Catch up on Scandal S5 Ep. 4 Dog-Whistle Politics

by

L.T. Milroy

There’s a full plate this week, fans. We get some social commentary about how the media treats independent black women like Olivia Pope, how the Internet provides cover for cowards who like to make violent, hateful, antisocial comments anonymously, and how much fun it is to surprise your girlfriend with an unexpected date. So it’s a typical week in Scandaland.

Case of the Week. There’s no case this week, but there is an expose of Liv’s life that plays throughout the episode. It takes the form of a TV newsmagazine show, wherein a slick, smarmy woman gives a rather salacious biography of Olivia Pope. She’s deconstructing the president’s mistress for the world, with a heaping helping of network editorialism: It’s all about how Liv grew up to be an ambitious woman who always had her eye on acquiring power in general and on the White House in particular.

The program goes through Liv’s childhood and how she had a comfortable upbringing with two successful parents. That was all shattered when her mother was killed in a plane crash when she was twelve. Her father, Eli, raised her alone after that, but the paleontologist at the Smithsonian largely withdrew into his work after his wife’s death, and Liv was shipped off to boarding school. There’s a grainy clip of her as a student at Georgetown, talking about how she wants to work at the White House someday. The show talks about how she’s dated older, powerful men, but never seemed to have a serious relationship with any of them.

It’s interesting to contrast what this report presents as fact with what we know to be true. Mama Pope is, of course, still alive, having faked her death in that long-ago ‘plane crash,’ which we also know was actually Operation Remington. Eli is no paleontologist and never has been, even though he’s currently in prison for having embezzled from the Smithsonian. And we know Liv is no gold-digger for power when it comes to men, as the report strongly implies.

But that’s just a taste of what this so-called documentary is selling. We see bits and pieces of it throughout the episode and all the characters in Scandalverse are watching it, too.

Prison visit. At the close of last week, Jake had gone to see Pa behind bars. When Jake heard that the Louvre was on fire, he recognized it as the work of B613 and wanted answers from Pa, who plays dumb, just like he always did when Liv tried to question him. He asks Jake, what he could possibly know about any fire, he’s just ex-paleontologist, Eli, prisoner #052213. Jake ain’t buying that and says this is Lazarus One, which was a pet plan of Pa’s when he headed up B613. The particulars are somewhat sketchy. It involves setting the fire, grabbing the priceless works of art,  leaving charred fakes behind, and then selling the real things for big bucks. Who would buy them when they’re obviously stolen? That isn’t addressed. All Jake knows is, this Louvre fire has Pa’s fingerprints all over it, and Jake wants some answers.

Pa, of course, denies the whole thing. He does make a bit of a speech, because he’s Pa, and says that by putting him in prison, Liv took him temporarily out of circulation and created a vacuum. It’s a dangerous vacuum, because it upsets the natural order of things. Jake doesn’t care about all of this fancy talk. He wants to know who Pa is working with on the outside, or he’ll find out and kill them. Pa just says, condescendingly, that he failed in training Jake if this is what he’s come to. He adds that people like him are impossible to beat, and he’s never really lost his power or his freedom, despite being in prison. Jake says he’ll find out what he needs to know, because Pa always leaves a trail.

Badass rebuke. Marcus Walker is waiting at a bar for someone named Layla to show up. It’s been a while since Marcus was around, so a refresher: He was introduced in the episode about the Brandon Parker shooting, the community activist who locked horns with Liv. A few episodes later, he was back, this time as a client. He was running for mayor, was having an affair with the current mayor’s wife, and was with the wife when her house was broken into, and she was killed. Liv found out that the mayor knew about the affair and set up the murder. Ultimately, Marcus publicly confessed to the affair in order to bring the mayor down.

That confession derailed Marcus’s political career. He’s surprised when Quinn shows up. It’s no coincidence. She’s ‘Layla’. She knows he’s fallen on hard times and tricked him into showing up, so she could offer him a job at OPA. Specifically, he’d specialize in dealing with the press, since he’s so good at public relations.

Quinn goes into full badass mode, telling Marcus all about how he can do great things and change lives at OPA. She channels Harrison way back when he pitched Quinn a job, even busting out the ‘Gladiators in suits’ line. It would be hard to turn her down after that intense job pitch, but Marcus does. The way Liv and company do business sometimes is just a little too shady for him. Besides, he tells Quinn, he knows that OPA is steadily losing clients and will probably be out of business soon, anyway. Quinn obviously expected an enthusiastic acceptance to her offer and looks a little stunned.

