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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Scandal engages in “Dog-Whistle Politics” to save Olivia

Illustration for article titled Scandal engages in “Dog-Whistle Politics” to save Olivia
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If you’re Olivia Pope, you have spent your entire life working toward one thing. Your father sends you to an elite boarding school, and even as early as college you say that you want to work at the White House, to have an impact. You believe your mother is dead, you know your father is distant, but you spend your life changing and fixing the things you can. Then you bump up against something you can’t fix: You fall in love with the married leader of the free world.

Sometimes I think that Olivia’s love for Fitz just means that she’s too good at her job: She created the perfect, lovable candidate, as vintage Cyrus footage points out in this episode, so how could she help but fall for her own creation?

Which leads us to where we are now, as Scandal slowly unfolds the Olivia and Fitz relationship into the public. This week is framed by an hour-long in-depth special on Olivia, not unlike one that would undoubtedly pop up in real life.

As Olivia goes from being stuck in the Oval Office (last week) to stuck in her apartment (this week), at least some positive things happen outside her door. Actually, there’s a lot of good news/bad news. We kick off the episode with the now-immediately cringe-inducing Eli, who extrapolates to Jake how free he is and that he can’t be kept in a cage while he is in a cage and yes, we all view the irony. Fortunately for us all, it’s his only appearance, but it does lead Jake to France with Charlie on some trumped-up forgery plot. But then: We meet Jake’s ex-wife, a beautiful spy! And they hook up! Jake gets to be more than Olivia’s lapdog for once.

Good/bad: Sorry to say, we hear the term “gladiator” again. We even hear it as a verb (“gladiate”?). Quinn pitches Marcus—in a direct switch from the show’s very first episode, when Harrison pitched her to be a gladiator in a suit. Quinn delivers the same speech to Marcus (and why does this show believe that quickness of speech equals fervancy?) only to be smacked down, making Marcus far and away my new favorite character. “Do I want to be a gladiator in a suit? Hell no.” Of course, he shows up later to help Olivia anyway, but the satisfaction of Quinn’s shocked face was awfully good while it lasted.

Good/bad: Well, this is mostly good: Mellie punts Cyrus, after he delivers possibly the most insane diatribe of his life, which is really saying something. Not a good idea to tell your boss, Cyrus, that you love her husband more than she ever did, and to say that she’s lucky her son is dead because he is “safe, in the ground.” Honestly, I wonder if this is all meant to imply that Cyrus has had some sort of breakdown somewhere, possibly when he was still living in his bathrobe. Mellie fires him (I’m not a violent person, but I believe a slap in the face would have been in order as well), and even Cyrus is like, “Yeah, I get it.” Now Mellie is off to impeach her husband, who fails to garner approval from the senators that could help him. And where will Cyrus wind up on this show, now that he’s alienated practically everyone? The offices of OPA?


Fitz and Olivia could have predicted the impeachment: Bill Clinton was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the only president to be impeached other than Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor. Clinton kept his office, but also inflicted months of droning testimony and debates over what the word “is” means upon the United States. Fitz’s affair with Olivia may not have been illegal, but will still result in major ramifications for the rest of the country. And even with his talk of, “Welp, I better get back to running the country,” it’s been a while since we’ve seen him exert any effort there.

Same boat for OPA, although Quinn starts whining about how they need Marcus to help manage all their clients. What clients? Wasn’t it just last week that they were sitting at the big table drinking vodka because they literally didn’t have anything else to do? At least Marcus actually brings something to that table as he and Quinn go on TV to defend their boss, although why anyone would think that putting Huck on the air is a decent idea is beyond me.


Last week, Abby threw Olivia under the bus, and this week she’s unsurprisingly hounded by the press and receives horrid death and rape threats through the internet. She knew she was going to take it on the chin for Fitz (again), and she has done so. So, as insane as it may seem for his public persona at this moment, Fitz is correct when he says that taking his girlfriend on a date is the right thing to do. The two have their first moment of their relationship in the public eye together, making Fitz’s motorcade move, as one of the reporters points out, history-making. And should surely only extend the Fitz-Olivia mania into next week.

Stray observations

  • Fitz and Mellie remember they have a young child! And so does the show! It was nice to have a moment of understanding between the estranged First Couple, even though, unsurprisingly, it’s torn apart by the end of the episode.
  • A lot of the episode also seems to involve Fitz reminding himself and other people reminding him what his job is. “We have been over this. You’re the president of the United States.” And “I’m the president of the United States… and my office is not about doing the smart thing.” Just leaving that there.
  • I don’t know if Shonda Rhimes wants to be Amy Sherman-Palladino or what, but you can draw a straight line between this show and so many elements of Gilmore Girls. Episode titles like last week’s “Paris Is Burning,” which was also used in GG. Cast members like Liza Weil, Keiko Agena, and now Rose Abdoo, who has jumped from being Gypsy, Stars Hollow’s garage mechanic, to one of Mellie’s new Senate caucus pals here.
  • Next week: “Mistress mania”! And the return of Leo. Ugh.