Season 3 of Scandal is nearing the end (there’s two more episodes after this one) and like Olivia Pope, I’m feeling a tad fatigued and the push/pull of “The Fluffer” didn’t do much to aid this weariness. The campaign is still full steam ahead as they try to get the female vote and it doesn’t help that everyone either wants to sleep with each other or inflict some form of misery. Destroying B613 is another priority and elsewhere Marie Wallace is looking to get some flowers with a side order of bomb. The soapy hijinks fun has turned into a bit of a drag and everything is verging on the self serious. What Scandal needs is to return to the twisty, breakneck paced storytelling that doesn’t involve layer upon layer of conspiracy; it’s the character stories that matter and these have got lost in the shuffle.
Abby fills in for Olivia at the White House and no one gives her the time of day, because she’s not Olivia. Abby tries to be the best Olivia Pope she can be, even down to the gorgeous white coat (by Escada), but they can’t even get her name right. This would be hilarious if they weren’t trying to get more female votes, which they don’t deserve when they don’t even have the decency to remember Abby’s name. Abby does a valiant job considering the room is cold, unfriendly and unwilling to hear her talk. The only person who responds to Abby putting on the Olivia hat is Olivia herself as Abby gives her a “You don’t run” gladiator speech when Olivia contemplates her decision to stay instead of her father’s offer to “be somebody new, somebody that wasn’t.”
One thing this show has been missing is some Olivia/Abby time and because the story has been focusing so much on both B613 and the presidential campaign, this relationship has been pushed to the sidelines. While Olivia isn’t one for sharing and Abby would definitely disapprove of Olivia’s back and forth relationship with Fitz, it would be better to hear Olivia hash out her feelings to a third party rather than going in circles with Fitz.
“What do you want?” is what Olivia asks Fitz and she’s still smarting from the realization last week that on one level she is no more than the help, even if she has both the ear and heart of the president. It’s a discussion which quickly escalates into an argument as Olivia calls Fitz out on pretty much everything “Maybe I’m here to make you feel hot and manly and ready so you’re not jealous of your wife’s boyfriend. Is that it? Am I your fluffer today Fitz, is that what I am? What service am I billing myself for you today?” Olivia’s got a lot of feelings about how she is being treated and once again Vermont or the lack thereof is raised and how the story of them has no end, it just stops. This tackles the heart of the Fitz/Olivia relationship issues because the world their relationship lives in means they can’t be together publicly, especially if Olivia is so determined to get Fitz in the White House for a second term. Is there a chance that Fitz might not win or the bomb will go off and therefore stop this storyline from repeating? Is there still a Scandal with a different person as president?
Olivia being defined by her romantic relationships is the least interesting aspect of the show for me (I know I might be in the minority on this one) and while I normally love a good tragic love story I find it hard to be invested in this one. Even the Jake aspect which was intriguing at first has soured; pounding on Olivia’s door and grabbing her by the throat is not an endearing quality. I mean it’s pretty shitty that Olivia used Jake’s emotional connection with her to get what she wanted and bring down his shady organization and put lives at risk, but there are much better ways to go about showing your displeasure. I guess these B613 guys are pretty similar in how they communicate and at least he didn’t lick her face (*shudder*), but still.
Being rescued, walking into the light are phrases that have been repeated throughout this season and if B613 is dead then I am hopeful that Scandal can go back to basics and sort out the tangled web it has woven this year. Marie Wallace is running around town with the “Mona Lisa of boom” and she has the campaign schedule so while one Pope parent promised they wouldn’t touch Fitz, the other one has different plans. This incredibly dysfunctional family gets its very own reunion as Marie brazenly interrupts the daddy/daughter dinner just as Olivia is waxing lyrical about when she will be able to walk away from this life. There are threats of violence between Marie and Rowan, with Marie daring to drink some of Olivia’s wine while delivering some career advice as she tells her to find another line of work. Pleasantries are shared – “You’re a monster” – and Joe Morton gets to deliver another line in that amazing, threatening way he does “I’m a patient man, but a vengeful one and I have a very long memory.”
Olivia might not have any impact on her mother, but she can get what Fitz wants and on this occasion that is stopping the affair between Mellie and Andrew. Olivia gives Andrew a choice between being Vice President or Mellie and if he chooses the latter she will publicly destroy him. The tragic thing here is that Andrew really does love Mellie and yet through circumstance they aren’t together, instead she is with a man who is indifferent to her and her thoughtful tie choices. There is a moment where Fitz does look proudly at his wife which doesn’t come across as staged as Mellie is speaking to the Warrior Women of America about sacrifice. This of course being one of the overall themes of this season as each character has sacrificed some part of themselves, in this episode alone Olivia talks about giving up everything inside her, Jake no longer has a sense of who he is beyond his role as Command and Andrew gives up the idea that he can be with Mellie. Mellie accuses of Fitz of taking everything from her, slapping him in front of a group of staffers – oh the memoirs these aids could write might top the exquisitely titled “Taken for Granted.” It’s all about weighing up what you can handle losing and justifying it.
Some of the photos in the gallery below represent some of the things discussed above such as Mellie on TV, Jeannine Locke’s amazingly titled book and the Pope family dinner. Other moments include a whole lot of serious phone face, another incredible jacket collar, Abby’s return to her wine color DKNY coat after she’s done being Olivia’s proxy and the saddest late night booty call.
As I said in the introduction, this is a rather tiring episode for both the characters and us as an audience. Now the pieces have been moved into their places for the final two episodes of this season hopefully it will propel the momentum and stop Scandal from losing what made it special in the first place.