You’ve all seen the logo for Shondaland many times: It’s a heart surrounded by a rollercoaster. This logo appeared to make some sense when it showed up after Shonda Rhimes’ frothy soap operas like Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice, less after her more dramatic shows like How To Get Away With Murder and her political escapade here with Scandal. But this episode Cyrus Beene gets married, in about the bleakest romantic setup imaginable. It’s as if the Shondaland heart should have a barbed-wire fence around it instead. Because now Cyrus has very little hope for ever really loving someone, more due to his ruthlessness than anything else.

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Now that his fake engagement to former sex worker Michael (Matthew Del Negro) has been dragged to the center, we see some awfully poignant flashbacks to Cyrus’ previous two marriages. In the age of AIDS and trying to get his own political career off the ground, Cyrus first marries Janet. This union literally dissolves in the closet. At least his next marriage was to a man, but we all know how badly James got played by Cyrus over and over again, until he lost his life in the midst of some B-613 bullshit.

Cyrus probably came the closest to actually loving James out of anyone, despite the time he almost had him killed to prevent the world of Defiance coming to light. When forced to choose between power and love, Cyrus has always chosen power. But now to maintain that power after being caught with a sex worker, Cyrus is trapped into a loveless marriage, likely the last of his life.

At least there’s a gay Republican wedding in the White House! But along for the ride are poor Michael’s awful parents, who you’d think would at least be a little relieved their son isn’t a sex worker any more. But no, they’re taking a big fat check from the “pretty, godless” woman just to pose with the son they’ve disowned. Michael’s vulnerability leads him to become the most honest spouse of Cyrus Beene’s life: They know up front that they won’t love each other, but at least they won’t be alone. Talk about a low bar (although thank God baby Ella will finally have someone paying attention to her), but in Shondaland, apparently, the best they can hope for.

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What could be worse than that? Oh, what about a pair that basically have done nothing but bring harm to each other, but can never, ever untangle? The Olivia-Fitz Vermont flashback was fun, and now we know why Olivia hid the ring under the carpet when she was being kidnapped, and threw it at Fitz later when he screwed up her rescue effort and stupidly went to war over her. We all know that these two can never stay apart for long, even though it seems less like love now than some sick, twisted codependence. But there Olivia is at the end, wearing the ring again. Cyrus and Michael have a ceremony and rings that signify nothing. Fitz and Olivia have no ceremony but a ring that means everything. Olivia starts the episode by selling Mellie on the idea of a big White House wedding, because the party of Lincoln should be lovelorn as well. But there’s no evidence of love on this show.

The Shondaland could possibly be tossing up Abby and Leo as an example of an actual thriving couple (albeit, one that backstabs the other and reads each other’s phone messages). I don’t buy it for a second. They’ve moved in together awfully quickly, and if their fights over “secularism” are supposed to bring to mind some Adam’s Rib-worthy banter, they are failing miserably.

For me the saving grace of Scandal is nearly always Mellie, who doesn’t disappoint here with her snarly takedown of Elizabeth Brown (Portia De Rossi): “You fix. That’s your job.” Mellie’s not as savvy around Olivia, who totally plays her. But how can Mellie resist the chance to take a proactive stance on same-sex marriage, stepping away from Fitz’s policies? I am really looking forward to her election storyline: Fast-forward five years to Mellie’s presidency, please?

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An appearance not nearly as welcome: The return of Kate Burton as Sally Langston, although I love that the title of her show is The Liberty Report (“Let freedom ring!”). But let me get this straight: Olivia is willing to offer crazy murderer Sally Langston the Secretary Of State position, an important member of the Cabinet, just to prevent Cyrus from going down in flames in a sex scandal? The safety of our country’s diplomatic relations in the hands of the “fry, piggy” lady? What about all that “one person doesn’t outweigh the needs of the republic” jazz?

It’s so far-fetched, maybe it means that Olivia is the real love of Cyrus’ life. Despite her crazy scheme to get him married off because it’s saving his career, I guess, she’s the one who puts rose petals on his second marital bed. She’s the one who can tell just by looking when he needs to be told to breathe or when he’s decided to not throw Michael under the bus. Even though she walked away from him and his three million dollars last episode, Olivia and Cyrus, at least, will always be tied together. In the twisted world of Scandal, a relationship like that counts for a lot.

Stray observations:

  • There is such a straight Gilmore Girls migration to this show: Liza Weil, Keiko Agena, now Emily Bergl (Francie) as Cyrus’ first spouse.
  • What is all this talk of optics?
  • Regina King offered some inventive, artistic direction this week, during Leo and Abby’s overlapping argument and Olivia’s kidnapping nightmare.
  • Hey, remember last episode when Huck killed somebody and Quinn saw it happen and Olivia knew about it? Now they’re just driving around, trailing Michael.
  • Janet’s ultimate dis to Cyrus: “Being with you is a lonely experience.”
  • Cyrus has stayed in the same house for an awfully long time.
  • Next week: Hey, Jake’s gone crazy! Not to worry, Joshua Alston will be back to find out how and why. I miss him as much as you do.

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