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Scandal: Characterization and Plot Problems

October 24, 2014 3 comments

So, Scandal, guys. For me, I’m having some problems with the show. It’s not as problematic as last season, but a lot of the carryover from that is affecting this season. Instead of a recap, I’m going to talk about things that are bugging me. Because, you know, it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to. Wait…

I don’t know who to root for anymore – but not for the reason you might think. I’ve been a Liv and Fitz shipper from day one. I’ve loved the moderately dysfunctional Scooby Gang at OPA. But the dynamics between each character feels off, and not in a character growth/potentially-awesome-plot-point kind of way.

Last week’s episode finally had Liv and Fitz in the geographical region of the Feels. Their theme started to play, and it could’ve both been redemptive and romantic. Instead, it made me want to hurl things at the scream and yell obscenities. I DID yell obscenities, but I like my TV too much to wound it. Fitz, even wrapped in his grief, should never have used Liv as means to prove his manhood. He couched the entire conversation in terms of his rampant failure (pity party, Presidential party of one!) – and instead of it being about their reconciliation, about them as a couple, Fitz was one shade away from Drunk Elevator Fitz. He tried to use Liv as some kind of sex bandaid, and it was all kinds of wrong. This wasn’t some kind of emotional reunion moment. And while yes, they always have that spark – that physical chemistry – that scene made me cringe so hard. Because it wasn’t about them being together; it was about her filing a need. It undervalued her as a person AND their relationship on the whole. In summation: it was not motherfucking Vermont.

Additionally, there was Liv and her highly insensitive reveal about her Sex Vacation. I still have issues with her up and abandoning Fitz, right after his son died, regardless of ANY extenuating circumstances. Because you do not FLEE someone’s life who just lost a child. Immediately and without looking back or even trying to check in. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. So, she ran off with Jake, who seems to have been Fitz’s only friend. (Cyrus is not his friend. He’s everybody’s monster. Except for that thing that died on his head. That thing has managed to upstage him. Seriously: WHY?) Jake and Fitz have a history. And Jake went after Liv. That’s shitty. Then, Liv dashes off with Jake for MONTHS, and she then (with all the grace of a two-legged elephant) blurts out that Jake went on her escape with her. How is that even remotely sensitive? (Hint: it isn’t.) It was done purely for shock value, and I don’t like it. Liv is not that callous. And yet…

So, this week’s episode. Jake is being held in the Pentagon, because Shady Tom pegged him for the murder of Jerry Grant. He stops eating in an effort to force Fitz to show up. He eventually tells Fitz that it was Rowan. And knowing exactly how slim-tastic Rowan is, of course Fitz believes him. Oh, wait – no he doesn’t! Because we’re supposed to believe this far-fetched plot point that Fitz suddenly has  no understanding of how Rowan operates. Hi, believability? I’m going to need you to take a vacation, mmmkay?

I can’t root for Jake at all either. While I liked him when he first appeared, and he seemed like a relative white hat in a sea of grey hats at best, he’s well beyond being redeemable. And therein lies a big problem: nearly everyone on this show is a murderer. Once he killed James, that was it: he crossed the line. He also has the maturity of three-day-old roadkill, because of his constant nagging about Olivia not being his girlfriend/their relationship being only about booty calls/how amazing he is in bed – then bragging to Fitz about their sexcapades. Is he five? I mean, really.

That aside, let’s talk about Davey Crockett’s Raccoon Hair himself: Cyrus. He goes and tells Liv what’s going on with Jake. He gets his gloat on. And she tells him that no one should believe Rowan. Also, guys? THE EMEPEROR IS NAKED. Meanwhile, we had a previous scene were Rowan and Liv have a majorly awkward father/daughter chat, wherein he chides her for not spending a kidney on her wine. Speaking as someone whose wine has often come in a box, you’re on very thin ice, sir. Annnnnyway, Liv can tell CYRUS never to believe her father, and yet we’re supposed to swallow this tentative relationship between the two? I don’t think so. It is inconsistent at best. The fact that any of the characters believe anything Rowan says is infuriating.

Next up, let’s talk about Mellie. Now, I loved the hell out of Drunk Mellie. I felt like it was real and honest, plus an interesting character turn. You can identify with Mellie not giving an immaculate damn about anything, after losing her son. Except, she was getting better there for a hot minute. She had a good heart-to-heart with Karen last week. Put the pearls back on for personal appearance in the episode before that. And now, she’s back to swirling around her vodka cup. Um, NO.

The exchange between Fitz and Mellie about the death of their son…it rang hollow, to me. It felt false that Mellie would offer up that their son died for a reason, a cause, like a solider – and find solace in that. Because she doesn’t really believe in anything right now. And to think that she’d see Fitz’s election as a silver lining for Jerry’s death? Not buying it at all. Of course, when she gets in the shower toward the end of the episode (after learning the supposedly murderer is in custody), we’re now supposed to see that she’s on the upswing. As if knowing that his murderer was caught is somehow the key to her mental state. That implies that her mess has been tied to not knowing who killed Jerry, not necessarily the loss of Jerry. That seems problematic to me, given the nature of grief and Mellie’s character.

Lastly, I want to talk about Huck. Huck, who apparently confessed to his ex-wife everything that ever happened to him, is a flipping mess. Don’t get me wrong: Guillermo plays the hell out that character. I am constantly astounded by his facial expressions, which convey multiple layers of feelings. The fact that he isn’t believed feels like it’s nothing more than a plot device. Maybe it’s to set it up for him and Quinn to be together, again. Maybe it’s just to put him through the ringer with another tragedy. But all the crazy crap that’s gone on in his character’s life, this reunion/reconciliation going wrong, too? It’s too much. It’s also easily avoided if Huck asked Liv to speak with his ex. Or even Quinn. ANYONE to back up his story. Instead, he just plods along like the saddest trombone in comedy of errors in which NO ONE is laughing. His ex also comes off as an unfeeling bitch, so congratulations for making me NOT root for them to be together, ever.

That’s it. That’s my rant. There’s no eloquent ending, just my slowly fizzling displeasure.

Categories: Scandal, tv Tags: ,

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

October 5, 2014 1 comment

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.

Navigating Relationships and Choosing Sides: Recapping Scandal’s The Fluffer

April 10, 2014 4 comments

 

 

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.

When the Fantasy Becomes Reality: Scandal Recap

March 9, 2014 1 comment

Have you ever been in a relationship where you were afraid to speak up for yourself – afraid to fight? Maybe the idea of shattering that perfect image held you back. Maybe you were afraid of the underside of a bad argument – one with hurled names and non-constructive barbs being thrown out. The trouble with being terrified, or unable, to fight (within reason) with someone you love is that sometimes fights are necessary. In order to hash things out and examine all sides, sometimes you must argue. I’ve said it before, and I believe it: when constructive communication stops, a relationship begins to die. You can fight, and have it not be easy or pretty, and still have it be beneficial to the relationship. While relationships are never entirely equal (someone always cares more, someone always have more ‘power’), it is vital to stand up for yourself – and to deal in reality.

