Catch up on Scandal S5 Ep. 17 Thwack


L.T. Milroy

At the end of last week’s recap, I goofed on this episode’s title a bit. Little did I know how very literal that title would turn out to be.

Accusing this show of the proverbial jumping of the shark is superfluous at this point. Shondaland just wants to keep topping itself with a new shocker every week and just gets more extreme in doing so.  There’s more of the same this week. Enjoyment of this episode is contingent upon how much extremity you’re willing to overlook and just enjoy the goings-on.

Personally, I don’t find it all that difficult. As a TV show, this is still pretty entertaining. I’ve been enjoying the campaign trail hijinx, which are pretty much put on hold this week, so I missed that. And this is the first ep in memory that didn’t include a narrative of the events by Sally Langston and her Liberty Report, so that was also missed. But otherwise, a generally good time that includes a game-changing twist for our lead protagonist.

Case of the week. Only one thing going on this week. Call it the Case of the Zombie Veep.

Abby is chewing out Fitz. The rumor she’s heard is that one of his many recent conquests, Lillian Forrester, the unprincipled journalist, is pregnant. How does he plan to deal with it? Before Abby can go into full panic mode, her phone rings. She doesn’t look happy about what she hears. She hangs up and tells Fitz Lillian isn’t pregnant. It’s worse. Then she calls Liv and begins by telling her, “We never had this conversation,” which is never a promising starting point.

Quinn has followed Lillian to a hospital. Turns out she wasn’t there as a patient but as a reporter. Liv goes to the room Lillian was visiting and who does she find there but our long lost treasonous friend, Andrew Nichols, the ex-vice president. The guy who made a brazen power play last season, trying to push Fitz into declaring war by staging a terrorist attack and then having Liv kidnapped and eventually auctioned off. The guy who was finally stopped, unbeknownst to Liz, with a needle in the neck, administered by Huck. It put him in a coma and then a vegetative state.

Looks like Andy is awake now and no longer a vegetable. He’s in a wheelchair, and his speech is slurred, but his mind seems sharp. Liv tells him he was hurt during that phony terror attack he staged, but he knows someone took him out. He’s looking for revenge and spilling the beans to Lillian about Fitz going to war over Liv.

Another covert meeting. That brings the whole gang in onto the case. Everyone involved with that little escapade, Liv, Fitz, David, Mellie, Abby, Cyrus and Liz, gather for a strategy session in a remote White House kitchen. Liz warns that if this gets out, Mel is done as a candidate. Mel counters that Susan will also be tainted, along with everyone in the Grant administration.

They bat around a few strategies before Liz suggests what everyone is no doubt thinking: why not just kill Andrew and be done with it? That brings about a collective clutching of the pearls, as expected, but it’s so hypocritical of this group. They’ve  all at least bent, if not broken, the law on a regular basis. Murder is a bit extreme but certainly not out of the question. Liv says it would make them no better than Andrew (insert eye roll here). If Andrew is allowed to live, then Abby suggests they do all they can to erase every bit of information on the lead-up to the war. All correspondence, email, etc, will have to be destroyed. If Lillian can’t corroborate anything, she has no story.

‘Whiskey’ for Huck? With Andrew bringing all of the kidnapping stuff up again, Liv starts flashing back to that experience. She has a bad dream about it, and in a link I don’t understand, it leads her to conclude that Huck was the one who put Andrew in a coma. The next day at the office she accuses him, and he reluctantly admits to it. She warns him to discontinue, and they’ll handle Andrew in more legal ways.

But Liz has other plans, since she has a lot to lose here. She was Andrew’s co-conspirator against Fitz and his administration and wouldn’t want him finding out. Shutting Andrew up permanently is her most attractive option, so she approaches Huck in a deserted garage and asks him to kill Andrew. He says he doesn’t do that anymore, and she says he’s done it for her before, so why the sudden reluctance? She reminds him Andrew will ruin all of them, including Liv. Huck may claim not to care about anyone, including himself, but Liz says she knows he cares about Liv, and Andrew will destroy her. Huck does still have a soft spot for his boss, and he appears to relent.

Pa knows best. Mel, of course, has her own history with Andrew, having had an affair with him. She thinks there’s still enough between them for her to have some influence with him, so she goes for a visit.

It’s not a good idea. For a few minutes, they carry on the charade of still caring about each other, but then it falls apart. By the time they’re done, Andrew tells her that maybe she’s disgusted by him, but at least the feeling is mutual. Mel reports back to Liv that Andrew isn’t going to cooperate. Liv says she’ll fix it.

But that doesn’t mean what it used to on this show. These days, Liv requires support from the dark side. She stops by Pa’s house to talk over the situation with him. Jake is there, of course, since he’s never at work. And he’s eating. Again. This is just comical at this point. All the guy ever does is sit at Pa’s table and eat. He’s like a DC spy version of Dagwood Bumstead. Scandal drinking game: take a shot every time Jake is seen at Pa’s, filling his face. Hammered yet?

