Home > Scandal > Scandal recap: Everyone is a pawn when you think yourself a king.

Scandal recap: Everyone is a pawn when you think yourself a king.

Some situations are more like a chess game. We all have choices, moves to make, and power struggles. Everyone wants to win. Everyone has a strategy. To an extent, everything is a power struggle, a continuous renegotiating of space, a tipping of the scales. All relationships have a power dynamic, where you make a move and see what happens. Some are on relatively equal footing, while others are a permanently offset see-saw. In others, one person cares more than the other – one bends more than the other. Some people are victims, others villains.

In this week’s Scandal (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), we flashed back between the past and present, getting a look at Olivia Pope’s father. For a relationship built on lies (she didn’t know he worked for the government until she figured it out, because of Huck) and a rigid dynamic bordering on abusive, it is no wonder that Liv has issues with authority and wants to save everyone. Liv, I think, rescues other people, saving them from the worst day(s) of their lives, because after her mother died – leaving her alone with a manipulative, unyielding father – no one rescued her. She endured it, made a life for herself. But sitting through Sunday night dinners, for Liv, was nothing more than a painful business arrangement. Rowan Pope sees himself as a king – someone whose orders are obeyed.

We get to see a very emotionally wounded, yet still adorable, flashback of Huck – Huck who save Liv from being mugged – or worse – revealing that he isn’t who she previously thought. He’s not just a homeless guy, sleeping in the metro. He’s had training – and perhaps, continuing the chess metaphor, is a knight. But this revelation of Huck’s skills comes at a price. More on that later.

Fast-forward to the present, and Liv has taken on Jeannine as a client. Jeannine, by the way, would be a pawn. Liv talks to Fitz, a somehow arranged phone baton toss with Tom. There’s a tenderness about this conversation, an easy ebb and flow of truths. She warns him of her intentions to fight for Jeannine. This is a king and queen who are currently on opposite sides through circumstance. As well, the audience gets a glimpse not only of the couple they are but of the couple they could’ve been. They have a very sweet conversation about what their lives would’ve been like in another time another place – and they both participate in this fantasy of Vermont, where he’s the mayor and she makes jam. This is a stark contrast to her revelation to Edison Davis, when she turned down his marriage proposal for the second time, last season:

“I could marry you. I could be a senator’s wife. I’d probably be happy. I could probably give all this up and live in a country house and have babies and be normal, I could. But I don’t want to. I’m not built for it. I don’t want normal and easy and simple. I want… I want painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love.”

For Fitz, she would’ve been normal. She would’ve been happy. She would’ve been that woman and lived that life. There are a few great loves that you lie down and be still for. But it has to be with and for the right person. And in Liv’s case, the right person is Fitz. And the circumstances are what they are. What is interesting, though, is that in this phone conversation, we also witness that the power dynamic between them is one of equality. She warns him of her intentions, and he backs her up. This is a different Fitz from the wishy-washy, no backbone, face-in-his-scotch of yore. (Yes, I said yore. Deal with it.) His whole attitude has changed. His power dynamic with everyone from Mellie to Cyrus has shifted. This is Take No Shit Fitz. And I have to say, it’s a welcome sight.

“It’s funny…the things people forget. Things you think would be staring them smack in the face. Like the fact that I am the president of the United States, and I call the shots.”

Speaking of Cyrus (a rook, if ever there was one), the power dynamic between him and Rowan (Poppa Pope) is interesting. Rowan urges Cyrus to solidify the Jeannine lie – make the president confirm the affair. His entire tone is not that of someone used to hearing no or having his suggestions disobeyed. Rowan, as we see, operates outside the bounds of pretty much everything, especially pesky things like basic human decency and compassion. If Cyrus is a political monster, then Rowan is the thing that monsters are afraid of. Think Grendel, except invisible – which makes him even more dangerous. After all, as Huck can tell you, you can’t fight what you can’t see.

Flash back, again, Olivia (thinking her dad works for the Smithsonian – which, hi, Covert Affairs called: they’re like their plotline back) told her dad about the mugging and about Huck. Huck promptly vanishes, and Olivia goes hunting for the truth – only to discover her father is pretty much morally bankrupt and stricken with a slight case of EVIL. In a brilliant move, Olivia brings Edison to dinner, having accepted his proposal. We learn that Edison is in a position to basically ruin Rowan’s life – as the head of a special committee. There’s an undertone, here, that Liv is using Edison – that she accepted his proposal as a necessary move to back her father into a corner and get Huck back. To me, this speaks volumes about the true nature of Liv’s feelings for Edison, and that they were never really genuine enough to begin with. She just happened to accept his proposal when it would benefit her the most. Yeah, I’m calling bullshit with that. It was a manipulation of a piece on the board – a pawn. (Poor Edison.) No doubt, Liv learned from her father, but tends to use her powers for good, not evil.

We see Rowan’s manipulations, again, in the present – when Rowan visits Olivia at work (brilliant bit of dramatic irony, because the audience KNOWS that Huck is saying hello to the man who threw him in a HOLE, stole his life, and separated him from his face). Brilliantly orchestrated, this scene appears to be all smiles from the outside, but the words Liv and her dad exchange are anything but pleasant. Rowan tells Liv that either Jeannine takes the fall or Jake Ballard will vanish forever. Jake, once a knight, has become a pawn.

Liv calls Fitz for help in finding out if Jake is alive. For Olivia, Jake is like Huck: another soul in need of rescuing. Another victim, stitched together from a hero. He saved her life, and now she needs to save his. While Fitz previously stated that no one pushes him around, all Liv has to do is ask and he does what she requests. The circles around to the whole, “You give for what you love” revelation from last season. And Fitz does – he goes to Cyrus and does all he possibly can to get Jake released.