This is where the latest episode of Scandal begins (We Do No Touch the First Ladies) – with Liv and Fitz throwing down, because guess what? This relationship was always a bit of a fantasy. It was always in the shadows and the sidelines – the open secret. Now, with Liv’s name in the news and Mellie in the know, the relationship between Liv and Fitz has become quite real. And real couples who love each other? They fight. Liv, for myriad reasons, has never quite been on equal footing with Fitz. But this fight, and a conversation later in the episode, puts them on level ground. Fitz is jealous about Jake being Liv’s fake boyfriend, trusting him to head B613, but knowing that Jake has feelings for Liv – and maybe worse yet, that Liv may have feelings for Jake – Mr. President is turning all shades of Green Eye’d Monster. Here’s the argument if you want a recap, because you know somebody’s in trouble when Liv starts counting. (Unlike the counting exchange with Edison, though, Fitz has the ability to interrupt her.)

Speaking of people with a complicated past history, this episode trots out not only Mellie’s backstory, but Andy’s – Fitz’s VP choice, because as we know, Sally Langston has gone full-on crazypants. (Seriously, few things sent more chills down my spine that Sally’s self-assured the devil killed Daniel proclamation. Girlfriend is seriously a few verses short of a psalm.) Andrew is, it turns out, charming, sweet, and a literal lifesaver. The show flashes back to a suicidal Mellie, who is wracked with grief/guilt/horror/self-blame/doubt over the fact that her father-in-law raped her…and she’s not sure whose child her son is. Does she tell this to Fitz? No. But after taking too many pills on purpose, and being saved by Andy who made her throw up and sat with her all night, she does tell Andy. While there was, certainly, a vibe between them, Mellie never cheated on Fitz, even though she and Andy clearly have kind of an amazing connection. And I’m not going to lie: once again, I’m rooting for adultery. Oops. My bad. Blame Shonda, the writers, and the damn fine actors. Because you cannot look at this situation and see black and white, there’s all kinds of grey, darlings. Because in the present day, Andrew was willing to throw himself on the media grenade in order to cover up Mellie’s drug use/attempted suicide. He didn’t even flinch or blink. He just tried like hell to protect her. And if that ain’t love, honey, I don’t know what is. Of course, Liv and OPA kill the story. But I don’t think I’m the only one who cheered when, in the present day, Andy and Mellie made out in front of Jackie Kennedy’s portrait (Ironic? Yes. Delightfully so).

Yet another relationship angle in this episode is Jake as Liv’s beard. Liv repeatedly uses him as a genie lamp, calling him to help her fix problems. While I can’t say I agree with Jake when he claimed that popcorn isn’t food (and wine isn’t beer…which is fine by me, because wine TRUMPS beer), I rather liked that he had some fake relationship demands for Liv. And if he made them while shirtless, that was basically a bonus (Scotty Folely is hot; if Felicity was on the air now, I’d be Team Noel – words my younger self never thought I’d say). Jake has consented to this fake relationship, but he’s not going to play within the lines. He constantly asserts himself, at least verbally – because has there been a time yet, where he hasn’t done with Liv asked? Nope. Because he’s not just being a patriotic Fake Boyfriend. Fitz is right to be jealous, in my humble opinion. Jake really does care for Liv.

Meanwhile, we’ve got David and Abby, who I honestly love together. David is busy helping out James (aka Publius), which almost leads to David being killed by Quinn’s main man, Charlie. (Side-note: I love/hate Quinn and Charlie together. More on that later.) Cyrus is desperately trying to quash the whole Daniel Douglas being murdered by Sally (oh, sorry – the devil inhabiting Sally)…and then covered up by Cyrus. David, however, is rescued by Abby, which was really kind of adorable. They have a really nice dynamic, and they’re adorable together.

But let’s talk about Huck for a minute. Huck is all kinds of sad, and he’s bringing Liv a cup of coffee every morning, despite the fact that Olivia doesn’t drink coffee. He just has sad, mournful puppy eyes and puts in on her desk. Eventually, she asks what’s up with the Starbucks delivery, and it comes out that he’s trying to apologize for the whole Quinn debacle…to a point. He wants Liv to forgive him, but he also points out that Liv gave him a responsibility (taking Quinn under his wing) when he isn’t a trained puppy. He’s a monster. (Apparently, everyone Liv’s monster. Cyrus used similar wording in an earlier episode. Kind of awesome, recurring theme.)

No, you went too far. You took in a wild monster, and you groomed me and petted me and trained me to sit at your feet. But that doesn’t make me a puppy, Liv. That just makes me a very loyal monster. So, I didn’t go too far. I went exactly as far as my leash allows. And you hold the leash. You ruined her life, and you made me save her. And you gave her to me, to take under my wing. You hold the leash. You went too far. You should’ve never given me something to love. Monsters eat people, Liv. It’s what we do.

Huck put a bit of the blame for Quinn’s situation squarely on Liv’s shoulders, because Huck wasn’t in a place to be someone’s mentor. He only knows how to make more monsters. And I think we can all agree that Quinn has certainly become a bit of a monster. Huck really needed to lay into Liv, here. Because he has a point. You don’t hand Hannibal Lector some fava beans and Chianti – and then ask him to babysit. Huck is mostly restrained, but that doesn’t exactly make him a good example.

Which is why Quinn is now psychotic. Initially, I assumed that Quinn was simply playing Charlie/B613 as some kind of mole. It made sense. She could skillfully go where no one else could. But now she’s pulling a gun on Liv, who was simply trying to make amends and bring her home…because Quinn was staking out Eli/Rowan (Poppa Pope). And Liv spotted her, proving how not exactly stealthy Quinn is. But Crazypants is not even remotely open to consider returning to the OPA fold. It makes me wonder if there’s some kind of angle we’re missing here. Liv looks genuinely terrified of Quinn when she pulled on gun on her. Whatever is happening, I kind of want it to stop. For one thing, I don’t think it’s entirely believable that Quinn, after only a brief time under Huck’s monster wing, is now suddenly this amazing hacker. Just as one does not simply walk in Mordor, one does not simply wake up with killer hacking skills. Or so I’m told. Anyway, we’ll see how that all shakes down, but I would like a less crazy Quinn, please – although, mad love to Katie Lowes, because she pretty much kicks ass.

I want to come full circle back to the end scene with Liv and Fitz. For the majority of this scene, Liv chooses not to look Fitz in the eye. But when she finally does, after Fitz speaks to her softly and is the side of Fitz we all know and love, he whispers, “There you are.” And it’s this oddly touching reminder that really seeing a person matters. Not just being in the same room with them, not just hearing the words coming out of their mouth – but really listening to them. Maintaining a relationship is about two things: communication and intimacy. Not just sexual intimacy, but emotional intimacy. Without it, things wither. You have to be able to be vulnerable with the person you love, just like you have to speak your mind. And Liv, in this scene, does just that. She fights not only for their relationship, but for herself. Because there is no relationship without individuality. Someone cannot be your whole world, your whole you. And that scene beautifully illustrates how far Fitz and Liv have truly come. Because this relationship is no longer a fantasy. She’s not a prize to be won at a fair. This is real. And real relationships? They’re messy. Beautifully so.