Liv tells them about Andrew, and Pa says they’ll help. Between bites, Jake says he’ll spy on Lillian. Yes, Jake, who never goes to work, will use his power as head of the NSA for a personal project. He’s never seen doing anything for his country, but his friends are covered. He’s got his priorities. He’ll listen in at The Times and see what info Lillian is getting from Andrew.

Then Pa, like everyone else, seems to imply that Liv and the cabal should just off Andrew and be done with it. Liv says they don’t behave that way. and Pa just scoffs.

But it seems they might behave that way. Huck goes to Andrew’s hospital room and administers another hypo to the neck. He hasn’t backslid that badly, though. No ‘whiskey’ today. Huck merely made sure Andrew was unconscious, so he could remove him.

In the bunker. Huck takes Andrew to a basement in the White House. It’s for safekeeping, they tell him when he wakes up. Liv tells Andrew there are people trying to kill him, so they’re keeping him out of sight. They’re not doing it out of any love for the ex-Veep, since they all loathe him, but he knows their secrets. They ask him what it will take to keep his mouth shut. He comes up with a figure, which is  ten million in cash. Huck shakes his head in the background as if to say to Liv You should have let me ‘take care’ of him, but Liv gives in and agrees.

The rest of the episode is spent trying to placate Andrew, which I don’t quite understand. He thinks he’s in a great negotiating position, and I’m not sure why. The people protecting him hate him. And who are they protecting him from? Not Lillian and her paper. They want to hear what he has to say. The only people he can hurt have all decided to negotiate with him, with the brief exception of Liz, but Huck wouldn’t cooperate. Considering how quick people in Scandalworld have historically been to employ the homicide route to solve these kinds of problems, I’d think Andrew would pick up on how they’d apparently decided against that and be relieved and somewhat cooperative. Be a bit more savvy and less snarky.

But Andrew remains steadfastly a clueless scumbag. Liv convenes the cabal, and they manage to scrape together the ten mil. Liv brings it to Andrew, but he’s changed his mind. He starts making all kinds of outlandish demands, and it becomes clear he’s not in this for the money. He really does want revenge. The deal is off.

Fitz takes charge. So the pres decides to step in. Meeting with his chief of staff, Fitz tells Abby he’s going to take the blame for all of it. He’ll tell the public he faked the terrorist car bombing on Andrew to try to drum up support for going to war. Then AG David will investigate and confirm that story, and no one will find out anything about Liv or the kidnapping. Fitz will take responsibility for everyone. Abby cautions him against sacrificing himself, but he doesn’t care. He tells her to start events in motion by getting him airtime for his speech.

Abby goes right to Liv. Red is the only one who still really has skin in the Fitz game. Everyone else has moved on. Liv is backing Mellie, Cy is with Vargas, Liz and David are with Susan. But Abby is on the Fitz train until the very end, and she obviously takes her loyalty to him seriously. She also wanted very much to be CoS for the last months of a lame duck administration, so she wants to make the most of that power, while she has it.

Abby says she’s afraid Fitz is giving up, and she hates the defeatist attitude. But Liv doesn’t agree. She says he’s taking responsibility for the team, like a leader should. She waxes on about how presidential Fitz is behaving, but Abby looks doubtful. She’s afraid this will leave her without a political future. Liv tells her not to worry about going down with the Grant administration. It probably won’t happen, and even if it does, Liv says she always has a spot for Abby at OPA. Wouldn’t it be fun, Liv asks, to be back at the old place working together again? Abby gives a weak smile.

Red takes charge. The thought of reverting to her old life apparently didn’t sit well with Abby. The next day, she goes to the bunker to see Andrew. Alone.

Liv gets a call from Jake. He tells her his surveillance says that the paper has shifted the focus of its story about Andrew. It’s now going to concentrate on his affair with Mellie, with no mention of the plot to go to war or Liv’s kidnapping. The story has been reduced to a takedown of Mel. Someone made a deal.

An upset Liv goes to Abby’s office. She tells her how the story has shifted and how she has to find out who’s behind it. As she rambles on and on about how this dastardly person, whoever it is, must be stopped, Abby gives no response. She just stands there, listening to Liv’s tirade with a rather smug look on her face, which Liv finally notices.

It dawns on Liv who made the deal with Andrew. She asks Abby who got to her, and Abby says Liv did. Seems she wasn’t all that charmed over Liv’s glib offer of going back to work for her. Abby’s gotten a taste of the Oval, and does Liv really think she’d be content to slink back to being a nobody at OPA? Her job right now is protecting the president, and that’s all she’s doing. Fitz will not be falling on his sword for anyone, because she won’t let him. Then Abby dismisses Liv by telling her to surrender her White House pass on the way out. It’s no longer good. From now on, Liv will have to make an appointment with the CoS to get in the building.

