Catch up on Scandal S5 Ep. 16 The Miseducation of Susan Ross


L.T. Milroy

Last week I criticized the grammatically incorrect nature of this episode’s title. It’s since been pointed out to me that it’s probably a reference to the album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”, which is itself a reference to the 1933 book “The Mis-Education of the Negro”. So I thought I should mention that. I catch most pop culture references, although sometimes one gets by me. It’s not that I’m getting old. And get off my lawn.

This week, VP Ross takes some more abuse and dishes some out. Liv flirts with a dark side that even Darth Vader might find excessive. And Fitz comes off…likable? How is that possible, after all that’s happened? People can change. The prez is evolving, y’all. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it…

The debate. Though last week’s episode was all about the candidates preparing for the first Republican presidential debate, only the first few minutes this week are spent on the event itself. Mellie and Hollis bicker a lot about economics. She talks about how he’s outsourced and eliminated lots of jobs while making lots of money. He says he did what he had to do, and what anyone would do to keep their business going, and isn’t ashamed he happened to make a few bucks along the way. She implies he’s unprincipled. He says she’s unpresidential.

As they go at it, Susan basically watches. It’s a bit surprising she’s able to stand there at all. When we last saw her, she had just dumped David and was crying in the arms of a reluctant Liz, mere minutes before the debate start. Appearance-wise, she looks reasonably pulled together onstage but is clearly off her game and contributing nothing to the debate. At the White House, Fitz and Abby watch nervously as their candidate tanks.

During a break, Fitz calls Susan, who knows how bad she looks. He tells her to calm down and she can still win this debate. All she needs is one good moment to steal the headlines from her opponents. Liz is totally pissed at David over the whole thing. She says she already told the press that he’ll be onstage with Susan afterward, so he at least better make it look good, or she will ‘end’ him. I don’t think Davey will be getting offered nasty closet sex for the foreseeable future.

Susan, of course, rises to the occasion and has her moment. She tells a story about her husband in the army who was killed overseas. Among other things, his unit was guarding a pipeline owned by Doyle Energy. She makes it into a rousing American story that gets a standing ovation that has the press declaring her the debate winner.

Pretty as a picture. David does stand with Susan onstage afterward and predictably, it garners lots of interest. Susan isn’t happy when the papers come out, and they seem to center more on her and David than the fact that she won the debate. Liz thinks any publicity is good, since her phone has been ringing nonstop with news outlets wanting exclusives on the Veep and AG.

As they’re discussing it, David walks in. Susan doesn’t want to see him, but Liz says they have to do interviews and sell their romance. America loves a love story. Susan still thinks it’s a bad idea. David says he’ll do whatever will be best for the campaign. He just wants to help Susan become president. He seems sincere, but her resolve refuses to crack. As he earnestly pledges his loyalty, she just glares.

Later, David stops by her office. He says they should shut this thing down. They could put out a statement saying they’re both too busy to concentrate on a relationship right now and are putting it on hold. Susan’s still angry and refers to him as stupidhead, which is quite salty for her, even given the rougher side of her nature we’ve seen lately. She says that won’t work, since people will see through it, and it won’t look good. He reiterates that he just wants to help. He apologizes again and says he loves her and will do whatever she wants him to do. She says nothing, but appears to be softening. At least she doesn’t call him stupidhead again.

We’ve heard this before… Mellie is depressed after the debate. America hates her, she says, and it loves Susan. Liv doesn’t want to hear that kind of talk. She tells Mel she’ll get her elected “come hell or high water.” A not-so-subtle reference to Pa Pope and what Liv is becoming?

Liv still has that ace in the hole, which is the envelope she got from Alex Vargas. She tells the Gladiators that Susan is a liar, and they’re going to find out why and take her down.

The contents of the envelope lead them in several directions. It seems there’s no proof that Susan and John, the soldier husband she referred to, were ever actually married.  They were high school sweethearts who were together for years, but no marriage license can be found. Liv says if Susan lied about being married to get veteran’s benefits, it not only makes her unfit for office, it’s a crime. They do some digging and find no evidence of any government payments, but they do come across a payment Susan once made for a paternity test. She apparently thought John wasn’t the father of her daughter, Casey. So who is?