Lastly, we have to talk about Tom. The secret service agent who has been, up until this moment, unfailingly loyal to Fitz. He was the one who warned him about the Oval Office cameras. He took a bullet. He’s been the man. Except he’s fucking B613, and I’m pretty sure that I’m not okay with that. I’m also not exactly okay with the Creeper cam in the Oval being used as relationship recon by Jake. Because spying on someone is never anything less than really freaking invasive and awkward. But doing so does real that Liv isn’t exactly sure if she doesn’t have feelings for Jake. Which means she does, because it’s never really that you don’t know if you do – it’s that you don’t know how deep they are. But that’s a soapbox for another day.

Rounding out the episode and the theme of reality versus fantasy, we find that Harrison’s criminal, nefarious, but altogether stunning ex-girlfriend (boss? Who knows. Not me.) is working with Liv’s mom. Basically, we’ve got two supervillains teamed up, doing hell knows what. But I’m certainly that we’ll find out sometime soon. Nothing in this show is ever quite how it initially seems. But one thing is for certain: dirty little secrets always come out.

Scandal: Revelation and Not Being Able to Hide

November 3, 2013 Leave a comment

 

Often, in life, we think we’re more clever than we actually are. We think that we’ve kept something hidden, only to find out – surprise! – we have all the stealthy skills of an epileptic water buffalo. That is to say…none. Personally speaking, I remember someone making an observation about me, once, that surprised me because of its accuracy. And, honestly, because that particular person was, generally, unobservant. If he saw it, then I REALLY wasn’t hiding it well.

The things we keep hidden, for good or not-so-good reasons, are tricky. Even if our intentions are pristine, things always come to light in one way or another. When that happens, we choose what comes next. We throw our lot in, one way or another. We disappear. We make a call. We cross lines. We find allies.

In this past Thursday’s Scandal (More Cattle, Less Bull), revelation runs rampant. Olivia has taken on Congresswoman Josephine Marcus, played by the lovely Lisa Kudrow. It turns that she had a child at 15, who she says was given up for adoption. Liv’s team flies out to the congresswoman’s hometown, only to learn that is a partial truth: Marcus’s mother raised the child as her sister…who also happens to have a large part in the congresswoman’s political life. And no idea that her sister is her mother. Oh, complications. They are plentiful.

Secretly, Huck and Jake are working together to uncover the information about an unknown mission that B613 (and, obviously, Poppa Pope) are desperate to keep secret. It was all kinds of fabulous to see these two bonding over covert opps and, interestingly enough, Liv. Huck at one point tells Jake that Liv should be happy, and that he can make her happy. Huck is, as always, worried about Liv – because of the president and all the difficulties that come with that, despite the fact that these two haven’t seen each other in a while.

In a moment of vulnerability, Liv and Jake have a conversation about Liv’s secret Fitz Phone, where she confesses that she keeps waiting for him to call, because she always vets his jokes for the White House Correspondents Dinner. At which point, we watch her chuck the phone into the trash. It seems like Jake might be able to turn Liv’s frown upside down, and yet Jake is no fool. Jake sees Liv for all her sly little secrets and sees through her façade. He never holds back and generally speaks his mind, which I find refreshing. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

David invites Abby to the dinner. She accepts, but then lies about being back in town on time. Understandably, David is hurt, and they have a fight. Only to reconcile later, when David realizes the truth – and Abby shows up at his apartment in a GORGEOUS dress. Abby’s abusive ex-husband (who is in politics, but I’m not quite sure we’ve ever learned in what capacity) was at the dinner. That is the real reason why Abby couldn’t go, even though she tried. She’d gotten dressed but couldn’t get out of the car. Abby’s tried to keep it to herself, because admitting something like that is hard. Sometimes, we try to keep that kind of secret as a defense mechanism. Because talking about it brings up the past, dredges up memories that never quite stop aching. And Abby’s ex was, by all accounts, a raging douchebag of the asshat parade. I assume we’ll get to meet him at some point. But this bit of revelation brings David and Abby closer together, because he gets it, and they’re able to talk it out.

Meanwhile, it comes out that the congresswoman had a child – she ended up confessing this on national television. She made the revelation with grace and aplomb, but it cost her. Her sister/daughter is not an idiot. She did the math, realized the truth, and stormed off. Which…is understandable, especially in the sense that it is not a country song, but real life. And someone you’ve loved your whole life has been lying to you. Your whole identify would be tossed on its head. In the aftermath, the congresswoman fires Liv, erroneously placing the blame for the situation on Liv’s shoulders. And that seems like it’s that.

Which brings us to the clandestine phone call between Liz and Fitz. Liv is alone in her office, presumably at night, and the phone in the trash begins to ring. And this happens:

Liv: You’re calling me.

Fitz: I’m calling you. I’m hiding from Mellie – in the bathroom.

Liv: I just dug the phone out of the trash.

The inflection during this conversation is almost as important as the words themselves. Repeatedly, during the episode, we hear Cyrus and Mellie talk about how Fitz looks…defeated. How he isn’t himself. Especially during a conversation with Leo Bergen, who Mellie and Cyrus want to hire for Fitz’s reelection campaign (and who flat-out turns them down, because of Fitz’s overall demeanor that portrays that of an already beaten man). We are to infer, again, that without Liv, Fitz is less. Because, let’s face it: some people make us better versions of ourselves. Some people make us braver and more awesome, because they help us to shine. Without Liv, Fitz has dulled like an old blade. An old blade will still cut, but it won’t be pretty. It won’t be as precise.

But Fitz on the phone with Liv? His face lights up. He’s relaxed. He’s himself. And he’s vulnerable, because he is able to talk about his fears and insecurities. He tells Liv things he hasn’t told Cy or Mellie. And Liv and Fitz both confess that they’re on the same page, emotionally, in the previously quote exchanged. Liv dug the phone out of the garbage. Fitz is hiding in the bathroom. They do what they can, when they can, to be there for each other. Liv confesses that she was fired. Fitz consoles her. He confesses his feelings about the dinner, and she rallies him. And makes him laugh. A real laugh. He is able to laugh at himself, with Liv’s help. That’s a pretty powerful thing.

Of course, the phone call is supposed to be a secret, but the secret has come out in its own way. In a brilliant bit of cinematography, we get a smidge of dramatic irony: Mellie hears Fitz’s conversation with Liv. She’s at the door. (Seriously, he couldn’t think to actually SHUT the door?) That was a beautifully done element, because it only serves to intensify a later scene. (We’ll get to it.)

Liv calls up Jake and asks him to take her to the dinner. Jake agrees, because he wants to make Liv happy, like Huck suggested. But he knows that Liv is only going there to see the president, and at the end of the evening, he confronts her about that, tells her that he’s done, and he won’t play second fiddle to anyone. Honestly, that made me kind of love him. Even as much as I root for Liv and Fitz, he had a damned good point. And I love that he calls Liv out on her bullshit, because he knows the truth: she seems so together, but she’s really not. Speaking of deceiving appearances, the vice president trying to snake Leo away in order for her run for president was deliciously devious and damned awesome. Sally Langston is tired of being a pawn, but she’s nowhere near able to be a queen. And Leo was basically, “Oh, honey no.” And I loved it.

