The Prospect of Principles
Scandal Season 5 Episode 13 recap
When this show began, even when Olivia cleaned up bodies with vigor and shamed young girls with relish, there was a lot of talk about White Hats. About doing what was right. Taking the high road or being a good person or things of that nature. There were even long, lingering shots of white hats on shelves, on heads, in boxes.
Then that all went away, and there were dark times. Quinn has become Olivia Pope, and Liv looks up at her with the disinterest of a creative in an accounting meeting. People bark at people, like the inexplicable Marcus, who want to do the right thing and get to the bottom of situations.
What I can’t figure out is what the show thinks about this, exactly. David Rosen used to have all kinds of principles, and now he’s the kind of guy who drops trou for a sight gag. Susan Ross has principles, but the show’s never sure if she’s a joke or not. Abby had principles, and was shouted at about them, so she was reduced to being the receptionist at Fitz’s sex emporium. Not that I want to get into the screeching about whores or ‘dirty’ dealings the way the women on these shows do—I have no interest in shaming people for having sex, though the implication is that it’s making it impossible for Fitz to do his job.
So we partly see this in reference to his son Teddy, who is cute, but -- hey, remember Cyrus’ daughter? Why is his husband braiding the hair of a doll that he refers to as Ella, which is Cyrus’s daughter’s name? Are we supposed to have forgotten that she existed? It’s extra jarring in the same episode where Fitz’s son shows up, in real life, as a plot device. Was it just that two preschoolers in an episode was too many? I know I’m overthinking it, and ordinarily I wouldn’t bother, but the show is always so quick to remind us that Cyrus has no scruples, that he will exploit a man whose daughter has cancer, that he has none of the traditional checks and balances of human beings. So if you told me that his daughter was three years old and already at Swiss boarding school, well, I wouldn’t blink, would I?
While we’re on the topic of unscrupulous, obtuse people, we also arrive at the Trouble With Jake. Last episode, someone wrote to me to say they thought Olivia and Jake were in an abusive relationship, and while I didn’t feel that way last episode, this…whatever it was, this creeping into someone’s bedroom in the night…definitely felt like it was about control. About exacting some sort of revenge. Even if the person you’re controlling likes what you’re doing—and she didn’t, she said ‘stop’—exerting your control over someone is not the same as caring for them, or loving them, even if you ‘need’ them. At least Olivia is vindicated in that yes, Jake is “up to something”, even if that something is undermining her. And he’s marrying a woman, apparently, who looks 10 years older than him and who is never going to make it to May sweeps alive.
I don’t mind the ‘Olivia’s Spidey-sense is tingling’ idea if it goes somewhere real, and out of the realm of the jealous ex, which is dangerous messaging no matter what the show is doing. I love the parallels between her and Susan (and according to promos, Abby) and I will always love a story about a woman who realizes she is more ambitious than she originally realized, and who is excited to get back to a place where she feels good about the work that exhausts her every day.
So the question now is, can people who have done what ours have done and seen what ours have seen grow scruples back? If you’ve been a not-good person, can you whitewash yourself? Is Mellie Grant the one who’s best poised to find out?