Three letters sum up this episode: WTF??
There is WTFery everywhere, as Scandal goes a bit off the rails on a crazy train this week. In Scandalland, as we all know, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’ve come to expect the unexpected, not to mention the absurd, from this show. Each individual’s tolerance level for said craziness will determine how much episodes like “The Key” can be enjoyed. After all, not every week is going to be the exceptionally fun ride the last ep was. But these off-weeks provide some gems, too.
Case of the Week. We pick up where we left off two weeks ago, with Olivia’s old friend Catherine under arrest for the murder of her daughter, Caitlin. She says she’s innocent, and OPA uncovered an elevator surveillance video taken in the building of her father’s law offices of Caitlin fighting a man over a manila envelope. OPA finds out the man is Dan Kubiak, a former cop who resigned from the force under shady circumstances. Liv and Quinn tail Kubiak and are watching him from across the street when Caitlin’s friend, Faith, shows up. They argue, he hits her, and she runs, but he gets a gun and chases after her. As a frantic Quinn calls the cops, Kubiak catches up to Faith and shoots her.
Huck goes over the scene of the shooting, but says it was a professional job, and no evidence has been left behind. Liv tries to intimidate Caitlin’s father, Jeremy, into giving up information, but he denies knowledge of everything. Liv offers her protection but threatens him before leaving when he keeps playing dumb. He’s rattled enough to have an emergency meeting that night with Kubiak, during which the crooked ex-cop confesses to both murders. Quinn is nearby, watching and listening. During the conversation, a key to a locker is discussed. Kubiak was hoping Faith would have the key on her, but she didn’t.
Now on to the screwy stuff
WTF #1: Paging Dr. Quinn. I could have said Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, but I suspect everyone will be using that joke, so I won’t.
Quinn deduces that no one has been able to find this mystery key, because Faith swallowed it. So what does Quinn do? What anyone would do in this situation. She breaks into the morgue at night, cuts open the body, and retrieves the key. And we get to watch! How nice. I guess this was a little less repulsive than the torture scenes this show sometimes likes to whip on us, because this time at least, the vic wasn’t screaming.
All in all, Quinn basically keeps things humming this week. With Liv and Huck preoccupied with personal matters and Abby having not yet returned to the fold, it was largely up to Quinn to keep OPA afloat.
WTF #2: Huck is really dense. Okay, so Huck has this background as a murderous B613 agent, trained to be not only brutal, but suspicious of pretty much everyone and everything. Then why is he hanging around his ex-wife’s house all the time? He was afraid for her safety years ago, so why isn’t he concerned about what his constant presence will mean for her now? When he was watching from his car, I was flashing back to Huck’s family of a couple of seasons ago and what happened to them. I fear his ex and kid might meet the same fate.
His ex spots him outside and tells him she’ll call the police again if he doesn’t leave. He says if she’ll let him see his son, he’ll leave them alone. She agrees and tells him to come back that night. When he does, instead of his son, there’s a doctor waiting for him. The ex has arranged a kind of intervention. Seems Huck told her about B613 and the top-secret gov’t spy stuff, and she thinks he’s nuts and wants him to talk to a psychologist. He doesn’t make himself look any saner by choking the doctor before screaming at his ex about how he told her the truth, and she betrayed him.
Seriously, could he be less self-aware? He spouts bug-eyed conspiracy theories and expects the ex to just believe everything? There’s really nothing interesting about Huck anymore. He’s just annoying. The only useful thing he did this week was introduce us to Quinn’s ninja gift-wrapping skills, as she swooped in to save the day when he struggled with a present for his son.
WTF #3: A Fixer not in control. For someone used to calling the shots in her personal and professional lives, Olivia Pope is going through a rough time.
At the end of last episode, Jake had been arrested for the murder of the President’s son. He’s in custody and being questioned as this week opens, but he’s giving away nothing, as he insists on seeing Fitz. He’s looking remarkably well, and we learn it’s because the order has come from the top that no extraordinary methods be used. Cyrus at one point basically asks for permission to torture the truth out of Jake, but Fitz refuses to give it.
