Scandal Season 5 Episode 20 recap

They couldn’t have known…but they could have guessed.

Let’s say this episode was shot about five weeks ago. Written three weeks before that, and ‘broken’, or conceived of, three-plus weeks before that. So it’s been in the works for about 11 weeks, at least. That takes us back to mid-February, at least. They couldn’t have known that, on the night the episode aired, the last standing Republican would be Donald Trump. But they knew that by tonight, the decisions would be made. They knew we might be in this position. They called the episode Trump Card, you guys.

So this episode is wish fulfillment, on many, many levels. First, the idea that there are, in the Republican party, not one but two viable, female options to be able to defeat Donald Trump…that is, Hollis Doyle, who seems like a character who was created by a psychic, because how else could they have known that the brassy Southern gross guy they created circa season 2 would be necessary to run for president by now?

Then, there’s the idea that the Republicans, in order to run a campaign that can best beat the Democrats, will sit down in a civilized manner to examine what each has on the other so they can best determine who can win. I’m sure this has happened, somewhere, but U.S. politics hasn’t been populated by reasonable human beings who could do that in…years.

This results in the downfall of Susan Ross, at poor schmuck David Rosen’s hands, again, and the rise, the glorious rise, of Mellie Grant and her amazing, heart-in-her-mouth face. While I think there were probably bigger skeletons in her closet than a psychic—didn’t Mellie have a hand in getting a whole busload of people assassinated a little while back?—I love the glory of Susan more or less cleanly handing the job to Mellie, and of the President’s office blithely backing his ex-wife.

This is, of course, more wish-fulfillment: Fitz and Mellie have the world’s most mature divorce, and Susan Ross is an awesome specimen who correctly recognizes that David’s mistake is David’s mistake, and though it cost her, it has no bearing on her.

“I Know that! I know I’m amazing!” If it were still 2007 and ringtones were still a thing, I would make that my ringtone and annoy all my coworkers. And the gifts keep on coming, this episode: Marcus as a love interest for Mellie is so completely worth it, and so unexpected, that I can forgive him being a weird terrible accessory with no lines all season. 

But all of that wish-fulfillment pales in comparison to the second-last scene of the episode, where, if you haven’t seen it, Olivia chases her hunch that Abby pulled a punch, and Abby says yes, she did – Olivia’s abortion.

“I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“Thank you.”

But oh, the chilliness of that ‘thank you’. The detachment of it.

What follows is Olivia saying, without getting upset or exercised or even making a monologue of it, that she’s not ashamed. That that wouldn’t hurt her, to have it exposed to the world. You can feel however you want to feel about reproductive choice, but Olivia will not be shamed by a decision she made about her own body. It’s phenomenal that it is on network TV and that it is dispensed with in about three lines before we go on to discover that Olivia’s father has reached new heights of psychopathy and was the one trying to take her down for said abortion.

But when they talk about Shonda Rhimes, they will not mention this. They will say the shows are ‘soapy’ or ‘addictive’, and they will not talk about her normalizing a woman’s right to choose, and being not at all shamed or guilty about it. She can’t be silenced because of it. This is huge. Just speaking a woman’s truth out loud—to millions of television viewers the world over, no less—is an act of activism. Of feminism. The next time they call Shonda Rhimes’ shows ‘frothy’, as though that means ‘without substance’, remember this.