bounces to the Oval, only to stop dead in her tracks at the sight of Fitz, Abby, and Cyrus toasting and looking like a cozy threesome. As if maybe her time has come and gone, and Fitz has a new inner circle now. Or, maybe she just wants Abby to have her moment, and knows that if she walks in, it will be over. But it READS more as being about Olivia.
Quinn needled Charlie, post-coitus, about how he ruined Huck’s life. He offers to un-ruin it, and admits HE was the one who switched the B-Lank files, but that he kept a few key pieces as leverage before returning them to Rowan. This means that Huck delivers three giant boxes to his horrible ex’s door and asks her to read them, please, so that she understands what happened to him and why. It’s worth noting that this did NOT come with any disclaimer about squeamishness, or power drills.
When Jake stops by Olivia’s, she’s totally giddy. She has wine. She has Gettysburger. She is listening to — and obsessed with — all of Rowan’s old albums. (She seems to mention specifically Songs In The Key of Life, but then she puts on “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” which is from a different record, so…) And she doesn’t want to talk about him. She’s MOVING ON, she says. I can’t remember if she quotes her mother directly, but again, she is ASTONISHINGLY easy to manipulate and this whole uncomfortable scene — she dances for Jake, she makes Jake dance with her, they’re so freeeee and giddyyyyyyy — is nothing more than fakery. It’s Olivia trying to do and be something somebody else told her to do and be.
She is, at least, a better dancer than Jake Ballard. At one point after this EXCRUCIATINGLY long boogie, Jake blurts out that he loves her so very much. And she stops dead. “I want Vermont with Fitz,” she says, simply. “I also want the sun, with you.” And then she says the words that Jennie Garth made famous: “I choose ME.” Except when Kelly Taylor did I Choose Me, she actually chose to escape the cycle and be by herself. Olivia is choosing Keep Having Sex With Both Of Them Until They Get Tired Of It, Because Being By Myself In A Room Makes Me Think About Stuff And Ew. So even when she tells Jake he can either get on board or leave because she’s fine dancing alone, she’s never dancing alone. She still has Fitz. She’s pretending to make a brave and empowered and independent decision, while in fact hiding from making ANY decision at all. Jake, though, is like, “… well, if this is the way I get to have sex with you, then YEAH.”
Also, it’s worth mentioning that after Kelly turns down a trip around the world with Dylan and marriage to Brandon, she is bummed out that Brandon doesn’t want to keep having sex with her, and then becomes a coke addict. So maybe Olivia has the right idea. But… yeah, not really the spirit of “I Choose Me,” there, Olivia.
Oh, and Quinn found out that the client from The Case of the Unending Abyss was something called WACO, which stands for West Angolan Contrivance Organization or whatever — basically, she cracks that Jon Tenney knew about the car bombing; she just can’t figure out what any of this has to do with Olivia Pope. Which is stupid, because if this is political, OBVIOUSLY, they’re going after Fitz’s Achilles heel.
Back to Olivia, who decides she and Jake need to have sex on her piano, because she’s in a seriously manic place right now. We know shit’s about to get real because the camera follows Jake into her room, babbling about getting pillows and blankets so they don’t … I don’t even know. It’s a ruse so that when he comes back, Olivia is gone. REAL gone. She started the season reading Gone Girl and now she is one.
And sure enough, Jon Tenney us up in Fitz’s face, growling that if the life of his Veep isn’t enough to get him to start a goddamn war, then maybe he’ll hit Fitz where it really hurts.
I mean, seriously, Olivia Pope doesn’t spill unless something is WAY WRONG. She would wring out the pillow into her open mouth, also, rather than just leave. I look forward to the business of running America grinding to a halt so that the world can, once more, rotate around the axis that is Olivia Pope.