After a season premiere that saw an assassination and cabin explosion, “Hardball” feels like Scandal getting back into the groove. This episode is full of classic Scandal moves––the gladiators pull off a heist, Olivia manipulates someone she claims to care about, Jake tortures someone––but the urgency of last week’s episode is lost. The gang is still desperate to prove Cyrus is guilty, but that plot has to share space with odd Mellie/Marcus flashbacks and the clumsy introduction of Fitz’s next love interest. Scandal wouldn’t be Scandal without romance, but the focus on Mellie and Marcus undermines the entire battle they’re trying to set up between Cyrus and Mellie.

Because, well, with every episode it just becomes more and more clear that Mellie shouldn’t be the president. Mellie spent eight years complaining about the lack of privacy and abandonment she felt as First Lady, but somehow she doesn’t think she’d experience that as president? Mellie is one of the few likable characters left on Scandal, but at this point, I’m rooting for her and Marcus to move to an island with waterfalls made of moonshine and a 24/7 fried chicken shack. The second it became clear that Marcus and Mellie had to break up, it was obvious that Olivia was behind it since she immediately throws Marcus under the bus when Mellie makes her feelings for him clear.

It’s always great when the show reminds us that Olivia has lost her white hat. The betrayal also works to prove Abby and Fitz’s claim that Olivia would do anything to get back into the White House, which is necessary since Mellie clearly isn’t sure she wants the position. Even her final twirl in the Oval Office at the end of the episode isn’t convincing, but Olivia’s smile after she shows Fitz her evidence against Cyrus definitely is. It would almost feel good to see Olivia back in the position of master manipulator if her aims were more clear. But, at the moment, the script requires Olivia to work in this gray area between villain and hero. If we knew Olivia was working to get someone like Susan Ross in the White House, it would at least feel like she was on the good guy’s side. Instead, she’s just forcing someone to become president so she can rub it in Fitz’s face. Or…so she can be in charge? Or so she can get Fitz back? I’m not exactly sure what Olivia wants, actually.

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Because, well, it’s clear that Fitz and Olivia aren’t done with each other. I’m sorry, FBI Director Angela Webster, but Fitz’s interest in you is as fake as Olivia’s during that incredibly awkward dinner. Olivia and Angela’s dinner scene was so awkwardly done that it only brought increased attention to the fact that Olivia hardly ever interacts with black people outside of her immediate family. On top of that, she rarely interacts with other black women. This makes some sense––she’s a busy person who doesn’t have a lot of friends. But, still, the show tries to show how important the moment between Angela and Olivia is by having them connect over the shared discrimination they face as black women in power. Then the conversation takes a weird turn to Fitz and, in the end, they end up in a weird, passive aggressive fight over him. Over Fitz. These two powerful, beautiful black women are being petty over Fitz. It would’ve been a great scene if it had happened because Olivia had an earnest desire to team up with Angela, but it’s all a ploy for the gladiators to sneak into the FBI.

Yes, apparently, you can just ask someone to bring up a big ol’ box of evidence surrounding a presidential assassination and they’ll just do that. No questions asked. I’m fine with that because it gets the episode back on track. Video evidence is found that points a pretty damning finger at Cyrus and the investigation is re-opened. Even though we knew the entire time Cyrus was probably guilty and Jake was torturing an innocent man into confessing. Despite the flashbacks and reveals, “Hardball” leaves us where we started––Cyrus might be guilty and Mellie might want to be president.

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Stray Observations

  • The talk between Cyrus and Mellie felt pointless. What did Fitz think that would accomplish?
  • Seriously, I can’t believe we finally get some black girl bonding time and it’s literally all a lie.
  • I don’t like Marcus and Mellie together, but I do like seeing Mellie act like a teenager with a crush.
  • David Rosen admitting that they coerced a confession felt good. You’re still a good guy, Rosen!
  • I absolutely do not care if Quinn and Charlie get married. I guess it would be good so they can never testify against each other.
  • I can’t wait until we see what Jake has been up to all this time. You know he’s plotting something with Papa Pope.
  • It’s odd that Olivia didn’t bring up race when she was telling Mellie she couldn’t be with Marcus. But, after last week’s “150 million people voted for Vargas” I’ve accepted that this is an alternate reality where black women face racist microaggressions, but a black man sleeping with the ex-First Lady wouldn’t be a problem.
  • It seems weird that Fitz was so dismissive of the cabin that EXPLODED and the witness who DIED, but, hey, Fitz is a horrible president.

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