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Scandal - The Candidate - Review: "Complicated Bedfellows"

“The Candidate” picks up from where the last episode left off with us this time around getting a look at the different alliances that are forming as each work in preparation for a shot at the throne. Power, its acquisition and its preservation continues as a central theme, and while a large part of this is presented in relation to the presidency, much of it revolved around self-worth and overcoming personal fears.

I have broken down this recap/review into four main subsections that will give a clear picture of the emerging alliances, the dynamics at play within each and how personal motivations are leading characters down interesting paths.

Olivia and Mellie

We first see Olivia in OPA’s conference room where she is reviewing Mellie’s book. Mellie meanwhile is stuffing her face with food when Olivia calls her into the room by telling her that she’s now ready to discuss the book. An eager Mellie rushes in for feedback and is told by Olivia that she’s going to have to eliminate chapter 2. The nation doesn’t give a damn about Mellie’s talking points, Olivia tells her. They want to know who Mellie is. Olivia says to her that the current chapter 2 has to be replaced with one that explains why it is that she remained in her marriage after she discovered that Fitz had taken up with another woman. Everyone wants to know, Olivia says, including herself.

(I get the feeling that Olivia was not asking this solely for purposes of the book, but I digress.)

Olivia continues to press the point with Mellie who is clearly taken aback by the suggestion that she should have to share her feelings about a dark period in her life. Olivia is like a dog with a bone, shooting questions at Mellie as to possible reasons that she had remained in the union. Was it because of ambition? Love? Did she have a side piece of her own? What was it about Fitz or the White House or Mellie herself that made Mellie turn a blind eye for years to the affair?
As Olivia is firing off, Mellie is giving her the kind of stare that says “you’ve crossed the line and I want to shut you up with the daggers I wish were shooting out of my eyes”. She doesn’t have an immediate comeback to the verbal assault she is experiencing. To top it off, she’s being pelleted with these questions by Olivia of all people! The audacity!!

Overwhelmed, Mellie has to take a breath as she says to Olivia that the latter sure knows how to compartmentalize with the way she is speaking as if she isn’t the mistress in question. Olivia’s response? “You asked for Olivia Pope. You got Olivia Pope.” And then she walks away.

Oop. Cold world.

When we return to these two, Mellie is arguing that why she stayed has no bearing on her ability to be president, and Olivia counters by saying that Mellie needs to have this addressed in the book or it will leave the door open for speculation. People should be given her side of the story, which in turn will help shape the narrative. Refusing to address this head on will result in it being the only question that she is asked when she’s on her book tour. It is all anyone would want to know.

Olivia is firm about this, but Mellie continues to resist. From her point of view, no one gets to know why she stayed because it is none of their business. Olivia tells her that she understands that the questions are difficult, but she wouldn’t be helping Mellie if she allowed her to avoid them. But avoid them Mellie will! She diverts from the topic at hand to ask about food other than cereal that she can eat.

This tactic of hers causes Olivia to sit straighter in her seat and verbalize her suspicion that Mellie doesn’t actually know why she stayed. Olivia appears surprised at this. In typical Mellie fashion, she fires back at Olivia with a question of her own, asking Olivia why it is that she left. Olivia’s answer could spark something, Mellie tells her. Maybe she could steal the answer for herself, but Olivia looks to have been caught unawares. The spotlight was now on her.

Olivia finally says to Mellie that she doesn’t have to answer that question because she isn’t the one writing a book or looking to run for president. Olivia’s deflection leads Mellie to conclude that like herself not having an answer as to why she stayed, Olivia doesn’t know why she left.

Two sides of the same coin, these two. Mellie is likely as curious to know why Olivia left as Olivia is to know why Mellie stayed. It was because of Olivia that Fitz finally filed for divorce. It was Olivia who was involved in negotiating the terms of said divorce, yet here she is no longer with the man. Everyone would like to know the answer to that, Olivia.

We later meet up with these two where they are now in Olivia’s office. They both appear to be deep in thought with Mellie lying down on the sofa and Olivia in a chair with her feet propped up on a glass table. After some silence, Mellie suddenly pipes up in an attempt to answer the questions posed to her earlier. She says that she had been devastated when she found out that Fitz was having an affair and that its discovery sent her into a deep depression. She goes on to say that the only thing that got her through it was believing that Olivia was just a phase that she and Fitz had to overcome, and so she stayed.

(By the bye, where is Mellie’s Secret Service? Does she no longer get one now that she’s the ex-wife of the President?)

While I suspect that a small portion of that may have been true for Mellie (the part about Olivia merely being a phase), it isn’t the whole truth and Olivia calls her on it. Even Mellie knows that she’s spinning her wheels with that and calls the narrative a “trite” one. Mellie may have  concocted this story for herself as a way to justify turning a blind eye to the affair. It’ll be over soon, she would tell herself. The only problem was that soon never came. At least, not in the manner that she expected that it would. She could have left whenever she wanted to and given Fitz the divorce that he had asked her for on many an occasion, but she refused. Why was that?