Lastly, the scene between Mellie and Liv was the best thing about the episode. In a brilliant bit of deception, Tom (Fitz’s go-to guy) tricks Liv into meeting with not Fitz, but Mellie. Liv, dressed impeccably in black and white (symbolism ftw), and Mellie, dressed to draw eyes and attention beautifully, had a stunning exchange.

Mellie, in a heartbreaking turn, admits that without Liv, Fitz is less. He cannot win without her, and she asks Liv to come back and run his campaign. Because the congresswoman has just fired Liv, you can see her consider it. You can visually see that she’s persuaded by the honest appeal. And you begin, as a member of the audience, to imagine the Olitz of it all, if Liv returns to the White House to run Fitz’s campaign. The old gang back together again? They’d be unstoppable.

Which is, of course, why the next plot point happens. (Admittedly, I’m so not a fan of this particular storyline, because it feels woefully constructed and entirely too convenient.) The congresswoman wants to hire Liv back, and, to the absolute horror of Harrison, she turns it down. Because of the whole Fitz potential. Only to have Jake and Huck show up to explain that, hey, it is really possible that Fitz shot down the plane that Liv’s mother was on…resulting in her mother’s death. That plot point feels vaguely of shark-jumping shape, but I’m willing to see how it actually plays out. If it’s a temporary hurdle/misdirect, fine. If it turns that Fitz actually killed Liv’s mother, I think we’ve gone way past country song status and fallen into the Eternal Bog of WTF. (Obscure Labyrinth shout-out.)

Granted, Jake and Huck have Liv’s back. They’re looking out for her. And yet, this is the team up that gives me pause. It is awfully convenient that Jake just happens to befriend Huck, who Liv trusts implicitly, only to reveal that Fitz is response for Momma Pope’s demise (not her actual name – she never took Liv’s dad’s name). I mean, if Poppa Pop was looking to drive a giant wedge between Liv and Fitz (not the first time PP has done that – remember Edison’s mysterious car accident?), that would certainly do it. And I completely think that Eli/Rowan is capable of using that tragedy to his own strategic advantage.

Of course, as with all things, the actual truth with separate out from the lies, half-lies, and shadows. Poppa Pope is a clever, ruthless man. But even clever people run afoul of their own hubris at some point. His flaw is, perhaps, that he underestimates his own daughter. That he sees her for the easily manipulated, good little girl she perhaps once was. But Liv, though she carries that part of herself with, is not that girl anymore. I, for one, cannot wait until she Olivia Pope’s Poppa Pope. And I, of course, we bring the popcorn for that showdown.

“Demons run when a good man goes to war.”*

October 4, 2013 4 comments

We like to pretend that war is simple. Black and white. Good and bad. Two clearly opposing sides, without any carryover, any bleed. Sometimes, that’s true. Sometimes, a battle is easily discerned. But when there are no declarations, nothing written in stone or blood, there is another kind of fight – the one waged in secret. Carefully behind the scenes, like a game of chess that only one person is even aware of. To win that game, you must know your enemy. You most surprise your enemy.

 

And we are, all of us, fighting some kind of war. In last night’s episode of Scandal, everyone was fighting a battle. Some battles were old. Some were new. And some were a bomb, dropped from a clear sky, while someone else held their breath. The episode, interestingly titled, “It’s Handled,” (Olivia’s, for all intents and purposes, catchphrase) is not about handling a situation. It’s not about fixing a problem. Instead, I believe it’s about handling people. Managing them, in the various wars that our characters find themselves.

 

When Olivia is confronted and whisked away by her father, you no longer see Olivia Pope. You see Rowan’s daughter. You see her, initially, slip off the white hat and become less of herself, because she falls back (one can only assume) in their usual power dynamic. He shouts, and she listens. (Oh, the irony.) She caves in. She gets on that plane. She wears the gift of her father’s disappointment like a bad haircut. Head bowed. Then, she talks to Cyrus — the political monster. He utters a brilliant line and brings her back to herself. “I may be a monster. But honey? I’m your monster.”

In that moment, Cyrus chooses Olivia’s side. And then Olivia chooses her own side, not content to run away and hide. Because we all know that Liv doesn’t hide. She goes to war. She gladiates. And Poppa Pope has kind of meltdown, and it is clear that while he is trying to protect her, they are one two opposing sides.

Meanwhile, Olivia’s clients are fleeing in droves, because no one is more fickle than a political in Washington, when someone is thrown to the wolves. Liv, who protects and rescues people on their worst days, is pretty much abandoned by the very clientele she has struck her neck out for, routinely. Who is left to go to bat for Liv? Liv. Her team. Cyrus. (In his way. We’ll get to the kill file in a minute.) Fitz. (We’ll get to that bomb. YES, WE WILL.)

Liv does a thing. She pulls an emergency bat signal and ends up in a bunker, with Fitz. (Hi. –Hi. Annnnd, I’m DEAD.)  Fitz’s face throughout that whole scene was naked and vulnerable. And then Mellile shows up, at Liv’s invitation, calls Liv a whore — which doesn’t sit well with Liv. She tells Mellie that in order to fix things, she might need to stifle herself slightly, at least in Liv’s presence.

But here’s the trouble: Mellie doesn’t want to admit that her husband is in love with another woman. An affair is one thing. But these two, Fitz and Liv, can’t stay away from each other. They broke up, reunited, broke up and reunited — in a way that only speaks for love. Not just sex. Sure, that was part of the equation. But Mellie isn’t willing to admit that her husband loves someone else. So, in order to “fix” things, Fitz and Mellie agree to give a press conference about how he had an affair with Olivia, which she—sacrificing herself, like a Roman on his sword—consents to. A narrative is crafted, out of half truths, one that one paint Liv as a whore, Mellie as a saint, and Fitz as nothing more than a man who has committed ill-timed indiscretions. Which is not the same animal as a relationship.

 

The Gladiators, obviously, have Olivia’s back. But they are also, honestly, a bit on the outside. They are scrambling to figure out how to help her. Liv’s name is out there in the worst, you-can’t-avoid-it, just-as-bad-as-a-blue-dress way. Scrambling to figure out what to do, they eventually reach out to Cyrus, who gives his best, “Bitch please — I don’t know you. Goodbye.” Until, of course, Cyrus needs their help. After Mellie struck a deal with Liv and Fitz, she runs straight to Cyrus with a HELL NO, and tells him that she and him have to fix things — they need someone else to blame. The Gladiators give Cyrus a target, someone who works in the White House. Thus, Cyrus puts aside his kill folder, which he couldn’t stomach. You want to know why Cyrus had that put together? He had no intention of using it. It was merely to keep up appearances. If anyone else but Liv had been The Other Woman, making a kill file would’ve been his first move. He had to keep up appearances, not show favouritism, and buy himself a little time in order to figure out what to do. It was a show, a brilliant show, so that Cyrus could figure out how to handle the situation and all the players involved.

