Scandal Roundtable 2.13: “Nobody Likes Babies”

Hosted by Joe Lamour and Kendra James

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Image via ABC.com.

Last week in Kendra’s recap, she basically summed up the actions of the last episode (that we all care about) in these two sentences:

Olivia and Edison are over, but Fitz and Mellie are stronger than we’ve ever seen them. Oh, and next week we jump ten months into the future because they were running out of election flashbacks to use.

Tonight’s episode, with that jump, has Ms. Pope moving on (obviously…of course…not really) with a handsome stranger (safe for work preview is here.) But before all that happens, read what we think of the last episode where we discuss the love square from Planet Frustration and more.

Loree Lamour, Johnathan Fields, Jordan St. John, T.F. Charlton, and Zach Stafford join Kendra and me for this week’s Scandal discussion. Spoilers under the cut.

Joe: Boy, Scandal doesn’t play around. Thoughts on the episode, everyone?

Jordan: I find it so representative of their relationship that Mellie says she won’t agree to a divorce. Love be damned. They are married, and she is in this with him for the long haul–she could care less about his feelings on the matter. I liked how this came back around at the end. Mellie is the one in it for the long haul and when times are tough, the woman you can depend on.

Kendra: But how dependable really is a woman who’s as unpredictable as Mellie’s proven herself to be? (Well, unpredictable to the characters on the show, for whatever reason. She telegraphs her actions pretty well to us.) She can be depended on to do whatever it takes to keep Fitz, but the reasoning for her decision making doesn’t seem to consider the possible broader consequences– trying to start a war on faulty evidence and inducing labor a month early are two decisions that come to mind. I do enjoy Mellie, but I just wouldn’t necessarily call her dependable.

Loree: I agree with you there, Kendra. I mean, didn’t Mellie threaten that, if Fitz did divorce her, she’d expose Fitz’s and Olivia’s affair and then the country would feel so sorry for her and admire how strong she is as a single mom that she’d be guaranteed to be elected if she ran for office? I mean Mellie, of course, has a right to be angry: her husband wants to leave her for his mistress after just having his baby, but risking your baby by inducing labor just to keep a man who doesn’t even want you = sad. I’m amazed that she thinks having a baby could keep her marriage together–maybe it would’ve worked in the 1940s, but not now.

Joe: I so want to make “Risking your baby by inducing labor just to keep a man who doesn’t even want you = sad” the title for this roundtable…

T.F.: I am totally crunchy hippie when it comes to childbirth, but I have to point out that inducing labor four weeks early isn’t actually that far off from what a lot of OBs do–37 weeks (of 40) is considered full term. Inducing labor at 36 weeks is more of a “mildly higher risk of complications” thing than “your baby could die” thing. Definitely a desperation move, though.

Joe: Mmm… still, asking for a labor induction to share a mo with your husband is pretty damn uncouth.

Jordan: I think Mellie can be relied on to act in a certain way that is far from favorable, but she can be relied on. This is the woman who got pregnant with “America’s Baby” to distract the nation from not one but two affairs her husband had. This is the same woman who faked a miscarriage to get her husband votes, rigged an election, and forged her comatose husband’s signature to maintain power. Mellie is misguided and, at times, rash, but she has tied herself to Fitz and she has made it her life’s mission to get him power and maintain that power. By the end of the ep, when Fitz realizes that he is not the golden boy he always saw himself as, there is comfort for him in knowing that Mellie probably will not look turn her back on him if she finds out what he did to Verna. Mellie is a bit of a monster, but she is upfront with it. Liv may be his great love, but I can’t say the same for her both in who she is and what she will tolerate from Fitz.

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Image via ABC.com.

Zach: I can understand Mellie’s anger, but at the same time her anger really scares me. She is willing to hurt anyone and anything that comes in her way for getting what she wants, whether it’s a one point wanting to be the First Lady or the next moment plotting to take the seat in the White House if she is divorced. She is too reactionary. Unlike Liv, who is more thoughtful, well at least framed to be. I mean, Liv is a fixer, and Mellie is a breaker in a sense.

