This was the Scandal winter finale, and quite a finale it was.
The episode’s main focus is on the women of Scandaland, on a personal and professional basis. Sisters are definitely doin’ it for themselves this time out. Shonda Rhimes has never shied away from tackling feminist issues on this show, and this week they’re front and center. All the ladies get their turn at taking charge, with the exception of Abby, who’s in the episode, but doesn’t really get into the spirit of butt-kicking mode. Not like so many of her friends and coworkers do.
But the others are kicking ass and taking names, so on to the final recap of 2015! That’s right, make this episode last, since it’s a long time until the next one…
Sister 1: Mellie power. Mellie is still the junior senator from Virginia but is in bad need of some respectability these days. Her public image took a big hit in the impeachment hearings, and her clout is ebbing pretty low. That point is further driven home when she meets with some senators about the impending vote on a spending bill. Once it passes, everyone can go home for the holidays, and all of the lawmakers are, of course, anxious to get out of town. This group is led by Senator Gibson, who established himself as a major asshole during those impeachment hearings. He continues his assholish ways and seems to take it for granted that Mellie will get in line and vote to pass the bill.
But Mel’s read the bill and has a problem with it. Money allocated for Planned Parenthood was moved to the discretionary column, meaning that no money was actually guaranteed at all. She wants that to be rectified, but Gibson blows her off. They like the bill just the way it is, he says, as does the president. Since they’re all Republicans, she should just toe the line and vote yes. When she says she can’t, he says he doesn’t care and that they have the votes they need without her. Mel thinks if enough other people knew what was going on they’d agree with her about the bill being unacceptable. Gibson still doesn’t care and brushes her off like the smug little turd he is.
Just before the Senate takes the vote, the bill seems sure to pass. The mood in the room is to get the whole thing over with so vacation can start. But Mel is going to put the brakes on all that. She asks to be recognized to speak. She gives a few impassioned words about how terrible it was that the Senate was basically stealthily defunding Planned Parenthood. Maybe if more people knew what was in the bill, they might not vote for it. So, Mel says, she’s going to read the bill, all zillion pages of it, so everyone’s familiar with it. Settle in, because it’s a good old fashioned filibuster, folks! Mel now has to talk for about sixteen hours, until time runs out for the spending bill.
I love that she did that, even if it is totally unrealistic. There’s no way a Republican would even publicly support PP, never mind start a filibuster over its losing funding. But it sure is fun to watch take-charge Mellie haul out that huge bill and begin reading, accompanied by groans from senators pissed off because they’re missing their planes home for their four-month holiday break, or however long those lazy-asses decide they need off from doing any work, other than raising money.
Mel is seen periodically in the next few scenes, on TVs in the background and foreground, as she forges on. She’s the talk of Washington, though few think she’ll last very long. After all, there are no breaks allowed during a filibuster. I hope Mel has remembered to strap on the Depends.
Sister 2: Henpecked Liv. Mellie’s kicking ass on the job is in contrast to former kickass, Olivia. Now that she’s moved into the White House, the former badass fixer is more of a henpecked wife, perfect FLOTUS, and hostess. She’s in magazines giving housekeeping tips and exchanging recipes with senators’ wives at parties. As Abby and Liz watch Liv schmooze at a party and act all first lady-like, they can’t quite believe what they see. Abby says though her behavior seems unnatural to people who know her, the country is falling in love with Liv. Liz says it won’t last.
Later, Fitz watches Mel on TV, along with Cyrus and Abby. Cy says there’s no way she’ll last for sixteen hours, but Fitz isn’t so sure. Abby thinks they should get Liv to manage their message on this, but Fitz says she’s busy. Yeah, busy exchanging recipes. Wouldn’t want to interrupt her.
Fitz drives home how deep his cluelessness runs when he’s watching with Liv a few hours later. He’s getting antsy by this time, worried about the fate of his spending bill and upset that Mel is still at it. He’s sure Mel is doing this just for publicity and to make him look bad. Liv suggests that maybe it has nothing to do with him. Apparently it never crossed Fitz’s mind that Mel might actually be doing something without thinking of its effect on him. That she might have some convictions and is upset with how cavalierly her fellow senators, as well as her president, are treating women’s health issues..
As Fitz continues to throw his little tizfit, Liv watches Mel plugging away, a look of obvious admiration on her face. Funny how Liv is now the one watching as things get done, while Mel is the one doing them.