You see, this episode was all about appearances, about navigating. You have to navigate your allegiances in order to win a war. And everyone is fighting for something. Mellie is fighting to keep her position, her status, her prestige. She is clinging to the illusion. Cyrus is fighting for Fitz, but he is also fighting for Liv. He was her mentor. He is her friend. He is torn by both sides of the battle. By placing the blame elsewhere, sure it looks like he’s throwing his lot in with Mellie, but, really, he’s just doing his best to protect those he loves.

Then, of course, Liv is furious with her team for leaking the name of an innocent woman. And, good lord, if all of us could get into trouble for calling someone hot? I’d be in every single headline, ever. (Because, Tony Goldwyn, you’re hot. And I am pretty sure I’d be utterly shameless telling you that to your face. But I digress…)

But that’s not the best bombshell. In the last few minutes, the audience learns a thing. Fitz has been deliberately playing Mellie. He has, after Liv and him broke up, crafted a plan. He pretended to go to Mellie for comfort, when it was nothing more than a show. It comes out that it was all a clever show, because when he choose Olivia last season, he really meant it. And it was FITZ who leaked Liv’s name to the press, to get things out on the open, to try and navigate the situation as best he could, by putting the truth out there. And Mellie realized it. Mellie found herself in the role of pawn, instead of queen, and basically said hell no.

But for Fitz? The gloves are off. He finally reveals his hand — that he has been navigating his allegiances, choosing Liv — fighting for Liv. If Fitz isn’t a Scorpio (who can, very patiently, wait and wage a quiet war — when a Scorpio goes to battle, he’ll walk into a fire without so much as a sigh, stand in front of a bullet, and dance in the middle of a hurricane), I’ll eat my hat. My non-white, many shades of grey hat. Fitz threw down a gauntlet. He is done with Mellie and her shit. In that moment, a new war was revealed, one with clearer sides than how to fix the Affair Situation. It is a war that has been going on since Fitz fell in love with Olivia. It has morphed and changed shape over time, but when Fitz sat with Liv and watched the clock run out on his marriage? There was no going back from that. Fitz has an endgame. And that’s Liv.

 

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. But woe to the idiot who stands in the way of a love like that.

*title is a line from Doctor Who.

corruption of the facts: a snake in the garden

March 30, 2013 1 comment

Sometime, we lose perspective. It happens to everyone. We get so caught up in a moment, or in blaming someone else, that we lose sight of the situation at hand. That can be a very dark place to be in, one where we often do not make the right decisions. Because it’s hard to make the right choices with your eyes closed.

There are moments in life where you put our faith and our trust in the wrong things and the wrong people. Then, it all comes crashing down through some revelation grand or otherwise, and it sets the world on edge. Trust, when it’s repeatedly shattered, is difficult to repair. Because of the past history and the fear that goes along with it. Take Hollis Doyle in Thursday’s Scandal (A Snake in the Garden). Hollis’s daughter has been kidnapped. Apparently, she’s every terrible person you’ve ever met, with a drug addiction, horrid taste in men, and a huge attitude problem. Hollis brings the case to Olivia, only to protest that he doesn’t think she’s really been kidnapped – and he won’t pay one sent of her random. One severed ear later, Hollis recants, the random is paid, and the daughter is recovered. A few scenes later, it’s revealed that Hollis was right. His daughter staged the entire thing. Huck and company reacquire her, and Hollis gives her a choice: she can come home and start fresh OR she can take the money. In a moment that crushes her mother, and Hollis (who showed some real emotion), his daughter takes the money.

But who, then, is the snake in the garden? It isn’t Hollis. It isn’t the director of the CIA, who realizes Olivia is having him followed – only to later be found dead, shot to death in his car. It’s reported as a suicide, but a quick scene between Jake and an unidentified man (I feel like we’ve seen him before — in one of the war room meetings) reveals that it was not a suicide. So, Osbourne was not the mole. Which makes me wonder if the mole is Jake, whose got a suddenly convincing pair of crazy eyes in several scene (the male version of Overly Clingy Girlfriend).

The snake in the garden could very well be Jake. She tries to cancel their date, even after she’s put on fabulous black shoes and a white dress. After a brief phone call to Cyrus, by the time Jake arrives, Liv’s wearing a different kind of armor: sweatpants. Fancy sweatpants, but sweatpants nonetheless. He takes one look at her, and sees through it, because he knows more than he’s letting on. Olivia, in a moment of vulnerability, tells Jake a version of the truth: that she was in a relationship, but she’s not over it. And hot damn, if you cannot relate to what she just said, please check your heart for its functionality. Because she talks about a very specific kind of emotional haunting, when that person has seeped into every corner of your heart, leaving you to look for a ghost that is (and isn’t) there. To bastardize Neil Gaiman’s brilliance, love takes hostages and eviscerates almost casually.

He confesses that she doesn’t know anything about him – but that she’s sad and he could be her fresh start. The idea of a fresh start, a clean slate, is appealing. Who hasn’t wanted a do-over? A reset button? A way to rip out the feelings that you’re feeling, the kind that haunt you when waking and asleep, and start anew? Everyone has wanted that. Except it’s kind of the coward’s way out, because you can’t unlove a person. You don’t stop loving someone when they start making wrong choices, or because he/she is acting like a bit of an asshole. (I’m looking at you, Fitz. And yes, that’s me understating the situation, scotch-fiend.) What Jakes proposes is great in theory. But in practice, it’s a huge pile of crap. A kiss can make a person stop thinking. It can steal a person’s good sense, chuck everything else out the window, and rearrange the breath in your lungs. But a kiss, if not accompanied by a true and solid interest, is merely a wonderful distraction. Jake is, obviously, keeping things from Olivia – while spying on her. But I wonder about the man he met in the park. Who is it, truly, that Jake is answering to – and what is his angle? Mad love to Scott Foley for being wonderful in this role. He’s playing both sides to the middle, whispering in everyone’s ear. He’s keeping secrets when it suits him, telling half-truths, and using every available playing piece on the board. Jake has a nice guy charm, and I nearly forget that something is a bit off about him – until he sneaks in a wide-eyed, I might be crazy moment.

For Fitz, there are too many damn snakes in his horribly overrun garden. He’s trusting Jake, who clearly is keeping things from him. He is still keeping Cyrus at bay, although I think Cy made some headway this week, with a well-done speech to Fitz about mistakes – and how we all make them. But Fitz is all scotch, all the time. And it takes an extremely amazing speech from Mellie to make him snap out of it.

Because she acknowledges that Fitz has been absolutely devastated by Liv, simply because she’s human. She’s flawed. And he cannot handle it. To cope, we’ve seen him with a drink in his hand more often than not. Nothing has cracked that booze-soaked armor, until Mellie confesses that his kids do not want to see him, because he’s gotten mean. This is Fitz drunk in the elevator times three thousand. Mellie takes in a little far, comparing him to his asshole of a father, and this cuts Fitz to the quick. Fitz may be many things, but he has always been a good day. But he’s been so wrecked that he’s turned into someone else, someone he’s been resisting being his entire life. There’s a poignant shot of Fitz leaving the glass of scotch on the table and walking away. We can hope that’s one less snake in Fitz’s crazy ass garden.

