The Scandal Roundtable 2.15: Boom Goes The Dynamite

Hosted by Joseph Lamour
(Spoiler Alert in the introduction if you haven’t seen episode 2.15.)

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Kendra hit the nail on the head last week when she said:

“…Fitz is behind the Jigsaw-creepy camera setup Jake has in his apartment, once again marking Fitz as The Worst. Just. The. Worst. Ignore what your Thursday night Facebook feed tells you; none of this is romantic, and it’s worrying to see it interpreted that way by fans of the show. Olivia and Fitz are undoubtedly the show’s main couple–maybe even the Endgame Couple–but, until Fitz shows some major growth as a decent human being, we shouldn’t be rooting for it. Especially now that it’s moved from sexually abusive to outright stalking and privacy invasion. Unfortunately, the writers haven’t given viewers a viable, interesting alternative, so for those who are here for the romantic drama Olivia and Fitz’s “relationship” is the only place to turn.”

I know it’s this type of drama that drives soapy procedurals like this, but it’s so unusual to see this type of thing with a person of color in the lead, so it leads to all sorts of emotional confusion–for me at least. Let’s see if T.F. Charlton, Jordan St. John, and Loree Lamour agree.

Hmm. Looks like Captain Donuts isn’t so bad. He’s just President Asshat’s intelligence friend, agreed? Or do we still find him and his wooing creepy? I mean, its not exactly his fault that he’s been wrapped up in this, and actually (truly?) likes the woman he’s surveilling. It’s this kind of situation that forms the basis of most romantic spy films. Then again, the conflict of interest is so terrible here, I’m not sure he’s in the right, either. What do you ladies think?

T.F.: Enh. I know we’re supposed to think he’s not so creepy because he’s doing it under orders and won’t watch Olivia get nekkid, but…no. Starting a relationship with her under those circumstances? Scratch that, it’s not a relationship. It’s not romance. It’s creepy. I get he’s under orders, but approaching her like that when she doesn’t have the full picture is manipulative.

Jordan: I am torn about this portrayal of Liv as this soft, delicate, hurting person. I appreciate that they have been making efforts to show us Liv being vulnerable. This shot of her, hair not done, looking pretty and vulnerable is not often afforded to black women. More often they are only portrayed as angry, tough, strong, etc., but rarely given the delicate-damsel treatment. That said, at least in her love life, they are positioning Liv as a woman in need of saving, which Jake does in the scene by calling her. Does the woman in the white hat really need a knight to rescue her? Especially one who is abusing his knowledge and playing on her vulnerability.

Also, not that it really needs repeating: Fitz is terrible. Using his position to stalk Olivia, again.

Joe: And then saying she’s dangerous. While he surveills her. He’s the worst!

Jordan: Agree. Jake, is spending his taxpayer-approved time and resources trailing the president’s ex-mistress?! Damn Fitz. Seriously. No one should have ever given you access to power. You surely don’t know what to do with it. I must say that this is just flat-out creepy to me. Fitz and Olivia have chemistry, but the fact that he has some guy trailing her and putting cameras in her house is really not OK. I hope that this is portrayed as the irrationality it is and some cute, lovesick ploy. Fitz is stalking her and violating her privacy.

T.F.: The situation that needed fixing this week was clearly a MacGuffin set up just so Olivia could give that “stolen moments are not a life” speech. I’m OK with that. It was an epic speech, and Kerry Washington nailed the scene. It’s too bad her self-realization (and message to the fans?) is what propels her right into the arms of Captain Donuts.

Joe: This is true. In the beginning of the episode, Loree and I were sure that the Eternal Bachelor Brother was asexual. Which would be such an original storyline (outside of the Sherlock and Dexter) that it would have been really refreshing. But, no…someone’s having an affair with someone, because no couple is faithful in a Shonda Rhimes television show. And if they are, one of them hires a hit man to kill the other one. Or one steals something from the other one. Or one is spying on the other one. I think if someone broke up with someone on this show because, you know, it just “wasn’t working out”, I would be shocked. Sigh. P.S.: I’m so glad we’re back to case of the week. It gives us more to talk about these days.