Meanwhile, Huck and Baby Huck (aka Quinn) have a poignant heart-to-heart moment in which Huck expresses his concern for Quinn – namely, that she is becoming too much like him, and that she should try to be more like Liv. This scene is brilliantly played by both Guillermo Diaz and Katie Lowes; their performances are nuanced perfectly, from wide-eyes to slightly shaky, obsessed gestures. Huck recognizes the slippery slope that Quinn is own, and while he cannot rescue her from herself, he is looking out for her.

Which brings us to someone who is only looking out for herself: Mellie. (While Mellie would be considered Fitz’s queen, there’s no hope of her sacrificing herself for Fitz or the greater good.) Mellie goes behind the scenes, in a fit of Minor Evil (if we’re comparing her to Poppa Pope), and bribes Jeannine to say that she did, indeed, sleep with Fitz. Jeannine is nothing more than a pawn who wishes to be otherwise. When Liv confronts her about her plans, it becomes clear that she’s trying to reap a benefit from a bad situation. Jeannine is a pawn who has accepted her fate, straining to at least get something out of the deal.

Concurrently, though, Fitz goes on live TV and confesses his (fictitious) affair with Jeanine. This is the only way he knows to get Jake back for Liv. This isn’t done to save his own ass. He’s giving for what he loves, even at the detriment of his own image. This is the move of a king, sacrificing himself for the other side. He’s tipped himself to end the game. While Sally Langston sure as shit doesn’t believe him, their exchange in the hallway was brilliant. Her freakin’ face when Fitz said, “I had her six ways to Sunday all over this White House,” was brilliant. Slow clap for Burton. Also, slow clap for Tony Goldwyn for the awesome delivery, “How presidential are my balls now, Cy?” I spit out my wine.

Unfortunately, Liv gets tricked back into Sunday night dinners with her father. Liv’s approach to this situation is exactly like when she rescued Huck. Jake has become her people. She protects her own. She especially protects them from her father. But Huck learns the truth about Liv’s dad and had a MOMENT. Notice, though, that Liv never ran away from him. Even after he choked her. Even after his poor broken face flooded with disbelief. She didn’t run. Huck knows the truth. And it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out, knowing that a) Liv is the daughter of a government sanctioned monster – and that she kept it from him. Although, I cannot blame her, because how do you tell someone that you love, who is your people, that your father ruined his life? Ummmm, awkward to say the least.

In the end, a bloody Jake appears on Liv’s doorstep. We will have to see how that plays out. There’s talk that Jake may have turned back, being locked in a hole, and subjected to hell knows what. But I think that wasn’t enough to turn Huck into an evil asshole. I don’t think that Jake will be a mole for Rowan, if that’s the thinking that some people had.

In the end, Liv and Fitz are playing a chess game – supposedly against each other. But it must be hard to strategize when you, in your heart, want the other side to win. Everyone has a different endgame, loyalties scattered and varied. But make no mistake: everyone is a pawn when you think yourself a king. Trouble is, I count at least three kings – and only two can own the board.

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Categories: Scandal
  1. Scarlettmd5
    October 12, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Ali—bravo!! You have interpreted motives and actions brilliantly. I have read umpteen missives blasting Olivia for #1–manipulating Fitz for Jake, #2-using Edison to help Huck #3″w–causing Fitz to lose credibility for his “affair” with Jeanine. I, like you, feel that both Liv and Fitz do actions for the RIGHT reasons, i.e, to prevent any more killing of undeserving people who did things to HELP THEM, and to give your love “what they want” to make them happy. Rowan IS abusive to Liv….no borderline about it. And Liv and Fitz worked together in this episode. They may not be able to express their love physically, but they do verbally and by being “together”. I would love to post this on my FB Scandal group page, but won’t out of respect for you. THIS would quash the naysayers, for sure. Thanks for your brilliant insight!

    • October 12, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Thank you so much for that lovely comment! I agree with you that they ARE together, meaning that they do function as a unit, despite pretty much everything. I don’t think we’ve seen anything redeeming about Rowan, yet. I keep waiting for a glimmer. But…eh. Would you like me to post a link on your Scandal page? Is it an open page? Again — thank you!!

      • Anonymous
        October 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm

        Great analysis! Although I think Rowan is evil, I do see a glimmer of good. Just a glimmer though. He is sick and twisted. But embedded in all in all that he loves Liv. Only in the ways that he knows how though. We saw him try several times to reconnect with his daughter. That’s what those Sunday dinners were. His effort to redeem himself with her. I also think that he would never have her killed. If he wanted her dead, he has had ample opportunity. It’s been proven that he knows her whereabouts, he has her watched. I think to protect her. Given what she does, I’m sure Liv has plenty of enemies. I think Rowan knows keeps them at bay. I think back to the episode when the CIA director was killed. That was right after he threatened Olivia. Although Billy confessed to that killing, Rowan was the puppet master behind it (Jake stole that Gladstone and gave it to Fitz to set him up). Liv is Rowan’s weakness.

  2. Anonymous
    October 12, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    This is the best, most unbiased and comprehensive recap of this episode Ive read so far. Bravo.

  3. October 12, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Just brilliant! The best, most unbiased comprehensive recap of this episode Ive read so far. You are my sane go to person for an inteliigent Scandal analysis from now on.

  4. Charlene Adams
    October 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Brilliant.

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