Olivia tells Mellie that she has to dig deep to find the reason, and Mellie responds by saying that Olivia is acting as if she isn’t even trying, which Olivia does not deny. Feeling herself backed against the wall once again, Mellie turns the tables on Olivia, asking her if the nonsense she’s spewing is some reverse psychology that she learned from a therapist. When Olivia says that she doesn’t have a therapist, Mellie tells her that maybe she should get one.

Mellie, girl, I’m with you on this one. Haha!

Olivia reiterates that she is trying to help Mellie and doesn’t understand the antagonism, but Mellie is like, “Girl please. You ain’t tryna help me.” Olivia continues to press, which then leads to Mellie blowing up. She doesn’t have to tell Olivia a damn thing, she says. She doesn’t have to answer to Olivia or explain herself at all!

In response, Olivia tells her that the questions she is asking isn’t for her own knowledge (lies, lies and more lies) but she is cut off when Mellie exclaims that Olivia never had what Mellie had with Fitz. Mellie had 23 years of marriage, an actual relationship! Olivia may have had her “secret hotel rooms and White House closets and your secret houses in Vermont that [she] thought no one else knew about”, but all of that was nothing in comparison to what Mellie had!! Eek.

And pause a whole damn minute. Mellie’s known about Vermont this whole time?! And did she says houses as in plural? She must have been exaggerating. And she knew about the closet?? What doesn’t Mellie know about? And why did she never bring any of it up before?

Anyway, Mellie basically just told Olivia that her relationship with Fitz wasn’t a real one. What Mellie had with him was what was real. What Olivia was, Mellie tells her, was a plaything that Fitz used to pass the time until it was time to box her up and haul her out on trash day.

Yep. The old Mellie is still up in there. All this venom because Olivia (of all people, I know) dared press her to self-examine why she remained with her cheating husband. Instead of performing that service for herself, Mellie lashes out as she is wont to do by stabbing her opponent in their soft spots. Olivia is characterized as trash, an insignificant blip on Fitz’s radar. Olivia wasn’t relevant to Fitz, not in the way that she was.

Justified or not, stomping on the other person to elevate herself has always been Mellie’s motto. It may be a new day but it’s the same old Mellie.

Later that evening, we see Olivia drinking alone in her apartment. There is minimal lighting in the space and Olivia seems to have a lot on her mind. It could be that her earlier interaction with Mellie placed her in her current mood. A knock at her door draws her away from her wine, and she opens it to find Jake standing on the other side. She doesn’t look at pleased to see him. Frankly, she appears to be numb and withdrawn from the present.

As she turns away from the door in silence, she unties her robe and lets it to fall to the floor as she proceeds towards her bedroom naked. Jake enters the apartment and follows her lead, dropping his jacket as she had her robe and unbuttoning his shirt. We see him enter the bedroom but then all we hear is the sound of his belt unbuckling.

Coupled with the darkness of the apartment and the soundtrack that overlaid the scene, the moment felt creepy. The whole sequence was disturbing. Olivia does not seem to be deriving any joy from this, so why is she subjecting herself to it? Is she punishing herself? Does Jake have something on her that we have yet to be privy to?

I just don’t understand why I’m being made to watch this. It’s akin to watching a person bash their head against a brick wall until they knock themselves unconscious. Olivia looked more like a woman about to have sex with her 80-year-old sugar daddy than she was with a man with whom she had once run away.

What is really going on here? I need some context. Matter of fact, I am willing to forgo context if it means that we won’t have to watch Olivia continue to go through this. We have seen Olivia with Jake in the past, but this right here is something dark and extremely troubling. This isn’t sexy nor is it appealing. What is going on with our twisty anti-heroine? Talk to me, Shonda!

When we return to them, Jake is redressing as he says to Olivia that he’s glad that she could “get past” her issues with him. Olivia meanwhile is staring at him like a rat she allowed to frolic all up and through her specialty cheesecake. There is real hate there, but I can’t figure out its origin. She tells him that their incestcapades won’t be happening again, but Jake says to her that it will. He is confident in that statement and I want to know why. Shonda, why?!

While Olivia is engaging in the dirty with her shag puppet, Mellie is at a bar having herself a drink and contemplating life. Cyrus shows up and takes a seat opposite her as he remarks about how he used to come to that bar to feel better. Mellie in response tells him that she came there to be alone. Cyrus takes the hint and promptly gets up from the table, but before he can leave, Mellie starts talking. “You can divorce them, but you can’t get rid of them,” she says. She’s referring to Olivia and Fitzgerald. She says to Cyrus that they are both married to those two for the rest of their lives. Olivia and Fitz are like cinder blocks that hold them down, and that no matter how hard they try, she nor Cyrus can fight free of them. Mellie wonders why it is that they even bother to fight since they are going to go down regardless of what they do.

