Scandal talks a lot about the republic and democracy and the country, but what’s the one factor about America that gets trotted out the most? Freedom. It’s something most of us take for granted, but it’s still hard to argue any other trait being higher than America’s greatest asset. Speech, religion, assembly, freedom to walk out the door and do whatever you like: Maybe it’s because Veteran’s Day was yesterday, but it’s a good reminder that it’s the highest of privileges, and one most of us don’t appreciate enough.

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I only point out this patriotic treasure chest because Scandal seems to be closing in on this concept of freedom. Namely, the freedom of its heroine, Olivia Pope.

Before we get to Olivia, we get a case of the week at the White House, with Olivia looking really lovely and Christmas coming about six weeks early at a diplomatic dinner with representatives from a Middle Eastern country that Fitz has been trying to negotiate with. In a clever ploy, one of the translators tries to defect, offering up intel on his native land. He wants to get to America, land of the free. The fact that he has no loved ones in his home country, ironically, gives him the freedom to do just that.

Liv also talks about her “gut” a lot, but when she yells at the hospitalized Navim about the soda factory, even the mildest student of TV acting could tell that he was, in fact, telling the truth. Her gut also tells her that her father is actually scared that someone is trying to kill him. Well, sure. Is this really such a surprise? Someone who has been responsible for the deaths of so many innocents, most recently all those jurors on the bus? Again, it’s easier for me to be intolerant of fictional characters, but I don’t see why Eli Pope still gets to take up space on the planet. Yes, Olivia rightly deduces that Jake is tracking down her father. Eli killed Jake’s wife, for God’s sake. The Olivia-Eli scene, while extremely well-acted between both players, does fumble on its ultimate intention: To drum up sympathy for Eli. From Olivia’s perspective, we get it: Even if he’s a terrible person, you still wouldn’t want your father to die. But from the rest of the world, we would say to Eli Pope: Good riddance. And it looks like Fitz is in agreement, even though he told Olivia that he’s called off Jake.

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Which makes it still all the more confounding, even a few episodes later, that Olivia let Eli free. Fortunately, Fitz finds out this episode. Whether you are a person who uses the term Olitz or not, you can not deny the trust and chemistry Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn have: The scene when Olivia tells all to Fitz in the bunker, but we only hear music, and only see facial expressions, is really well done. We don’t need to hear the words to know what’s being said; in all likelihood, we’ve heard them all before anyway.

But here’s what we haven’t heard before: Fitz going all Misery mental on Olivia. This latest revelation could have resulted in yet another Fitz and Olivia break, which just would have landed us yet again on this particular couple’s merry-go-round. Instead, we get a truly inspired and insane move by Fitz: to lock up Olivia in the White House, to say that he’s using the Secret Service detail to keep her “safe and protected.” When in fact, it’s to keep her captive, to keep an eye on her so she doesn’t pull yet another stunt. Cyrus can’t believe it (based on “History and common sense!”) but we can. After so many years, maybe Fitz has just cracked, or maybe he’s just finally had enough. But his sinister side jolts some life into this pair, now at the center of all things Scandal. His devotion to the vulnerable, bathrobed Olivia, unsettled by having all her things moved to the White House, is downright frightening.

In the end, the truthful Navim gets his freedom. But Olivia Pope, despite her best intentions, came clean only through the work of Cyrus. In many respects, she’s the most powerful woman in the world right now, but by the end of the episode, she has lost her own freedom completely.

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Stray observations

  • It’s a sad state of affairs when Huck is the only person to pronounce “nuclear” correctly.
  • But hey, Quinn went to law school.
  • Speaking of “good riddance,” at least Tom is dead, right after his menacing scene in the elevator.
  • I’m glad they brought the character of Marcus in, and I really like Cornelius Smith Jr., but couldn’t they have him do more than just stand around the OPA conference table for once?
  • Please God, I’m a good person. I never want to see Lizzie and Rosen have sex ever again, okay?
  • As disgusting as Liz and Rosen are, that’s how cute Rosen and Susan are. Here’s hoping this turns around quickly.
  • Would someone like Olivia actually get handcuffed?
  • No one can say that Scandal ever suffers from too much subtlety. Case in point: that goddamn White Hat in Olivia’s new captivity closet, all lit up.
  • Also in the unsubtle department: the blood all over Olivia’s jacket, as a symbol of all the misdeeds she’s been guilty of, especially letting her father go free.
  • Next week: The winter finale! As the promos say, what the Huck!

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