It's back. Last night, Shonda Rhimes's Scandal returned for its third season and it hit the ground, heels and all, running.
How did Olivia Pope not know this would eventually happen? Considering her line of work, Olivia should have known that too many people knew of her affair with President Fitz and that ultimately, one of them was going to let his or her tongue wag. Even if she hoped for the best, why didn’t the ultimate fixer have a plan prepared?
Was she naïve? Her father, who makes Joe Jackson look like Santa Claus, certainly thinks so. The season premiere of Scandal opened with Papa Pope telling his daughter, “Twenty-two minutes without making a sound, if only you had been this quiet as a child.” It’s about the nicest thing he says to her the entire episode. As he drives her to a secret destination to put her on a private plane flying into obscurity, he says, “You raised your skirt and opened your knees and gave it away to a man with too much power. You’re not rare, you’re not special, your story is no different than a 1000 other stories in this town so you know how this goes.” If Olivia Pope was on Twitter, you’d likely have to mute her and her daddy issues on Father’s Day.
Even if Papa Pope is evil, Olivia does deserve a verbal scolding for being silly enough to believe that if word of her affair with Fitz got out, that he “would never” throw her under the bus. And for those Scandal viewers who’ve noted how, despite the fact that the series is based in the Formally Chocolate City and has a black leading actor, race is not often mentioned, it was interesting to see Daddy Pope coerce Olivia into repeating a lesson many blacks in America have been told: “You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have.”
After making her cry, he puts her on the private plane. Olivia calls Cyrus, who swears he won’t burn her. That quickly proves to be a lie, as Cyrus wastes no time in ordering a “kill folder” on Olivia once the media finds evidence that gives credence to the rumor that she bedded First Lady Mellie’s man. Even Olivia’s Gladitors were dumbfounded at Olivia’s claim that her controversy was “being handled.” Yes, handled so well that all of their clients fired them en masse. Again, how can Olivia be so naïve to not think that at this point, it’s her against the White House?
One person dealing in realism is Vice President Sally Langston, who Cyrus tries to pressure into taking on all of Fitz’s public appearances, a.k.a. cover his ass. Langston, who fancies herself Jesus’s BFF, is not having it. She tells Cyrus that she would not be “aiding and abetting a man breaking his marriage vows and laying with another woman.” In response, a furious Cyrus explains to VP Sally, “The people elected you to be the VP’s sidekick, not the Lord.”
Not having it, Sally shoots back: “I am done with you and your superiority and your rudeness. I have never once mentioned how I feel about your Godless homosexual lifestyle, and that poor sweet brown baby that you have dragged into it. I keep my personal opinions to myself, but you find an opportunity each and every day to belittle me and my desire to serve the Lord. You have no respect. Not for me, not for the voters that I handed you on a platter the last election. The voters I will take with me when I go.”
There were a lot of reads on last night’s episode, but this was one of the better ones. Even if Jesus isn’t your homeboy, there is something quite annoying about an elitist pedant who acts just as intolerable as the people he speaks so ill of.
Cyrus is a prick and doesn’t understand that condescending tones don’t help gather support in times of crisis. VP Sally only offers to aid President Fitz once Fitz himself speaks to her privately, admitting he “lived a lie” and “let people down.”
The other person dealing in reality is my favorite, First Lady Mellie Mel. After it dawns on Olivia that her affair with Fitz isn't much ado about nothing, she starts to make a plan. Well, after she doing her pout. You know it.
This one, her default pout. After Olivia wraps that up, she gets a call from her verbally and emotionally abusive daddy, who once again smugly explains the error of her ways. Olivia asks about the status of Jack Ballard, which leads to a very speedy rant about how he disobeyed orders, and thus neeed to be scolded. This guy really hates it when you don’t listen to him. It was the kind of thing Neocons or even President Obama’s foreign policy handlers would use to defend their questionable practices in the name of “defending Democracy.”
After part deux of the daddy-daughter debacle, Olivia uses some super duper secretive code to get in a private chamber with President Fitz…and Mellie Mel. There, they try to figure out how to kill the affair story. They're leaving Satan’s minion, Cyrus, out of the chat…and who can blame them?
I’ve always felt like Mellie got a bad wrap. She’s smarter than her husband and better suited to be president, but comes from an era where it’s incredibly difficult for women to rise in politics. You know, 2013. So she marries a man who screws over her with a woman whose face she has to see way more often than she’d like. Though Olivia objects to being called a whore to her face, you can’t completely fault Mellie for wanting to get her digs in.
Nevertheless, Fitz, ever the idealist and constantly longing to bring honesty into the political world, wants to go with the truth. Surprisingly, Olivia agrees. Thankfully Mellie, the voice of reason, shuts that down. Sure, the truth would get Olivia and Fitz out of their problems, but that would mean subjecting Mellie to the public knowing that her husband is in love with another woman. So before each leaves this secret vault in the White House, the three settle on Olivia and Fitz sleeping together only two times.
In the end, that plan doesn't come to fruition. Fitz meets with Sally again, who informs him that she already began damage control on his behalf. Upon dropping hints of her own marital problems, Fitz tells her to throw him under the bus after he gives his “I slept with Olivia, y’all” speech to the nation for her own political advancement. That speech, a horrible idea, never happens. Mellie puts an end to that by turning Communications Aide Jeanne Locke into Fitz’s mistress. But as she explains to Cyrus the story “has to come from the outside.” Enter the Gladiators, who do the dirty deed to save Olivia’s name. Harrison, who takes charge throughout the episode in Olivia’s place, asks the associates, “Are we gladiators or are we bitches?”
I wish Rhimes would’ve had Quinn say, “I ain’t no punk ass bitch. I’m a Gladiator!” Next time.
The episode concludes with Mellie confronting Fitz after she figures out that he leaked Olivia’s name to the press. Mellie says she got the idea to leak Jeanne’s name from him leaking Olivia’s. I initially thought that, once again, Mellie had outsmarted her hubby, but this time, Fitz one-ups her, admitting he leaked Olivia’s name only to make sure that “Olivia could be free” and no longer at her mercy. According to Fitz, “They’re at war.” My money is Mellie, but you win the night, Fitz.
Then Olivia takes on Jeanne Locke as a client, plus Daddy Pope forces Cyrus into a meeting to reveal that Operation Remington, Fitz's mission with Jake Ballard in Iran, was something so serious that it warrants an “OH. MY. GOD.” reaction.
It’s so good to have you back, Scandal. Until next time.
Written by Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick)