With all the chair-beatings and Jake weddings on Scandal recently, we have lost sight of one important thing: the election. Olivia, at least on the surface, bounces back this week to go back to running Mellie’s campaign. Unfortunately, she’s still in a fight with “Never cross me again” Abby, leading to an idiotic tarmac standoff.

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At least some good does come out of it, as it develops into an actual valuable conversation between Mellie and Fitz, swapping notes on what Olivia is going through and the best way to get her out of it. Mellie and Fitz have been through so much—all those years of marriage, the death of a child—it’s nice to see them on the same side for once.

Because Olivia is unraveling. For all her lack of affect last week, the cracks finally start to show, as she screeches at everyone in sight, hurling the word gladiator like the antiquated insult it is. It’s a different side of her, and Kerry Washington nails it, like she nails everything. Still, even she can’t buy this obviously-meant-to-shock-us dialogue about how much Olivia enjoyed smashing Andrew’s face and the feel of blood on her hands, that the fact that he’s dead is made only sweeter by the fact that she’s the one who killed him. We get that this is a new Olivia than what we’re used to, but there is no reason to believe that she could ever become the Huck Lite that’s being offered here. And what really makes her fall apart is that she can’t ever see Jake again. I suspect that the event is affecting her, although she refuses to acknowledge it, and maybe she’s just latching onto Jake as an excuse. It’s nice that she loses it in front of Huck, of all people, who gets it, even as he tries to counsel her about her first kill. She can’t be with her boyfriend because her own father will slit his throat if that happens. Right after she’s killed a man herself. Sure, that’s hella messed up in too many ways to list.

Olivia’s violent action would obviously have some sort of ripple affect, as Huck, Quinn, even Abby are so freaked out by it, it’s hard for anyone to move on. Huck and Mellie reference how the real Liv is gone, how she’s now a shell of the person she used to be. The show could use some more exploration about what that act will mean for Olivia as a person. You can’t be a “white hat” and a cold-blooded killer, even if your victim was a terrible person, which Andrew certainly was. There are some things that happen that change you and you can never go back, and this is certainly one of them. It remains a bizarre choice for the show to take, but at least it is trying to come to grips with it.

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It could also explain why Olivia’s so desperate to win this race to the White House, as she describes to Abby at the end of the episode. With no personal life to speak of, and few relationships, Liv’s only solace is work, and the ultimate prize in her work is running the White House, i.e., the president, i.e., the world. There’s no real comparable situation anywhere else, even at Olivia Pope And Associates. Olivia being Olivia, she still takes credit for Abby’s current situation, screeching that she needs to get back to that Oval Office that she built. It’s helpful that Abby finally confronted Olivia about diminishing her before, but as Mellie pointed out to Fitz, in a two-way fight between this pair, we know who the victor would be.

Still, Olivia and Abby have to team up in the end. I laughed out loud when Hollis won Florida’s state delegates instead of the other two candidates, despite all the foolish efforts to court Governor Annie Potts, apparently so powerful that she controls every vote in her state. Except that she doesn’t. Even a fake audience, the show seems to indicate, is as sick of Scandal’s childish in-fighting and shenanigans as we are.

Stray observations

  • I think I’m as confused as Cyrus and Michael as to what their marriage actually constitutes. It was a sham marriage with a prostitute, right? So is Michael so dumb that he actually got invested, expecting some sort of fidelity from Cyrus? Also, it’s hard to remember a time when we ever saw a glimpse of Cyrus being a good person, hanging out with Olivia on her couch with the wine and the popcorn, as he now is solely awful, all the time. So I also don’t get why Michael would help Cyrus get rid of Franco (again) with the virus thumb drive, unless it was a plot to distract him so that he could run away with Ella. Which was also awful, and yet somehow satisfying to see Cyrus finally get his comeuppance. But he’s not in the White House anymore, so who cares if he’s still married or not anyway?
  • No Jake or Rowan this episode!
  • David Rosen is the Attorney General of the United States, correct? Doesn’t he have better things to do than to sleep on the hotel room floor of the vice-president? Still, I found his remorseful affection for Susan in this episode kind of touching.
  • Who did Portia De Rossi make mad in the costuming department, getting stuck with these ridiculous bow-tied blouses? And some of Olivia’s brightly colored stuff smacked of cruisewear. Mellie’s red dress, however, looked great on her.
  • Marcus is still woefully underutilized, but I enjoyed his standing up to Olivia this episode, as well as his simmering chemistry with Mellie. There’s got to be something brewing there.
  • Nothing Shonda Rhimes has ever done makes me madder than when she uses school shootings for plot progressions. She trotted out one in the last season finale as a suspected part of some greater conspiracy, and tonight Abby tosses “comforting victims of a classroom shooting in Illinois” as an example of what Fitz’s job should entail. That’s fucking disrespectful to families who have lost people—children—in such traumatic events, which should not ever be minimized and trivialized in Scandal dialogue.

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