Scandal Season 5 Episode 11 recap

“Let’s make a president”
“We…were working.”
“We made a president together.” 
“WE did?”
“You’re the work wife. Not me.”

It’s hard to pin down when I became a politics buff, exactly, and I don’t know what the qualifications are to use the word ‘buff’. But I know for certain that one is ‘knowing that this episode was based on the phrase “Politics makes strange bedfellows”’.

So this is what it is. If you live and breathe politics, you ‘make’ a president together. You have some sort of connection, not unlike a sexual one, where you’re building to something in the heat of the moment and it hopefully results in satisfaction for all and relatively little mess to clean up. Don’t groan at me, you know that line might as easily have been spoken by Cyrus.

The problem, of course, is so what? So Susan Ross and Mellie are going to be pitted against each other in a Republican race and Sally Langston is going to say horribly sexist things about them on TV, but…and? Susan Ross hasn’t weathered a real scandal yet, no pun intended, and I guess she will, possibly of the hell-hath-no-fury variety when she finds out David Rosen is two-timing her (more on that in a minute). But the thing is, who cares?

There was only the vaguest suggestion that Mellie’s rise will involve Olivia doing what Olivia does. She leaked a book this week, but that’s pretty bush-league PR and more to the point, it’s PR. Where is the Olivia who successfully cleans up messes? How are we going to see her get out of this one? I feel like we’ve lost the plot a little bit, and no amount of waving a shirtless Scott Foley at me is going to make a difference.

I don’t care who Olivia sleeps with, and I super-extra don’t care who Fitz sleeps with, except when they’re clouding each other’s ability to do their jobs, and even then it’s touch and go. As it is, these are just people walking around being ordinary. Gone are the days when Olivia successfully intimidated young girls into shutting up about presidents they’d known, or tried to defuse protests only to commit to being in them instead. She hasn’t been the force to be reckoned with that we’ve been needing. The Olivia who broke out of a pretend Middle-Eastern prison. The Olivia who cut Cyrus dead when he crossed her. Even the Olivia who is crippled by her father’s approval when she’s otherwise able to take on the world. I miss them.

It’s hard to say I ‘miss’ Quinn and Huck, though, since they don’t do a whole lot week-to-week. And I always welcome the dynamic of Mellie and Olivia because they do so much to balance each other and motivate each other. But without the central conflict of the affair (“I stayed because it worked”), are they as interesting just as colleagues? Am I the lowest common denominator if I’m only interested in these two when they’re fighting?

I don’t think so, because I don’t want everyone to be fighting. For example, David Rosen was more compelling as a white hat. Remember? When he had strict moral strictures that couldn’t be compromised? When that was the problem that got him into trouble? Now he’s…I don’t know, kissing tertiary characters in extreme close-up after some banter about a burger chain? Don’t get me wrong, I understand burger evangelism (ask me about Burger’s Priest!) but where’s the actual person gone?

It might be true that you only get to be a person in small bursts when you’re in politics. That you suppress yourself all the time. The glory of Mellie Grant, though, is that she’s never been able to, for long. For our sake I hope that’s still true this season.