Open Thread: Scandal S03 E09: ‘YOLO’

By Arturo R. García

Olivia (Kerry Washington) contemplates her next move — if she can even find one.

As Scandal heads into its winter break, we saw just about everybody snatch defeat from the jaws of victory — and sure enough, one apparent fatality, just an unforeseen one.

SPOILERS UNDER THE CUT

In an episode where plans were blowing up like balloons, Sally’s reversal of fortune seems to be the most severe. In less than 24 hours, she went from staring down the president in the very Oval Office to having to turn away from her husband’s bloody corpse.

Cyrus (Jeff Perry), still unaware he’s only outsmarted himself.

There’s still a chance Sally isn’t the killer, despite her admission to Cyrus that she has “committed a sin;” Daniel Douglas’ panicked conversation with James opens up the possibility of the prospective “First Gentleman” taking his own life in an attempt to protect his wife’s bid to secede (pardon the term) from the Grant administration. So it’s possible that Sally means her sin was to betray her ideals by agreeing to support reproductive health once she entered the campaign trail.

But beyond her grief, it must gall Sally no end to have to come to Cyrus for help, so soon after dealing the ultimate wheeler-dealer a final slap to his reputation. It will also be all too easy for her to blame him for engineering this entire chain of events by practically shoving James into her husband’s arms. What is surprising is that they actually went through with it, rather than fake their indiscretions and allow James to taunt Cyrus. But then, we never did see all the pictures, either.

While Sally is left holding the smoking gun, Quinn — as we predicted a few weeks ago — has been turned into a weapon. A Trojan horse, to be exact, against Rowan and B613. But her story this episode deserves some examination on its own.

TRIGGER WARNING for the next two paragraphs.

Give writer Chris Van Dussen credit, in a sense, for not allowing Huck to be portrayed as a “badass” for his actions; the fact that he explicitly takes pleasure in his overtly sexualized torture of Quinn is played out without music or many flourishes. When he brings up “YOLO,” a lesser show might have played that for laughs. Here it’s part of how unhinged having a captive, even one “in the family,” makes him. And while his actions are understood as being for Olivia’s benefit, that Huck allowed her to live will no doubt come back to haunt him.

Assuming, of course, that she makes it out of her ambush on Rowan alive and that Charlie spares her life, as well. And this is where the script slips up, even while it allows her some semblance of agency. For Charlie to care about Quinn isn’t beyond the realm of possibility; but for the two of them to tumble into bed right after he sets her free was problematic enough in the James Bond series. Here it diminishes the very-palpable tension Guillermo Díaz and Katie Lowes created in the opening scene.

Mrs. Pope (Khandi Alexander) says goodbye, again.

Oddly enough, the finale kept Olivia on the sidelines for the most part; even her interactions with her mother seemed to be cut short in favor of her weekly Phone-A-Fitz scene. The end result was, even as Abby exhorted her not to treat Maya like just another client, that’s how their scenes came across, no matter how well Yara Shahidi and Khandi Alexander did in their flashback scenes together.

The lack of attention on Olivia and her mother also undercut what was supposed to be the first of the episode’s big twists: that it was Maya, and not Eli, who was the Big Bad. Not only is it rather simplistic, given the events of the season so far, but, assuming Alexander is out of the active cast for now, it also undermines … whatever it is Maya actually did to not have her explain it.

Scandalous Thoughts

  • Another interesting aspect of the Cyrus/James/Langstons subplot was watching Mellie attempt to console Cyrus by recalling her assault at the hand of Fitz’s father. Your thoughts on this as a callback?
  • Give Columbus Short credit: The chill that ran through Harrison’s spine at the mention of Adnan Salif was identifiable. Wonder when that story will begin to play out.
  • Is it just me, or does the latter half of this part of the season play out like a response to Homeland?
  • Bet on a Fitz/Jake fistfight before the season’s out.
  • What does everybody think about the season getting cut to 18 episodes?
  • http://molecularshyness.wordpress.com jen*

    I thought there was going to be one more piece of the finale this week. Am I wrong?

    I’m pretty sure Sally killed her husband, though I’m not totally clear on why she called Cyrus instead of going directly to Olivia. I suppose she’s closer to him? I will certainly cross my fingers that James didn’t go “all the way” with Mr. Sally, but – this show isn’t really about people half-stepping with indiscretions.