Cyrus is quiet for a moment before he says that he doesn’t feel sorry for Mellie. After all, she is the most recognizable name in politics and she also happens to be a woman during a time when the country is finally ready for a woman president. He mentions the filibuster and how Susan in comparison is an unknown quantity that Mellie can easily beat. It’s at this point that Mellie cuts him off to tell him that she already has someone in mind to run her campaign. Eek!

After a brief pause, Mellie leans in to say to Cyrus that they made Fitz, that they made a president together. Cyrus looks at Mellie like she had lost her mind. “We”? Cyrus has never once considered Mellie to be someone who was an active contributor to Fitzgerald’s rise, so his reaction to her statement is consistent with his belief. Much like how Mellie sees herself as being a level above Olivia in the “personal relationship with Fitz” department, Cyrus sees himself as many levels above Mellie in the kingmaking section of this business. There is no “we.” Tsk.

Following her departure from the bar, Mellie arrives at Olivia’s apartment. When Olivia opens the door, Mellie refers to her home as the “love shack, where all the magic happened.” Olivia remarks that the day is late, but Mellie pushes her way into the apartment and she’s come along with her infamous hooch.

Mellie has finally figured out the answer to the questions that Olivia had posed to her earlier. The affair was working for her, she says. The three of them, how the situation was set up, it was working. She says that Fitz didn’t have fight in him and was unable to stand on his own two feet, but she saw the potential in him. All of them did, but she had to hold his hand through it all. In return, she says that she got nothing….except Olivia.

Mellie admits that she wasn’t truly devastated when Olivia showed up. She refers to Olivia as somebody that she “deserved” because prior to Olivia’s introduction into their lives, Mellie was nothing but a 37-year-old governor’s wife and mother of two. That’s it. She wasn’t her own anything. The affair was humiliating, but she couldn’t pretend to hate Olivia for it. She hated herself, but then she turned a corner and considered Olivia to be her freedom! The mistress became the beautiful kept thing that Fitz lusted after, which gave Mellie much needed breathing space. She now had time to think and plan for herself. Olivia’s presence essentially allowed Mellie to start liking herself again because now she was alone and unburdened.

Mellie continues by saying that Olivia kept Fitz occupied and happy; she lit a fire in him and got them all the way to the White House (with a bit of election rigging, but we’ll disregard that little detail). She turned a blind eye to the affair because one day it was going to be her turn to take a shot at the White House and Fitz was going to make her POTUS. He owed her that much.

While Mellie is saying all of this, Olivia looks confused. My face mirrored Olivia’s as Mellie spoke her truth because it wouldn’t have occurred to me that this kind of justification was possible. Sacrificing her happiness was a small price to pay for her ultimate goal. That’s what she basically just said. I don’t even know if I can be mad at her about that, but it’s a really sad way to live.

Having received all of this information, Olivia tells Mellie that she cannot under any circumstances include what she just said in her book if she wants to be president. Who would look favorably upon a woman who condoned her husband’s affair because she had aspirations to make it to the White House herself? Not a damn body.

Mellie acknowledges the truth of Olivia’s statement and then offers her some of her hooch. Olivia is initially hesitant to accept it but eventually does. Was that a peace offering? An “I’ve just bore my soul to the one person I never thought I ever would have bore it to” type moment?

When we next see these two, Olivia is sitting on the floor with her back against the wall and Mellie is some distance away also on the floor with her back against the sofa. The two women are sliding the hooch back and forth between one another as if it is the alcoholic equivalent to Fitzgerald. (I presume that this imaginary was intentional.)

Olivia is describing to Mellie how mean she had been to her and Mellie is like, “Of course, I was mean. Was I supposed to be nice?” In response, Olivia further stresses how awful Mellie was and how she just took the abuse and didn’t fight back. Mellie didn’t understand why Olivia wouldn’t fight back because a fight was exactly what she had been looking for, but Olivia says that she was in the wrong, so there was no fight to be had.

Well then. Now we know. Many had wondered as to why it was that Olivia never responded whenever Mellie hurled “whore” in her direction, but some astute gladiators figured that Olivia kept silent and clapped not at all back because she knew that her actions were stanker than a homeless man. What would she had said in defense of herself? That Fitz was in love with her? What moral high ground did she really have to stand on there?

Mellie tells Olivia that she was glad that Olivia was around and commends her on being a “great mistress” as she slides the hooch back over to her. Olivia offers that she’s an overachiever, and as such, she commits whenever she puts her mind to something. (Hahahahahahaha!!) Mellie looks over at Olivia in uncertainty and then laughs along with her when it is clear that Olivia was cracking on herself. These two are really buzzed.