Red is still getting kicked around. Fitz busts into Lizzie’s office, bitching about all of the salacious press Liv is getting. Liz wants to focus instead on Senator Gibson who can maybe be negotiated with, but Fitz isn’t really listening. As he’s raving, Abby walks in. When she sees how upset he is, she turns and leaves, but not fast enough. Fitz spots her, calls her back in the room. He’s apparently not happy with her press conference in which she basically threw Liv under the bus. He makes sure she knows she’s fired and stalks out.

Liz tells Abby not to do anything but go to her office and wait. Liz will handle it. Though Abby had to kind of be expecting this, she looks pretty upset.

Charlie’s back! Jake is at the airport with none other than Charlie! It’s good to see one of our favorite spy/torturers again. It’s been too long. They’re on their way to Paris to follow up on Lazarus One. Jake fills Charlie in on all of the details and how he thinks Pa is still getting B613 work done, even though the organization is supposedly dismantled, and Pa is in prison.

Keep those curtains closed. Liv is talking on the phone with Fitz. She tells him he can’t fire Abby. It just doesn’t look good to fire his press secretary in the middle of a scandal. It makes him seem clueless. Besides, Liv says Abby was just doing what Liv herself would have done in that situation.

As she’s talking, Liv notices a flash from outside. There’s someone with a camera in the window of another building, taking pictures of her. Considering there’s press camped outside her building ‘round the clock these days, I don’t know why Liv is shocked by the invasion of privacy. And why are her drapes open in the first place, considering all of this? She hastily gets off the phone and goes around her apartment, closing the drapes. Too little, too late, honey.

Huck and Quinn come to the rescue to try and make their boss feel safe. Quinn says she’s swept the place for bugs. Huck says, somewhat menacingly, that no one will be taking pictures from that apartment anymore. Liv gives him a look, and she’s no doubt thinking what I am: that Huck ‘got rid of the problem,’ but he quickly adds that he rented the place. I guess that counts as Huck trying to change, since we all know how much he would have loved to have a ‘talk’ with that photographer. Huck takes out a box that contains a bunch of burner phones for Liv to use.

Quinn brings up how shorthanded they are at the office and how they need to hire someone, but Liv says no. She thinks Quinn and Huck are handling things just fine. Quinn mentions how Marcus turned her down.

Je suis Jake, but maybe not. Jake and Charlie are in a French cafe. They’re waiting for their contact, Elise, an old business associate of Charlie’s. When she shows up, Charlie introduces her to Jake. From the way the two look at each other, it’s obvious they’re not strangers. It also seems their real names may not actually be Elise and Jake. Elise gets testy, says the deal is off, and leaves.

Later, Jake goes to see her privately. He says he waited for her at Grand Central Station, but she never showed up. She says she was late but insists that she got there. We don’t know how long ago this incident occurred, but it looks like this pair has quite a history. Whether she showed at GCS or not is a point on which they can’t seem to agree, so he tells her why he’s in Paris. He needs her help tracking some stolen art. Then he says he thought she was dead, but he never forgot her and always thought they were good together. He loved being married to her. Then they kiss.

So, Jake’s been married before. Maybe it was some kind of ‘spy marriage’ that wasn’t actually real. I assume we’ll find out in a future episode, as will Liv.

The women’s caucus. Mellie Grant, the new junior senator from Virginia, has been called to a women’s caucus meeting. Mel assumes they want to hear all of the new girl’s ideas and comes into the room bustling and perky and ready to go. But that’s not why she was invited. They tell Mel how things get done in DC and that the few women there have to stick together. There’s something they want to do, but they have to tell Mel about it first to make sure she’s on board.

Afterward, Mel goes back to her office, where Cyrus is waiting for her. She tells him that the women of the Senate want to impeach Fitz. They’ve all been seeing the way the media is attacking Liv, dragging her through the mud while basically giving Fitz a pass, and they’re tired of it. Someone has to hold Fitz responsible, and since no one else is doing it, they will.

They want to get her approval on going ahead with the impeachment, but she isn’t so sure she should give it. She’s reluctant to consent to the whole thing, but Cy disagrees. This could be just the opportunity they’re waiting for. If Fitz were to be driven from office, he says, next in line for the presidency is VP Susan Ross, and everyone knows what a disaster that would be. Cy’s prediction as to how Ross would react to assuming the presidency: “The woman’s going to eat her own head and set herself on fire.” After that, he says, the country will want the opposite of Susan, and that’s where Mel comes in. This is her chance. Mel still isn’t so sure.

