Catch up on Scandal S 5 Ep. 15 Pencils Down


L.T. Milroy


Things are getting a bit crazed during this Scandal election season. The debates are about to start, and Sally Langston mentions on her show that she’ll be the moderator at the first Republican debate. This episode is all about preparations for that event, which will be saved for next week.

This week we enjoy the pre-debate mania by all involved. Behind the scenes, of course, is where all of the real action goes on.

Setting some ground rules. There’s much to be done by all parties to prepare. First, Olivia, representing Mellie Grant, Elizabeth, representing VP Susan Ross, and Hollis Doyle, representing himself, meet with the network guy organizing the debate. Liv is unhappy there’s no method in place to keep certain verbose candidates from taking more than their allotted speaking time. Someone like Hollis might tend to go on and on, and a friend of his like Sally might tend to let him. Liv wants a light to signal when a speaker’s time is about to be up and a buzzer to sound for anyone speaking overtime. Debate guy refuses to agree to these terms, so Liv says Mellie won’t be taking part in the debate and struts off.

Mel is waiting in the next room and asks how the meeting went. Liv just smiles and counts down from five. When she reaches one, debate guy defeatedly walks in and caves to Liv’s terms. Just like she knew he would. Olivia Pope can still look really cool sometimes.

I’m confused by something, though. Just last week Liv was telling Mel how she couldn’t officially advise her, and now she’s openly negotiating on her behalf? How did that happen? Did I nod off or something? I missed the explanation for that. I’m open to suggestions.

All about Susan. Wow, the VP is quite put through the wringer in this episode. Her status as one of the few honest good guys on this show is also cast into doubt, but we’ll have to wait until next week for the answer.

As of now, the candidate is being prepped for the debate by Fitz, Abby and Liz. She’s doing incredibly well, answering questions with knowledge and confidence. Abby is so impressed she calls Liv to tell her how great Susan looks. She hints that Liv may want to switch her loyalties and come aboard the Ross bus, but Liv thinks Mel looks just fine, thank you and that Mel can be a huge pain in the ass, but she also might make a great president. I still find this Mel/Liv lovefest a bit jarring, given their history, but it’s obvious Liv has picked her candidate.

Abby also asks Liv if the rumors she heard are true. Liv says she’s looking into it.

Another candidate. Liv is more than looking into it. In an underground garage, she meets with her ex-BF, Senator Edison Davis. He confirms that he’s announcing his candidacy for president in the morning. Though she’s working for Mellie and thus will be opposing him, Liv tells him she hasn’t forgotten how he vouched for her during that whole kidnapping mess last season. She knows she owes him. He says it’s about time for the first black president. She says it’s about time for the first woman president. They wish each other luck.

The perils of studboy AG. Apparently one of the reasons Susan is exuding such confidence during her debate prep is her relationship with AG David, which is going well for her. For David, however, the situation is more complicated. He drops by Abby’s office in a panic and says he needs to talk. Abby says no, but he talks anyway about how having sex with two different women is starting to drive him crackers. The sex with the nice woman is very good, he says, but the sex with the nasty woman is weird and kinky, and as much as it repels him, he can’t stop going back for more. He’s drawn to her like an addiction, but it’s not good for him, and it’s beginning to affect his work. Or, as he puts it in the quote of the week, “How is the attorney general of the United States supposed to do his job when he’s in some weird, dirty sex trance?”

That’s pretty much the limit for Abby, who throws the poor, horny AG out of her office. In the hallway, David is scooped up by the passing Liz, who orders him to follow her. He assumes it’s for more of that weird, dirty sex, but she takes him to see Susan. Liz says now that Susan is becoming more high profile, people are asking questions about her personal life. Liz suggests that to quell those questions, Susan and David should go public right away, tonight. He can join her onstage after the debate. Liz asks David if he’s willing to do that. He pauses a moment, and Susan tells him he doesn’t have to answer, but he does. He smiles and says yes, he has no problem letting everyone know he and Susan are a couple. She gives him such a look of love. Again.

More debate prep. While Susan’s doing well leading up to the debate, Hollis refuses to even do any prep, saying it’s for weaklings and wimps, not manly men like he is. Instead, he has the press follow along on his manly man activities, like going to the rifle range. He’s ready for the debate right now, he says. No prep necessary.

Mellie isn’t as ready. As part of her prep, Liv has a focus group watch some of Mel’s speeches, and they pick her apart. Their main complaint centers around Mel coming off like a know-it-all. Liv tells her to back off. Mel says she’s a Rhodes Scholar with an Ivy League education, and she shouldn’t dumb it down. Liv nods. I’ve never understood these people who say they want their president to be a regular person. I couldn’t disagree more. If there’s one person I want to be obnoxiously, annoyingly, kiss-the-teacher’s-ass smart, it’s my president. This is the leader of the country, not my drinking buddy. It always floors me when people don’t seem to appreciate the difference.

So I’d tell Mel to go ahead and act way too smart, but Liv thinks she should be a “woman of the people”. She tells Mel to get out and mingle where the regular folk go, like to their favorite fake but we’d totally go there if it were real fast food joint, Gettysburger, and order a big, messy burger and fries. Then sit down among the people and chat in a relatable fashion with them and eat every bit of the food, to further prove how regular she is.