Mellie soon gets up to dig out another jar of hooch from her bag when Olivia asks if she has more, and it is then that the latter starts to make a confession of her own. Olivia admits that she too was glad that Mellie was around because with Mellie there, Olivia didn’t have to be everything to Fitz (as she stated to him in episode 509). Mellie was Olivia’s out. Mellie kept Fitz unavailable, which made it easy for Olivia to slide of out the relationship whenever she pleased.  We viewers have seen Olivia use Fitz’s marital status as an excuse whenever to push him away whenever he tried to pull her close. Olivia tells Mellie that she left for the same reason that Mellie stayed: she was scared. (And a commitment phobe, but you ain’t hear that from me.)

Olivia is visibly emotional is she shares this with Mellie. It is the most that she has ever shared with anybody about what’s going on inside that head of hers. This small act on her part was a LOT considering the fact that Olivia doesn’t share much of anything with anyone. Even though much of what she said we had already heard during the fight she had with Fitz (509), her admitting that she left because she was scared is new.

Mellie doesn’t know how to respond to this revelation is just says, “Okay.” It is in this moment that inspiration strikes Olivia as to what it is that Mellie can write in her book. Mellie is to write that she was scared to leave. She is to say that she never thought that she’d be able to stand up in front of the Senate for as long as she did to filibuster on behalf of women’s rights. Mellie is to write that she realized in that moment that she didn’t need Fitz or any man to give her power, that she had power all along. It just took her longer to realize this fact.

Olivia is quite passionate as she speaks these words, and I am left to wonder if some of it relates to herself. Could she be referring to her father? Jake? Fitz?

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is where Mellie (by way of Olivia) learns that the power to do whatever and be whomever she wanted has always rested in her hands. What I’m interested in now is how this moment resonates with Olivia, especially since she has largely walked through life as if nobody is more powerful than she is. The moments where Olivia has appeared to shrink has been with her parents. Conceding her position as top dog has never a coat that Olivia wears well, so when we see it happening, it is usually a sign that something is off with her. Check her behavior in 509 and this business happening right now with Jake.

In any case, this shift in Olivia and Mellie’s relationship will certainly be interesting to observe as it evolves. They seem to be on neutral ground right now, but I can’t say that I trust it just yet. Mellie isn’t particularly known for playing well with anyone, especially other women.

And that book that she wrote? That one chapter seems to have turned out to be something of a labor of self-reflection and revelation for both women. It opened doors that otherwise would have remained closed if one hadn’t challenged the other to face their respective truths.

I wonder if (and hope that) Mellie’s mention of a therapist will lead Olivia to seeking one. I predict that we may see more moments where these two push and challenge each other in ways that will hopefully be beneficial to them both. If anybody is qualified to hold up a mirror to anybody, it is the two of them to each other.

The White House

The episode actually kicks off with Cyrus standing by the foot of Fitz’s bed as he sleeps. It is a flash forward in which we are flashed back to pivotal moments of the Grant presidency that Cyrus had been a part of. We see the highs and lows of his tenure as Chief of Staff, his friendship with the President, things Cyrus has done to protect Fitz’s position, and the things Cyrus has lost along the way. This opening becomes something of a forewarning of an impending storm on the horizon.

In present time, Abby is trying to convince Fitz that having an interview with journalist Lillian Forrester will be a worthwhile opportunity, but Cyrus is in opposition to the idea, referring to her as a “hack.” Every time Abby says something positive about Lillian, Cyrus is quick with a counterpoint. Needless to say, Cyrus is no fan of the woman. He believes that she is a “loaded gun” that they shouldn’t be talking to at all.

Cyrus’s use of “we” prompts Fitz to speak for the first time since entering they all entered Oval to state in no uncertain terms that the Administration that Cyrus is hellbent on protecting is his. There is no “we”. Fitz is apparently on #TeamMe these days.

Duly chastened, Cyrus concedes the point to his boss. Without missing a beat, Abby continues with selling the interview by citing the benefits to him doing it. She tells him that it would be the perfect opportunity for him to set the table for his successor. Iowa is 6 months away after all. (So they're still in 2015. Well, I’ll be. Okay then.)

Cyrus again counters by stating that this kind of profile is fine when Fitz is out of office, not while he is in it. Cyrus is convinced that the only thing that Lillian is after is hurting Fitz, but Fitz isn’t open to hearing any of Cyrus’s opposing words. Cyrus needs to recognize that his time in the White House is coming to a close and so it is okay for them to loosen up a bit, Fitz tells him. Then he instructs Abby to set up the interview, leaving Cyrus dumbfounded.