His name is Teddy, in case anyone forgot. Mel goes to see Fitz in a White House bedroom. He’s on his hands and knees crawling around on the floor when she walks in, but she doesn’t appear to find that unusual. She just launches into what she came in to say, but Fitz shushes her. Then we see some tiny feet sticking out from under a curtain. Fitz is playing hide and seek with that little son of theirs who’s only trotted out when it serves the plot, like now. Mel plays along, and they both look around for the kid who starts giggling. It’s all very cute and sweet and sad. The family moment affects them both, and they have a little talk about how they’re sick of fighting with each other. They come to an agreement: If you don’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you. I have a feeling an agreement like that between Mel and Fitz won’t even last until the end of the episode. Let’s see…

The new Gladiator. Huck and Quinn come to the office one morning to find Marcus there. He’s thought over Quinn’s offer and has changed his mind. He wants to be a Gladiator in a suit. Quinn assumes it’s because he’s low on cash.

But Marcus is a bit more altruistic than that. Later, he expresses how incensed he is by how the media is treating Liv, painting her as equal parts tramp and uppity black woman. Even though he thinks OPA sometimes operates on a shady level, he also saw a moral, decent side of Liv during the  Brandon Parker incident. He knows what kind of person she is, and it pisses him off how she’s being treated. The reporting is biased and unfair, says Marcus, and someone should be pointing that out. Maybe it’s him, since he’s OPA’s new press liaison. But Huck says Liv is in charge, and she hasn’t given any instructions to do anything like that.

Bargaining. Liz tells Fitz it would be a good idea to have a sit-down with Senator Gibson. Seems there are also some Senate men who want to hold Fitz’s feet to the fire over his affair, and he needs to talk them out of it. Turns out they’re not as interested in morality or sexism as they are in getting some goodies for themselves. Gibson and a few other senators meet with Fitz, and he tells them he’s willing to offer a few concessions in order to stop a special counsel from being convened. He thinks that will placate them, but Gibson says they have some demands. Fitz doesn’t like the sound of that, and Gibson asks everyone to leave the room.

When they’re alone, Gibson tells Fitz what they want is for him to kill the Brandon bill. It’s the biggest piece of legislation of his administration and something upon which Fitz and VP Ross worked tirelessly. Fitz is proud of it, but the rank-and-file Republicans don’t like it and want it quashed. If Fitz doesn’t go along, his party won’t fight against impeachment.

And just for good measure, before leaving, Gibson warns him that the next time he has an affair, Fitz should think about choosing someone who’s more ‘palatable’ to the party.

Back in France. Jake and Charlie are in a van, watching Elise’s apartment on monitors. She’s agreed to meet up with someone trying to sell some stolen art. Charlie can’t believe that Jake got Elise to change her mind about helping them. Jake got jilted by Liv, so he jumped across the ocean to take up with an old flame who hated the sight of him yesterday and now is helping him. Charlie thinks that’s pretty slick. Jake basically tells him to STFU.

Jake figures he’ll recognize whoever shows up, but when the seller arrives, it’s someone Jake doesn’t know, leading him to speculate that maybe this isn’t a B613 operation after all. As he ponders that possibility, the video is lost on the monitors, and shouts and gunshots are heard. Jake and Charlie rush upstairs to find the seller dead on the floor and Elise shot and wounded.

The next day, Jake goes to see Elise in the hospital. He doesn’t seem to be too concerned about why the monitors happened to go out when they did or what exactly took place or how she got shot. She confesses that she never really went to Grand Central Station to meet him way back when. They’re spies, and their run was over, so she booked. They had no possibility of a future together, and as a spy, he should understand that. Jake basically disregards what must be his better instincts and asks her to go back to the U.S. with him. I’m suspicious of Elise, so Jake, longtime experienced spy that he is, must also be, right? Right?

Losing it. Liv is at home, staring at her computer, when Fitz calls. She informs him that she’s found three porn versions of them on the Internet. He wants to discuss the Brandon bill, but Liv is too upset to talk about anything but how she’s being attacked. All of these threats are coming her way, just because she has the nerve to be black and female and to think for herself. She is clearly on the edge trying to deal with all of the personal attacks: “How come whenever women do something people don’t like, the only way these men on the Internet know how to express themselves is by threatening rape?”

Fitz tells her to turn off the computer, right now. If it were only that easy. Liv admits she’s losing it a little. It’s strange to see someone who’s always so together come apart, even just a bit.

