Scandal Season 3 Episode 21 recap

Okay, let’s start here. I call my dad “Dad” most of the time, but when I need to get his attention in a crowd, I call him by his first name, “Gamal”. It’s left over from when we’d be in a crowd and there would be a whole bunch of kids calling for “Dad” so he might tune out, but would definitely pay attention if I called him by his first name.

So isn’t it weird that Olivia reverts to saying “Dad” in front of everyone? I guess – that is, I know – that she does it so that we’re reminded, so that we feel sad for her when there’s a spoiler at the end of the episode, but…bah. It felt false. It felt unprofessional. It felt like so many of the things that we hold dear about Olivia Pope are just falling away and the woman we’re left with is just a collection of tics and behaviors.

The show is crazy. And I’m not actually so opposed to that at the end of the season – you want it to be crazy. You want it all to go up in a ball of flames. I’m not worried about the finale next week. It will be as heartstopping as it’s supposed to be.

But then what happens in season 4? What’s the day to day? The easy stuff that sustains us through episodes before the big bad comes? I know this year was so interrupted by the Olympics but I was still sad at how quickly curtailed the Josie Marcus story was. Or the story of Quinn being trained in B6-13, which basically happened with a couple of good moments at the gun range and a wink about how she likes to lick. Where’s the story gone?

As it is, the show is operating at a ridiculous tilt so it makes it even more surprising that Mellie is able to resonate, still, somehow. The  pain she’s feeling as she suffers alone is possibly the only real sentiment on the show – Cyrus having forgotten about James a couple of weeks ago now – and so it strands out all the more because of it, and Lord help me if it doesn’t feel somewhat authentic. Interesting, too, that the moment when Liv realizes why Mellie wants the paternity test provides us with the most authentic Olivia moment also – because I suspect it’s not supposed to feel that way.

It’s not Kerry Washington’s fault, although she’s got to be sick of hiding behind chairs and on sofas by now. There’s a lot of high-pitched bitten-off handwringing from Olivia, and not a whole lot of the satisfied “job well done” that we used to get from her. Remember back in the Amanda days? How she could do a job and it would be handled? I miss that woman. I did appreciate her speaking frankly about race this episode, but she’s still not the powerful woman around whom a series was based a couple of years ago.

Instead, we have an emotionally unglued girl who spends an inordinate amount of time on the phone, waiting for someone to tell her where to go next. The worst part of last night was the scene where Eli marches into the room and, with almost no preamble, says “But your mother loves you! She won’t kill you!” First of all, we’ve gotten little to no indication that this is true. She’s been in a jail cell for 20 years, how does he know what she will and won’t do, anymore? Secondly, we’ve gotten barely any indication that she knows who Olivia is, short of manipulating her to be extradited from the country.

But don’t think too long or too hard about that because there’s sex to be had on the hood of a car. I didn’t…mind…this, but I also didn’t think it was super sexy or anything. One of the things I miss about old, non-insane Scandal is that it used to be about powerful women interpreting the work environment. This, and the ripped fishnets, is not that. I’m not saying you can’t have an exciting time talking about and thinking about sex, but we’re at the point now where every part of the plot (what, they hauled a body away) is about that. Furthermore, the Quinn & Charlie “romance” is just a setpiece, and everyone knows it, including Quinn and Charlie, so I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel some sense of betrayal or danger, but it is lacking. 

Now. Someone on the internet – Vulture? – said that the show might actually have balls if it went ahead and killed Fitz, and the fact that he’s trapped at the White House now suggests he won’t be next hour. It would be the greatest, smartest thing – to take the whole mess of the election – as Olivia points out, everyone running for President is a murderer – toss it on its ear, and start from scratch. But Homeland already did it, for one thing, and for another, we’re supposed to believe in Olivia and Fitz and Vermont. The fact that we don’t, patently, is a problem, but it’s beside the point a little. This is where the writers are stuck between a rock and a hard place, because on the one hand, Fitz is untenable, but on the other hand, who really believes Jake is a reasonable choice for romance or sex or otherwise? Not even him. 

This episode was directed by Debbie Allen! “Fame costs. And right here is where you start paying – in sweat!”

See you next week, white hats.