The deterioration of the relationship between Cyrus and Fitz doesn’t look like it’ll be on the mend anytime soon. Despite bringing the Chief of Staff back and proclaiming to him that he couldn’t handle the presidency without his assistance, Fitz is still shutting him out. My guess is that what transpired with Olivia exacerbated the distrust that Fitz has with anybody outside of himself. And Abby. She has yet to betray him and she seems to be the only person he is willing to listen to.

Following through on his directive, Lillian is brought in for a bit of vetting. The meeting takes place in Abby’s office where Cyrus came prepared with some ground rules that Lillian is to follow. Cyrus explains to her that should they officially agree to move forward with the interview, Lillian is to stick to the previously agreed upon topics. Abby chimes in to state that Lillian should consider these more like discussion points, such as the President’s past policies, his future plans and “everything in between.”

At this point, Cyrus swoops in to relay to Lillian that what the President is working on at present is what is being termed his “Year of Achievement.” Abby meanwhile is looking at him like WTF are you doing?! None of this “Year of Achievement” business came from Fitz, so Abby already knows that Cyrus is overstepping his bounds here.

Lillian is set to write down this tidbit but is stopped by Cyrus who tells her that their conversation is off the record, so that means that she cannot write any of it down. It is at this point that Fitz pops in to see how things are going. Everyone stands upon his entrance and Lillian offers her hand to him and says how honored she is to meet him. The Fitzgerald Grant charm automatically turns on and Lillian doesn’t know what she’s going to do with herself. She looks to be affected by his presence. I mean, who the hell wouldn’t be?! (Squee!)

Cyrus explains to Fitz that they were just going over some ground rules with Lillian should they decide to go ahead with the interview, but Fitz says that Lillian has spent time with Putin so she should already know the drill as far as ground rules are concerned. At this point, Lillian goes all flirty with Fitz in the manner that says “I’m fangirling like crazy on the inside, but I can’t help but to inject how hot I find you into my voice” type of way.She’s got this little smile on her face that garners her a dorky presidential grin in return. I’m sure she was having some kind of party in her underpants when that happened.

Recalling herself to the task at hand, Lillian informs her audience that she understands the rules and knows that the ball in in their court; however, she isn’t interested in conducted a heavily regulated, closely guarded interview of the President. She says that she wants to have a meaningful conversation with the man, and discover what he plans to do during the final days of his presidency. She’s looking Fitz straight in the eyes as she is saying this, clearly pushing on all the right buttons. She even tosses in a “man I voted for” line, which is a definite hook.

Man I voted for? Who is the only other person who has ever said that to Fitzgerald? Umm hmm. I’ve got my eye on you, Forrester. You say you have no ulterior motive other than wanting to write a “damn good article”, but I am suspicious.

Man I voted for. Puh! Lillian told him that so that she could be seen as a friendly. She appealed to his ego and got him to lower his guard. I’m just waiting for the shank she’s going to pull out when Fitzgerald least expects it.

Lillian asks them if they want her to write a “damn good article” and no one gives her an answer. It’s as if they are all too stunned to speak. Fitz is most definitely intrigued and says that it was nice meeting her and as he departs, her eyes follow him out the door and she licks her lips like she’s in dire need of a drink. Shall I fetch you some water, ma’am?

Later that evening, Fitz is reading in the Oval when Cyrus comes through. Fitz asks him if this is Cyrus trying to offer another warning about Lillian and Cyrus says that it is about Reagan. Fitz is skeptical as Cyrus begins his tale about Reagan’s last 6 months in the White House. Cyrus saying that Reagan could have lounged about and did nothing with his remaining time, but he used his time wisely and was able to take down the Berlin Wall. He adds that Clinton also reformed welfare in his final year.

The point of what Cyrus was saying is that when it is all said and done, Fitz is going to miss everything that came along with the responsibilities of being the Commander in Chief. Fitz is going to miss the fights, crafting and seeing an agenda through, going toe to toe with Senate Democrats, rallying Tea Party support for a judicial nominee, pushing through something as consequential as the Brandon Bill because he knows it was to the benefit of the American people. Cyrus goes on to say that it isn’t yet January 20, 2017, so between now and then, they as an administration can still do something that is game changing. They could “set the world on fire or die trying.”

Poor Cyrus. He’s trying to appeal to the Fitzgerald who ran for office 7 years before, the one who was green with optimism and hope and big dreams. That Fitzgerald hasn’t yet experienced what the 7 years older Fitzgerald had. This present guy is jaded and was no longer enamored with shiny objects.

Fitz is uninterested in this proposal from Cyrus and concludes that the purpose for Cyrus’s visit did indeed have something to do with Lillian Forrester. Cyrus tells Fitz that he can’t be that guy who stands by and allows Fitz to squander the remaining year of his presidency. Fitz is dismissive of this and asks Cyrus if the conversation is done. He clearly doesn’t give two damns about whatever Cyrus believes that he should be doing. Another reminder that Fitz is on that #TeamMe trip and rude as hell about it.