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Jordan: This dress that Liv is wearing is fabulous and love her classic waves with it. Old-world glamour suits her well.

T.F.: That dress was amazing. Hated Fitz staring at Liv in it, though. He has no right, given everything.

Joe: Judging by the fact that she’s ignoring him (and the speech that comes up later in the episode), I think she’s finally coming around to the other side.

Jordan: Finally! Is Liv starting to get that this fantasy she had with Fitz is just that.

Loree: Well, the fact that the Senator is okay with his little brother sleeping with his wife for years is odd to me. I wish they developed on him a bit more because that’s just weird. Not sure if he’s cheating on his wife, which in the political world isn’t a surprise, or he just loves his position in politics that he doesn’t care about his personal life? Strange to me.

Jordan: I wonder how much of what Olivia says comes from Judy Smith. I have never thought about how much passion and partnership plays into political charisma. Also, does that matter as much for women? Could you elect a female to office without knowing about her personal life. Also, I was a little sad Olivia thought it would take her 10 years to make a gay president…

Joe: I think that society-at-large tends to treat female politicians (for this example I’ll use Hilary Rodham Clinton) like these sort of sexless, masculine creatures, except when they ask them what designers they like to wear. It’s a strange dichotomy that really bothers me. As a fashion person who possibly could interview a male politician someday (probably not really), I’ll make it a point now to ask him who makes his suit.

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Jordan: Where does one get candidates for a political arranged marriage I wonder? Fixer, dating service: Pope and Associates is truly a one-stop shop. How do we feel about the fact that no women of color are included in the mix? Obviously, this was a conscious choice. Is Rhimes saying something about mixed political marriages or just thinking it would be unlikely to have an old school Republican with a wife other than a white woman.

Joe: Hate to be a broken record about this, but here’s that Root article (about interracial political couples) again. I guess this issue (for now and as long as Olitz is a thing) holds relevance in this show. Loree, Johnathan, and I talked about it in our 2.12 roundtable, but here’s a snippet from that:

Loree: Sadly, what Cyrus said does ring kind of true, as racist as it is. I know that he had to point that out instead of ignoring the ongoing racism with interracial coupling. It made me think: are there any high-ranking politicians who are in an interracial relationship marriage, particularly African American and white couples?

Joe: I’ve thought about this before. A gay friend of a gay friend was running for Congress, and while I was watching his video, I thought of being a Congressman’s spouse…we all know the fantasies one has…I was wearing pearls in mine. LOL.

Anyway, I thought to myself, how strange it would be, not that two men were married in politics, but that the two men would be of different races. I honestly think that would just be too much for voters to handle. The Root had an interesting article last year about how rare interracial political couples are, and in that article they covered Bill de Blasio, New York City’s public advocate who is now running for Mayor.  Also, I feel it necessary to mention that I’m not forgetting the First Family. In this case, they do share the same “hue” which pretty much made their interracial marriage a non-issue during the election. SMH.

Johnathan: Joe, I’m so glad you mentioned the First Family. When we talk about interracial couples, there is almost always an automatic assumption that one of the people in the relationship is white. People of color dating other people of color–say, a Black man and a Latino–is often ignored in the conversations. Furthermore, people who are multiracial always find themselves in interracial relationships but virtue of their identity.

Jordan: So Abby was in a political marriage that was abusive. Wonder if that was one Olivia arranged.

T.F.: I really hate this terrorist/hostages storyline: how Shonda Rhimes can be so sensitive to domestic stereotypes of people of color and simultaneously so clueless or indifferent to xenophobic stereotypes of people of color globally is a mystery to me. But I was grudgingly impressed that she took the storyline as far as drones–she’s repeatedly shown a willingness to to insert unexpected critiques of contemporary politics into what’s otherwise a political fantasy. Between the Sudanese genocide that turned out to be fabricated to play on American assumptions, not shying away from making Americans the bad guys who torture, and this, it’s a motif in Scandal.

Joe: The fact that they bombed a whole village as a warning…that’s a critique of America enough. But, yes. The ever faceless obscure Muslim Jihadist–it’s just so easy to do that, isn’t it?