Johnathan: Sounds about par for Republican Party logic, no?

Joe: I think the Republican Party is more about keeping everything as it is, even if it is no longer feasible, fair, or true (sorry, Republican readers!), which Mellie is currently trying to do. I have to say been dissuaded from putting on a Team Mellie t-shirt this week. (Sorry, T.F.!)

Jordan: Kerry’s stylist in this next scene with Cyrus and Olivia went a little overboard with her hair. I have always liked that Olivia’s hair is often understated. She’s looking like a black Farrah Fawcett here.

Kendra: I wasn’t feeling the hair or wardrobe stylists during the first half of this episode. I found that high collared white blouse she was wearing during her first discussion with Cyrus distracting. But that’s the first time they’ve faltered in what… over 20 episodes? Sometimes I wonder if the wardrobe supervisors for Kerry and Gina Torres over at Suits ever have brunch just to discuss how fabulous they are.

Joe: OMG! Gina Torres and her power dresses give me life. It’s interesting that she doesn’t come to mind when I think about female leads of color in TV shows, I guess it’s kind of like Person of Interest, where the two real leads are white men but she’s a major supporting character. Nevertheless…what did I say last week! Cyrus almost had his husband killed! He is just the worst husband ever.

Jordan: Yeah. But he didn’t and, considering how trigger-happy Cyrus is, I will consider that true luuuuv.

Loree: Yeah, I don’t know how I feel about that. I mean to hire a hitman to kill your husband is pretty much unforgivable in my book.

Zach: Right, Loree! How are you going to have your husband, the father of your adopted daughter, murdered just so you can save your career? Mellie and Cyrus are really working my nerves lately.

Joe: We at least see the limits of what he will do. Before this, I was pretty sure he would try to  kill Olivia if she became too big an obstacle. I think he really does consider her one of his best friends. Then again, I wouldn’t trust that man as far as I could throw him.

Jordan: I must say that Mellie’s post-divorce plan from Fitz is pretty sound. Call me jaded and negative about the political system, but I think Mellie would probably make a very capable politician.

Joe: I see a retread of the Bush #2 “war on top of war on top of war” years with Madame President Millicent Grant, just with more poise and fabulous lady suits. That would not be a good look for America.

Jordan: I love Cyrus’s speech to James. It is ridiculous and impractical, but I really hope they stay together and can have a relationship built on honesty (with each other, at least). Heaven help that poor child, though. Love the two of them together, but Cyrus does not seem like dad material. That said, Cyrus doesn’t seem much like husband material, but it seems like James is making him into a better man. There is hope for him yet.

Kendra: I’m calling it now– betting that James finds out about that phone call before the season’s out. That’s too big of a horrible decision not to come back and bite him in the end.

Zach: Yeah, I bet he will find out. And also that James will expose to the world the voting-fraud scandal. James will write the editorial on it, exposing everyone, and then he will keep that child. I just hope Cyrus doesn’t plan to kill him–again.

Johnathan: When Mellie belted out, “Nobody likes babies,” I thought I understood the title. By the end, though, I realized it was a double entendre. It doesn’t only mean that people don’t like infants but also that people don’t like when you’re not tough enough to hold on when the going gets tough. The closing scene where Olivia cries alone at Verna’s funeral said it all.

Joe: And…apparently Mellie really doesn’t like babies. Or she likes power more than babies, at least. Personally, I like babies (I just met a really cute one named Stella that I plan to pamper with baby swag like whoa) but… I don’t like Harrison. There’s something about the way Columbus Short delivers his speeches that annoys me oh. so. much. Especially the condescending speech this episode to the ever-so-whiny Abby Whelan.

