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I haven't written an episode review since the fanzine days of the X-Files. So please bear with me.
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Stuff that happened last week:

1) Huck'n Jake found out the Remington plot involved Papa Pope ordering Fitz to shoot down a plane over Iceland, a plane where Olivia's mum was a passenger – which pretty much sucks.

2) Mellie shamelessly begged Olivia in a heartbreaking “Come Back To Us” speech, which thankfully distracted me from staring unblinking at Olivia's dress wondering how she'd managed to break into Klaus Nomi's linen closet. I can understand the black & white, conflicted nature, blah blah blah, symbolism of the outfit, but boy, I needed eye drops after this.

3) Phoebe Marcus is running for president but her sister is actually her daughter who was raised by her mother, so it is putting a bit of a spanner in the democratic trailer's engine. And a trailer is all they will be able to afford to campaign in after this family is done with therapy.

4) Sally Langston thought she was on Ally McBeal - unisex toilets FTW - and went to mark her territory all around Leo Bergen, a top notch campaign manager who doesn't take on losers but seems willing to work for our Sally. Yes, I know, this makes even less sense than the Remington plot but whatever.

5) Quinn has a gun. FORESHADOWING ahoy.

So, the questions floating around as Icarus started were:

What made Fitz shoot that plane down?
Was Papa Pope behind it?
And if so why? Was it because he was asked to take the trash out or use a coaster one too many times or did Mama Pope knew too much? Was Mama Pope a [insert Axis of Evil of your choice here] spy who had to be eliminated?
Is Mama Pope really dead, or admiring northern lights in a log cabin somewhere?
Will Olivia come back to the White House nest?
Will Sally become the new POTUS?

I'd say we got the answer to roughly two of those, unless Papa Pope is lying which is always a possibility.

I don't know about you but I thought this was an excellent episode. There were no case of the week, which was no big loss - as those can be hit or miss - and instead the show focused and the two main arcs of this season: the Remington plot and and the Primaries.

The episode opens on a twelve year old Olivia wearing adorable nerdy glasses, listening to “Time has come Today” by the Chambers Brothers on a yellow Walkman and eating the kind of cereals parents used to give their kids last century back when the acronym ADHD meant squat to anybody. Liv is reading “Bridge to Terabithia”, which I assume is to convey what a normal, carefree little girl she was back then. I'm kind of disappointed by this as I have this vivid picture in my head of a four year old Liv, sitting among colourful counting cubes, sucking her thumb and using the left paw of her teddy to turn the pages of Sun Tzu's “The Art of War”.

Mama Pope is played by Khandi Alexander, a CSI and Treme alumni. The actress was given a recurring role on Scandal this season, which either means Mama Pope ain't dead, or that we're going to see lots and lots of flashbacks.

So anyway, Mama Pope leaves for London never to return. For now.

Back to the present, Olivia is sitting at her desk, most likely shell shocked by the news. The OPA bunch is waiting outside wondering what's going on or what do to depending on their level of involvement in the Remington case. Jake asks Huck: “You know her better than I do. Is she okay?”

Yes, Jake. She's just peachy, apart from the fact that her mom died because her former lover shot down her plane, possibly under the order of her father (ugh, it sounds sooo much worse when I type it out loud). Jake, Super Spy, nice guy, not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

Harrison is upset because their two potential clients, Marcus and FLOTUS (ah!) have been calling all morning and Olivia needs to make a choice fast or risk losing them both. Oh, Harrison, sweetie, if you'd heard Mellie's speech last week, you would know that there is no chance in Hell the White House is gonna give up on Olivia just because she hasn't returned their calls yet. Those calls were probably Mellie wondering what Egyptian cotton thread count Liv prefers.

Anyway, Olivia suddenly snaps out of it, grabs her coat and heads for the door. On her way she tells Huck'n Jake that she's off to tell Fitz he's got some splainin' to do. She can't ask her dad because he would kill the three of them, which at this point I believe he would.

