In life, it often seems like perception is everything. The image of someone is more important than who they are, because that image is mistaken for who they are. Everything has a PR spin from the first time you sneak in your parents’ house at dawn to why, exactly, there’s a strange hair in your husband’s car. Perception is everything. The truth is messy. There is no truth that is truly pretty, truly polished. All the gleam in an illusion, a last line of defense.
In last night’s episode of Scandal, Olivia takes on a client who was Fitz’s competitor in the election. Initially, the story is he walked in on his wife being raped and shot the guy. As the episode progresses, it then comes out that she was having an affair with the man, a builder working on their house. Tearfully, the governor’s wife falls on her Roman sword, reflecting on how her husband changed after losing the election – a election that was basically won by Olivia, because she knows how to set the perfect stage. She is, despite her love of truth, full of dirty little secrets. The governor lost that election, because she launched some kind of perception-based misdirect, proposing that the Governor was soft of guns. The irony now being, of course, that he SHOT a man with just such a gun. Both the Governor and his wife lay blame at Olivia’s feet for changing the course of their history, by getting Fitz elected. As the episode is so aptly titled, all roads lead to Fitz, after all.
The kicker is not the wife’s affair, or the fact that her husband became a different man after suffering the political loss that he did. It is that he knew his wife was having an affair. His murder was premeditated. In fact, he intended to kill his wife, her lover, and himself – until, that is, she cried rape. (A plot point which I kind of hate, because it complicates the idea of a rape victim – which is a difficult enough position in this country. But that’s another story for another time.) The governor, being a ruthlessly clever man, let his wife take the blame for a murder her intended to commit. Not only that, he used it to his political advantage. You see, the gun-happy governor isn’t soft on guns, anymore. Olivia, as she complains on her couch to Cyrus (who came to visit her, because he’s mad at his husband – which is both hilarious and perfectly played), doesn’t it like it when the bad guy gets away. Neither does the audience. Cyrus (the wonderful Jeff Perry) quips that she shouldn’t have come to DC.
As I said, perception is everything. Lest we forget the ominous meeting of the Five at the beginning of the episode, it appears that Olivia, Mellie, Cyrus, Hollis Doyle, and Senator Verna Thorton are involved in some kind of cover-up having to do with the whole Quinn Perkins debacle. In exchange for their help in that situation, everybody got something. The only stopping point at the moment is David (Joshua Malina), who is seeking the truth like a rabid, crazy dog with a bone. They offer him a misdirect and his job back, unbeknownst to him at who is pulling the strings, and it almost worked – until Abby discovered that Olivia orchestrated it all. Honestly, I have huge problems believing that Huck would be so careless as to leave that evidence on his computer screen. But, willing suspension of disbelief… (I also am not sure I buy that Abby would be working against Olivia, but we shall see.)
One of my favorite parts of this episode, however, has to do with Cyrus and Mellie (how amazing is Bellamy Young?). You see, Mellie has gotten used to wearing the pants. She has gotten used to making demands, pushing Fitz around, and even circumventing proper channels and methods when it suits her. She doesn’t like having her hands dirty and she attempts to strong-arm Cy, who is just about to burst with rage, since his husband (who wants a baby) has come back to work as part of the White House Press Corp. Possibly the most awkward position to be in when one is the President’s Chief of Staff. Cyrus calls Mellie a “terrifying political animal,” before point out the menacing fact that he is much, much worse.
Cyrus isn’t fooled by smoke and mirrors. He knows exactly who people are, where they stand, and what they are capable of. That is, perhaps, how he knew he needed Olivia on Fitz’s campaign all those years ago. I like the scene with Cyrus and Olivia, having wine on her couch. I like the idea of these two having a history and a friendship. And yet, given last season, I don’t trust Cyrus. I want to, but I don’t. Because the audience has seen him get his hands bloody, and not in a for the of others Huck kind of way. He is a monster, but he’s also the monster you want on YOUR side.
But speaking of Huck (Guillermo Diaz), Huck as a date with a girl from his AA group. And honestly? It is the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. He, too, is worried about perception and appearance. What should he wear? Where should they go? He is about as lost as lost gets. He takes her to a restaurant where neither of them can pronounce the food, and he doesn’t look at ease – or like himself – until he shows her what he likes to do for fun. Which is…spy on people. But AA girl doesn’t seem daunted by this, and they kiss. And I awwww’d. But one has to wonder: would she feel the same if she really saw Huck for who he is? Not a recovering alcoholic, but a recovering assassin/murderer? This is a ramped up quandary that happens in all relationships: will you still like me when my hair’s a mess, the makeup’s gone, and I’m wearing an old tshirt? When the glitz, glamour, smoke and mirrors are gone – and I’m just me? One wonders. One hopes. Even, it seems, Huck.
Lastly, we’re going to talk about Olivia. Senator Edison Davis is pursuing her, hardcore. He even goes so far as to point out that she may be saying no, but she’s not telling him to go away. Olivia claims she isn’t ready to date, which leads us (the audience) to perceive that she’s genuinely interested in her ex-finacee. And yet, when Cyrus brings up the subject, Olivia freezes. She looks like she wants to crawl in her wine glass, because Olivia is broken. Olivia, I think, wants to seem like she’s moving on. Perhaps she wants that idea to snake its way back to the President. Because all roads lead to Fitz. That is perfect phrasing, by the way, because it has so many layers of meaning. Everything reflects on Fitz, since he’s attending the G8 conference. If someone in his circle does something to detract from his presence there, that also affects his image. For Olivia, though, even though she tries to walk away – all roads lead back to Fitz, eventually. Because you can’t walk away from your own heart. Fitz is center. He’s the middle of a maze. He’s where so many things began for Olivia: her heart, her career. So, she may be toying with the idea of Senator Davis (even letting her employees/friends overhear), but it feels like a hollow charade. And maybe, just maybe, it’s not so much about Davis himself – but about the attention. About feeling wanting. There’s a certain thrill in realizing that your ex, even after all these years, still carries one hell of a torch for you. And after a bad breakup, who doesn’t want to feel wanted?
I’m curious to see how it all plays out — when the dirty secrets are revealed, what will the fallout be? Rest assured, as the tagline says, dirty little secrets always come out. Maybe the secrets themselves don’t matter as much. Maybe the trick is that it’s all in the way they are presented.