T.F.: I dunno–Harrison’s speech was harsh, but on some level I appreciated it. Harrison and Huck are the only two members of Olivia Pope and Associates who are honest and clear-eyed about what they actually do. Everyone else is “Oh, we’re supposed to be the white hats”…in what universe? Harrison is right–what they do is whatever Olivia tells them to do, and that’s fundamentally incompatible with being the “good guys.”`

Jordan: I gotta say, Harrison’s speech felt like this episode’s anthem: take off your blinders, stop believing in fairy tales, and start looking at the truth of your situation. Whether it’s the work that you do, the person that you’re married to, the person that you are, etc. Abby works for a political fixer who has previously asked her to clean up murder scenes; Fitz wants to talk moral high ground when he’s cheating on his wife and he knows what type of people his chief of staff and top campaign manager are. If Abby or anyone else thinks she has their hands clean, she’s delusional.

Kendra: I have the feeling that whenever we do find out about Harrison’s past (I read this week that it’s apparently a longer arc), his speechifying and POV will make a lot more sense, character-wise.

Joe: I hope this flashback includes a child version of Harrison speaking really fast, so I know it’s a character thing and not an actor thing. Maybe he had a summer job as an auctioneer.

Johnathan: Olivia wants “painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love”? I think Shonda Rhimes was re-watching Sex and the City the weekend she wrote this episode.

Joe: Johnathan, That is literally what I thought of when I heard that speech. Its a sentiment that bears repeating though. Convenient (or… everyday?) love is not what some people are looking for. I guess that’s why those people (cough, cough) are usually alone. LOL.

Kendra: Right after that mini-speech was given I was like, “girl, we obviously need to know more about your home life.” That had to be a walloping hint concerning her past from even before Fitz entered her life. Those feelings don’t just come out of nowhere.

Jordan: She totally pulled that right from Sex and the City. Season Finale: Part 2. I hated Big and Carrie’s relationship, but that speech is one of the greats. Glad to know I am not the only fan. I did like Edison’s reply: love isn’t supposed to hurt. So why does she insist on inflicting pain on herself with this dramatic affair? I get the romance, but she could be making jam in the country with some babies. Even she had to admit, she could be happy and she is choosing not to be.

T.F.: Another relationship with an emotionally abusive and manipulative dude that was presented as a great, passionate love. Not here for it! (Still mad at how Carrie treated Aidan, too.)

Joe: (Just so we’re clear: commenters, did you all think of Sex and the City at that moment, too? We all did. Join usssss.)

Johnathan: The problem for both Olivia and Carrie is the blatantly shattered spirits or abandonment issues they’re both dealing with as characters. These get glossed over and ignored with fancy clothes and swept under the facade of “love.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting a love that stands the test of time, a love that perseveres when the going gets tough. But to desire broken when you could’ve had healthy? Girl, bye.

T.F.: Verna’s reading of Fitz also spoke to this. So on point with her description of Fitz as childish and pampered–and, at least as I read it, willfully ignorant of the lengths his team was willing to go to get him elected. If he didn’t know it’s because he on some level chose not to know. Won’t come as a surprise to anyone that this lines up with how I see Fitz…he’s no different from the other bad guys on this show–the only difference is he’s willing to let other people do his dirty work for him and has a team that will do just that. Of course, that changes in this episode.

So can we talk about the game-changer? Fitz killing Verna? I mean, damn. As soon as Verna said she’d called David Rosen I got scared.

Kendra: I’m with T.F., I’m no fan of Fitz, but….I did not see him turning murderer. Honestly, I wouldn’t have thought he had that in him. Mellie, Cyrus, Olivia? Sure. But Fitz is, as you said, childish and pampered; other people do this kind of thing for him. Where’d he suddenly get the gumption to not only kill her, but to stand there and watch her die? That takes more responsibility–more passion–than he’s shown towards anything so far… aside from Liv. I’m just still not sure I feel like it was entirely in character.