So Abby wants to play hardball. Liv wastes no time firing back. She gets on her phone and calls Jake to tell him she needs to get in the White House.

Thwack, indeed. What Liv needed was another face-to-face with Andrew. She enters the bunker and asks him what he really wants. The ex-VP is still confidently smug and smarmy, and now adds incredibly insulting to his arsenal. He hasn’t been civil with Liv up to this point, but now he just gets nasty, with slut being among the many expletives he hurls at her. He taunts her about the kidnapping, which triggers more flashbacks for Liv. He says he could do the same thing again any time he wanted. He can disrupt and ruin her life whenever he wants, at a whim.

That kind of talk about how much control he has makes Liv increasingly angry. She starts gripping the chair she’s leaning on. When he goes on to say he got everything he ever wanted from this whole situation, which is revenge, Liv looks briefly sad and helpless before anger again takes over. She’s had enough of the insults and smug, confident attitude. A furious look spreads across Liv’s face as she screams, “You don’t get revenge! That’s mine!”, as she picks up the chair and swings it, smashing his head. She goes on to keep swinging and beating his face to a bloody pulp.

So Olivia Pope has finally added killer to her resume. She’s actually late to that particular party, for this group. Sure, Andrew’s a disgusting, morally bankrupt punk who was so asking for it, but the fact remains, the show’s main character, the one with whom we’re most asked to identify, just killed someone with her bare hands.

Or, to put it another way, if we were playing Clue, the answer would be: Olivia, in the White House basement, with the chair.

Reading Red the riot act. Liv is sitting on the floor with blood spatter all over her face when the bunker door opens. It’s Fitz. He asks if she’s ok. She looks in shock and doesn’t answer. He picks her up, and they hug. He tells her everything will be all right.

Abby walks in. She sees Andrew on the floor with his bloody, beaten-in head, and her eyes go wide. Liv snaps back to reality and tells her that Abby will be issuing a press release that former VP Nichols is dead. She has an hour to call Lillian and convince her she has no story. It’s now Abby’s turn to be frozen in shock. She stands in the doorway wordless as Liv collects her things. On her way out, Liv gives Abby some words of advice: “Never. Cross me. Again!” The terrified CoS looks convinced.

Requiem for a heavyweight jackass. That TV time Fitz asked for to take the blame for the whole Andrew affair he now uses to inform the nation that the former Veep has died. As Fitz talks about Andrew, Abby stands off to the side, basically expressionless, but no doubt thinking about Andrew’s brains on the bunker floor.

Everyone is seen talking to the press about Andrew. They all, of course, gush about what a great politician and guy he was. In death, Andrew gets all kinds of respect he couldn’t in life, as one pol after another says how wonderful he was. Yeah, Washington is full of phonies. Nothing new here.

This is new, though. From bed, Cy watches all of these hypocritical little tributes. Specifically, he’s eating brownies in bed, with Tom. That personal relationship that’s been hinted at but never spelled out between these two? It was just spelled out. Cy giggles like a loon as he eats and watches everyone lie about Andrew.

Tom exposed. Speaking of Cy, there’s a subplot about his continuing power struggle with Alex Vargas. The most significant event to come out of it is Alex stumbling across something interesting while looking again at the surveillance video from the Harrisburg courthouse shooting. Someone lurking in the background of a frame catches his attention. It’s Tom. I figured Alex would already be familiar with him, but he doesn’t recognize him. So Cy, apparently, has been keeping Tom separate from the Vargas campaign. The better for Tom to do his dirty work.

But now the secret is out. Alex discovers who Tom is, and he turns up at Cy’s front door. Michael answers and says Cy isn’t home. Alex says he knows Cy isn’t there, because he’s at a hotel with his boyfriend. He adds that he thinks he and Michael can help each other. I don’t know what he has in mind, but if he thinks Michael’s going to be hurt by Cy’s ‘cheating,’ they never had a real marriage to begin with, so that’s a dead end. It was spelled out clearly last season that both parties are well aware it’s a political arrangement, so there’s no reason Mike should care who Cy goes to a hotel with. Hell, he probably made the brownies. Michael isn’t going to be jealous, so what’s Alex’s angle? Stay tuned…

Home again. Michael isn’t the only one who gets a visitor at his house at episode’s end. Pa opens up his front door to see a tired Liv standing there. He doesn’t seem surprised but says “Welcome home” and opens the door wide for her to enter. Stay tuned, again…

After that craziness, we have to wait two weeks for the next episode. A preview of 05.18, “Till Death Do Us Part”

As Olivia deals with the aftermath of what she’s done, she finally finds out what exactly Jake and Rowan are plotting; with their plans already in motion, she is forced to make a gut-wrenching attempt to try to stop them; flashbacks show Jake’s past and how he first got involved with B613.

Some backstory on Jake! Maybe we’ll finally get to see him do something besides eat.

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