    Huck was straight up disturbing with Quinn, and I turned away AND muted the tv when the teeth-pulling was going on. I am really surprised that they (the writers) let things go this far. I really loved this show, and this is going past scandalous and salacious into gratuitous and crude. I do not even believe Quinn and Charlie getting down right after she’s been tortured. Quinn’s story just seems to be unraveling, and while I have never really cared for her, I would’ve preferred her exit be more comically idiotic – as the rest of her plot has been.

    Mellie’s response to Cyrus seemed directly related to her own situation with her husband. I didn’t see any references to the rape, but maybe I missed that? I feel like that would be a very contrived way of relating when she has been (and is continuously) very obviously cheated on. But I had about half a second of pity for Cyrus. I feel more sorry for James, even though his head is COMPLETELY empty. Really and truly, James and Quinn should get together. They are both idiots. They are both manipulated to push the story along, Quinn just gets a little more development as a character. But only a little.

    I’m not pleased about a shortened season, and I think they could’ve spent at least one ep chasing down Harrison’s backstory that has been so elusive thus far. Can we please learn the story of Salif? I dunno about the Jake/Fitz fight…I think Fitz better watch out, because he is playing fast and loose with presidential powers trying to protect his side-chick. B613 may have something else to say about that.

    • Tonya

      I feel really sorry for James. I don’t think he’s an idiot, just trusting his husband who basically sold him to another man for political gain. I’m assuming James did do it and did it to hurt Cy when he came to the realization that Cy set him up. Cy does these things because James never leaves, like Cy said to him “you always say you’re going, but you never do”. Clearly, Cy knows he has control. Honestly, watching it felt like a really abusive relationship. Their fight scene was horrible and I felt so sorry for James who is trying to make him understand the err of his ways. Like, why not get a male sex worker to seduce him instead of your own husband. You know?

      I think this Harrison and Adnab Salif story is in the making. Especially since that girl that helped with the passports (who Harrison clearly had a thing with in the past) mentioned it. I can’t wait to know it because I feel like Harrison as a character is losing relevance the longer he goes without some sort of back story to his character

      • aboynamedart

        Daniel Douglas’ death adds another factor: Normally this would be the kind of story that James would rush to cover. But now his own professional reputation is hanging in the balance alongside Sally’s.

        • Tonya

          Hmmm, I didn’t think of that angle….

      • http://molecularshyness.wordpress.com jen*

        I guess my point about James is overall. He’s stuck with Cyrus through all Kinds of idiocy, blind to much more than he should’ve been, manipulated at every turn. This last bit is just too much. I used to feel sorry for him – like when Cyrus almost had him killed – but (as CYrus said) he NEVER leaves…

    • aboynamedart

      My mind went to it, I guess, because I’m still wondering what the endgame is for featuring it so heavily, more than faulting the Olivitz factor.

      The Harrison/Salif story, I’m guessing, will be part of the back nine — maybe one centerpiece ep and 2-3 as a subplot before being paid off in the finale?

  • Tonya

    Hmmm, I think Sally straight-up killer her husband. I don’t think the “I committed a sin” had anything to do with changing her stance on abortion. And Sally’s husband killing himself because of fear of being outed doesn’t make sense to me because he wasn’t sure of being outed and killing himself wouldn’t help Sally win, it would screw her (if he cared about her winning)

    I actually still couldn’t believe that Huck ACTUALLY pulled out two of Quinn’s teeth. It was terrifying! And Quinn jumping into bed with Charlie after getting two teeth pulled out was over the top. But, I really think Quinn wanted a relationship with Huck eventually (in a weird mentor way, but sort of romantic). I remember when she was Huck’s protege and she just wanted his acceptance and he’s been unwilling to give it to her all season, which is why she jumped into Charlie’s arms in the first place. (Still stupid on her part to trust Charlie). I thought season 3 was going to be Huck and Quinn getting together, but his attitude towards her killed it.

    As for Mellie and Cyrus, I did not think back that horrendous assault by Fitz’s father, I just think it’s in reference to her being cheated on by Fitz.

    And I’m very upset that the season is being cut to 18 episodes, they could have dealt with Washington’s pregnancy differently. Have her go away (maybe finding her mother in Hong Kong or something to confront her) and have her communicate by Skype while things are still happening, but that might not be realistic because her being on-screen is just too important.

    • http://molecularshyness.wordpress.com jen*

      I never thought that Huckleberry Quinn was actually going to get romantic. With each other. Ew. I dunno, it seems like maybe there was some latent weird stuff there, and Huck is broken, so this is how those things go. I dunno. Yuck.