Loree: It just goes to show that you can never know what people of power–or people, for that matter–are capable of until there’s a risk of losing that power or whatever else they feel they can’t live without. I mean, after Fitz learns what the people he depends and loves the most–Olivia, Cyrus–did to help him win the election. What does tell him about these people? That he was not good enough to win. He doesn’t love his wife, but she seems to stick around no matter how mean and hateful he is towards her. I’m assuming that Verna didn’t tell him that Mellie was also involved in the decision of rigging the voting machine for his election win. After knowing of this betrayal from his best friend and the love of his life, he feels all he has left is his role of President and a ride-and-die wife. So, as shocking as it was for him to kill Verna, I do see his character’s morale’s weak enough to commit the ultimate crime of murder. Maybe he felt justified enough to do it because Verna was dying and that she ordered his murder.

Joe: I think the “Don’t. Push. Me.” thing was a bit of tragic foreshadowing. That, and the post-brain surgery warnings the doctors gave him. He has been especially angry and impulsive, so this fits within his (admittedly convenient, plot-wise) diagnosis. P.S. I’m not sure what any of us would do if we were almost murdered–and later, that attempted murderer was left alone with us, all weak, defenseless. Basically on a silver platter.

T.F.: “Don’t. Push. Me.” was foreshadowing, but so was every other pre-brain surgery scene where Fitz has physically or emotionally intimidated Olivia and Mellie, and the elevator scene a few episodes ago. Killing Verna is a step further–a big step further–for him, but like Loree says, it shows what people are capable of when pushed. It feels consistent with Fitz’s character; I’ve found him creepy and definitely capable of violence from his very first “romantic” scene with Olivia.

Shonda Rhimes’ comments about Fitz in this episode are really interesting. She says that Fitz goes back to Mellie because, in his guilt, he feels she’s all he deserves and that he was broken by Olivia’s betrayal and seeming confirmation of his dad’s lack of faith in him. I can see that being Fitz’s justification in his head. But in the end, he killed a woman because he wants to stay president and, with the knowledge that his presidency is illegitimate, Mellie’s far more useful to him than Olivia is. The “betrayal” to my mind is less about Olivia doing something illegal or even not believing in him, and more about her being part of something that destroyed the luxury he had of seeing himself as good and noble. He had to get his hands dirty because of her, and she can’t be forgiven for that.

It’s part of a broader theme in Scandal, in that so many characters want to believe they’re the good guys, white hats against black hats. So it’s interesting to me that Shonda says part of the point of this episode was that none of the characters are either all good or all bad. Almost all of the characters discover or reveal appalling things about themselves in this episode; they all have to confront the reality of the extremes they’re capable of going to.

Jordan: I come back to the question of why Fitz went back to Mellie. It felt like it was more about the fact that he didn’t want to deal with Liv after the bursting of his idyllic bubble. He saw that she wasn’t perfect. He would have had to admit he killed Verna, and he’s not perfect. He knew Mellie could deal with that but Liv might leave him. You see with James and Cyrus–a couple who knows exactly who they are. James knows Cyrus rigged an election and bought him off with a child, and he has made his peace with it. Same resolution with Abby and Olivia. Cards on the table, we know who we are and we know where we stand. I found it sad that I think Olivia had that with Edison, but she didn’t have “passion” so she threw it away. She should have taken a page from James and thought about jam. (I am obsessed with making jam in the country. Where is that life dammit?)

Zach: I was honestly shocked at him going back to Mellie. But I think that after killing Verna and pushing Olivia away, we will begin to see the ‘political beast’ unleashed in Fitz. I think he did come to the realization that he has all of these followers doing his dirty work, and look where that led him. Almost dead and what not. So, I think he is starting to take his life into his own hands, doing his own dirty work. By keeping Mellie around he is keeping his friends close, his enemies closer, and his megalomaniac wife in his bed.

Johnathan: Mellie is the safe bet, the comfortable choice. With Mellie, Fitz doesn’t need to worry about shattering his public profile. As long as he smooths things over with her, he can keep maintaining and building power. Obviously this is his modus operandi after strangling Verna.