This is the moment when Cyrus realizes that his relationship with Fitz has eroded to the point of no return. Fitz’s behavior towards him is definitely worse than how it was when he found out about Defiance in the back half of S2. This is a cold indifference that cuts to the core. Fitz just don’t care.

I’m willing to bet that Cyrus’s warnings about the path Fitz is choosing to go down are going to turn out to be warnings that Fitz should have heeded. Watch Lillian end up being a problem that will need fixing when it is already too late. Am I projecting? Maybe, but we shall see.

Later Cyrus (after he has left the bar mentioned above where he bumped into Mellie) is in Fitz’s bedroom. He’s standing there watching him for a bit before he finally calls out to Fitz in a whisper. Fitz wakes up with a start and assumes that something is wrong, but nothing is wrong. At least not something that requires a red folder. Cyrus tells his boss that his cousin died about an hour ago and that he has to go. Fitz offers his condolences and Cyrus leaves. Fitz has no idea that Cyrus means actual departure from his side. It’s a moment that’s sad when you recall the moments that Cyrus thought about while he stood there watching his “child,” but it is also something that was a long time coming. There was no way that Cyrus would be satisfied merely serving as an empty suit to the President. He may as well be dead.

The following morning, we meet up with Fitz in the Oval with Lillian. She has her recorder and is ready to begin her interview. She poses her first question, which Fitz starts to answer, but then she suddenly stops the recorder. When Fitz asks if he had said something wrong, Lillian goes into fangirl mode where she admits that she didn’t hear a damn thing that Fitz said because she can’t focus. You see, Lillian, this grown ass woman, has been reduced to a puddle. She’s got a crush on the President.

Fitz appears stunned by the admission and states that this is clearly conflict of interest. Lillian is now jittery and starts packing up her shit because the moment is awkward, but then Fitz admits that he’s attracted to her, too, and asks her out to dinner.

Let me just tell y’all that that was the lamest thing that I have seen transpire on Scandal. I know Fitzgerald Grant is hotter than Hades on a bad day, but this woman seriously stopped an interview with the President because she has a crush? Really? Even Cupid’s arrow didn’t completely deter Olivia from her job as campaign fixer.

I know some of you will say that I should give Fitz a pass since he hasn’t had to pick up a woman in an age, but good lawd. What was that?! I guess I’ll allow him his earnestness, even if the whole thing felt contrived. As for Lillian: come on, ma’am.

Who’s responsible for sending the thirst basket in Fitz’s direction? Nothing is ever as simple as it is initially presented on Scandal, so one must assume that this woman is former B613 or is set to double cross the President for some yet to be known reason. This isn’t going to end well. I just know it. This business with Lillian is going to come back and bite him in the anaconda.

I wish I could say that I’m mature enough to look past her bad wig or pretend as if I don’t already hate her on principle, but I can’t because that would be a lie. I’ve got Madam Thirst Basket on my radar. If Cyrus is looking at her sideways, so am I. On the same token, I’m hoping that this ends up all over TV and Olivia learns about it and ends up with severe heartburn over it. Why, you ask? Because I’m totally on #TeamPetty. Fight me.

Elizabeth, David and Susan! Oh my!

This storyline has got to be the one that I care the absolute least about because it is comprised of characters that could very well be taken off the canvas of the show and it wouldn’t change a darn thing as far as its trajectory. Nevertheless, let’s talk about them because their storyline is directly related to the other two above. And I do love me some Susan Ross.

Elizabeth and Susan are the first of this trio that we see in the episode. Elizabeth is presenting Susan with polling information that she is referring to as Susan’s “wake up call.” The question posed to survey participants is if they consider the Vice President to be a viable presidential candidate, and 93% of respondents said YES. (Ninety-three percent is insane! Go Susan!)

Elizabeth is excited by this polling data, but Susan remains unaffected. This apparently is not the first time that Elizabeth and Susan have had this conversation about the latter throwing her hat into the presidential ring. Elizabeth was hoping that this poll would show Susan that the public believes in her ability to be president, but Susan is adamant about her desire not to run for office. The power to move mountains is a mere arm’s length away. Elizabeth tries to get Susan to understand that only a limited number of people have ever held the position of president and that America is saying that they believe Susan could be the 45th. She continues by telling Susan that she will regret not pursuing this now that the opportunity has presented itself, but Susan remains steadfast.

Later we see Elizabeth showing up at David’s office. He believes that she’s there to get frisky. When Liz orders him “down”, David mistakes her meaning and gets down on all fours like a dog. Elizabeth cringes and tells him to get up, that this is work and not play. (David really is committed to being the submissive in this relationship, isn’t he?) Elizabeth has come because she needs him to convince Susan Ross to run for president.