It’s all going pretty well until someone questions Mel’s professed love of Gettysburger. Has she ever even been to one before? Mel gushes about her Gettyburger love and how she and her daughter used to stop in the one by their church every Sunday. That was a little too much embellishment on her part, however, as it turns out Gettyburgers are closed on Sundays to commemorate the first major battle of the Civil War, which happened on a Sunday. Mel is busted. The media is all over it. It’s a disaster. She tells Liv the whole thing was her idea, so she has to fix it.

Enter Alex. On the other side of the aisle, Cyrus is addressing Frankie Vargas’s staff, trying to rally everyone. That job, though, winds up falling to someone else. As Cy is trying to work the room, a guy steps forward and basically wrests control from him. It’s Vargas’s brother, Alex, and he seems quite comfortable taking over the meeting. Cy drifts into the background.

Afterward, Cy expresses his concerns to Frankie, who tells him not to worry. Cy doesn’t back off, so Frankie says Alex always works on his campaigns and pointedly asks if Cy has a problem with his brother. Cy tells him no, and Frankie says good and walks away. That didn’t go well. Cy knows he has a problem on his hands, and its name is Alex Vargas.

He’d better get used to Alex, because the guy isn’t going anywhere. He next turns up at OPA, offering Liv an envelope he says contains dirt on Susan Ross. It’s hers in exchange for anything she might have on Edison. Liv says she’s not interested. Alex says when she changes her mind, she knows where to find him.

That leads OPA to dig into Alex’s background. He’s run all of his brother’s campaigns and won all of them. If that’s the case, why did Frankie ask Cy to run his presidential campaign? Maybe he likes having Cy’s experience around, but a guy like Cy isn’t going to be content to play backup to the candidate’s brother. If Frankie doesn’t know that now, he’ll likely find out soon.

The Gladiators also found out that Alex likes to play dirty. So his showing up and offering to exchange covert information with Liv is apparently standard operating procedure for him.

Studboy busted. David need not agonize about his complicated love life any longer. He’s about to be exposed.

Susan stops by Abby’s office. While there, she sees a binder she recognizes as David’s. Abby complains about how David stopped by wanting to talk about his women problem. “Women, plural?” Susan asks innocently. Abby tells her about how David is juggling two women, and Susan does her best not to break down. Afterward, her debate prep doesn’t go nearly as well.

Susan doesn’t waste much time wondering about the whole thing. When she next sees David, she flat out asks if he’s cheating on her. He denies it. She says he can tell her the truth, and she can take it. He still denies it. She seems to believe him.

It forces David into a decision. Later, Liz drops by his office and tells him to remove his pants. Whatever he said to Susan worked, because she bounced back and did well again in her prep. Liz wants to reward David for that, but he says he can’t do this anymore. Their dirty, nasty sexcapade is over. He says he loves Susan and wants only a relationship with her. Liz is derisive and can’t believe David is dumping her for that Muppet, Susan. And she’s a lesser Muppet, not even a main Muppet! David sticks by his decision and keeps his pants up.

But Susan isn’t as trusting as she seemed. Later, prepping one-on-one with Fitz, she asks him why he cheated on his wife. Fitz has no easy answer for that, but when Susan says she suspects the guy she’s seeing of being unfaithful, Fitz says to trust her instincts. If she feels like he’s cheating, he probably is.

Tom is back and as creepy as ever. With all he has on his plate, Cy needs some behind-the-scenes help, but Tom is coming up empty. He reports that he’s been unable to dig up any dirt on Edison. Cy finds that hard to believe. Edison is from Florida, after all, which Cy says is “65,000 square miles of corruption. Nobody escapes that!” Tom says it seems Edison has. Cy tells him to keep digging. And while he’s at it, see what he can come up with on Alex Vargas.

Tom kind of leers as he reports to Cy. It still looks like it’s being implied that these two have a personal relationship going, as well as a professional one, but nothing is spelled out. Whatever the case, Tom is just creepy.

Of course, there’s some Pa stuff. We can’t go a week without at least checking in with Pa.

Liv is at Pa’s whining about the campaign over some wine. She says she doesn’t know what to do about the whole Mellie debacle. After the Gettysburger fib, she’s polling third out of three candidates. Then, for some reason, she tells Pa about Alex Vargas’s offer and how she turned it down, but how she might have to rethink that decision in order to help Mel. She’s known Edison a long time and certainly has some information on him that Vargas would find useful.

Basically, it looks like she’s telling Pa all of this to get his blessing. It’s not forthcoming. Instead, Pa defends Edison. He waxes on about how good Edison has been to her and how it would be just plain evil to betray someone who’s been so loyal. Liv looks swayed by his arguments but clearly hasn’t decided yet.

And there’s more Jake stuff. Liv may be spending lots of time on Mellie’s campaign these days, but she hasn’t forgotten about Jake. Quinn has been following him, but he isn’t doing anything suspicious. Liv says it’s not enough, so it’s time for plan B.