Olivia is wearing a gorgeous gray outfit with specks of black creeping upwards. Symbolic wardrobe is symbolic. I'm in no hurry to see Olivia wearing white again, mind you; because right now, I suspect it would be a long sleeve number with straps on the back. Poor thing.

Meanwhile at casa Langston, Sally and Leo are busy plotting. See, I've been going back and forth with Sally, wondering exactly how evil she was, if at all. Until I saw the curtains in her living room. Then I *knew*. Those drapes... I can't even... that's the kind of fabric inverted pentagrams grow on. Maybe it's a blessing I can't find decent screen caps for this show after all.

Seriously, I like how matter of factly Sally assesses the strengths and weaknesses of her husband – we saw her do a similar thing before with Fitz earlier this season. Sally's no nonsense attitude reminds me a little of Kate Burton's other incarnation: Ellis Grey (the sane version) and it's a good look on her. Leo and Langston's plan is to go behind Fitz's back and gather support from the religious right before declaring her intention to run her own ticket. Crafty Sally!

In the White House, Mellie is beaming that Liv is on her way, saying she wouldn't bother if it were to turn down the job. You'd think FLOTUS would be a bit more ambivalent about Olivia being back even if she instigated it for the Greater Good. But no, our Mellie is taking one for the team with a bright eyed and bushy tailed eagerness that is mildly disturbing. I love the dichotomy of this character who can be both so manipulative and so naïve. Seriously, Mellie, short of a ménage a trois (stop typing fanfiction you lot, I can hear you) you really think Olivia coming back is going to make everything fine again between you and your husband? Unless Mellie only wants Fitz to be happy, in which case she's a saint. Hm. Naaaaaah, you're not buying it either, are you?

Cyrus mixes his Pegasus with his Icarus which I don't believe for a moment a highly educated White House Chief of Staff would do. This said he is right about the Greek tragedy in the making. They agree Olivia wins elections. Mellie says “you're welcome” to Fitz, which cracked me up. Subtext: “Here darling, have your whore back, with my blessings. We all know you can't achieve jack without her.” Olivia arrives, Mellie welcomes her “home” breathlessly (fanfic alert #2) and gives a new meaning to the word “grovelling”. Olivia promptly kicks her and Cyrus out to ask Fitz about Remington. Fitz of course, refuses to answer, taking the opportunity for a couple of low blows about “boyfriend” Jake and Defiance. Uhm... Fitz? Didn't you just say you wanted to start afresh? Way to go POTUS. The whole speech about Remington being a highly classified military operation would have carried more weight if Fitz hadn't previously revealed highly sensitive classified information to Liv in “Mrs. Smith Goes To Washington,” which is why I really had a hard time buying all this sudden need for secrecy. It felt forced and artificial.

Olivia refuses to work for Fitz. Big Whoops.

“I did everything but roll your whore up in a rug and unfurl her at your feet!” Aaaaaaaand MELLIE'S BACK, ladies and Gentlemen. The balance of the universe is restored.

Meanwhile Quinn is having an early morning practice at the shooting range and her aim sucks, which is a nice touch. She hides this new hobby from her colleagues, which is a smart move as Huck would likely break her trigger finger if he knew what she's up to. Olivia arrives and announces they'll be working for Josie Marcus, spouting some rubbish about White Hats. I mean, working for Marcus is very noble, but we all know this is not why Liv is doing it, even if she's trying to convince herself otherwise. The biggest lies are the ones Ms. Pope keeps telling herself.

Next, Josie Marcus is cooking pie...oh, wait, look up. LOOK UP! Are you seeing what I'm seeing? The Langston's Drapes of Doom have made it into Josie's kitchen!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! This is a bad, bad omen. Walk faster guys, I hear tricycles.

I'm impressed with Lisa Kurdow I have to say, I think she's doing a great job as Josie Marcus and I've almost managed to tune out the “Smelly Cat” song whenever she appears on screen. Liv gets Josie to sell little pieces of her soul to various ethically questionable business fat cats in order to get mo' money for her campaign. Because that's what Olivia Pope does.