David isn’t immediately on board with this idea. He tells her that Susan doesn’t want to run and Elizabeth says in reply that she doesn’t care what Susan wants because this is about what Elizabeth wants. She is looking to become the next POTUS’s chief of staff and Susan is her shot at the Oval Office. (Elizabeth is sounding an awful lot like Cyrus whose shot at the Oval was via Fitzgerald and a bit like Mellie, who is more interested in making it to the top than actually helping people.)

David doesn’t believe that he can convince Susan to run and Elizabeth says that she believes that he can, especially given the fact that Susan is in love with him. David is to use this fact to manipulate Susan into running for office. Elizabeth tells David that he’s to ask Susan out and do some convincing by giving Susan what she wants (aka him). By giving Susan what she wants, Elizabeth can get what she wants. Elizabeth then adds that David doesn’t do this, he won’t be getting any loving any time soon. And like a putz, David goes off to do Elizabeth’s dirty work. SMH.

Seems to me like Elizabeth’s thighs may be as magical as Olivia’s if she’s out here leading David around by the collar like a dog. The man has no spine whatsoever.

The next time we see David, he’s just showed up at Susan’s office. She is pleasantly surprised to see him, and when she asks why he’s there, he tells her that he’s come to take her out of the office. Susan doesn’t initially catch his meaning until he rephrases and says that he’d like her to go out with him. Of all the places he proposes that they go, Susan has already been to them all except for the one.

David ends up taking her to Gettysburger! Well, that’s one downgrade of a date, but I suppose going anywhere with David would be a spectacular moment for Susan. And we finally get to see the inside of a Gettysburger joint! Susan is actually impressed and David can’t believe that she’s never been to a Gettysburger. Sheesh, Susan. Fitzgerald beat you to Gettysburger food?

When we cut back to them later, Susan and David are just chilling at Gettysburger. Susan laughs over the absurdity of them shutting the place down and making the kids who work there to stay late. David points out that this is power, but Susan counters with it being obnoxious. She asks David to imagine what the press would write if they got a hold of what she had done and David says that they’d write a pretty great story about how Susan is a regular American. He manages to shift that into how that kind of story would make people believe Susan to be “grade A” presidential material.

Susan at this point says that David is now sounding like Liz and he pretends as if he doesn’t know what Susan is talking about. She goes on to tell him that Liz won’t let up on this idea of her running for president even as she has said several times that she doesn’t want to. David lies and says that he didn’t know that Liz wanted her to run, but adds that Susan would be an amazing president. In response, Susan let him in on the reason why she was chosen to be Vice President and it wasn’t because she was thought to be amazing. She is currently VP because “Mellie Grant lacks character.” Was that shade, Susan? Hahahahahahaha!!!

Susan continues by saying that Mellie was picking her competition for the next Republican primary, and instead of Mellie having the guts to face off with a “true warrior”, Mellie turned coward and picked Susan to be VP. Mellie picked someone “useless, unthreatening, unpolished, unelectable. She picked a bug she could crush in one blow.”

Ah, man. Don’t talk about yourself like this, Suze! We love you!!

Susan isn’t wrong at all about the reasons why Mellie selected her to be Fitz’s VP. She has known the deal from the very beginning (see “I’m Just A Bill”, episode 419). She tells David that she doesn’t stand a chance in a primary against Mellie so why would she put herself through the agony of a campaign?

As she is speaking, you can see that David is affected by her words. He stops her from saying anything further by kissing her, and then he tells her that  he doesn’t ever want to hear her talk down about herself. He assures her that she isn’t a bug but a warrior who can win the race.

Sigh. David, I sense that that moment was very real for you, but unfortunately, you started this whole thing deceitfully and it’s not going to end well for you. That’s my prediction, bub.

The next morning, David is in his office when Elizabeth arrives. He had called her over and she makes a remark about how she ordinarily wouldn’t come when called, but David says that he’s glad that she did because he is no longer playing this game of hers and is withdrawing. He goes on to say that Susan is a good person who is smart, compassionate and truly cares about the people. He calls her a political unicorn and says that if she doesn’t want to run for President, she shouldn’t be made to. David refuses to manipulate Susan and says that he won’t allow Elizabeth to manipulate him.  (Way to finally find your balls, David.)

Elizabeth shuts him up when she informs him that Susan filed the required paperwork. She’s running. David is surprised by this and says that running isn’t what Susan wants. Elizabeth counters by saying that Susan doesn’t know what she wants. The woman literally referred to Susan as “Little Bo Veep.”

I can’t stand these Scandal writers, man.