Liv does get in on the action a bit. When Mel is losing steam and also badly needs a visit to the loo, Liv gets an idea. If another senator asks a long question, it would give Mel the chance to leave the room. Liv tries to talk Senator Moskowitz into doing it, but she’s been shown to be just as big a jerk as Gibson, and true to form, she says she’ll let Mel sink all on her own. Seems she already has Mel written off, politically. But Liv has someone else to ask.
Sister 3: Little Suzie dynamite. I am officially in love with Susan Ross. There, I said it. The VP was awesome again this week.
Yes, Suzy came to Mellie’s rescue, but some other stuff happened before that. At that party early in the episode, the Veep was all cute around AG David again, as they had some awkward conversation and toasted each other. It’s clear she’s still pursuing him, in her own nerdy way. David, though, is continuing his nasty relationship with Lizzie, Susan’s chief of staff. They’re seen in his office at one point, obviously post-furtive banging, as Liz is still tucking in her blouse.
The afterglow, such as it is, seems like a good time to get sort of romantic, so Davey gives her a gift of a lovely little bracelet. Just a small token of the season, he says. But one doesn’t buy jewelry for just anybody, so it’s obvious Lizzie has come to mean something to him, even though it’s a relationship built on closet and office quickies. Liz isn’t so sentimental. She coldly says there’s no need for gifts and tells him she hopes he kept the receipt. Then she goes, leaving him standing there, holding the box. Ouch. That was exceptionally brutal, even for someone as obviously callously ambitious and unfeeling as Liz has been portrayed.
Later, Susan drops by David’s office with her own holiday gift, a very nice bottle of booze. David seems touched by the gesture, and probably genuinely is, after getting freezer burn from Lizzie. He says he has something for her, too, and regifts her with the bracelet. Unlike frosty Liz, Susan is absolutely charmed by the gift, though it’s probably not wise of David to lead her on, if he even knows that’s what he’s doing. He compounds the mistake by having Susan hold out her wrist as he makes a show of putting the bracelet on her. She gives him such a look of love. Yikes. This could get very messy.
But Susan doesn’t just fill the role of lovelorn fool this week. The VP is receptive to the prospect of giving Mel a hand, so to speak, and shows up just as Mel looks like her bodily functions are about to get the better of her. Susan strides in and says she has a rather complicated question to ask, and would Mel yield the floor? Mel is more than happy to do so and runs out, as Susan, as spunky and cheerful as ever, starts talking about gonorrhea.
So the Veep’s awesomeness quotient just went way up. But the episode’s not done with her yet. She gives a gift to Lizzie. It’s a scarf, because she has such a nice neck. Liz notices Susan is wearing the bracelet and asks about it. Sue shyly says David gave it to her and can’t keep the smile off her face. Lizzie smiles too, rather tightly. I certainly hope she’s not going to get jealous here. That would be rather ballsy, in a repulsive way, after she had the opportunity to let Davey know that he was more than just an f-buddy to her and chose not to, in a rather brutal manner. Lizzie. Darling, seriously. You can’t just trample all over the guy’s good intentions and then act all affronted and hurt when he gives some attention to someone else. You should know that, so grow up or get off my screen.
Sister 1, part 2: Mellie’s victory lap. In any case, with Susan’s help, Mel is able to get a bathroom break and recharge. Liv is there in the ladies room waiting to speak to her, and Mel guesses she was the one who engineered the whole Susan thing. She’s grateful, but then has a bit of a breakdown and says how exhausted she is. She starts questioning why she undertook this filibuster thing to begin with and doesn’t think she can go on. With a remark reflective of their often contentious relationship, Liv tells Mel she’s the biggest bitch she knows and that she’s definitely up to this task. Mel takes that as the backhanded compliment it is and is ready to go back to work.
Before she leaves, Liv tells Mel she’d like to stick around to watch her ride out her victory, but she has somewhere to be. Mel guesses it’s the cabinet dinner that we see is already underway.
Shortly after, as the clock on the spending bill runs down, Mel apologizes for making everyone late for their holiday break. She says she’s sorry she had to “resort to cheap theatrics for what should be basic human rights.” When it hits zero hour, Mel yields the floor, and a vote is taken. The senators vote to end the debate, the bill is dead for now, and Mel has won a major political victory. The room erupts in applause, even though the senators previously just seemed annoyed and disinterested by the proceedings. Maybe Mel’s tenacity has won them over. It’s at least won the weasely Moskowitz over, who comes up to Mel wanting to shake her hand. Mel just smirks and walks away.