Then she gets Jake to find more info about Remington, which the poor guy does because his sense of self preservation disappeared the day he got into her pants.

Meanwhile Cyrus and Papa Pope are being all nefarious; they agree to take a tweezer to their respective Josie and Jake thorn. IMO Cyrus doesn't know Liv is Command's daughter. What do you think?

Jake “Bait” Ballard meets up with a flirty friend who works at Langley and asks her if she can get him cockpit recordings for a certain flight. Jake implies he can't date because there's already a 'civilian' in his life (cue disgusted pout from Langley girl). Jake, Jake, Jake, you're such a smitten idiot.

Harrison Has A Plot. Cyrus blackmails him with a guy called Adnan Salif which automatically makes him a scary threat according to the Big Homeland Book of Character Names. I would have gone for Brian Noozleweed myself, but what do I know? I' m going to bypass the whole Harrison thing for now simply because I'm just not that interested. I guess I never forgave the character for uttering this moronic “gladiator in a suit” line in the first episode, that has been since used to describe Scandal fans. Call me a Gladiator and I'll Ben Hur your ass.

Skipping ahead, Olivia is drinking wine from what can only be described as a fish bowl with a stem. She's watching footage of her mom's plane crash, because she's not miserable enough. Someone take the remote from that woman and shove “The Princess Bride” in her DVD player, please.

There's a flashback to Papa Pope sobbing his heart out because his real name is Inigo Montoya he lost a bet with Fitz (bet you can't take that plane down, sucker!) and had to grow a pornstache. See? It all makes sense now!

But seriously, what we learn with this scene is that Mr. Pope was devastated by the loss of his wife, so maybe he isn't responsible for this, or maybe he had no choice but to follow orders. In any case this is a new side to the harsh, unfeeling monster we've learned to hate until now. This interests me greatly. Olivia finds some Dutch courage at the bottom of her bottle and calls her dad who agrees to answer one question: no he didn't give the order. Strangely enough, I don't think he's lying. If she'd been sober Olivia might have had the presence of mind to ask about Fitz's involvement first. I mean she knows her father is capable of doing such a thing, she mentionned enough times in this episode that he would have no calms killing her. But Fitz? Their relationship would end for good if she found out he'd been a willing participant in this.

“I can't form attachments to people because my mother is dead and my father is that thing that goes bump in the night.” Awww Liv...excuse me while I get a dustpan to sweep all the little heart pieces that are falling off my chest cavity.

Okay, I'm going to talk about a few more scenes and then I'll call it a night.

The Grants had dinner with the Langstons and Mellie shamelessly flirted with Daniel Douglas to see what kind of leverage she could get out of him – the answer being: quite a bit. That guy is such a sleaze, even Sally doesn't deserve this. I blame her curtains, they attract evil.

Josie Marcus totally wiped the floor with poor James. Her speech on gender stereotypes was spot on. I hope she sticks around because right now, I'm so voting for her. Not sure how she will react if she ever finds out Liv and Abby have manipulated her into losing her temper, though.

Charlie is grooming Quinn. We all knew something like this was going to happen. Seriously, Huck, you should have paid attention when she was asking you about B613. Now should have been a good time.

Cyrus double crossed Sally by striking a deal with the Tea Party guy and found out she's planning to run on her own. Nicely played Mr. Beene. I have to admit I didn't see that one coming.

Jake Super Spy went for a walk among cargo containers not realising that Mike, Fitz's Secret Service guy was not 10 meters behind him – how he ever passed his B613 exam I frankly do not now. Anyway, he nearly got shot by Langley Girl who, of course, worked for Papa Pope, until Mike put an end to all that nonsense. Later, Fitz growled at Jake that he could no longer protect him because he's a jealous jerk. Fitz was not very likeable in this episode. Yes, I'm practising the art of understatement. It's this or use adjectives in at least three languages to describe what I think of him.