      • Tonya

        LOL! It would be a weird relationship, but I interpreted her wanting to impress and please him all the time like a school girl crush and I thought he might of liked her too as he started to respect her abilities. But, I think he was scared of what she was turning into (remember Harrison in Montana? “you went all drill baby drill. Huck told us”. So, I think he was scared of who she was after that, that he influenced her too much. But, yeah, it would be weird, but I thought something would have happened. Maybe not a full boyfriend girlfriend relationship, but something.

      • Tonya

        LOL! It would be a weird relationship, but I interpreted her wanting to impress and please him all the time like a school girl crush and I thought he might of liked her too as he started to respect her abilities. But, I think he was scared of what she was turning into (remember Harrison in Montana? “you went all drill baby drill. Huck told us”. So, I think he was scared of who she was after that, that he influenced her too much. But, yeah, it would be weird, but I thought something would have happened. Maybe not a full boyfriend girlfriend relationship, but something.

    • nicthommi

      I have to say, the actor who plays Huck is really good at his role. He used to be on Chapelle show back in the day. But goodness, when he licked her face before he started, I was like wow, Command should NOT have locked Huck up in that box b/c what it did to him is on a whole other level.

      • Tonya

        Right? And it was weird, I just finished watching a season three episode of The Shield where Huck plays a drug dealer. Such a different scene! It was so weird, especially after watching the Quinn torture scene

        • aboynamedart

          The other day I watched an episode of Leverage where Quinn was the client. My first thought? RUN, HARDISON!

      • http://molecularshyness.wordpress.com jen*

        I agree, Guillermo Diaz is phenomenal. Now that you mention it, I remember him on Chappelle’s Show. That is some range.

      • http://molecularshyness.wordpress.com jen*

        I agree, Guillermo Diaz is phenomenal. Now that you mention it, I remember him on Chappelle’s Show. That is some range.

  • Tonya

    Hmmm, I think Sally straight-up killer her husband. I don’t think the “I committed a sin” had anything to do with changing her stance on abortion. And Sally’s husband killing himself because of fear of being outed doesn’t make sense to me because he wasn’t sure of being outed and killing himself wouldn’t help Sally win, it would screw her (if he cared about her winning)

    I actually still couldn’t believe that Huck ACTUALLY pulled out two of Quinn’s teeth. It was terrifying! And Quinn jumping into bed with Charlie after getting two teeth pulled out was over the top. But, I really think Quinn wanted a relationship with Huck eventually (in a weird mentor way, but sort of romantic). I remember when she was Huck’s protege and she just wanted his acceptance and he’s been unwilling to give it to her all season, which is why she jumped into Charlie’s arms in the first place. (Still stupid on her part to trust Charlie). I thought season 3 was going to be Huck and Quinn getting together, but his attitude towards her killed it.

    As for Mellie and Cyrus, I did not think back that horrendous assault by Fitz’s father, I just think it’s in reference to her being cheated on by Fitz.

    And I’m very upset that the season is being cut to 18 episodes, they could have dealt with Washington’s pregnancy differently. Have her go away (maybe finding her mother in Hong Kong or something to confront her) and have her communicate by Skype while things are still happening, but that might not be realistic because her being on-screen is just too important.

  • Tonya

    Hmmm, I think Sally straight-up killer her husband. I don’t think the “I committed a sin” had anything to do with changing her stance on abortion. And Sally’s husband killing himself because of fear of being outed doesn’t make sense to me because he wasn’t sure of being outed and killing himself wouldn’t help Sally win, it would screw her (if he cared about her winning)

    I actually still couldn’t believe that Huck ACTUALLY pulled out two of Quinn’s teeth. It was terrifying! And Quinn jumping into bed with Charlie after getting two teeth pulled out was over the top. But, I really think Quinn wanted a relationship with Huck eventually (in a weird mentor way, but sort of romantic). I remember when she was Huck’s protege and she just wanted his acceptance and he’s been unwilling to give it to her all season, which is why she jumped into Charlie’s arms in the first place. (Still stupid on her part to trust Charlie). I thought season 3 was going to be Huck and Quinn getting together, but his attitude towards her killed it.

    As for Mellie and Cyrus, I did not think back that horrendous assault by Fitz’s father, I just think it’s in reference to her being cheated on by Fitz.

    And I’m very upset that the season is being cut to 18 episodes, they could have dealt with Washington’s pregnancy differently. Have her go away (maybe finding her mother in Hong Kong or something to confront her) and have her communicate by Skype while things are still happening, but that might not be realistic because her being on-screen is just too important.