Sister 2, part 2: Liv has a secret. Fitz is in his tux at the cabinet dinner, waiting for Liv to arrive, but he’s going to wind up waiting the rest of the night, as Liv pulls a no-show for the dinner. Instead, she’s watching Mel wrap up the filibuster on a TV in a waiting room. A nurse comes out to say they’ll see her now. There’s no dialogue in the next scene, just a playing of “Silent Night” as Liv gets an abortion.
It’s pretty shocking, as the show gave no indication Liv was pregnant, this week or previously. We have seen her in Fitz’s bedroom a lot, parading around in a robe or just one of his T-shirts and nothing else, so they’ve presumably been having lots of sex. But no hints of a pregnancy were dropped. None that I caught, anyway. Then there’s how no lead character in an American TV drama has ever done this before. As far as I can remember, one has to go all the way back to the 1970s comedy Maude for the last abortion by a title or main character. There are many examples of a supporting character doing so over the years, but not someone who has to carry a show.
It looks like there’s nobody Liv knows who was aware she was pregnant. It’s obvious Fitz didn’t know. Her secret appears to be safe, although there were a couple of Secret Service agents standing guard in the waiting room. They must know everything. Whether that will be a problem for Liv, time will tell.
Finally, the end of Olitz? Fitz is waiting for Liv when she gets home that night. He’s annoyed that she missed the dinner and asks where she was. She doesn’t answer at first and makes a beeline for the closet where she throws things around in a search for Mellie’s moonshine. She finds it and takes a gulp. Fitz can’t quite believe what he’s seeing. He tells her it doesn’t matter where she was, because she wasn’t with him, where she was supposed to be. She says she didn’t go to the dinner, because she didn’t want to. It doesn’t interest her to sit there like a trophy wife and do nothing. He says he knew this would happen when he moved her into the White House. She talks about feeling like a prisoner, and then they say a lot of hurtful things that have no doubt been building for quite some time.
It’s hard to imagine how they can be a couple again after this. It’s an epic fight that touches on the professional, as well as the personal, with Fitz accusing Liv of being power hungry and stepping in to make presidential decisions, and her countering that somebody had to step in, since he’s such an ineffectual leader. It gets to the point that Liv, in frustration, basically sounds the death knell for Olitz, by declaring “There is no us! There is no Vermont! There is no jam! There is no future! Not anymore.”
That sounds like the last words regarding a relationship, even on this show where that relationship has had enough lives to make a tabby envious. ‘Vermont’ and ‘jam’ have always been synonymous with the future of Olitz, and saying none of that is possible is basically saying there’s no future for the couple. That’s how I took trotting out those specific couple of words, anyway.
When they’re done yelling insults, Liv sits down and takes another gulp of hooch. She hands Fitz the jar. He sits next to her and says “We tried.” She agrees.
Sister 4?: Cranky Quinn. Not sure if Quinn really qualifies as being officially in on all of the sisterhood this week, but she is a minor player. She’s the only one in the OPA office these days, as Huck is MIA. Marcus appears, carrying some poinsettias to get the place in the holiday spirit. Quinn scoffs at the holiday spirit. She says Liv would hate having those plants around. But Liv ain’t here, Marcus seems to be saying as he puts the plants around the office. He asks about the office Christmas party, and Quinn scoffs at that too, of course, as he talks about passing around a bottle of vodka being the annual party. She’s such a snarky hard-ass these days, particularly around Marcus.
Later, when it’s paartee time, she seems to have softened up a bit. Since she and Marcus are still the only ones around, Quinn says it’s time for the office Christmas party, and produces the celebratory vodka. But Marcus has plans. He’s on his way out the door as he’s due at his aunt’s house. He invites Quinn along, but she, clearly lying, says she has plans, too.
Her plans were to sit on her ass on her couch and get plastered. She’s taking slugs from the bottle when her doorbell rings. Who’s there to save the day but Charlie, complete with antlers on his head and carrying a lit-up tree, wanting to celebrate the joyful holiday with his favorite partner in torture. She couldn’t be more happy to see him.
At Christmastime. The Quinn/Charlie reunion is part of a montage showing how everyone is starting off the holidays. Mellie is with her two children, while Fitz sits and stews, drinking by himself. Liv has moved out of the White House and is back in her apartment. She gets a call and tells the person to come on up. Even though it seems to be late at night, when the elevator opens, there, finally, is a new couch to replace the one that’s been missing a cushion since last season’s winter finale. Who else but Olivia Pope could get furniture delivered in the middle of the night on what looks like Christmas Eve? She’s still pushing her weight around and hasn’t lost that edge, apparently.