Liv was ticked when Jake blew off their dinner date, but as the hours tick by and she doesn’t hear from him, she grows more worried. She’s leaving him yet another message, when her doorbell rings, and it’s a surprise visit from Papa Pope. Pa is definitely not the type to just drop in, but Liv welcomes him, anyway. He knows something’s wrong, and she tells him she hasn’t heard from Jake. Pa brushes it off by saying Jake is a free spirit, and Liv can’t keep tabs on him. She has to let him roam free. He’ll call her back when he’s ready. Liv still says she’s afraid he might be in trouble, but Pa says, “What could have possibly happened to a man like Jake?”
Of course, Pa knows exactly what happened to him and where he is. Pa is the one who engineered the whole thing. Liv seems a little less concerned, but when she still doesn’t hear from Jake the next day, she asks Huck to find him. He traces Jake’s cell phone as far as the White House, where the trail stops. Liv calls Fitz, but he’s in no mood to give answers. He blows her off, so she calls Abby, but the ex-Gladiator still wants nothing to do with her former employer. She reminds Liv she doesn’t work for her any more, before blowing her off, as well.
WTF #4: Why does Fitz believe Pa? After dismissing Liv, Fitz goes to see Jake. He gives the impression he’s there to talk but instead tells Jake to sign a confession. Jake says he didn’t kill Jerry, Papa Pope had Jerry killed, but Fitz doesn’t believe him. They taunt each other about Liv a little, then Jake tries to appeal to Fitz’s better nature by telling him they’re both decent people, and that’s why Liv loves them both. Fitz doesn’t seem to know how to react to that, so he grabs Jake then lets him go and storms out.
It’s hard to tell what Fitz is thinking, but right now it appears that while he’s bothering to listen to Jake, he still believes Pa. Jake clearly thinks part of the reason Fitz doesn’t want to believe him is jealousy over his island getaway with Liv. Is Fitz really that shallow?
We pretty much find out later. Fitz goes back to question Jake but says little. He asks, “Did you kill my son?” and Jake says he didn’t but gets a punch to the gut anyway. Fitz keeps asking the same question and getting the same answer, prompting mor punches, until Jake ups the ante. He tells Fitz that the real reason he’s angry is because Liv ran away with Jake had two months of mind-blowing sex with him on a tropical island. Apparently Jake thinks things are hopeless for him at this point, because of course, all that kind of talk does is get Fitz angrier. The more Jake says how much fun it was screwing Liv, the more vicious Fitz gets, until he beats Jake to a bloody pulp.
It certainly looks like Jake is right and that while Fitz is upset about his son, he’s more upset Jake had the nerve to run off with Liv. And the leader of the free world responds by jealously beating his rival unconscious. Very presidential, Fitz.
WTF #5: The psychology of Mellie. And the FLOTUS is dealing with all this in her own way.
Mellie and Fitz have a daily date, going to the cemetery together to visit Jerry’s grave. When Fitz misses one of their dates for the first time, due to his first interrogation of Jake, Mellie is convinced he’s seeing Liv again and confronts him on it. He’s been trying to keep the ugly details from her, but when Mellie accuses him of seeing Liv, he tells all, about how Jerry’s death was a murder and not a freak medical thing. He says someone has been arrested, though he doesn’t tell her it’s Jake.
This is a lot of information for anyone to process, and Mellie doesn’t seem quite sure what to say. But her first impression is that this makes Jerry’s death meaningful. It wasn’t just some freak, random coincidence. He died for a purpose, which was to help Fitz get re-elected. “He died for us,” she says. Her reaction angers Fitz, who says, “Until you can be the Mellie I recognize, we’re done talking.”
This altercation has two results. It seems to finally shake up something in Mellie, who is shown at last doffing the dirty robe and booties and taking a long-overdue shower. As for Fitz, he just seems to get monumentally pissed off, as it sparks his second, bloody visit with Jake. This whole showering thing was made a big deal, but this isn’t the first time Mellie has showered since Jerry’s death, right? Because that was something like three months ago. And there was the State of the Union Address in between. She didn’t go to that all gamey and unshowered, did she? Eww, Mel. Seriously.