However, I will say this: as RIGHT as hell as Mellie was, we cannot forget that when it suited her, she was the one supplying him with the scotch. In the morning. IN THE SHOWER. If it was affecting their kids for so long, she sure as hell took her damn time to tell him. Perhaps that allowed her to be the favorite parent for a while. Perhaps she relished the idea of being the one Karen and Jerry run to. I think that there’s at least a part of her who enjoyed being their safe place. But I have to admit, I CHEERED when she took Fitz to task. Because she championed the one thing (his kids) that might turn him around, turn him back into himself, instead of the person who keeps punishing everyone around him. Everyone who loves him. Everyone who is, for whatever reason, on his side.

“[Olivia] is just a person, like everybody else.” That line, right there. We are all just people. We fall in love. We make mistakes. Hopefully, we don’t pull a Van Gogh and slice off our own ears. But we are all flawed, all human. We lose sight of who we are, sometimes. We lash out at those we love. We heap silence upon silence, as punishment for things that might not need punishing. And we often drown our sorrows in alcohol, using it as a crutch – when that’s only a temporary solution to a problem. Crutches break. People fall right off pedestals. When that happens, so many things shatter. We are all capable of hurting those we love, simply by doing the wrong thing. But that action doesn’t negate love. It doesn’t turn us into a monster. It reveals our vulnerable humanity.

You cannot love an illusion. You cannot worship the idea of a person. Who hasn’t made a mistake in a relationship? Who is polished and without rough edges? Who hasn’t hidden things, or lied, or been decimated by a truth?

Good love – and a good relationship – is messy. It’s rare and raw. It’s honest. It’s talking. It’s showing up with popcorn and a bottle of wine. It’s telling the difficult truths, because they need to be said. It’s about forgiving and forgiveness, even and especially forgiving ourselves. Without these things, we become less. We lose sight of ourselves. When that happens, things slip into the garden under the radar, unseen. We make huge mistakes. Because without proper perspective, we maneuver like angry, blind bulls in this damned china shop of life. You can’t tell who to trust, who to forgive, who to believe, or what your lack of love is doing to yourself – and those around you. That is a great tragedy: when we get so wrapped up in ourselves, and our own heads, that we forget that our actions have consequences. That things are not quite what they seem. That trust is earned, not granted like a wish.

“No, the serpent did not
Seduce Eve to the apple.
All that’s simply
Corruption of the facts” ~Theology, by Ted Hughes

when you cannot even trust yourself

February 23, 2013 8 comments

Who do you trust, when you shouldn’t trust anyone? Better yet, who do trust when you can’t trust yourself?

When the foundation of your world is shaken – you lose your job, your identity, or the love of your life – it changes a person. Essentially, you feel alone. Suddenly, you don’t know what’s right, anymore. Up looks like down, and down is sideways. It is a dangerous thing, when you cannot trust yourself, because you are hurting, and betrayed, and feeling off-kilter. In Thursday’s Scandal (Boom Goes the Dynamite), everyone is unsure of who to trust, and because of that, possibly trusting the wrong people.

Huck is suffering from the aftereffects of his waterboarding. It is revealed that his trauma has left him unable to shower in the rain. Quinn confronts him about the fact that he smells, and it’s revealed that he’s been having panic attacks. He assures her that he’ll be fine — after the rain stops. And who, in that moment, didn’t want to hug him? Huck can’t trust himself not to freak out, so he avoids the situation – the shower – that would trigger it. Damaged as he is, that is a sound logic.

We come to discover that a panicked David Rosen is relying heavily on Olivia Pope and Associates. He has no one else. They uncover a mole in the CIA, possibly something/someone called Albatross, and a random friend of Wendy’s appears to assure David that she knows he didn’t her. (Not entirely sure I trust random, crazy-eyed lady. But we’ll see.) Fitz is relying on Jake to monitor (STALK) Olivia, claiming that she is not what she seems. Jake and Fitz clearly have a personal relationship, initially talking and drinking like two old friend do. This is the man who took surveillance photos of Olivia and Edison. The trouble is that Jake seems to be inexplicably drawn to Liv. Liv, despite her best efforts and protestations, appears to be warming up to him. This is a serious breach of trust on all fronts. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

In the White House, we find that Fitz is still behaving like a directionless moron, taking Mellie’s advice – which we come to find out is not actually her advice at all. She’s been using Cyrus as an idea farm, pleading with him about not knowing how to handle Fitz, only to take Cyrus’s idea and pass them off as her own. Mellie is shred as hell, but a political animal is no match for a political monster. Cyrus takes Olivia’s advice and lets Mellie figurative hang herself, because she a) has no idea how to really HANDLE Fitz, b) always oversteps boundaries and her duties, and c) has all the political savvy of a parking meter. In one deft scene, Fitz finds out Mellie went behind his back, breached his trust (tenuous as it may be), and fumbled the political ball with ardent fervor. Mellie realized that Cyrus knows what she’s been doing, and that he hand a hand in her own undoing. But it’s too late. Fitz gives her a “That will be all” brush off (BOOM). From here on out, we expect that Fitz will again rely on Cyrus, and hopefully, equilibrium is not far behind. 

Additionally, a well-established political family, the Caldwells, hires OPA to get one of them elected Governor; rumor has it that Will is gay, so Olivia is tasked to arrange a political marriage. Conveniently, and probably not accidental on Fitz’s part, the President is the keynote speaker at a Caldwell fundraiser, which had Olivia in attendance. While the two of them did not cross paths, Fitz’s face crumbled when he spied her on the phone with Jake, smiling and blushing (BOOM). Jealousy contorted his features into a shocking picture of disbelief. Fitz is the epitome of horrible, insane jealousy. He may say that he doesn’t want her. He may say that her actions were unforgivable, but he’s only letting her go in name – not in reality. He needs to know what she’s doing, and how she is, despite their strange separation. He claims not to want her, and yet…he’s doing the Presidential version of driving by your ex’s house at 3am, hoping to glimpse a silhouette. Honestly, the video surveillance is creeptastic and not cool at all. And yet, as Fitz mentioned, he didn’t count on the isolation of the White House and his position. In the past ten months, his whole world fell down around him, he’s drinking in the shower, and he’s separated – by his choice – from the love of his life. These kind of soul-shaking tragedies make people stupid. He has a hell of a lot of power and authority. Jealousy does not mix well with that kind of thing. I can’t imagine what Liv is going to do when she finds out what he’s done – and that Jake has been watching her.

During the fundraiser, something interesting comes to light. The would-be governor is not, in fact, gay – he’s having an affair with his brother’s wife. They are in love, and Olivia stumbles across them kissing in a rose garden, not unlike her and Fitz’s special spot. (Hi, symbolism. Thanks for beating us over the head.) Furiously, Liv unleashes a tirade at him, one that unmistakably applies/parallels her relationship to Fitz.