Grifters together. That leads Liv to meet up again with Alex. She wants ‘the rest’ of the information. But he’s not very happy, either. He says he needs more info, as well, as he can’t confirm what she told him about Edison being in rehab eight years ago. So they swap intel. She gives him the name of the director of Meridian Terrace, the rehab facility, back when Edison was a patient, and he gives her the name of Casey’s real father. He’s easy to track down, as he’s currently in prison.

Alex takes his new info back to his brother and Cy and says he thinks they should use it. Frankie doesn’t want to. Alex says they go through this every campaign, where he finds dirt on an opponent, Frankie objects, and Alex has to talk him into using it. You’re going to cave in eventually anyway, Alex seems to be saying, so why not just do it now and save everyone some time? But this is apparently the way Frank likes to do things, so he can feel like he’s really not playing dirty. He again tells Alex no and leaves. Cy tells Alex to be careful, which I’m sure is just pure concern and altruism on Cy’s part.

White hat in prison. Liv takes her new info and goes to prison to visit Ronnie, Susan’s ex, who denies that he’s Casey’s father. At first glance, he comes off as a not very intelligent jerk who would sell Susan out in a minute, but as Liv questions him, his demeanor quickly changes. He remembers Susan fondly and is happy she’s been so successful. He doesn’t want to do anything to trip her up and certainly doesn’t want to do anything to hurt Casey. Liv asks him to take a paternity test. He says no. Liv tells him she can make it worth his while to cooperate. He has three years left on his sentence. If he does what she wants, she’ll have him out by next week. Liv leaves it at that for now.

Outside, Huck asks her if she really wants to do this. She’ll be messing not only with Susan, but her family, as well. Liv curtly says she wants to do this, and goes to her car. Alone with Quinn, Huck tells her he’s not comfortable with it. They’ll be ripping a family apart. Quinn doesn’t look too happy, either, but says it’s just politics. Besides, it could be worse. They could be making stuff up.

So Huck is providing the voice of morality for this show now? I know, he’s missing his family after finally deciding it was best to cut all ties with them, so this is a sore spot for him. But really, when Huck, the guy who went to rehab because he likes killing so much is setting your moral compass, you badly need to have that thing recalibrated.

Hangin’ at Pa’s. Speaking of morals, Frankie Vargas’s appear to be flexible, courtesy of his muckraking brother. The news about Edison in rehab for pill addiction eight years ago has been leaked, and Frankie is commenting about it on the campaign trail. In private, Cy warns him this could backfire, because if the information is wrong, his candidacy might never recover. Frankie says his brother has never steered him wrong before.

As Frankie fields questions from the press about whether Edison is still qualified to be president, Edison watches on TV at Pa’s house. You get in bed with Pa politically, you hang at his house. Jake is also there, calmly eating chicken. Does Jake ever work, because it seems like he spends most of his time noshing at Pa’s dining room table. This isn’t the first time since he became head of the NSA that we’ve seen him leisurely eating at Pa’s like he hasn’t a care in the world. I would figure his to be a high-pressure, time-consuming job, but not from the looks of it.

Pa watches and says he thought this issue was buried. Edison says it was, and the only one who knew about it was Liv, so this must be her work. Pa starts to object, but Edison plunges forth, telling Pa that Liv is getting dangerous, and that he has to rein her in before she gets out of control. Pa wastes little time smacking him down and letting him know who’s in charge. This is the man who once shot one of his own B613 agents in the arm when the guy wasn’t working fast enough for his liking, so how how much courtesy did Edison expect? Pa reminds Ed in no uncertain terms that he’s the boss, and nobody tells him what to do. As for the rehab matter, he’ll take care of it. For now, Pa tells him to “Keep out of my sight, and my daughter’s name out of your mouth.”

