Phantom sex tapes are the spectre of choice hanging over ABC dramas this finale season. Well, to be fair, I only watch three ABC hourlongs, but two out of those three are threatening their heroines with sex tapes as we head into their finales next week. The only difference is that one doing it with less disco background music and more Connie Britton.
Choose your poison, I guess? It’s time for Scandal.
Cyrus spends most of this episode having a fairly public breakdown: his nerves frayed just a bit more each time we come back from a commercial break to find him still standing in front of the entire White House Press Corps answering (with non-answers) questions about the Grants’ marriage. Most of his arc this episode–well, it’s not even so much an arc as it is a sharp, downwards spiral as he watches his career spin out of his control and does his best to destroy the few remaining threads holding his own marriage together– centers around doing his best to keep Fitz in the White House. He’ll do anything to keep his job (and Fitz’s) and that includes walking in on Fitz and Olivia while they’re getting it on in her immaculate bedroom. That kid he and James just adopted has some awesome parenting techniques to look forward to in her teen years.
While Cyrus tries to fix Fitz’s career, Mellie’s hired someone to fix hers. Enter guest star John Barrowman. Since when does Jack Harkness do serious TV, you ask? I don’t know, but dude showed up in Zero Dark Thirty last winter, so if he weren’t also camping it up on Arrow right now there’d be no proof that we all hadn’t been taken over to the Darkest Timeline.
Anyway…Team BarrowMellie. He claims to be just as good a fixer as Olivia. “The best,” in his own words, though he doesn’t prove that by the end of the episode. His intro is brief, but memorable for the point where he basically calls her out for allowing Fitz to get this far and keep her, an intelligent and capable woman with a law degree (“that you never use”) quiet and in his shadow. “Smart, but nonthreatening,” he calls her. He clearly doesn’t know the Mellie we know, but she hires him anyway.
Back at Gladiator Inc., Harrison has either a) just gotten back from performing at a children’s party, b) gotten dressed in the dark, or c) there’s someone in wardrobe right now going, “Steal my yogurt again. Try me.”
And get this: That outfit was not a plot point! That’s just what he’s wearing.
It has absolutely nothing to do with finding out that the mole knows about the election-rigging, and it does nothing to inspire confidence within Olivia when Harrison offers to be her fixer. As one of the few characters on the show who actually thinks ahead, he–like the audience, I hope–realises that this is not going to end well.
Fitz sure doesn’t, which helps to move along Cyrus’ aforementioned breakdown. “I want to be with her openly,” he lectures Cyrus, later informing him that he has every intention of announcing that he won’t be seeking a second term. Cyrus almost keels over in the Oval Office, and later takes his frustrations out on James in what is probably the most emotionally effective scene in the episode. (Cyrus and James has always been the the most black-and-white relationship on Scandal, making it the easiest to follow. On a show with such a dearth of truly good people to root for, black and white is welcome.)
Still desperately trying to hold things together, Cyrus makes a last attempt to talk to Olivia who denies any culpability in the coming demise of the Republican party (according to Cyrus) with, “I’m not doing anything.” Because remember, Fitz earned her back. And that’d be fine, except…there’s that sex tape. It’s like ABC had a quota.
With Fitz ready to make his unknown announcement that night, Mellie orders her fixer to get an advanced copy of the speech before she’ll release the name of his mistress. This is pretty much an impossible task, but he told her that he was the best, and Mellie’s already been screwed over by one fixer so she’s not taking any chances this time. He may not be the best (he fails to get the correct speech) but he drops some truth bombs: “I can’t make your husband love you.”
What he doesn’t ask is why Mellie still wants Fitz in the first place.
Skipping right on past the cutesy Olivia/Fitz phone call (I’m not here for that) and moving on to their final scene in the Oval, Cyrus has already confronted Fitz about his failure to officially file for reelection by this point, and now it’s Olivia’s turn.
There’s at least one moment each episode where I sit back and say, “Well, the roundtable’s going to have a field day with this one.” Olivia’s reaction to his failure to refile was that moment. In some ways, I get it–last week she was convinced that he was only sitting on her couch because he loved her. This week it turns out that while he might love her, she might also be an easy excuse to quit the White House. But instead of being mad at him for lying and using her as an excuse, she’s blaming herself for his decision and worries that he’ll eventually resent her for it.
I do not understand this relationship at all.
But don’t worry, guys. Fitz doesn’t quit the presidency or single-handedly ruin the Republican Party, and Cyrus lives to angrily sputter through another day.
Oh, and because this is a recap –my weariness with the rest of the Gladiators, their white hats, and crappy soundtrack aside–this probably bears a mention: David Rosen’s a traitor, and Billy Chambers is the mole.
You might have to go Google that last name.