Quinn, disguised but only slightly, walks up to Jake’s fiancee Vanessa in a restaurant. She says she’s Jacqueline Horton, and they went to college together. Vanessa clearly doesn’t remember her, for good reason, but believes her, and the two start hanging out together. Quinn gains her confidence and offers to help with the wedding plans. She also asks questions about Jake whenever she gets the chance. Vanessa has no problem talking about their relationship, which she says can be a complicated one, given that Jake is the head of the NSA. She says a full background check was done on her before he was given permission to marry her. She had to turn over everything, including her bank records.

This whole scheme seems shaky to me. Jake knows Quinn well, and she’s barely disguised. Vanessa will certainly want them to meet at some point, since “Jacqueline” has become such a good friend. How does Quinn plan to handle that?

Maybe she’ll find what she wants and just disappear first. What Vanessa said about her bank records made Quinn suspicious, so she looks into it. She follows the money and finds that Jake is using Vanessa to fund a SuperPac for Edison. I don’t know the logistics of this, because they weren’t laid out. Engineering a meet-up with Vanessa and taking it to the point of marriage just to get his hands on some cash seems a bit extreme, but who knows what Jake’s up to?

Liv takes this information to Edison and tells him Jake is in cahoots with Pa these days, so anything Jake does, Pa has a hand in. She goes on to say that Edison has no idea who Pa really is and how dangerous he is, and if he’s going to get involved in Edison’s campaign, he’ll eventually want a favor. But Edison’s not worried. He’s already spoken with Pa, and everything’s fine. Liv tells him again he has no idea who Pa is and that he’s getting in bed with a monster. Edison says no, he’s getting in bed with a monster’s father. Touche, Ed.

More than I needed to see of Jake. Jake is in a restaurant with Vanessa when his phone rings. He looks at it and excuses himself. Liv is waiting for him in the lobby. She pulls him into the ladies room for some privacy, which is a little weird. It gets weirder. She locks the door, kisses him, and asks whether Vanessa knows he’s stealing from her. There’s some unzipping, and it looks like they’re about to have sex, but instead Liv slips a hand down his pants. She likely chooses this method instead, because it puts Jake entirely under her control, which he soon is. As he leans on her, she whispers in his ear to warn her father that whatever game he’s playing, she will win. I’m not sure why she thinks this, as Pa always wins, but in his present state, Jake isn’t arguing.

At the debate. The start of the first Republican debate is just a few minutes away, and everyone is nervous. Sally rudely barks at anyone brave enough to enter her orbit.

Susan is outside, calmly smoking a cigarette. David walks up to her, surprised. He didn’t know she smoked. She says she gave it up years ago when she was pregnant, but she needs a little help working up the courage to dump her boyfriend. David’s face falls. He knows it’s over, so he comes clean. He says he was seeing someone else but he broke it off with her, because he doesn’t want anyone but Susan. He loves her and doesn’t want to lose her. Susan is unimpressed. She informs him that he’s relieved of the duty of joining her onstage after the debate, before stubbing out her cigarette and going inside.

Susan acted cool, but she’s far from okay. She’s standing offstage next to Liz and tells her she broke up with David. She found out he was cheating on her. Liz gets a bit alarmed and asks who with. That makes Susan frustrated, since it doesn’t matter who with. All that matters is that he cheated. She starts to cry softly. Liz senses she’s in the clear, for now at least, and relaxes. She shakes her head and says David can be such an ass. She’s saying this, of course, speaking from her own experience with him, but since Susan doesn’t know about that, she thinks Liz is being genuinely sympathetic. She says Liz can be a beeyotch sometimes, but deep down she really does care, and hugs her. Liz reluctantly hangs onto Muppet Susan as she cries.

Mellie is freaking out pre-debate. Liv tells her to just relax, and everything will be fine, trust her.

Playing in the mud with Alex. As Sally walks onstage and the debate begins, Liv goes outside. She meets up with Alex Vargas, and they exchange envelopes. She’s decided it’s best for her to betray Edison. Alex tells Live the dirt she’s getting on Susan is pretty juicy, so he hopes what he’s getting in return is equally as good. Liv says if he has any doubts, to look at it right now. The info is that Edison went to rehab several years ago after getting hooked on painkillers. Liv knows about it, because she arranged to send him there and then made it go away. Alex smiles. I sense that Liv enjoys getting down and dirty with brother Vargas. I’d be surprised if this turns out to be the only time.

After Alex happily walks away with his envelope, Liv opens hers. The look she gives as she glances through what’s inside! But that’s when the episode ends. We won’t find out the explosive crud on Ms. Ross until next week.

It appears that episode will be centering on the Veep, as 05.16 is entitled “The Miseducation of Susan Ross”. A preview –

Following the first Republican debate, Olivia is presented with damaging information about an opponent and enlists the Gladiators to verify its authenticity; David deals with fallout from his dating life; Cyrus continues to work on his own political agenda.

Is miseducation even a real word? My spell check says no. I can excuse the ungrammaticalness if it results in a great episode.


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