Scandal Season 4 Episode 5 recap

Well, Scandal wasn’t boring.

I can’t exactly decide what it was, in a word, because mostly it was a contradiction.   

So we come in on the President’s daughter, the completely anachronistically named Karen, who needs rescuing from a party that is bad, and then gets very bad in short order when it turns out there’s a threesome video with her in it.   

It’s not a bad premise and the show wastes very little time handwringing about Kids These Days and how they never know where the video could go. Instead Olivia Pope very quickly spits the words “cloud” and “device” and goes for the clearer story. If this gets out, this will be the story of the president’s daughter Karen. Nobody will remember that she’s a nice girl or an accomplished one or kind or crucially, that she lost a brother. Hang on to that last thought for a second.

What follows is probably a very accurate representation of what would happen in this situation, were it (and sooner or later it will be) the daughter of a president. There’s concern but not compassion, there’s a healthy level of disgust, and the child is treated like an object lesson that is a problem to be dealt with. I mean, that’s all very Scandal 101, right up to the for-absolutely-no-reason scene of Quinn roughing up the one boy (“Bobby” – honestly) at Gettysburger.  

But there is a more important conversation happening here. Fitz tries to focus on his daughter and on what he knows is her grief, but can’t spend more than 90 seconds on it before he has to whine about how he never wants Olivia to go away from him again. He does this after berating Mellie, telling her that she’s not the mother of their children because she’s been in a depression since her FIRSTBORN CHILD DIED.  

I get that this is a soap, and I get that Fitz is supposed to be forgiven because, immediately after this scene, he says he’s failing as a parent and a husband and a man. But if parents with teenagers are to be believed, failure isn’t just the norm, it’s the mean. What differentiates the good parents from the bad is actually showing up. Trying. Fitz gets dressed in the morning but he doesn’t pretend he’s trying with his children. Instead he berates Mellie for not being the mother they need in her time of grief.

It’s bullsh-t and I think the show portrays it as such, except that I’m still under the impression we’re supposed to care about Fitz some of the time, and I can’t. I can’t care about the actions of a man who is supposed to be the leader of the free world and still only has the ability to care about himself and his on-again off-again flighty mistress.

And so the question of who’s a good parent is up for grabs. Fitz wouldn’t know. Olivia wouldn’t know. Certainly the parents of the boy in the sex tape, who blackmail the President AND use the word “slut”, which rightfully sends Olivia spitting vicious invective about all the ways she’ll be able to ruin them, don’t know what it is to be a good parent.

And this is where I wonder about this show, because of course the good parent turns out to be Mellie. Compassionate, sex-positive (“If I thought you enjoyed it I’d try to be happy for you”), straight-up about how sexist it is, and, on top of everything else, straight up about how even though she’s this sweet and understanding, things still suck. I really wondered about the inclusion of the line “you’re going to have to keep your knees closed”, and I thought that for this woman and her daughter that’s not shaming – that’s self-preservation. It’s ugly and untrue.

So in a horrible family portrait, some really nice moments (and a showy beginning for the new actress playing Karen). 

It meant the last 10 minutes of the show were even more manic than usual, but I actually didn’t mind it. The president’s right hand man Tom has been noticed to have been missing from his post “way last November” and is freaking out that they’ll find out he was the physical assassin for Lil Gerry. He tries to hold out for Jake to get to the President and prove that they were doing things at the behest of Rowan Pope, but they don’t get there in time and he’s being questioned by Rowan and gives up Jake. Not that it does him any good. He’s taken away. Jake is even more taken away, if you know what I mean. This show needs its pretty men so I’m sure he’s in a hole and not dead. But Tom…poor Tom may not be so long for this world.

It’s an odd, odd show. It sticks the emotional resonance in  - like when Cyrus told Abby to stop wasting her breath wanting to be Olivia – but then speeds past them so you don’t have time to appreciate them.

But sometimes the First Lady is kind of feminist.

Attached – Kerry Washington covers ALLURE.