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Joshua Alston has pointed out how B-613 has pretty much sucked the life force out of this show, and describes himself as “someone who sees the B-613 morass as a major contributor to the third season’s shortcomings.” The B-613 suckage isn’t doing season four any favors either. This week everyone toasts each other for going after B-613. Which is great, since didn’t they already do that last episode?

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Of course, the sudden appearance of Command/Rowan always takes things up a notch. At this point, the endless Joe Morton speeches are comical. What if he just said to Olivia, “You will regret this,” and left? How awesome would that have been? But no, we get a few diatribes about her daddy issues (pretty ew coming from him) and the individual versus the republic and justice and you know, the usual. At least he did the courtesy of knocking out and tying up her date first. David throws in some white-hat talk later and we’re just a few gladiators short of a Scandal bingo.

Over at the White House, we get new Vice President Ross stalling a bill because she actually wants to read it first. She’s not going to be a lapdog team player! She deflects Cyrus, Mellie, and David, and even gets Fitz on her side at the end.

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Even our case of the week isn’t as compelling as usual, as Marcus, the activist from a few weeks ago, is now an up-and-coming mayoral candidate (for what election season?). Unfortunately, he’s also sleeping with the incumbent’s wife and gets framed for her murder. This crackerjack plot involves emails sent from the mayor’s own IP address. Olivia can offer Marcus his career or justice for the murder victim; he chooses the former first and then goes for the latter. Olivia gives him a Rowan-worthy lecture about how doing the wrong thing sets you off on a hard-to get-off-of wrong path: “The time is always right to do right.” Even though it’s killing her to offer up Fitz with B-613, she needs to take down her father. But this scenario does offer an epic takedown of a police captain when Olivia gets Marcus released from custody.

In between, we are subjected to any number of horrible scenes: Have some sex with your violence, why don’t you? At least Olivia’s Alex scenes with Russell are preferable to not one but two graphic stabbings. And K.C. And The Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Man” doesn’t lessen the horror of Huck and Quinn gleefully taking hammers to a dead body and cramming it into a suitcase. Shonda Rhimes may be going for shock value here, but the violence is just gratuitous.

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It does lead to the only thing of consequence this episode, in the final few minutes: the apparent death of Jake Ballard. I say “apparent” because I really wouldn’t put anything past this show. Jake adds a needed element in Olivia’s life as not-Fitz, her guy on the beach, the man who is there for her, as he tells her this episode. Of course, Jake has done many awful things from his days as a B-613 operative, but he was not at the top of my list to be offed from this show. I would put Rowan (please) and Huck (Remember when he killed Lena Dunham’s character a few weeks ago? All for nothing now?) ahead of Jake on the death-o-meter, but then, I’m not Shonda Rhimes.

Rhimes, to her credit, has a tendency to thin her casts when they start acting up or behaving in a way that’s not conducive to her shows (Katherine Heigl on Grey’s Anatomy, Columbus Short here). She also will be glad to off you for shock value if you’d just like to spend more time with your kids (like Chyler Leigh’s Lexie Grey). This is the second time she’s taken down Scott Foley, though, for reasons known only to the two of them, as on Grey’s and Scandal he has been a fan favorite.

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Without Jake, the cast we’re left with loses a lot of lustre. We lose his banter with David, Olivia’s chance for happiness outside of a presidency, and a few steps in the B-613 fight. Sometimes I wonder if the writers just wrote themselves into a corner with B-613 and now we’re all stuck there. Of course, one of the main hurdles was Operation Remington, in which a young Fitzgerald Grant took down a passenger plane in an effort to get Olivia’s mother Maya. Again, another useless effort that came to nothing in the end. So does that mean, to take Rowan down, the entire presidency goes down with him? After all Olivia has done to put Fitz there? Following up with what Olivia tells Marcus about starting out on the wrong path, maybe this all started with Defiance, and no good come ever come of it in the end.

“The time is always right to do right.” So that would be: Turning in a homicidal maniac like Huck? Telling the American people the truth about Defiance and B-613? Only Susan gets it, that passing a bill without consequences is worse than not passing a bill at all. Everyone faces the truth eventually: Marcus at the press conference, even as Olivia offers him another way out; Olivia and Rowan as absolute adversaries, even as he’s proud of her for advancing into a worthy opponent. But Jake pays the price for all this revelation with our second stabbing of the evening. We can only hope that Olivia’s wrath over this will bring an end to B-613 once and for all.

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Stray observations:

  • This lackluster episode does contain some sparks of brilliance from director Debbie Allen. She offers some impressive overlapping perspectives and double shots when Olivia talks to Jake, or tells Marcus his remaining options. The “Run” hallway flashback flickers are effective after Olivia witnesses Jake testifying against Fitz in Operation Remington. And for at least half of Rowan’s first monologue, instead of focusing on Joe Morton, the shot is all Kerry Washington’s subtle reactions, which are amazing. Both Allen and Washington rise above the meager offerings here.
  • No, I don’t want to dig into some Freud, baby.
  • That ABC/Disney Mickey joke for one of the murderers was a bit too much meta.
  • Has Olivia ever had a normal boyfriend? I guess Edison the senator, but he didn’t offer near enough drama for her.
  • “Maybe I was reading this too quickly…” “You weren’t.”
  • Mellie for president, eventually!
  • Thanks again to Joshua for letting me sit in: he’s back next week.

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