Your previous Scandal reviewer, Joshua Alston, told me once that most times he watches the episodes he has to review just one time, because that’s the same amount that most people watch the show. I admired his ability to absorb everything in one viewing and be that attentive, but I usually give most episodes I review at least two views, one straight watch, and then a second to take notes.

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Except for this episode of Scandal. I never want to see this episode again. I do, however, want to take a bath.

Sure, in this age of peak TV, and anti-heroes, does it matter if a show has anyone to root for? After awhile on Breaking Bad, did people still hope that Heisenberg would get everything he wanted, even after they’d written off his wife? Did Mad Men give us Peggy because Don could be so unsympathetic? I’m not saying that we’re looking for the frickin’ Mickey Mouse Club on the small screen right now, but I will be goddamned if I can find anyone left on Scandal to care about.

I can barely pick from the most horrific storylines; it’s like choosing who’s worse, Mothra or Godzilla. In the battle of insane turns of plot, is it David Rosen sleeping with both Susan and Liz, or Tom reappearing in a towel and setting up a guy that we’re supposed to hate instantly because he’s a white supremacist, even though he’s also a dad? We all get pulled into this cockamamie Cyrus plot to put the Pennsylvania governor at the top of the news stories: Oh Cyrus, do you think you could find a way to do that without losing innocent lives? Or leaving a poor child fatherless? I guess to the man who has had so many people offed at this point (the jury on the bus—never forget), a few innocent security guards are no big deal.

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Huck, who is scarily emerging as a voice of reason, calls out Papa Pope for being a monster, but he can just line up with the other ghouls this episode. Cyrus most certainly qualifies, as does Tom in a towel. Hearing the guy who killed Fitz’s son go off to Wayne about whether he loves his kid enough to sacrifice himself is bone-chilling, and not in a good way. I guess it was supposed to be a shocking twist to have Charlie and Quinn babysit the poor kid, but that was all just a weak setup for the second-most ridiculous line of the episode: “I think Charlie’s going to make a great dad someday.” To annotate: “I think Charlie, the homicidal maniac who knows how to kill anyone at least 27 different ways, is going to make a great dad some day.”

But even that line comes in second to this one: “Jake and my father aren’t up to anything.” Hahahahaha. It shouldn’t take a talking-to from Huck, of all people, for the usually savvy Olivia to figure out that Eli and Jake must be up to something, and we don’t need a background montage to figure it out either. After all, we’ve seen the show before.

Before ”Wild Card,” I watched a few preview videos, and I honestly thought that Fitz having sex was going to be the worst part of this episode. It wasn’t, but it certainly didn’t do anyone any favors. Again, an unlikely hero emerges, as Abby is the one to verbally bitch-slap the whiney president into realizing that as the leader of the free world, he doesn’t have a private life. After so many years of campaigning, and seven in the White House, it is downright confounding that he would need to be reminded of this, but here we are. The name thing is significant, as bitchy Lillian calls Abby “Abby,” while the press secretary is saddled with calling her “Miss Forrester,” but at least she gets to call the president “Fitz” by the end. Of course, we all know what happened the last time he told someone to call him Fitz (on a campaign tour bus, remember?) so God help us all if that is where this is leading.

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Abby and Huck may be ascending for the moment, but Fitz, Cyrus, Jake, especially David—people we once might have leaned positively toward on this show are now scooting toward unredeemable status, if they’re not there already. Maybe Rosen is the most disappointing of all. He was always a standup guy, the type that would send Olivia a white hat in the mail, so why in the world is he now so spineless that he is being puppeted around by Liz? It’s inconsistent with the character we previously appreciated.

Same with Olivia: She ends the episode by going after Jake’s new girlfriend in a manner that smacks of nothing but jealousy. We can only hope that she’s trying to crack the case of what her father and Jake are up to, but what are they always up to? World domination, ultimate power, blah blah blah. Not unlike Cyrus, whose handshake with the Pennsylvania governor on the seal of the Oval Office carpet was about as subtle as a hand grenade.

These players have all wanted power before. They’ve even done some horrible things to get it. But at least it seemed like they were doing them for the greater good overall or to serve the republic (remember when they talked about the republic a lot?). Cyrus’ plan is only to get his prospective candidate into a position on the political arena. Hardly an undertaking worth a life or two. The romance of Olivia and Fitz is over for the moment, and the political backstories for the most part wrapped up as Fitz’s term draws to a close. So far, the next election cycle does not look that compelling. (Why would Susan’s poll numbers be so high? And what kind of experience is she talking about? She’s been vice-president for about five minutes.)

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No, we are desperate for a brief, compelling case-of-the-week to lead us through Scandal, or even a story tied to the headlines of the day (like Mellie’s Planned Parenthood filibuster). Because this episode, with its bleak plots and characters we used to care about doing inexplicable and/or heinous things, was downright difficult to watch even once.

Stray observations

  • Our continued exploration of Liv‘s wardrobe features her canary yellow jacket, keeping with her colorful theme this half-season. Then, in the final scene, she’s back in black leather. Read into that what you will.
  • One upside: At least we get next week off. It’ll take about that long to recover. See you on March 10.

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