In the final scene, Fitz shows up at Olivia's to try to get her back on his campaign because he's clueless that way. He tells Liv to forget about Remington and asks her why this is so important to her. And that's how we find out Fitz didn't know Liv's mom was on that plane. Did you see his face when she told him? That was priceless, thanks to Tony Goldwyn's “I'll be defecating a medium sized walrus now” repertoire.

Overall, I do have issues with the main plot this season. I thought last year's election rigging was really well handled, but with Remington, it all feels quite “Grand Guignol” and far-fetched. But hey, it's still fun to watch and besides Scandal has always owned the more outrageous aspect of its story lines, so let's go with it.

Random:

  • “This theory that Fitz's military record was somehow trumped up to hide the fact he shot down a passenger plane. A plane my mother happened to be on? You know how crazy that sounds?”
Yes. We. Do.

  • I'm still seeing those curtains when I close my eyes. Trufax.
  • Is there a bet among the writing staff on how many times they can shove the “leader of the free world” line in a script every season? It sounded pompous and silly the first ten times around and let me tell you, it still doesn't sound any better now.

And that's all I got to say about that.

~ Fish~
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Jack Coleman <3

I'm beyond excited to see him in such a role. They guy's just too good at playing slimeballs, baddies, morally grey characters. I think he's more than a charming frat boy, well, Scandal always has unexpected twists.

I'm not too interested in Quinn's storyline, it's a bit boring and uninteresting. But at least Charlie is in it, so it's not unbearable or anything.
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"There's a flashback to Papa Pope sobbing his heart out because his real name is Inigo Montoya he lost a bet with Fitz (bet you can't take that plane down, sucker!) and had to grow a pornstache." - my favourite sentence ever :D

Lisa Kurdow is amazing it this role! The speech was perfect as well. Not only did it portray how women are still being dismissed nowadays but it also show how modern "journalism" works in a lot of cases. I actually re-watched this specific part a few times - it was so good! Abby's verbal-less "yes!" reaction was kind of dumb, though.

Scandal and The Good Wife are turning out to be my favourite two shows this season.

I have to say, I kind of love it when women get to play strong non-stereotypical roles.
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I agree. It was one hell of a speech. I hope her character sticks around and keeps being given great lines like these ones.

I started watching the Good Wife, but I don't find the "cases of the week" very interesting. Do things improve in the later seasons?

Women who play strong non-stereotypical roles are slowly becoming more mainstream. Besides Olivia Pope, there's been Lliy Bell in the first two seasons of "Hell on Wheels" and Stella Gibson in "The Fall".
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"The Good Wife" gets waaaay more interesting in later episodes. Yeah, there're always some that are not as exciting, but I really like how the law and politics are portrayed and sort of satirized in a lot of them - it just shows the absurdity of it all. Some of the cases of the week have made me laugh so hard. Archie Panjabi's character (Kalinda) is interesting. Alisha does some growing up in later seasons. Christine Baranski (Diane) also has some really awesome moments - especially when episodes pick up topics about liberalism and conservatism. Eli Gold and David Lee, emphasis on the latter, have some great comedic scenes. I could give examples, but don't want to spoil it - it is worth watching :) Some scenes are really beautifully shot - acting, camera, music - it creates some good dramatic moments.

I haven't seen "Hell on Wheels" or "The Fall" yet, but will take a look. :)Hopefully mainstreaming won't destroy such roles.
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Okay, you convinced me to stick with it. :)

I don't see how mainstreaming would destroy anything. There will just be more shows with women lead and some will be rubbish and some will be great.