Loree: Well maybe its Shonda’s way of telling people to reflect and realize that you need to act on facts not emotions, no matter who the so-called enemy is. I love how you can see that what she’s saying politically mirrors the personal relations on the show. I mean Fitz treating Olivia like trash and now having someone spy on her. I know there’s a thin line between love and hate, but I feel like Fitz is so angry that his love is turning to hate and we know how dangerous that can become. It seems that people are crossing lines that they normally wouldn’t cross. Fitz is definitely surprises me episode to episode.

T.F.: So, Mellie. I waver between thinking she’s acting really out-of-character and thinking that her behavior is consistent with what her character would do if she were really, extra desperate for Fitz’s approval and, of course, for power. But I lean towards the former. Yes, Mellie is power-hungry, but she’s made missteps in the past couple episodes that don’t quite make sense under the circumstances. She wants to screw Cyrus over, but she tells him an easily disproven lie about how she’ll make sure Fitz knows the drones were his idea? She wants to get in with Fitz, but she tells him Cyrus made them rig the vote instead of Hollis? None of these things make sense. Mellie may be her own worst enemy–although if so Fitz, Cyrus, and Liv all give her a run for her money–but she’s not foolish.

Loree: I think with Olivia’s “betrayal” and Fitz’s moment of caring for Mellie made her forget that “hey, your husband doesn’t like you.” I see it as, even though Fitz met and married Mellie first, Mellie is the ex you have that you can always go to when you’re lonely, just broke up with someone, or when your significant other pisses you off–she’ll always be there. Olivia is “the one and only.” That moment when Mellie was in the limo and Fitz touched her hand and how much gratification she got from that shows me how much she really loves him and will never leave him.

Joe: Something with the way David Rosen is not really teaching but using tactics such as candy (that actually facilitates thinking, apparently, but aren’t you supposed to also teach?) to get his kids to half-pay attention really bothers me. Is this bothering anyone else?

Loree: Well David obviously doesn’t want to be there. I mean I think all of us have worked in jobs that we hate but the need for financial security keeps us there. I think David obviously is trying the easiest thing to get through the day with these kids and get responses. Give candy and you’ll receive a response from your students. I mean isn’t that what politics is all about?

Joe: I know he doesn’t want to be there, and his life isn’t going the way he planned, but how many of us has that happened to at one point or another? I just don’t like that he’s not even trying. Kids sort of can tell when you don’t care. I, like, viscerally care about those fictional schoolchildren for some reason.

Jordan: Wow. Jake went rogue. Conflicted about this scene. As someone looking at race, rarely do we see to white men of power and privilege essentially fighting over a woman of color. We also don’t often don’t see a white man protecting woman of color’s privacy and honor as Jake seems to be doing here. I find the change interesting to see if only for its novelty. But is shifting the color of the people participating in a patriarchal triangle progress? As a feminist, there is still so much wrong with the dynamic of the triangle they are creating. Jake is using intimate knowledge of Olivia to help in his attempts to seduce? Start a relationship? I am not sure. Fitz is wrong every way he looks, from this feeling of ownership he feels he has over Olivia and her life to his obsession with her.

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  • @mezz98

    “I waver between thinking she’s acting really out-of-character and thinking that her behavior is consistent with what her character would do if she were really, extra desperate for Fitz’s approval and, of course, for power. But I lean towards the former.”

    That’s because Mellie is and always has been a plot device – a foil for Olivia/Fitz. She’s very much in the tradition of previous plot devices/foils on Shonda Rhimes shows (Hi, Addison!)

  • Shazza

    And what’s really disturbing is that Hulu has picked Fitz & Olivia as part of its Epic TV Romances/ Best Couples EVER article. And the snippet they used was the whole ‘I belong to you!’ one. That list was mostly happy white couples too so why did the ONLY POC have to be this one?

    • @mezz98

      Not too surprising. My sense is viewers are meant to see Fitz’s behavior as, if not romantic, then certainly a sign of his love for Olivia (i.e., he’s only doing all of this stuff because he feels so utterly betrayed by her, and he only feels so betrayed because he loves her, which, in Shondaland trumps/justifies all manner or rank behavior.