Jake just watched this little outburst, wordlessly eating. After Pa stalks out, Jake tells a shaken Edison that if he’s hungry, there’s more chicken in the fridge. So who’s doing the household cooking these days? My guess is Jake, since he has so much free time not doing that highly sensitive job of his.

Taken care of. In the next twist, that director of Meridian Terrace is on TV saying that Edison was never there. She doesn’t know where the rumor came from, but it’s not true. Alex angrily goes to Liv and accuses her of bad faith in their dirty dealings. She insists the information she gave him was good. If anyone is at fault here, it’s him. he should have anticipated that the other side would seek the director out and make an attractive offer. If Alex neglected to lock up her loyalties when he had the chance, he has no one to blame but himself.

Alex is still angry. He tells her he hopes Mellie gets the nomination, so he can wipe the floor with Liv. There’s more than a little sexual tension in this scene, in my opinion, even though they’re adversaries. It wouldn’t surprise me if Liv was having hate sex with someone other than Jake in the near future.

Selling her soul. Liv still has her own dirt to attend to. She goes back to see Ronnie and tells him to take a blood test. He’s still hesitant. She says this is his chance to go free, but he insists he doesn’t want to hurt anyone he cares about. He only has three years left, and who knows? if Susan becomes president, he might have less than that. Liv tells him Susan couldn’t care less about him and would never commute his sentence, but he doesn’t budge. So Liv plays dirty. She says if he was caught with drugs in his cell, he might never get out. She says she could arrange for that to happen and is backed up by Quinn but earns her a glare from the suddenly ethical Huck. He’d better cooperate, or else. Ronnie looks trapped as he realizes his situation. He agrees to a blood test.

Later at OPA, the results arrive and reveal Ronnie to be Casey’s father. Liv tells Huck and Quinn to get the info out there and leaves. Huck says that for the first time, he’s going against Liv. He tells Quinn he’s refusing to release the paternity test. Liv has gone too far this time. If she blithely destroys Susan and her kid, she’ll never recover from it, and he won’t be a party to it. Again, whence the attack of morality, Huck? But it gets Quinn thinking.

The only other person close enough to the situation to be of help is Abby, so Quinn seeks her out. She says Liv is about to trade in her white hat for a black skull cap. If Quinn really thinks Liv is still wearing anything close to a white hat at this point, she’s been willfully not paying attention. But then she hands Abby the dirt they have on Susan, so Quinn and Huck ain’t messing around here.

DC intervention. When Liv returns to OPA, the gang is waiting for her, along with a couple of Secret Service agents. That’s because Fitz has also come along. Yes, when her friends stage an intervention for Olivia Pope, the leader of the free world is in on it.

Liv isn’t happy about the whole thing. She’s defensive about having her motives questioned. Fitz says he’s looking out for his Veep. He doesn’t want her to be the victim of another Defiance. Liv bristles at him referring to himself as a victim. He says he never wanted to win that way, and she says no one did. So he tells her this is their second chance. They can do things differently this time and run honest campaigns. They don’t have to be the people they were back then. Then he leaves.

Fitz then returns to the White House to break the news to Susan. She’s distraught that this episode from her past is coming out. Fitz says that, for his part, Ronnie is apparently just as unhappy and doesn’t want to cooperate. He tells Susan he can make the whole thing go away, but she might want to consider coming clean. Admit she made a mistake many years ago and ask the public to forgive her. Susan is dubious that would work, but Fitz tells her if she doesn’t tell the truth, she might win the election, but she won’t have earned the presidency. Then he gets up and says that he himself didn’t earn the presidency. Susan is confused as to what he’s talking about, as Fitz walks over and closes the door. He says he’s going to tell her a story, and he hopes she’ll want to be a better person than he was. Then he starts to tell her about Defiance.