T.F.: Agreed. If you watch Mellie’s face in that scene, she wants to believe he means it. She wants to believe she has her husband back. In part because of the political implications, but I think she also really loves him in her own warped way. Fitz knows that: she’s repeatedly made overtures toward him, to be civil and even affectionate, and he rebuffs her every time. Which makes Fitz’s return to her so chilling–he deliberately and deceptively plays on Mellie’s weaknesses. It’s a seduction, really. He praises her for never pretending to be anything other than who she is, but his whole speech about their only having each other is based on this giant lie–pretending not to know about the vote-rigging and, concealing, y’know, the whole being a cold-blooded murderer thing. I really don’t think Mellie would be so thrilled to be a “team” if she knew about that.

It just confirmed to me what Verna said–in the end, Fitz is a user. He’s happy to play the upstanding guy and naive romantic when there are other people to do the dirty work on his behalf. But in the end he’s just as willing as the others to get what he really wants by any means necessary.

There’s also the subtext from last week about Olivia being the “wrong hue.”  Mellie’s safe in that way, too–if any of the voting scandal comes out, Fitz stands a better chance of weathering it with his white wife and mother of their kids by his side.

Image via ABC.com.

Image via ABC.com.

Kendra: The next episode jumps 10 months into the future. Any predictions or hopes for what we’re going to see? Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing background on Harrison’s character finally, as I think that’s one of the show’s weakest links. I’m also going to be looking for that passion Fitz demonstrated in killing Verna to follow through as some sort of overall change in character. I’m almost wondering if, as sick as it is, that’s going to be a kind of a boost to his confidence. Getting away with murder is probably kind of a rush.

Joe: Frankly, I just hope Olivia gets involved with someone other than Fitz (other than Edison) for more than one episode. I think while we all enjoy the Olitz chemistry, it’ll get tired real fast if their star-crossed love is all Shonda ends up focusing on for five seasons consecutively.

Kendra: And I also really hope David Rosen gets to do something besides come after the Gladiators. I love Josh Malina, but Rosen’s been so one-note this season to the point where I kind of just roll my eyes every time he appears.

Joe: Oh…and can everyone agree to stop saying “white hats,”or is that too much to ask?

  • Ms. A

    ” … did you all think of Sex and the City at that moment, too?”

    I absolutely thought of Sex and the City at that moment and it took me out of the show. I just kept thinking that it didn’t seem to fit for Olivia or for the show altogether. It’s one of the Sex and the City moments that doesn’t grate on rewatching for me. I went back and rewatched it after this episode, and I think the differences between what Carrie says and what Olivia says are pretty noteworthy – Carrie wants “big” and “inconvenient” love, not painful and devastating love. When Carrie Bradshaw is more mature and reasonable than Olivia Pope, that seems like some bad writing to me. It just seemed like a cheap way for her to break up with Edison when she had other, very valid reasons – the chemistry’s not there, we’ve seen him be controlling and insulting.

  • Foxessa

    ” … did you all think of Sex and the City at that moment, too?”

    Maybe not exactly, but certainly I had the feeling we had suddenly stumbled into someone else’s television show, not Olivia’s.

    We jump ten months ahead, with yet another love interest, while a murderer sits in the Oval Office? Does America’s Baby Boy been named yet? What have the OP Gladiators been up to for ten months? Will new romantic interest provide “painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love”? If so what will he be up to, really? Since a love interest that provides pain, devastation and beyond the normal catastrophe can’t be a ‘normal’ person, whatever that may be ….

    In any case it’s impossible for me, even in a television fantasy context, to not see a president of the U.S. and a chief advisor of a POTUS so willing to commit murder, who both have committed murder that aren’t even nominally in the cause of national security or war, as anything except all bad. This might be jumping the shark.

    We’ll see how this season concludes but if consistent shark jumping is what we get instead of actually very sharp writing of the unexpected, but perfectly set up, I won’t be in the audience.