Home > Scandal > Grief Has No Edges: Scandal and The State of the Union

Grief Has No Edges: Scandal and The State of the Union

Poet Marty McConnell once wrote, “what no one tells you / about grief is that it has no edges.” That line kept rolling around in my head, while I was watching this past week’s episode of Scandal. Grief has no edges – therefore, it makes no visible cuts or marks. It’s rounded at the corners, meaning it’s violently smooth-edged ache. The kind that builds. The kind that extends – you can’t find its corners, because it has none. Grief is a bubble, and when it pops (when a person finally hits his/her breaking point) it spills out. And make no mistake, overt or not, in this episode – everyone is grieving.

“State of the Union” begins with Jake and Liv running. A bit of apt symbolism there, because those two are constantly using each other to run away from everything else. Talk about a door marked Exit. *ahem* Where was I? Right. Jake. He’s decided to take some kind of weird stand, getting himself a hotel room so that he and Liv can have booty calls, because he doesn’t want to hang around her apartment like a sex on demand. (Because, as far as the moral high ground goes, booty calls are somehow better? I don’t know, dude. That logic is pretty thin.)

That conversation dovetails into Liv meeting with Cyrus, whose hair still looks like someone murdered a raccoon and glue the remains to his head. (Please, for the love of coffee and kittens, someone make that stop.) Cy is pretty pissed that Liv didn’t reach out when she got home, and it is pretty shitty, as far as friendships go. Poor Cyrus, though. He’s now on a strict diet, meaning no more meat (and oh my god, oh my god – we’ll get to THAT symbolism later). Essential, Cy strong-arms her into taking a case for the White House, because he’s Cy and he’s not above a bit of manipulative blackmail. Which brings us the case-of-the-week, James and Lisa Elliot – they’re the public face of gun control for Fitz’s State of the Union address. He’s a decorated soldier, and she’s confined to a wheelchair, having been shot saving kids during a school shooting. But as we quickly learn, the state of THEIR union is cantankerous at best. The Hatfields and the Mcoys got along better, guys.

Elsewhere, we find Mellie deep in the midst of her I Don’t Give a Fuck trip, grieving her son, while eating potato chips on his grave. She’s still traipsing about in her Hugh Hefner-lite attire, which is her right. She lost a son. But unfortunately for her, she ends up in the papers, painted as a looney bird. There’s a great shot of Fitz looking agonized, glancing at Mellie across the cemetery. The state of their union is one of an odd armistice; their grief is what’s keeping them together, even though they’re living separate lives still.

Abby (Gabby!) is still masquerading as Olivia Pope-lit, which I really do not care for. Abby is a great character. To have her essentially mimicking a pale version of Liv (she even seems to be DRESSING like her), it’s strange. It would be one thing if she was killing it as the press secretary. She’s not. She’s playacting. She’s not being herself, and while her hair looks amazing, it feels weird and awkward – especially in light of the Liv-esque speech she later gives Mellie.

Quinn and Huck are still in the midst of this weird relationship limbo. And they get to babysit James and Lisa, which is hilarious. Huck and James end up drunkenly singing, and it’s pretty much the best.

Mellie is hanging around eating fried chicken (I feel you, woman. I eat my grief, too.). Fitz tries to talk her into attending the State of the Union address, which she laughs at. Cyrus tries to, and they end up measuring griefs like men measure penises. Because, lest we forget, Cy lost his husband not that long ago. “A broken heart is a broken heart. To take a measure is cruelty.” True words, Cyrus. But they don’t move Mellie one inch.

While Fitz is watching Liv’s interview (and James and Lisa) air, his grief over missing her is stark on his face. There’s a naked longing there. And simultaneously, Liv is sitting with her popcorn and wine, staring at her phone. Where she’d normally have called Fitz, she called Jake. They argue over having a booty call, and she says he should come back – that the hotel room is unnecessary. And he asks, “Are you summoning me?” That is an echo of Liv’s speech that she gave to Fitz (“You do NOT summon me.” “And you don’t walk away from ME.”). Except without any passion whatsoever. It’s like they’re arguing over what color of beige to paint the walls. Jake refuses to jump when Olivia says so, and they hang up the phone. He continues looking into the murder of Harrison and Adnan.

Meanwhile, Lizzie (Portia de Rossi) slinks in to try and get David Rosen’s nomination thrown out. (Are they purposefully styling her to look like Hillary Clinton?) Which flies about as well as Dumbo without his feather, because he realized he didn’t need it to fly. The evidence that Lizzie brings out about David is the fabricated domestic abuse story from a previous season. It’s rather genius that plot point was used to come back and bite him in the ass. Harrison supposedly buried it, but not deep enough. So, his nomination is tanked. Curiously, David spits out his opinion about how awful Olivia is, trying to get Abby to agree with him, because she doesn’t work there anymore. But she…does not. Is that loyalty I smell there? Why, yes. I think it is. In a later scene, David blackmails a Senator (he’s been in DC long enough to pick up a trick or two, apparently) with one of the B613 files. Which is both genius AND evil. If you’re wondering if anyone has a moral compass, the answer is yes – but it’s basically the compass from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and everyone is Jack Sparrow. “This is blackmail,” the senator says. “I like to think of it as winning,” David replies. Now, if someone could get me a jar of dirt, that’d be great.