As Elizabeth is undressing to give David his reward for being such a good boy, she tells him that Susan is lucky to have them since she is clueless as to what she wants. David is hesitant to give in to Elizabeth but eventually does as she says to him that they should make a president together. Sucker.

Remember all that talk from last episode about how the lack of power leads to one being considered impotent? Well, in the case of Susan Ross, she doesn’t lack for professional power at all, but does lack in personally in the sense of her self-worth. Susan sees herself as nothing but the tiniest, most inconsequential fish in the biggest pond imaginable. No one takes her seriously despite her position as next in line to the nuclear codes, and it doesn’t help that the President on down treat her as if she’s nothing more than a space filler.

David’s confidence in her abilities has pushed her into doing something that she has long refused to do, and this one step could be the one that leads Susan to the realization that she has more to offer than she or anyone else gives herself credit for. She has power, personal power, that she has allowed to lie dormant for too long. I’m hoping that it manifests during her run for the presidency and that she surprises everybody with it.

The convergence

The next that we see of Olivia and Mellie, they are sitting side by side as they review Mellie’s book rewrites. Olivia is impressed by what Mellie has done and lets her know this. Mellie looks at Olivia as if God Herself just told her that she was Her own special child. She’s glad to have gotten that bit of positive feedback.

The book coming out in a couple of months is going to do Mellie no good, Olivia says. The release date has to be pushed up. Waiting even a month could be too late since other people would be announcing their intention to run soon. Olivia tells Mellie that the book must come out now, but Mellie says that that’s not possible because her publisher told her at least six weeks to get the book into stores. As in bookstores? Nah, says Olivia. There are other ways to get the word out. So Olivia has portions of the book leaked to a website and these portions are in turn picked up by other media outlets. Even crazy Sally Langston is reading it on her show!

Do you know the part that Sally read? It was the bit that Olivia had told Mellie to write, about how she discovered during that filibuster that she was for the first time in her adult life no longer an “appendage to the most powerful man in the world”. Sally is clearly impressed and says that Susan Ross ought to watch her back. Sally then asks about who the Democrats will serve up for the slaughter and that’s when we cut over to Cyrus.

Recall that he had lied about having lost a cousin. Abby is on the phone in a panic because Fitz has asked Lillian Forrester out on a date. This wasn’t how the whole setup was supposed to go! The woman was supposed to do a profile piece and then leave, but the President done turned about and asked the woman out. Abby tells Cyrus that she needs him, but then she remembers that he just “lost” a cousin.

Abby goes on to ask him if he could talk to Fitz about Lillian, that she is out of her league in this instance and Cyrus says nope. Abby is now the work wife. She’s going to have to deal with this on her own. He hangs up on her right as he emerges into an open room where there are a bunch of angry people yelling at a man at the podium. This man is apparently their governor and he’s made some very unpopular proposals that these people are not in favor of. Free college for everybody? These people don’t want their tax dollars going to educating other people! What kind of foolery is that?! They want no part in his education bill.

This dear man facing down these people is the current Governor of Pennsylvania. He is ever patient as he acknowledges their concerns, and then offers them a personal anecdote about how his parents had little education growing up in Mexico, but when they arrived in Pennsylvania, they were able to make something of themselves. His mother went to nursing school and his father earned his PhD from Penn State and “their two sons had access to public education in the greatest country on Earth.”

This man sounds as idealistic and as hopeful as Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III had been when he first set foot into the presidential arena. Before so much changed him. Cyrus seems impressed by what he’s seeing and hearing for he might’ve just found his next diamond in the rough. Cyrus is already making moves towards his next opportunity in what appears to be an effort to become kingmaker once again. This time, he’s got his eye set on a Democrat!

With him now being a nobody at the White House, Cyrus is looking for some way to reclaim the rush that he lives for. He has spent so many of his years siphoning power from behind the scenes and not stepping out from behind the shadow to be his own man. In that way, Cyrus is a lot like Mellie. But it seems like things are changing. Cyrus just might be stepping out on his own and finding what it means to be defined as an individual and not the man behind the man.

Whatever happens moving forward, just know that this is about to be one hell of a presidential race with Olivia and OPA handling Mellie, Elizabeth handling Susan and Cyrus potentially snagging this Governor of Pennsylvania. We’re probably going to see others jump into the fray to make this business more complicated than it already is. If the past is any indication, this is election is bound to become a bloody mess. Literally.

This is it for my recap/review of Scandal episode 511. Be sure to share your thoughts on the episode, your observations of the candidates at play and your predictions as to what you think could be on the horizon. Thank you for reading and see you all next week!

About the Author - Spectacles in Script (Specs)
Specs is a fiction writer who has a love for compelling stories and ankara dresses. Currently obsessed with SCANDAL, she serves as reviewer of the show for SpoilerTV.
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