Navigating Relationships and Choosing Sides: Recapping Scandal’s The Fluffer
All relationships are built on choices. We choose how vulnerable we allow ourselves to be. We choose how we reveal ourselves. We pick battles. We decide when to stay, when to trust, and when we walk away. Every relationship has its own unique dynamic. No relationship just happens to you. It’s not as if you’re crossing the street and, by no fault of your own, you get hit by a lover. Nope. No. In last week’s episode of Scandal, Olivia is (initially) nowhere to be found. She’s still smarting over Fitz biting her head off (albeit accidentally – he was having a moment. Who hasn’t snapped at the wrong person in a MOMENT? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I’ll be over here in my glass house, too) and over the fact that Fitz seems jealous over Mellie’s relationship with Andrew. More on that later. I have THOUGHTS.
The episode opens with Abby (hilariously misreferred to as GABBY, by pretty much everyone) doing her best Olivia Pope impersonation, complete with a white coat. But Abby, as awesome as she is, is no Liv. Because she cannot command a room, at least not that room. And everyone from Fitz to Cyrus basically leave her standing alone, like the proverbial cheese. (Mmm, cheese.)
In possibly what might be the most ill-advised alliance in the history of what the fuck are you doing, Liv?, is Olivia taking advice from Papa Pope. Papa Pope who promises her that he will not touch a hair on Fitz’s head, when Liv asks him to swear he won’t harm Fitz. Notice the precise wording that he used. He said he wouldn’t physically harm Fitz. That is not the same thing as making sure no harm comes to Fitz. Papa Pope is clever. Papa Pope isn’t someone I’d trust, and here’s why: he is an opportunist. He’s someone who has been ousted from a position rife with power. He’s not simply going to shrug and say, “Ah, well. My life was B613. I think I’ll actually work at the Smithsonian now. Because a boring, easy life will suit me so.” HELL FREAKIN’ NO. So, as the audience, we have to assume that he’s up to no good. Worse yet, he’s manipulating his own daughter – and it’s not the first time. On the surface, it seems like Papa Pope is trying to help Liv shut down B613 by cutting off its funding. When Liv brings this ingenious plan to OPA, Huck is horrified. You don’t trust B613. And yet…
See, Liv is really off her game. She’s hurt. Her mother is apparently a terrorist. And she’s actively in pain over Fitz’s jealous reaction to Mellie doing the no-pants dance with his friend and VP candidate, Andrew. Hi, pot – I’m kettle. Because you don’t get jealous when you don’t care, right? Really? I’ve seen in happen. Someone you’re no longer with is suddenly with someone and happy – and there’s a pang of jealousy, because it’s not you making that person happy. Even though, logically, you know that the relationship was crap for whatever reason. Or, to offer a second reason, consider the devolution of the Grant Marriage: Mellie won’t let Fitz touch her. They stop being intimate (not just sex, people – they stop connecting). The audience knows why, but Fitz doesn’t. Fitz just knows Mellie won’t even look at him with warmth and that (at the time), she told him that having children changes you. That she just wasn’t into sex. And then it turns out, she just didn’t want FITZ to touch her. Andrew, on the other hand, is welcome to Sexy Town any time he wants. (For the record, Andrew and Mellie are TERRIBLE at covert sex, because they apparently have never heard of TACT, SECRECY, and LOCKING DOORS. But I digress.) It’s one thing if your wife tells you she doesn’t fancy anyone. It’s another if you come to find out that she doesn’t fancy you. Meanwhile, Andrew is sporting a shiner, Mellie won’t talk to him, and he basically tells her that he loves her in the middle of the White House hallway. Mellie actually looks shocked, because she’s spent so much time being ornamental and not functional, it doesn’t even occur to her that someone else might, or could, love her. So, yes, I’m rooting like hell for those two, because Mellie deserves to be loved, too. Don’t we all? Anyway…more on that later.
For Liv, she doesn’t know where she fits into Fitz’s life. She wears so many hats in their relationship, because she works for/with him, that it is hard to decipher where Work Liv and Lover Liv stop and start. I can’t call her a mistress, because she’s not some seedy little chippy. I can’t call her his girlfriend, because he’s never called her that. So, they’re lovers. Anyway, in a brilliant speech, Liv basically shows her vulnerability by admitting she doesn’t know who or what she is to Fitz. She doesn’t know where she belongs. She doesn’t know, exactly, how she fits into his life – she questions what role she’s really filling/playing. She wonders, like we all wonder sometimes, how important we really are to someone. She comes to the relationship at a disadvantage. It’s hard to assert yourself in a relationship where the other party has a spouse. Allowances have to be made for extenuating circumstances. Especially in this situation, where all parties involved want Fitz to get reelected.
