Scandal Season 5 Episode 6 recap

I really was excited at the beginning of this episode, because I love anything that begins with Sally Langston’s Liberty Report. And in fact, I stayed excited through the whole episode, because there were all the hallmarks of things that make a great episode.  There was an impeachment hearing, for God’s sake.

The impeachment hearing was fun to watch, and Olivia schooling the team was also amusing. Watching Eli (so now he’s Eli again, huh?) manipulate everyone in his path was fun. Watching Mellie come to some hard realizations about her marriage and what it’s done for her was fun. Watching Jake waffle was sort of heartbreaking, if anyone cares about Jake, and watching Fitz be a dick is not fun, but it is kind of par for the course.

But I was feeling empty about this episode, and I couldn’t think of why. Hell, we had the Vice-President! And David Rosen! We had the Vice President and David Rosen, together.

But you know what we didn’t have?

We didn’t have Olivia Pope doing a damn thing.

Quinn and Huck and Abby testify in front of a grand jury/impeachment committee.  Mellie Grant perjures herself, finally tells Fitz what a flying asshole he is, and completely changes her thinking in order to achieve her ultimate goal – becoming POTUS. Eli Pope manipulates everyone into coming to his hospital bedside. Forget that, he manipulates his heartbeat to stay in the hospital. Even Jake sacks up and tells Olivia he can’t be her puffy-paint covered diary and she can’t talk to him about all her romantic woes. Oh, and then he plans to go to Europe with his wife until she’s murdered.

Everyone is DOING stuff. Everyone is active. Going towards their goals.

What’s Olivia doing? Nothing. She’s mooning. She’s whining like a woman in a totally different other show, wondering if she wants to get married to the boy or not, and debating about rings and wearing pretty hairdos.

Look, I get it. There is something to be mined in how marrying someone like the President of the United States is not what you thought and that there are a lot of things to be considered and you can’t have your phone. Duly noted. But she doesn’t do anything. She thinks, and wonders, and allows people to worry about her. I guess she calls Jake to whine, but that’s kind of about it.

Meanwhile, around her, people are moving mountains. Mellie DOES things. Eli DOES things – hence the damning envelopes for everyone in the room. Olivia just has a good rolodex so other people can do things.

Is it that simple? No, of course it’s not. But this show is not about watching Quinn and Huck do Olivia’s bidding (or not). The main story is always about Olivia doing the thing that clinches the win—or not doing it and regretting it later. The mooning and whining over the marriage is so boring. 

Still, I could have stood it if, at the end, she herself had manufactured the marriage of Mellie and Eli. As it stands, she looks utterly blindsided by Papa Pope and his loyal henchman Tom showing up in an under-Capitol-Hill secret hallway (which exists, I’ve been there!). She’s on her back foot, and it’s disconcerting.

Don’t get me wrong. Nobody likes a story where the hero always wins. You’ve got to believe that Superman really might not be able to get out of this one. But you want to see him – or her, in this case – make choices. Do stuff that’s good or bad or make the mistake. Rush headlong into the marriage for the wrong reasons and then regret it. The whole point of this show is pace, and I can’t spend an hour watching my lead character ruminate on a decision while others around her are gleefully or vindictively blowing things up (or both). 

The device of Olivia behind the scenes made sense for a couple of episodes, but her impotence isn’t just frustrating now—it’s threatening to be boring. Moreover, since Huck and Quinn take their marching orders from her, they’re not doing anything either, and they’re so aware of it that it’s actually being mentioned onscreen.

Olivia’s the reason we watch this show. Let’s get her hands dirty, at her own behest, and quickly, please.