by L.T. Milroy
Every time I think I’m over it, this show sucks me back in.
I became quite disenchanted with Scandal last year. After two top-notch seasons of soapy Washington-seamy-underbelly goodness, S3 was a mess, focusing instead on an all-powerful underworld organization that had nothing to do with what the show was originally about. It was annoying to watch. Virtually all of last season was caught up in this plotline that I–and from what I’ve since read, most fans—couldn’t have cared less about. By season’s end, a show I used to look forward to watching live on Thursday nights had been relegated to DVR viewing on the weekend.
So, I was skeptical going into this week’s S4 debut. This show had something to prove, mainly that it still deserves a place in my TV schedule. Basically, this episode, entitled Randy, Red, Superfreak, and Julia, did that. Olivia is even back to being a fixer, something she never had time for during an aimless S3. Yaay!
Getting up to date:
We’ve jumped forward a few months since the end of last season (at least, I think it’s a few months, though nothing was stated definitively). Everyone has moved on, which is what the episode title refers to.
The Gladiators – When we last saw Olivia Pope, she was boarding a plane to who-knows-where with Jake by her side.
Julia Baker is Olivia’s new identity. She and Jake have run away to a tropical paradise, which is an island a hundred miles off the coast of Zanzibar, totally out of touch with their old lives. Her new name was the name of Diahann Carroll’s character on the 60s show Julia, incidentally. She forgets all about Pope & Associates while sipping fine wine, eating tropical fruits, and enjoying the services of boy toy Jake, who is all too happy to tend to her every need. What more could she want? Come on, it’s Olivia Pope we’re talking about. The answer to that is: everything.
Red is Abby, who is now the White House Press Secretary. And seemingly a pretty good one, as we see from some clips of her on the job, even though from glimpses behind the scenes she appears to be a bit out of the loop in the WH.
Randy is Huck, who is a techno repair geek at an electronics store. He’s cut any and all excitement out of his life and opts instead to fix phones and play video games.
Superfreak is Quinn, the only one remaining at OPA. She seems to have spent her time hanging around the OPA offices, waiting for something to happen. She’s also been doing a little PI-type work, and she’s the one who tracks down Olivia as Julia and gets word to her island paradise that Harrison, the gladiator who ended last season in mortal danger, has been found dead.
Harrison’s death brings Olivia back to DC, though it looks like she was just waiting for an excuse to get back in the game. Wiling away the hours on the beach day after day just ain’t her style. She’s an excitement junkie. Jake knows this, too. He tells her not to read the letter and just throw it away, but she hesitates for barely a second before ripping it open. Yeah, paradise is overrated.
Jake looks perfectly content to keep lying in the sunshine with Olivia all day and servicing her all night. That’s what he’s spent the last few months doing, and it seems like he could do it for several years more. He even gives a dirty little speech to Olivia (“I’m the one you like to ride, I’m the one who makes you moan.” Yowza!) in a last-ditch attempt to hold onto her when it becomes clear she’s going to allow herself to be sucked back into her old life.
David Rosen has just been nominated for Attorney General (and this episode aired on the same day the real-life AG, Eric Holder, turned in his resignation, in a case of life imitating art). At the end of last season, Jake left a boatload of files, presumably containing all kinds of incriminating evidence against the evil B613, in David’s possession before jetting off to paradise. David became obsessed with the files, to the exclusion of all else, including girlfriend Abby, but never took any action. Jake is quite disappointed upon his return to find that David has done nothing and seems ready to take back the files take matters into his own hands.
Mellie Grant. Oh, how I love her! But she’s in horrible pain as the season opens, still mourning the death of her son, Jerry, from meningitis. She’s taken to wandering the halls of the WH in a robe and pajamas and several-day-old underwear. She gets all the best lines of the episode, including bemoaning her dead sex life as she tells Fitz, “Another thing I don’t do any more is wax, so it’s 1976 down there.”
Fitz is also still in mourning, both for his son and over how Olivia has skipped town with Jake. At one point, Mellie makes an oblique reference to a recent suicide attempt by Fitz, which I assume we’ll be learning more about as the season goes on. Personally, I believe he’s as much of a mess as Mellie, but professionally he seems to have gotten it together, and the WH is running reasonably well. It’s a place Cyrus calls “twisted, but highly-functioning”.
Cyrus is his usual self, forever trying to put out fires wherever he goes. If he’s still mourning James’s death, he’s doing a good job hiding it. His main problem these days seems to be handing the new RNC Chairman, who is –
Lizzie Bear, new to the cast this season (who came up with that name??). We didn’t see much of Lizzie this week, but she appears to be as oily as politicians get. Cyrus shows her nothing but contempt and cuts short a conversation with her at one point by saying “Do you need to validate a ticket for your broomstick, or can you find your way out on your own?” He may be a monster, but sometimes I love Cyrus. Often, actually.
Papa Pope is back to his old ways. He was responsible for getting Liv out of DC (he was hoping, permanently), and was also behind the deaths of Jerry and Harrison. During dinner with Liv, he encourages her to go back to her island getaway and forget all about her former life. She asks if he killed Harrison, and he says no. Then he says he “took care” of Olivia’s mother, on whom he blames Jerry’s death. And because ma killed Jerry, Fitz ordered her death. So pa points fingers everywhere but at himself. He’s reclaimed his mantle as the Most Evil Man in the World.
Mama Pope. Who knows? Pa “took care of her,” whatever that means. Last time we saw her she was being shut in the infamous B613 hole.
Andrew. No mention of the Veep this week. Personally, I’m hoping he’ll be deployed to help bring Mellie out of her funk. I’m definitely not a shipper, but I’ve been shipping these two, bigtime. Mellie deserves a little happiness. And a change of underwear.
Harrison is no more. He ran afoul of Papa Pope and paid the price. It looks like his work was his whole life, as his funeral is an all-gladiator affair, with just Liv, Huck, Abby, and Quinn huddled by the graveside. He had no family and apparently, had made no friends. Sad.
Way too much has happened for Mellie to care too much when Fitz informs her that Olivia is back in town. He says he’s not going to see her, but Mellie says she’s too tired to monitor him any more. Besides, says Mel, “When you see her, you’ll tell me.” A great conversation follows, in which Mellie lets Fitz know that despite his denials, he likely will see Liv, and even if he says nothing about it, he’ll still let her know how he feels. Maybe not verbally, but in the way he acts. In the way he smells. By his demeanor. By how he relates to Mellie. She’ll know. Indeed, he will tell her, in a thousand little ways. Great scene. It’s vintage Mellie.
At episode’s end, OPA is up and running again. The case of the week, involving a lecherous senator, served mainly to show Liv just how much she missed her true calling of being a Washington fixer. It’s only she and Quinn in a sparse office, but surely it won’t take long for Huck to leave Randy behind and join back up. I suspect Abby was shown as underappreciated and dissed in her job, so she can get disgusted with the WH and also return to the gladiator fold.
Jake is ever-hopeful. Even after watching Liv slip farther and farther away from him the longer they stayed in DC, he’s still books a plane back to the island. He reminds her of the flight near the end of the episode, but it’s plain even to him she’s not going anywhere.
In the final scene, Olivia and Fitz walk in opposite directions down a hall in the Capitol. It’s the first time they’ve seen each other in months, but they don’t acknowledge one another and are careful not to make eye contact. As they pass, Fitz seems to reach out, ever so slightly. Liv does not, because she’s probably certain she’s got a handle on things and that even though she’s back on her old turf, it doesn’t mean things are going to be the way they were before. She’s a new, recharged woman. She can handle all of this with no mess.