BOOM. You have nothing. And it’s achingly, horribly true in that moment. Liv sees herself in this, and she was the statue – willing to wait for something that may never have materialized. She put her life on hold for a man she loved, and it blew up in her face. In that moment, Liv is bitter. She is angry. She is mad at herself.

Incidentally, the last interesting piece of this episode was a second meeting between Jake and Fitz, after the fundraiser. Fitz, seething like the green eye’d monster, wants to know who the guy is. He saw Liv on the phone. He knows that look. And he’s way past ticking; the time bomb in a teddy bear is in pieces.

Jake lies to Fitz, claiming that there is no guy, because HE is the guy. And it would a serious breach is security etiquette to reveal that he’s trying to woo his target. Jake, for all intents and purposes, is not a bad guy. He’s doing a job. Who hasn’t accidentally fallen in love (or infatuation) with someone they work with? Yes, the circumstances are messed up, and I am by no means Team Jake/Liv – but I like Jake. He’s got a heart. He turns off the cameras when Liv gets undressed. He’s not a creepy stalker asshole looking to get cheap thrills. Needless to say, Fitz is abusing his power, because he can’t control his erections or his heart. It’s wrong. It’s bad. It’s fifty different kinds of fucked and ridiculous. But it’s not a boiled bunny. Not yet, at least. But this is, unquestionably, CRAZYPANTS.

Trust is a funny thing. Liv broke Fitz’s trust with Defiance. Now, Fitz is breaking hers with this whole stalker by proxy thing. I wonder how this will explode, and it will explode. They’ll either forgive each other the stupid wrongs they’ve rendered – or they will continue to widen the physical chasm between themselves. This, folks, is what happens when you have a failure to communicate. You get stupid. This is what happens when you don’t know who you should trust, and you can’t trust yourself. You get crazy. Most people have enough common sense not to semi-stalk their exs. But when you’re having the worst time of your life, you have no one to learn on, your wife is Lady Macbeth and Iago rolled into one, and you’re in charge of running a country (hello, stress!) – normal goes out the window. Personally, someone or something needs to slap some sense into Fitz. Because he doesn’t have any. And neither does Liv, because she agreed to a second date with a guy who’s watching her, and her gut hasn’t whispered a hint of danger. Cyrus was foolishly trusting Mellie to return him to Fitz’s good graces, until he had proof that she was full-on Machiavelli-ing him.

Nothing is what it seems. No one is what they seem. There are good intentions and malicious ones. The reasons are there, clearly marked. But the end does not always justify the means. The episode is titled boom goes the dynamite, but I can’t even begin to imagine the aftershocks of all the various explosions. The truth remains that when you cannot trust yourself, all bets are off. And everything is a lit match held in front of a fuse.

what’s done is NOT done: whiskey, tango, foxtrot

February 16, 2013 10 comments

Trust is a fragile thing. It is something that people must earn, must continue to earn – and, once lost, it’s not a thing easily gained back. We surround ourselves with people that we trust, trusting them to various degrees. And yet, what happens when one person breaks that trust? Then, another. And then, finally another. It’s not one, singular pain. It’s total devastation. In relationships, we take people for who they are, see them as they are, and gauge our levels of trust accordingly. This is the danger, I suppose, to putting someone up on a pedestal. Eventually, inevitably, that person is made to fall. That is a hard thing to recover from.

On Thursday’s Scandal (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot), Fitz is reeling. He has lost his grip on himself, on his identity, on his confidence. He’s drinking in the shower in the morning. He doesn’t even react, not really, to the ardent affections of his wife, Mellie. He just wanted whiskey. She wants to give him a blowjob, and he keeps DRINKING, until Cyrus interrupts. Basically, Fitz is every person who has suffered a soul-shattering betrayal. Where getting out of bed is a challenge and regaining perspective seems impossible. Fitz doesn’t get the luxury of spending a month in bed, eating Hagen Daaz and watching bad TV. He’s got a country to run. And we find that he’s seriously off his game. He’s frozen Cyrus out, because he knows the truth about the election. Cyrus, foolishly, turns to Mellie for help – thinking that they are still some kind of bastardized team. And she, only after her own gain ALWAYS, throws Cyrus under the bus, blaming him for the election rigging. “He made us do it.” The Fitz we knew before? He would’ve called bullshit on that. He would’ve recognized Mellie for what and who she is, and known that she was manipulating him. Instead, he asks for her advice on a mission. Then, he follows it, effectively shoving Cy farther into Presidential Siberia (again, brilliantly scripting with the repetition of “Did you need something?”). Listening to Mellie, whose political savvy is lacking, is a terrible decision, and the mission in question is a spectacular failure.

Olivia, on the other hand, is just as broken as Fitz. She is so off of her game that she can’t read people. She may not fall apart in the same way that Fitz does, but she is just as devastated. Approached in a coffee shop by Jake (played by the delightful Scott Foely), he hits on her and she is visibly flattered, unable to see it for what it is: some kind of surveillance. Why? We don’t know. But that was way too coincidental, way too much of a meet-cute to be actual accident. Of course, we discover at the end of the episode that he has cameras all over her apartment AND at OPA. (My first question is when did that happen? And why didn’t Huck notice? You’d think he would be on top of that.) I wonder if Edison has something to do with it. Regardless, Jake ties into Olivia’s current case – which is that someone set poor David Rosen up for murder, killing a woman in his bed. The woman in question is Wendy, a “story-whore,” who made her living by stealing and selling secrets. In turns out that she was in communication with Jake, who works in Intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After ten months (presumably) of not seeing each other, Fitz and Liv are reunited for Ella (Cyrus and James’s ADORABLE daughter) christening. They are godparents. Fitz and Olivia both look entirely stricken when seeing each other for the first time, even more so when they’re hands brush against each other during the ceremony. Afterwards, at the White House, Olivia goes to leave and Fitz follows her, consumed by a whirlwind of powerful emotion. Pulling her into an electrical closet, without a word, they sleep together. Contrasting that scene to the one with Fitz and Mellie in the shower, and you can see the difference between a convenient relationship and one that’s rife with passion. Fitz feels hurt and betrayed, but that doesn’t diminish his feelings of love for Olivia. You can still love someone and hate something they’ve done. That’s what love is, sometimes: forgiveness.

Truthfully, after they’re emotionally charged tryst, Fitz claims that he may not be able to control his erections around her, but that doesn’t mean that he wants her to wait for him. Why bring that up, in that moment? Because when all is said and done, he doesn’t really want to lose her. He is actively trying to wound her, because he’s hurt. And we all lash out at those we love the most, when we are that level of emotional decimation. She tries to apologize for Defiance, and he calls it a betrayal – not a mistake. That is why Fitz is hurting so much, that is why he can’t see or think straight. He feels like the one person who believed in him without exception did not actually believe in him. To borrow an analogy from the show, he found out that there is no Santa Claus, when he thought HE was Santa.