Moving on, we find Cyrus at a bar. Because NOTHING says “good decision” like drinking with strangers, while you’re cranky from everything falling apart and your lack of meat. Which, of course, brings us to the hot dude who HAPPENS to hit on him. The hot dude who turns out to be a prostitute, whom we later find out was hired by Lizzie. Because apparently, she’s taken over the Machiavellian supervillain duties and Cyrus has turned into a pumpkin-patch born idiot. (Seriously, Cyrus. YOU ARE SMARTER THAN YOUR PENIS. Except he isn’t, is he? Because he’s vulnerable, still grieving James.)

Huck and Quinn finally have a fight that they needed to have for FOREVER. She confronts him about his perpetual icy attitude toward her, and then admits that they were never a normal couple. And then they argue about him having pulled out her teeth, which is truly the yardstick for a messed up relationship. He thinks that she should mind her own business, and gets in her face, which leads to them almost kissing. And…holy shit, I think I ship them now. When did THAT happen?

James and Lisa cannot get along. Liv talks to Huck about his relationship with Quinn. And Guillermo Diaz is so, so wonderfully nuanced as Huck. There’s a dangerous vulnerability to his facial expression and reactions, like an adorable fox who is half a second away from biting the hell out of anyone who gets too close. It’s a beautiful mix of aching and anger.

Abby freaks out at Cyrus, because Liv called – and the Elliots won’t be attending the State of the Union address – and there goes Fitz’s public face of gun control. Cy, however, says that Liv has never, ever let him down – and that she does her job, so he has confidence that the Elliots will, indeed, show up. Unlike Mellie, because Abby is not Liv. Honestly, seeing how desperately that Abby is playing dress up (not only in Liv’s clothes but through working at the White House), this is the PERFECT motivation for Abby. It pokes right at her vulnerable spots, compelling her to give Mellie her best Liv-esque speech, about being the public face of a grieving mother and then dragging up Jackie O and how she stood by LBJ, shortly after her husband was shot to death. Mellie ends up putting on the pearls again – in her best Jackie O outfit. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Liv delivers James and Lisa Elliot to the White House. However, when she tries to leave, an aid tells her no. Fitz strolls in with Abby, and then he clears the room. But it’s not for personal reasons (sort of…). He wants her opinion on his speech, making it clear to Abby that her opinions are second-string. (I laughed so hard when he referred to Abby as Gabby after she left the room.) Fitz appeals to Liv, saying that he needs to hear what she thinks about his remarks. This is not just a political question. This is him needing her. This is how their reconciliations always start – need. A question. A reason to speak alone in a room.

Fitz’s speech (before he delves into the anti-gun portion of it) touches on the loss of his son, Jerry. He goes off book at Liv’s advice. And while in public, Mellie holds it together like a champ. But as soon as she’s out of public view, she pulls her pearls apart, crumpling to the floor and finally SHOWING her grief through tears. Finally breaking down instead of deflecting and holding it in, as if she doesn’t give two damns. Because Mellie does give a damn. Mellie has lost herself in her grief by not really letting it out. So, by putting on that dress and pearls and assuming what has always been her role, she gets back in touch with herself. And thereby, her pain. And man, when she breaks down, we all (the audience) break down with her. Because there’s something so painfully true to life about that scene. And Bellamy Young shines in a way that there are no words for. Fitz comforts her as she cries curled in a ball on the rug. And it’s that grief that connects them both. That is the state of their union – connected by the thing that’s broken them both.

Meanwhile, Liv shows up to Jake’s hotel room, wearing nothing more than a trenchcoat and knee-high boots. And I’ve got to give it to the woman, that is 17 different kinds of hot. Of course, before disrobing, she admits that their relationship has changed, because they’re not on the island anymore. Things are different, because the circumstances are different. She is clear that her showing up for the horizontal mambo is NOT a booty call. But if it isn’t, I’m really not sure what it is. Because what it looks like to me is that Liv just saw the president and then reacted by caving into what Jake wanted.

Everyone in this episode is grieving something. Cyrus is grieving James. The Grants are grieving Jerry. Quinn is grieving the loss of the relationship with Huck. Huck…he might be grieving it, too. Abby should be grieving her loss of self, but instead is grieving her loss of power (she’ll always take a backseat to Liv and her political savvy). Jake is grieving his loss of power in his relationship with Liv (because they’re back in the shadow of the White House). And Liv is probably grieving the loss of her carefree life on the island. Because now, it’s back to reality. And reality means Fitz. Reality means picking up the pieces of OPA. It means the return to drinking wine and eating popcorn alone. Because aside from her not-booty-call booty call, Liv is either working or alone. Things are in disrepair, darlings – and it will interesting to see how they are cleaned up.

  1. October 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    You nailed it Ali. Love your recap! Definitely what was Cyrus thinking?? Hmmm – is that always the way that Fitz and Liv reconnect – hadn’t considered that. I realize that Jake is REALLY being used but it is sooo HOT. Jesus Christo! I could watch that over and over again – ok – I have. And Bellamy Young is just acting her ar$e off. Love her. Just every character is just wonderful and I think well acted – the spoken and unspoken.

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