So for those of you keeping score, first, a few words from Fitz saved Susan’s debate performance. Then he came to the rescue when Liv was having a moral crisis. Now he’s telling Susan the biggest secret of his presidency, and maybe his life in general, for the sake of saving her soul. Fitz, murderer of Verna and serial cheater on Mellie, along with thrill killer Huck, are now the voice of morality in Scandaland. Figure that out, bitches.

Mel + Marcus. There was a B plot this week, and it finally gave Marcus some screen time.

As part of rehabbing Mel’s image, Liv has her booked on Jimmy Kimmel’s show. She gives Marcus the duty of flying out to LA and acting as Mel’s babysitter. He finds Mel to be hugely disagreeable and being around her to be about as much fun as shopping off the rack, but Liv tells him to suck it up and do his job.

Mel has Marcus carrying her bags and generally treats him like the hired help. He keeps his mouth shut until a Kimmel show staffer tells Mel that what they’re going to want her to do is read some mean tweets about herself. Mel looks through them and is horrified, but Marcus takes a look and asks if there are any meaner ones. He tells the staffer to bring him the nastiest tweets she can find.

Mel questions Marcus’s judgment on the tweet thing and on just about everything else. He finally gets tired of her whining and tells her what a pain in the ass she is. He says her relentless complaining and sour demeanor are why he doesn’t like her and why no one likes her and it’s why she’ll never be president. She looks stunned and walks away.

One last thing. The episode is wrapped up with lots of small, quick scenes that tie up the loose ends. And then some.

Marcus’s outburst gets through to Mellie, and the two start to bond a little. She goes along with his idea, reads some really mean tweets on Kimmel and is a big hit. Even money on the next Scandal power couple, Marcus and Mellie or Liv and Alex?

Susan thinks things over and comes to a decision. She goes to the Oval to tell Fitz what she’s decided, but a somber Fitz and Abby are waiting for her. He says she should sit down, because they have some news.

That news has also made its way to OPA. Quinn tells Liv that Ronnie is dead. He was discovered hanging in his cell this morning. Of course, given the crew on this show, anyone could be behind this: Pa, Jake, Cyrus…take your pick. It’s just as plausible, though, that Ronnie couldn’t live with having to go along with Liv’s nefarious plan and killed himself. He seemed to be a genuinely good guy and on this show, that means you only last one episode.

At Vargas campaign headquarters, Frankie gives one of Alex’s assignments to Cy. It looks like punishment for Alex’s fallout from the Edison debacle. Alex is obviously not happy with his brother, but Frankie is more focused on salvaging the campaign and seems to think Cy is better suited to oversee it. Cy gives Alex a little I tried to warn you glance.

Cy, of course, has been working this whole thing behind the scenes, to his own benefit. After he gets the boss’s seal of approval, Tom arrives to drive him home. Tom really is a jack of all trades. I don’t know what his job title is, but he not only will track down leads and follow them as far as murder if he has to, at the end of the day he’ll bring the car around for you. He’s really made himself indispensable.

Cy thanks Tom for Meridian Terrace. Tom says it was his pleasure. It appears Cy sabotaged his own candidate in a power play gamble. So far, it appears to be working.

The scandal behind her, Susan goes proudly public with David. They sit holding hands and gushing about their relationship for one news outlet after another. Susan’s performance is so convincing that David seems to think they’re back together for real. He tells Susan he’s glad she’s forgiven him, but she reminds him that he’s just a campaign prop.

Liv gets Quinn to get Abby to fetch Fitz for her. Such a procedure Liv now must go through to speak with someone who used to be right next to her. She tells him she wants to win clean this time. She’s apparently decided to put the dark side on hold, for now at least. He tells her he’s going to kick her ass. I don’t care what anyone says, they’re still a charming couple.

The fun continues next week with 05.17, the cleverly titled “Thwack!” (I don’t name ’em, I just recap ’em) –

The election is in full swing, which means everyone is doing their best to take down their opponents; when a potential leak threatens several candidates, they have to work together to keep their secrets safe; boundaries are pushed and lines are crossed as some people find out just how far they’re willing to go to protect themselves.

I’d say, pretty far. Just a guess.

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