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the past is a ghost we glimpse

 

We are, and we are not, our past. The deeds we’ve done, the people we’ve been – there’s facets of who we are. They are not the whole picture. And yet, a recovering alcoholic is always a recovering alcoholic. You carry it with you. There are things that each of us carry with us, too – little red wagons filled with crap. Some red wagons are small. Others are like dump trucks. And yet, again: that’s only part of the story. Our story.

Eventually, in some way, our past has a way of reemerging, of coloring our present, of rattling our cage. Our past isn’t our reflection. It’s the shadow you see out of the corner of your eye, the ghost that’s maybe there or not. You turn, and it vanishes – but that glimpse is enough to remind you.

Last night’s episode of Scandal (Spies like Us) is all about how our past influences our present. Olivia is dating her ex-fiancée, who verbally spar with each other, but it’s more like friends. There’s no passion, no tension. There’s the end of the date and a shut door. Then there’s Huck, who is involved with a regular girl. Out of habit, he wants to run a background check. He doesn’t know what normal is, and Olivia has to talk him down off that ledge. There’s Cyrus, whose husband is back at the White House as a writer, and James makes a serious breach of trust – quoting a conversation that Cyrus and he had in bed together, while not revealing his name. The article is about Hollis, the shady shark of a man who lords his swaggering leverage over the cabal of five (Hollis, Mellie, Liv, Cyrus, and Verna) like a malicious child. This article could be bad for everybody.

Of course, the central issue in this episode is Huck’s past – the group of spook spies he used to work with is being threatened with exposure. At first, to protect Liv, he tries to flee. Instead, Olivia butts heads with him, and says that this is HER wheelhouse. He agrees to let her try to fix it. Cue a bunch of trigger happy, trust-deficient spies showing up to Pope and Associates. I have to admit, I laughed a bit when one turned out to be a soccer mom. It turns out one of the spies is a traitor, selling their identities to a hacker. Huck sends his coworkers home in an effort to find out who it is. One of the assassins is, almost hilariously, the one who Huck went to town on last season – and who killed Amanda Tanner.

Harrison finally confronts Olivia about the emotional mess of a person she’s been since Steven left. He found her staring off into space, as per her current usually, looking wounded and doe-eyed. Her expressions are enough to break your heart. This separation with Fitz is eating away at her. It’s right there in her face. She’s doing the “right” thing, but it’s killing her. “It’s getting weird in here. What do you need?” he asks. That is what Steven used to ask. Harrison goes to bat for Olivia, as her friend. Because he sees her in pain. “Whatever’s it is that’s going on, whatever it is that you’re thinking about when you’re sitting in here by all by yourself, tell me what you need and I will do it, no matter what.” He continues with an impassioned, convincing monologue that resonated with me. Because at someone point, everyone need to hear this, “I am your family. I am your gladiator. And that is not a job to me, that’s who I am. Right now, you need me. So, no questions asked. No matter what. Whatever you need. Gimme some marching orders, Liv.” Olivia tells him that Abby and David Rosen cannot be together anymore. She cannot tell him why. But that Abby’s husband used to beat her, and he should use that angle. Again, this is where the past meets the present like a tide ugly with pollution. Harrison is ruthless, and I think that it takes a toll on him. He’s not a bad guy, but he’s not used to getting his hands dirty. He’s not used to damaging people close to him, even if it’s for the “right” reasons. Abby is led to believe that David beat one of his ex-girlfriends. And, understandably, this sets her off. You don’t get over something like that. She breaks up with David, who is shocked and hurt that she didn’t even give him a chance. Because her past is a healed wound that still aches.

Additionally, Cyrus calls up Olivia for help with James. He tells her what happened, and Olivia tells him how to fix it. I found it really interesting that he sought out her help TWICE recently. Olivia tells him to be ruthless, and Cyrus complies, because he is desperate. He invites James to the Oval office and puts on an act so convincing that there are tears. It is emotional manipulation at its best, because you can only manipulate those closest to you in that manner. Because you know exactly what buttons to push. And, as an audience member, I felt bad for James. While Cyrus is trying to protect pretty much everybody for Hollis, it’s still a shitty thing to do to your husband. It was absolutely CHILLING to see Cyrus snap right out of his emotional display as soon as James left the room. If he can act that well, I wonder what ELSE he hides. As he admitted last week, he is a monster. But damn, if he’s not a monster I’d want on my side. (And let’s face it: who, in this show, isn’t some kind of monster?)

Huck eventually discovers the identity of the traitor spy. He tries to keep the others from killing him, because Huck has changed. Or he’s trying to change. The girl he’s seeing? Is affecting him for the better. But the soccer mom spy shoots the traitor, and in a silent, almost poetic scene – they clean up. They are efficient and methodical. It’d be beautiful, if it weren’t so disturbing.

And, lastly, there’s Olivia, who is trying so hard to be normal. To live a normal life, with a man who fits into it. Edison shows up at her apartment, with all the making of a romantic in-home date. Alcohol, food, and movies. He is all smiles and charm. He keeps talking. Olivia’s silent, her face one step away from broken. She doesn’t say a word, and finally, he sees that she’s upset. It takes him entirely too long to notice. But he asks if she’s okay, and she still says NOTHING. She breaks down. They kiss, and this time, the door shuts again – but Edison Davis is on the other side of it. In that moment, Liv is broken. Her past, her choices, have swelled up to meet her – and she is alone. She is missing her friend Steven, who would’ve seen past all her defenses sooner. But the heart of the matter is that she misses Fitz. And it hurts in a way that is almost incomprehensible. It’s an inexplicable pain, that kind of separation. Sometimes, you just need to feel something. Sometimes, you can’t fix what’s wrong, but you want to forget for a moment. You want to pretend to be normal. Olivia, when she (presumably) decides to sleep with Edison, it’s not about them as a couple. It’s about her and her pain. She’s trying to fix it. But what I think she’ll come to realize is this simple truth: you can’t fix love. You can’t handle love like other problems. You can’t pretend to be normal, when you’re not. And darling, normal is vastly overrated.

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Categories: Scandal
  1. November 17, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I didn’t watch this, but I agree that only people who know you well can manipulate you well. They know exactly what buttons to push. It comes with so much pain too.

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