Sometimes, when we get bogged down in the Olivia-Fitz neverending cycle, when plot holes or jumps seem so unlikely as to be absurd, when yet another character launches yet another bullet-pointed diatribe so repetitive that we fear we might tear our own hair out, we forget why we started watching Scandal in the first place. And understand why many have fled before us.
And then, an episode like “You Got Served” comes along that nails everything. And we remember why we watch Scandal, and why we will likely continue to do so until Olivia and Fitz open a jam factory/old folks home in Vermont.
As has been noted, season five is already immeasurably better than the one that preceded it, due to its renewed focus on Olivia Pope And Associates and less on the dreaded secret government agency that I don’t even want to spout the name of here. (Honestly, just the lack of Papa Pope kicks any episode up a few notches. No offense to Joe Morton, I’m sure he’s a very nice person, but even his rant at the beginning of last week was enough to set us off on the wrong foot.)
No, season five has been spectacular because it appears to be finally addressing the Fitz-Olivia problem. They can’t go around in circles forever, so this season is bringing them to the forefront. This forward momentum has literally reinvigorated this show. Fitz chooses Olivia, and the Brandon Bill, even though it may result in his impeachment! Fitz and Olivia appear in public! Olivia bares her heart on television! And it’s not dragged out across months, but all in just a few episodes! Incredible!
The fun part of Scandal from back in its case-of-the-week days, was to see how these situations would be spun. Olivia was a master at manipulating the media, and in turn public opinion, so she would craft her clients accordingly. But this episode is even more enjoyable than that, because Olivia is the client, getting her hat handed to her by a master manipulator himself, Leo. Lord help me, I even liked Leo this episode, and laughed out loud when he yelled at Olivia’s office: “Weirdos! Focus!” He figures out the different Olivia scenarios that will play across the public, and rightly explodes when Olivia blows the first one for him, even jumping in the air: “What is the first rule?” Well, we all know what the first rule is.
So Olivia must then tell the truth on TV. And Olivia being Olivia, she does so in a way that, although honest, she knows will work with the American public. Yes, her relationship has caused untold stress and heartache. If she could have chosen differently, she would have. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and Olivia and Fitz are Scandal endgame. Kerry Washington was absolutely perfect during that monologue: first downplaying, then toying with the idea of being all giggly schoolgirl, then just buckling down and telling the true story behind her relationship with Fitz. It’s an amazing performance, and small wonder that it won over the country.
It’s too bad that Olivia only has Jake at this point to talk to about it, and he has his own troubles with his French wife or whatever. Similarly, for me, the episode’s only down note: Mellie crawling back to Cyrus because she has nowhere else to go. His speech last week saying that she was luckier than he was because Little Jerry was “safe in the ground” but Fitz was not, still stands as absolutely unforgivable, I don’t care how many different kind of cheeses he had. But Mellie is more forgiving than I am, and also needs Cyrus’ political savvy, so the two wind up curled on the couch together: They may not have much at this point, but at least they have each other.
In fact, the episode craftily bookends with two Cyrus scenes: in his pajamas eating brownies (And the show remembers that he’s married! Now if it could only remember that he has a kid), helplessly and impotently forced to watch all the White House goings-on from the sidelines, to the getting-the-band-back-together speech at the end. We now know that Cyrus loves Fitz so much, it wasn’t going to take much to bring him back, and we know that Fitz is such an adept politician, he was bound to craft an apology to get Cyrus back into play. Like with Olivia’s speech, just because it’s manipulative, doesn’t mean it’s not heartfelt. And the show had to get Cyrus back in the Oval Office, so the reveal of the kidnapping tape to get him there was a master stroke (although it was fun to hear Cyrus go down the laundry list of all the things the administration could have been taken out for). Although it was unlikely that Marcus was going to betray OPA quite so suddenly, to the racist senator from last week, who is now the show’s villainous element on the judiciary committee, it was still gratifying to see him play the bullying senators, not the other way around.
So in just one hour, we end with Olivia and Fitz still together, Cyrus back where he belongs, and Lizzie out on her ear (it would have been nice to see her get fired, but I suppose we can’t have everything). The only one really at loose ends now is Mellie, but she should be used to that by now.
This episode had the politics, and the numerous machinations we tune in for, but at this point, it also had the underlying history that made all these conversations mean so much. Cyrus and Fitz may go down as the show’s true love story. Naturally, Olivia would figure the best way to tell Fitz about the tape was through lovemaking (and even her lingerie is in black and white. That was one muted-colored closet). And of course as Olivia told the story of the show’s main relationship to the camera, we would all flash back to that campaign bus, to that first hotel room, to the Defiance ballot box, the precursor to the West Angola tape. It’s why we all started watching this show in the first place, and this episode not only reminded us, but rewarded us for that.
- A close second to Leo’s beatdown of OPA was Patty Snell’s knocking some heads around the Oval Office, resulting in the flummoxed, gaping faces of Lizzie and Abby. Loved it. “If I hear the words ‘executive privilege’ come out of your mouth one more time…”
- This episode was directed by first-time Scandal director Kevin Bray, who got a bit creative with the Olivia closeups during the TV speech and the domineering camera angles in the Fitz-Cyrus showdown. Arty, but effective.