But you know what’s important about that scene? They had a conversation. It may have been short, but they got things out in the open. Each knows where the other stands, and both are clearly miserable with the way that things are. Fitz says one thing, but his actions say something entirely different. He could’ve let Liv leave the party without a word. He didn’t just follow her out of lust. They haven’t spoken, and we all know that when that happens, Fitz turns into a time bomb stuffed into a teddy bear. Tick. Tick. Tick. Liv, time and again, is the only thing that can defuse him. (Okay, that sounded LESS dirty in my head. Moving on…)

After his rendezvous with Liv, we find Fitz and Mellie in the shower together again. This scene is completely awkward, because here are two people who are so disconnected from each other. There’s no love. There’s no passion. She always manages to not see Fitz. She manages to ignore the emotions clearly written on his face, bumbling through “handling” him without paying attention to him. Fitz has a spaz fit, because he doesn’t want to intimate with Mellie. They share the most dispassionate kiss I’ve ever seen (again, WHISKEY!). The entire scene made me uncomfortable, because of the complete lack of emotional connection. Right there, that’s every passionless relationship ever created. That’s Mellie, trying to take advantage of Fitz, by attempting to keep him under her thumb when he’s so clearly vulnerable. Mellie is exploiting that for her own personal gain. In her mind, if she controls Fitz (and he foolishly IS listening to her), she controls the country. That is a scary thought.

We take out our pain on those we are closet to, because we expect them not to run when we’re ugly. We expect them not to turn from us when we’re at our worst, our weakest – when all we see when we look in the mirror is a monster, a failure, a fraud, a person undeserving. When we are as vulnerable as Fitz is, we lean on those we love. But for Fitz, the love of his life has sent him reeling. He’s grappling and grasping, drinking and disassociating – without actually dealing. His pattern is that he drinks when he’s miserable. This is the worst we’ve ever seen him, even considering the time his father spent of his campaign.

It takes time to earn back trust. To build up a willingness to try. The fact remains that without Olivia, Fitz is a weaker person. His gut is off. His instincts are frayed. He’s a lesser version of himself. For Olivia, it is the same. She’s tried to fill the void by keeping busy, by hurling herself into exercise and work. But that only takes the edge off. It does not negate the problem, the heartache, the hole that is doing the foxtrot in her life. Neither is whole without the other. Regardless of the particulars of the situation, they are less when they are apart. This separation is destroying them both, and while Fitz may protest that they are done, one look at those two – one look between those two – proves that could not be further from the truth. And, like dirty little secrets, the truth always comes out.

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Who Are You, and What Do You Want: Things We Do for Love

January 18, 2013 1 comment

Who are you, what do you want?

Those are two very basic questions. And yet, often times, people can’t answer them. Think about a person who makes you feel small. Think about being afraid to show who you really are. Think about holding back and holding in for the sake of an image or idea.

Then answer me this: if you aren’t true to yourself, how can you know – or go after – what you want? You can’t. Not really. You’re too busy living a lie, filling a role, playing a part, wearing a mask. You’re too busy hiding yourself from, perhaps, yourself. In last night’s Scandal (A Criminal, a Whore, an Idiot, and a Liar), there were questions and secrets, revelations and facades, and revealed motives.

In a flashback, we met Fitz’s domineering, demanding bastard of a father (called in to help, during his campaign for President). As soon as he entered the scene, Fitz literally shrank in stature, stopped making eye contact, and put a wall so spectacular that you could probably see it from space. He, interestingly, fell into his cups – which appears to be a habit whenever he is abjectly miserable. Everyone seems to be kissing Jerry Grant’s ass, except Olivia, who also seems to be the only person who sees Fitz basically internally flailing. Of course, when his anger turned inward finally spurts out, it’s misdirected at campaign workers and Liv calls him out on his bullshit. I know you, because you let me know you. Then, later, Show them who you are.

Such a simple statement. But it is the best advice. You cannot win a heart, or the heart of a nation, if you don’t show yourself. If you aren’t honest and even vulnerable. If you are false, eventually people catch on. Some quicker than others. Which brings us to a question: who is Liv? In this flashback, we see her FINALLY – after a wonderful, wrenching scene with Cyrus, in which Jeff Perry is fucking brilliant, invading her personal space and generally being mad persuasive – consent to rig the election for Fitz. And we finally discover why she did it. The others, their gains were readily ascertained. But Liv? Liv did it for Fitz. Liv did it for love. Liv got her hands dirty, compromising herself, so that Fitz benefited. It was selfless. This, interestingly, is in contrast to present day Mellie, who forged Fitz’s signature, which forced him to leave the hospital and put his health in danger in order to keep her out of jail.

Show them who you are.

We are, I think, what we do for love. The parts we surrender, the parts we offer up. Love isn’t fact-based. For instance, Liv’s boyfriend Edison Davis can explain what her moods mean, if she’s angry, she’s hiding something. She, perfectly, refuses to answer her questions. She has walls. She has secrets. He knows her, but he doesn’t know her. That is a major, inexplicable difference. He can’t get under her skin enough to make her reveal herself, not really. In fact, Edison only manages to provoke Liv – which really made their last scene together kind of…suspect. He PROPOSED. They broke, and he proposed. It seemed a little odd to me, and then I remembered: they were engaged once before. Is this a pattern? When she’s about to walk, does he just randomly pop the question? And Edison, really – if she won’t the name of her last serious ex-boyfriend, she doesn’t trust you. And if she doesn’t trust you, that isn’t exactly something to build a marriage on. That’s quicksand.

Speaking of trust – or a blatant lack thereof – throughout the course of the episode, Mellie is simply pleased as hell that everything is going according to plan. Everything is coming up roses. Sally eventually resigns as acting president. Cyrus moves back into his office. And the status quo is returned to normal. Except it isn’t. Because Fitz is different. Fitz isn’t normal. Fitz, as Liv pointed out, nearly died. This tends to change a person, because it puts into perspective what really matters – and who really matters. Life is short. Too short to be spent in the pursuit of things that do not matter, standing beside people who don’t completely, totally, and madly love. In the last episode, we saw that Fitz immediately wanted to talk to Liv when he woke up, not Mellie. Liv. At the close of this episode, poor injured Fitz is in bed. He looks terrible. Exhausted. Emotionally wrung out. He’s put his health of the line to save Mellie. And she’s sitting there, chattering like a magpie of ridiculously superficial importance. She is talking, but she doesn’t see him at all. It’s like he could be anyone. There is no kindness or tenderness there. He’s a prop. A well-placed political prop. He nearly died, and Liv showed him more sweetness and concern in a single kiss than Mellie did throughout the whole episode. She doesn’t ask him how he’s doing, how he’s falling. She’s talking at him, not to him. She doesn’t see him at all.

And, almost foolishly, she asks him: if you could have anything, what would it be? And Fitz, without missing a beat and with all head injury-induced word drama, says a divorce. BAM.

Who are you, and what do you want? Answer those questions honestly, and it reveals exactly where your heart lies. Because who you are, and what you do for love, is what matters the most. And Fitz, have been through a traumatic event, finally can stop being the image of what people want and expect. He can stop playing a role, face deep in Scotch, and be true to himself. Because, President or no, life is too short for it to spent in a cage, even one as pretty as the oval office.