There’s also some B613 nonsense. And nonsense it is. There’s a bunch of B613 stuff to close out the half-season, and while this whole plotline is making very little sense these days, I’ll try to explain.
Huck has been missing from OPA, because he continues to hold Papa Pope hostage, tied up in that warehouse, where he was at the end of last episode. But he won’t tell Pa what he wants. Eventually, Pa gets frustrated by the silence and goads Huck into talking by bringing up his family. He says what a terrible father Huck is and that he’s doing his kid a favor by staying away. Huck says to shut up about his family and grabs Pa around the throat at one point, but pulls back, even after Pa tells him to go ahead and do it. This is the new and improved Huck, who no longer drinks ‘whiskey’, after all.
Instead of strangling him, Huck goads Pa right back with talk of Liv. Pa is such an awful father that Liv chose Fitz over him, and that can’t feel good. Or maybe Pa prefers Jake, Huck says. then he gets real close to Pa and asks him which white boy he approves of being inside his daughter. Huck’s goin’ for broke, y’all. Even Pa didn’t expect that card to be played. Then Huck says that knowing Pa wants to die is almost better than killing him. But the new Huck doesn’t kill, so he leaves Pa to sit and stew about Liv as Pa cries a bit. How sad. Not.
Where’s Jake. While Huck deals with his demons and Pa, Jake is off doing his own thing. It’s hard to tell exactly what that is. He’s been saying all along that his mission is to kill Pa, and presumably it still is. He’s seen tailing Tom, who was thought to have been killed last week. Tom’s looking banged up and somewhat worse for wear, but is still very much alive as Jake follows him to a meeting in a parking garage. There he gets in a car with the long-lost Russell, Liv’s ex boy toy and clandestine B613 agent whose fate was unknown at the end of last season. Well, he’s also still around, and Tom reports that he’s lost Pa. Russell isn’t happy and says keeping tabs on Pa is Tom’s job, so find him.
After that meeting, Jake tracks down where Russell is hiding out and pays a visit. It’s short and not very sweet. Jake puts a gun on him and tells him to get on his knees. Russ says he’s starting B613 up again, but it will be like it was meant to be, before Pa got in charge of it and ruined everything. Russ says Jake should join him, because they think alike and want the same things and are really like brothers. Jake lets him babble a bit before putting a bullet in his head. So if you’re wondering if Russell somehow survived Pa’s purge of B613 agents at the end of last season, the answer is yes. But now he’s gone, for good. So long, Russ.
So this makes sense how, exactly? At the end of the episode, Huck lets Pa go after he’s done with the psychological, if not physical, torture. That’s right, after all that’s gone down between them, Huck finally had Pa captive and all he did was chat him up and make him feel bad, then drove him back to his house and set him free to go about his business. Okay. It makes a little sense to me, but not what happens next.
As Pa opens his front door, Jake steps out of the shadows. Huck is gone and blew his chance to take Pa out, but it looks like Jake will have his shot. But he doesn’t draw his gun, like he just did with Russell, who it appeared wanted to join forces with him against Pa. Instead, Jake just tells Pa that “Lazarus wasn’t you.” It wasn’t? Then, what was it? We’re not privy to that information. Not yet, at least. Jake turns to leave, when Pa says, “Welcome home, son,” and Jake follows him inside.
So after rhapsodizing to Liv and Fitz about how he wanted to kill Pa, Jake’s now aligned with him? Unless this is just some kind of plan that I can’t even guess at. So, yet again, Pa gets away unscathed, except for revealing that he really wants to die, leading Huck to punish him by releasing him alive. Yeah, whatever.
So this is where we stand as Scandal takes its holiday break. And it’s quite the lengthy one. It seemed to be rushing things when there was a Christmas tree in a scene last week, but as it turns out, all of the holiday references had to be taken care of before Thanksgiving, as the show is now off until February 11, 2016.
Though much is messed up and nonsensical, not unusual with this show, things are in a better place than they were a year ago when we went into the winter break with Liv’s kidnapping, followed by the dreadful captivity and auction storyline. Ugh. Even this claptrap with Pa isn’t as bad, all things considered.
Not a bad episode on which to go on an extended break. See you back here in eleven weeks, Gladiators!