Oh, I forgot to add Virginia Johnson from 'Masters of Sex' to the list. Horrid title but truly excellent show - a wonderful study of gender roles in the 50's. CJ Cregg in 'The West Wing' (I'm reminded of this because Allison Janney who played the character has a role in MoS), was also an excellent strong female character, though as it is an ensemble cast her screen time was limited. Game of Thrones also has quite a few very strong female roles. We're quite spolied for choice at the moment.
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Great review ! Appreciate you writing one. Hope to see a few more :D

Medium sized walrus and tricycles? Nice. I laughed so hard at that. Thats a very nice and fun way to illustrate your feelings about stuff. Also I appreciate that the review comes from a very personal and subjective view of the episode and not a mere "technical" analysis of it, like other reviews tend to.

One issue though:
I am looking foreward to Harrison's plot. Maybe that will flesh out that character a little more. Until now he seemed little more than a well dressed secretary.

I do agree that papa Pope didn't order his wifes plane to be shot down. I think that was more a way to pressure Command. Maybe by the "then sitting" President, in order to try and get control of B613.

Also concerning the feminist-issues of this ep.: I agree with you and Josie - and I am really looking foreward what happens in real live, when Mrs. Clinton runs for President. Because nobody can really say she has no balls.... imho.

Oh, and last but not least: I REALLY dig the Quinn storyline. I am SO looking foreward to her going full on psycho on someones ass. :D

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Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. The next one won't be posted before the weekend I'm afraid because of my current workload.

I am not a film critic so there would be little point of me trying to do a technical analysis. People who want that can go and check the AV club and similar places. Plus, biased reviews are more conducive to discussions, I think.

I will try to make efforts regarding Harrison, I know many people are fond of him, although I can't see why besides the eye candy. As you said, he comes across as little more than a well dressed secretary.

My theory regarding Remington is that the plane needed to be shot down at all cost. Maybe someone had stolen launch codes or something equivalent that threatened national security in a big way. Olivia's mother was either a part of it or just happened to be on that flight.

Oh Hillary has balls the size of Texas that's for sure, but I live in a country where they had a woman prime minister who did jack for feminist issues. And I have some doubts about the whiteness of Mrs. Clinton's hat as I have for all politicians who reach these levels of power, regardless of their gender. It's so much simpler on television.

I dig the Quinn story line too, but I wonder if this is not an elaborate plan to get inside B613 rather than Quinn going full on psycho. We'll see.
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Oh, don't get me wrong, no politicans hat is ever white. we can be happy if its not black but just grey. That is totally expected.

Also, right now I live a woman-chancellored country :) but in Europe it feels more like a non-issuse. Just like the absence of explicit and public religiousness for heads of state or politicans in general.

But I still think it would be a big deal if she got the job, just like it was a big deal that President Obama got it. And I think she couldn't make the feminist cause her cause, just like Obama couldn't make racial issues his cause. That would be to much on the nose. Can't have politicians with an obvious agenda....Still it changes perception of the issues and sets an example and that is still a good thing. imho.
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Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou for doing a Scandal review. It was starting to hurt my feelings that no staff reviewer had been assigned to the crazy world that is Olivia Pope. Great review, and you cracked me up!!
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TV.com seriously fails. This is the no 1 network drama of this year and TV.com doesn't review it.
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You're very welcome. I'm no staff though just someone who watches a lot of telly and volunteered to have a go. I don't know why TV Com didn't assign any of their staff to review such a popular show. Next week's review won't be before the weekend though, because of my job. Thank you for the lovely feedback. :)
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Yes, I recognize that you aren't a staff reviewer. That's why I am so appreciative of you taking on the task. I'm looking forward to your next review.
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Can I just say that I 'get' Mellie? People like to 'love to hate' her and all, but it's not like she asked for this type of life. She is an intelligent woman who was coerced into an arranged marriage, forced to put aside her own career ambitions, and expected to basically smile and look the other way while her husband is banging Olivia. She may be a little cray sometimes, but who wouldn't be after enduring so much?
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I agree and I adore Mellie to bits. I wrote a whole piece on her last week, which you can find on this community. I think she's a strong willed woman put into an impossible situation. Yes, she's ambitious and blunt as they come but I also believes she cares deeply for her husband even if she lacks the warmth of an Olivia.
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