WTF #6: Bitchy Abby is the best. This is less a WTF than a you-go-grrl! Abby is feeling lots of feelings and emoting all over the place this week. Everyone wants a piece of the Press Secretary. It’s great to watch.
David is still feeling guilty about Judge Sparks’s suicide and is still drinking in the middle of the afternoon. He’s also taken to drunk-dialing Abby. It looks like this has happened a few times, and she makes a habit of cutting him off. Then there’s the desperate call she gets from Liv, asking her what she knows about Jake. She petulantly reminds Liv she doesn’t work for her and doesn’t answer to her anymore and hangs up. On the heels of that, a sulky, drunken David calls to apologize for calling drunk all the time. Clearly annoyed, she blows him off.
Unsuccessful in making meaningful phone contact, David finally shows up in Abby’s office. He’s tipsy and as such, she starts to dismiss him, when he comes clean about how he had the evil B613 files and used them to ruin the good Judge. He’s drinking to celebrate the Judge’s daughter. It’s her ninth birthday. He says sarcastically that the files made him a winner. He tried to be Olivia Pope, and look what it got him. Finally, Abby is giving him a sympathetic ear.
WTF #7: Papa Pope wins again. I realize shows like this need to have an antagonist, but is this guy ever going to lose? He just keeps being an amoral dirtbag, and he just keeps rolling sevens.
After Liv seemed to be temporarily content to believe Pa when he said not to worry about Jake, she gets a rare visit at home from Cyrus. He pulls no punches and tells her that Jake has been arrested for killing Jerry and Harrison. And, he adds, James. That last one is, of course, is actually true. Then he needles her by saying that Jake is currently being interrogated by “your other boyfriend.” He’s totally cold and unsympathetic about the whole thing. That’s mainly due to Jake’s killing of James, but Cy also lets her know he’s absolutely sure that Jake is also responsible for the deaths of Jerry and Harrison. After dropping this bomb in Liv’s lap, he tells her it’s a classified matter, never to be spoken of again. Then he leaves.
That leads Liv to pay a furious visit to her Pa to yell at him about how he set Jake up. But Pa is well-prepared for this visit. Instead of the denials and the talk of his job at the Smithsonian, he comes clean and says he knows Jake well, because he was his agent when Pa was in command of B613. He says Jake did kill Harrison, and as for Jerry, well, that’s kind of Liv’s fault. If Jake hadn’t been so obsessed with her, he wouldn’t have killed Jerry right before election day during a close race, to get out the sympathy vote. He knew how important Fitz’s re-election was to Liv, so he did whatever he could do to ensure a victory. Jake did some bad stuff, but he just wanted to make Liv happy, and so does Pa, he says. He loves her and wants her to be happy, and Jake is a bad guy who isn’t up to that task.
It all doesn’t look as persuasive in print as it does coming out of Pa’s mouth. He’s a smooth talker indeed, and Liv is thoroughly confused by the time he’s done. She’s still confused later on, when Abby, all worked-up after her talk with a melancholy David, shows up at Liv’s door. She starts to lace into Liv about how she ruined David, the last truly good man in DC, and is calling Liv poison, when she notices what kind of shape Liv is in. She asks what’s wrong, and Liv lets loose about how Jake is in custody for killing Harrison. Liv says she doesn’t believe it then breaks down. As angry as she was, this is enough to stir Abby’s old feelings of friendship, and she hugs Liv.
And on an interesting and maybe related note, this is the second show I watched in a week where a key about which nothing is known was a big part of the episode. A main character on The Blacklist came into possession of a key this week, the significance of which was never revealed. Now Scandal plays up everyone wanting this key Quinn went excavating for, but by episode’s end, we still don’t know why. Just kind of weird that the same set-up was used on two different dramas in the same week. So I’m left asking the same question for two different shows’ next episode: What’s so special about that key?