Cy, You’re fired. Mellie was softened up by her encounter with Fitz and Teddy and isn’t feeling so bloodthirsty toward her husband, but Cy won’t hear of it. He tries to talk her into going along with impeachment. He briefly says how it’s the right thing to do for the country, then gets down to his true motivation, which is, of course, revenge. He dedicated his life to Fitz, and he can’t just stand there and accept being fired and cast off at the first sign of trouble. He can’t let that insult go.

Then Cy gets a little unhinged as he starts talking about how he thought of Fitz like a son, and he can’t take the betrayal. He gets personal, telling Mel that she never had her heart broken by Fitz, because she never loved him, but Cy did. He would have died for Fitz, he says. Then he gets uber-personal, telling Mel that her son Jerry is dead, so nothing can hurt him anymore, and she should be glad about that. While her child is “safe in the ground,” his is “breathing and talking right down the street at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” but doesn’t want Cy in his life.

WOW. Did not see that bizarre little tirade coming. Any sympathy Mel might have had, vanished when he cluelessly and callously brought up Jerry. What was Cy thinking, throwing a dead child in the mother’s face like that? Did he really think it would accomplish anything? All it does is enrage Mellie, who fires Cy and throws him out. He petulantly quits on his way out the door. Too late, Cy, she already fired you.

Dog-whistling. Now that he’s working at OPA, like everyone else connected to Liv, the press is hounding Marcus. A reporter asks him a question, in which she refers to Liv as “well-spoken.” Marcus knows he’s not supposed to engage the media, but can’t let that one go. Shouldn’t the reporter tack on “for a black woman,” he asks, since that’s what she meant?

Back at the office, Marcus defends his tactics. They’ve been quiet long enough, and they need to hit back when the media attacks Liv. He says when the press describe Liv as sassy, ambitious, overconfident, and hot-blooded, “women of color like Miss Pope hear that type of language, they know exactly what you’re getting at.” It’s dog-whistle politics to appeal to the base, he says, and the Gladiators should be front and center pointing it out.

Huck and Quinn take the new guy’s advice. They go out of their way to get interviewed about Liv’s treatment by the media. The once-shy Quinn has no problem expressing herself in front of the cameras, while Huck is less successful, basically just parroting off “dog-whistle politics” over and over like a robot. They should know better than to take Huck so far out of his comfort zone, which is anything that doesn’t involve stalking and torturing and killing. He’s a pretty one-dimensional guy.

Hassling Red. Abby is a bit jarred when Fitz drops by her office unannounced. He tells her she’s not fired, because Liv told him not to fire her. Then he asks what she thinks Liv would do about the Brandon bill. Seriously, this is the president. Can’t he think for himself for once? Abby says that bill is his legacy, but giving Gibson what he wants would be the smart move. Fitz asks if Abby thinks that’s what Liv would do. The smart move. This is getting like grade school now. Maybe he should ask Abby if she thinks Liv really likes him and wants to go steady.

Then he says he’s the president (at least he realizes that), and he works for the people. Yhat doesn’t always mean doing the smart thing but doing the right thing. Which doesn’t really explain what happens next.

Date night. Liv is home watching TV. There’s a special report that says the president just left the White House unexpectedly. No one seems to know where he’s going, but then Liv hears sirens. The report says the president’s car is going toward Liv’s neighborhood. She leaves her apartment and goes in the hall to wait by the elevator.

The elevator opens, and Fitz is there. He tells her he’s taking his girlfriend on a date and pulls her in. Then he tells the Secret Service to turn around, and they make out. They walk outside to the waiting limo, in full view of the press camped outside Liv’s building.

Mel sees this on TV and is predictably not happy. There goes that you-don’t-hurt-me-I-won’t-hurt-you pledge. She meets with the women of the Senate and tells them she’s thought it over, and it’s just fine with her if they want to impeach Fitz. Hell hath no fury like a woman who was trying to be civil with her husband and then sees him on TV taking his side piece out on a date.

How much more complicated and ridiculous will things get? Here’s a preview of 05.05, “You Got Served” –

Olivia knows she can’t handle this latest storm on her own and calls for help from an unexpected source. Meanwhile, Mellie and Cyrus continue to pull strings from the sidelines, and Jake is still occupied by a ghost from his past.

Are Mel and Cy still working together? Would be surprising if she took him back after he insensitively shot off his mouth like he did, but stranger bedfellows have bedded down together in DC.

And in the previews at the end of the episode, there was a Leo Bergen sighting. Yaay, the Dustbuster is back!

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