Fitz reminds Liv that the relationship didn’t just happen to her – that he didn’t happen to her. Like I said before, you don’t cross the street and get hit by a passing relationship. It’s a choice. We choose. And they’re chosen each other. They each have to deal with the odd repercussions of the confining dynamics. Fitz is wearing so many hats, too. He said before in the Rose Garden speech that if he could, he’d run away with her. So, Fitz the man? He chooses Liv. Fitz the president? That’s more complicated. Does he choose Liv the Fixer or Liv the Woman? Can he choose both? Only time will tell.
The whole Mellie/Andrew thing is quite short lived, because Fitz finally admits to Liv that in order to win, he needs Mellie. Think what you want, but their public façade is not unconvincing. With a fake tell-all book about Fitz’s sordid fake affair with a former White House staffer, and Sally Langston playing the angles like an expert, Fitz needs to consider his career over his heart. Which, by the way, is basically what EVERYONE does in this episode. Especially when Liv seduces Jake for her own gains (prompted by Papa Pope), uses him to gain access to B613, and shuts it down. Honestly, that scene between Jake and Liv was horribly unconvincing in that Jake wakes up from a dead sleep to find Liv in his kitchen, nearing shooting her – but having sex with her is so narcotic that he doesn’t wake up when she untangles herself from his arms and plays spy? Does that make Jake the worst spy ever? Yes, yes it does.
Meanwhile, the Grant campaign eventually teams up with the Langston campaign, because Governor Reston is snaking votes away from both parties, due to his, “Look! I’m awesome! I visit my murderous wife in PRISON. Saint me, quick!” Except, we all know that his wife is in prison for a murder he committed. It was a delight to see Abby and Leo, Sally’s version of Cyrus, cozy up to each other. I kind of, maybe, ship them a bit.
The episode ends with B613 being shut down, just as Quinn and Charlie are staking out Momma Pope the Terrorist and her merry band of misfit bombers. (Lovely to see the angel Raphael from Supernatural, btw.) Momma Pope, honestly, feels like a one-trick pony, lately – she has one emotion, and it’s as if she’s stolen it from Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil. I hate how flat and one-dimensional she seems to be, and I feel like Adnan’s potential (as a character) is being wasted. There was such a set up with Harrison being horribly afraid of her. They knock boots and few times, and then she’s relegated to Hot Lacky, the minor sidekick of Momma Pope. It is strange. But I digress.
With Papa Pope’s prompting, Liv shuts the shit down out of B613, leaving the organization in the dark, just as Momma Pope acquires a bomb, presumably as part of a plan to kill Fitz. Which Jake kindly spits at Liv, right after her barges into OPA, chokeholding her across the room and into a wall. He then tells her, essentially, that Fitz is going to die and it’s all her fault. And that’s the episode’s ending note: a bewildered Liv, hearing the worst thing ever, while all the OPA folks (including Huck – where is his Super Spyness when we need it?) gaping in total shock in horror. Except for Harrison, whose face somehow seemed to express a feeling on what looked like mild constipation. But again, I digress.
Whenever Liv is emotionally distressed, she cannot function. She was compromised during the whole Amanda Tanner debacle. When Liv starts mistrusting her gut, she starts trusting the wrong people. Namely, HER FRAKKIN’ FATHER. I do like the fact that she’s started to express herself to Fitz, despite the mess it makes. But real relationships are messy. And if you don’t expose the fears, insecurities, and difficulties you’re grappling with, that’s when things start to fall apart. The fact that Fitz and Liv argue? It’s actually a good thing.
One final thing: Andrew and Mellie. In order to get Fitz what he needs (instead of what he wants), Liv shuts that down. She informs Andrew that he has to make a choice between banging Mellie and being VP. She pointedly tells him that Mellie wouldn’t want him if he wasn’t a political player. And he can either stop having sex with Mellie or she will ruin him. Andrew chooses the VP slot, and Mellie then goes and slaps the HELL out of Fitz. Which…he pretty much deserved. Because glass house, stones. Pots and kettles. And all that jazz. *does spirit fingers*
PS. If the title of this episode didn’t make you giggle like a 13 year old, you have no soul.