Catch up on Scandal S5 Ep. 20 Trump Card


L.T. Milroy

Remember when the speeches were plentiful and beautiful on this show? The first season, in particular, featured many a character going off on a tangent that was lovely to listen to.

Well, the speeches are back this week, and it’s pretty awesome. Two characters who are given their first chance at the podium, each make the best of their opportunity and hit the ball out of the proverbial park. It’s a thing of beauty to witness.

There are a lot of old fashioned politics this week, as the primaries continue. We do get an update on what’s happening on the Democratic side of the aisle, but the focus is on the Republicans. It’s an intense three-way battle, with the balance of power recently shifting to Hollis Doyle, who’s now in the lead. Given their mutual loathing of Hollis, Olivia and Abby have decided to temporarily put aside attacking each other to take him down.

A truce and a proposal. So there’s a cease fire between the Mellie Grant and Susan Ross campaigns. Liv and Abby meet behind closed doors at OPA to make their blood oath to work together. They’re all smiles and sweetness as they agree to play on the same side to defeat Hollis.

As soon as Abby leaves, however, Liv turns to the Gladiators and tells them to dig up something damaging on Susan. They’ll need to have some leverage just in case this pact with Abby falls apart. Meanwhile, Abby tells Liz of the plan and also says she’ll need something nasty on Mellie, just in case.

This little peace pact is also affecting the candidates. Susan is in her office trying to work on what she’s going to say to the press, when David walks in. He knows she’s busy and can’t get away, so he’s brought lunch, courtesy of Gettysburger. Just like their first date. These two called their own truce last week, and David certainly seems to be doing his best to try to make up for past misdeeds.

Susan complains that the cease fire with Mel is making things difficult. How is she supposed to campaign when she can’t say anything adversarial about one of her two main adversaries? But David isn’t really focused on those matters right now. He shifts the conversation to their future together and makes kind of a weird, offhand suggestion that they get married. Susan says she wants to be asked properly, so he starts over and proposes. She says yes.

Cy, the believer? Liv meets up with Cyrus on a park bench. I miss the days when they used to have these little get-togethers. There’s no wine and popcorn, but at least they’re chatting. Liv almost cuts it short immediately, though, when it seems Cy has called only wants to ask her if he’s losing his touch. He’s fretting, because he doesn’t know how to handle Frankie Vargas’s idealism. The guy is a human saint, apparently, and Cy has become fond of him in the months they’ve been working together. This is a candidate he actually believes in. He thinks Vargas is the real thing, which makes him losing to Edison that much more frustrating. If Cy can’t sell such a great candidate to the American people, maybe he’s losing his touch. He asks Liv if he’s too old and slow and should get out of the game. Maybe it would be best, seeing as he can’t get someone as great as Vargas elected.

It seems to be a sincere question, and Liv takes it seriously. She tells Cy he’s not losing to Edison, he’s losing to Papa Pope, who is the one in control of Edison’s campaign. That’s the reason Cy can’t seem to gain any traction for Vargas. Cy suggests fighting back and even alludes to taking Pa out, permanently, of course prefacing it with, “I know he’s your father, but…”!, however, Liv says it’s useless. Pa will just do what he wants, as always, and get away with it, as always.

Well, yeah, Liv. You let that cycle continue, remember? Successfully getting Pa in prison, and then getting him out again for reasons that were shaky, at best? Remember that? This power struggle with Pa could just keep going on this way forever. It’s tiresome. It’s a part of the show that needs some major retooling.

Dirt from a reliable source. Turns out Abby didn’t have to look too hard to find something to use against Mel’s campaign. She’s summoned to a meeting in a limo, which contains none other than Pa. She assumes the furtive get-together is about Liv, but it’s not. At least not directly, anyway. Pa says he can help her against Mel and offers an envelope. Inside is proof of Liv’s abortion. Yes, it probably wouldn’t be good for Mel to have it come out that her campaign manager and top adviser aborted the president’s child a few months ago. But how does Pa know about that? Apparently there’s nothing that escapes his notice, or his grasp. It can’t be fun having to fight against it, and it’s not all that much fun to watch, either. When Pa has this kind of omnipotence, the outcome is never much of a surprise: Pa wins again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Nothing to see here.

And how to even approach the evilness of Pa handing over this information? Liv told no one about the abortion, particularly not Fitz. It doesn’t seem to bother Pa to hand out personal info about his daughter, but it’s making Abby uncomfortable. Even she seems to think it’s over the line and says she can’t concentrate on anything but taking down Hollis right now. Pa tells her she’ll regret it if she passes up this opportunity, and offers the envelope to her. Conflict plays across her face as she looks at it.

As expected, there’s a Pa speech. Even with Liv and Abby back working together again, Hollis proves difficult to take down. There’s all kinds of skeletons dancing around in his closet, but their exposure doesn’t seem to hurt him. With every new scandal that comes to light, his poll numbers go up. His latest problems concern his palling around with purported KKK members. Hollis, of course, denies being a racist. So far, he seems to be escaping this situation unscathed.

Edison and Pa watch Hollis on TV, defending himself. Edison thinks he should take on Hollis on the subject of racism. As a black man running to be the first black president (at least in Scandalverse), he has some definite opinions, and his supporters are wondering why he hasn’t said anything. That triggers the episode’s first speech, predictably from master thespian Pa, who waxes on about how Edison is a prep school elite who could never truly understand racism and should just shut up and let Pa engineer him the presidency. Once he’s in the White House he can be as black as he wants, but not now.

Pa reminds Edison that he makes the decisions in this campaign, which still seems to surprise Ed. It’s odd that these outbursts of Pa’s still appear to take him by surprise. I thought by this point he’d made some sort of peace with how Pa pulls the strings. He decides to stop fighting, for now, and tells Pa he’s right. Hollis is the Republicans’ problem, and he should leave them to deal with him.

Pa then brings up Edison’s choice for VP. Ed says he’s still thinking about it, but he’s narrowed it down to just a few names. Pa asks if he can throw another name into the mix: Jake Ballard. Edison isn’t receptive, but it quickly becomes clear this is what Pa wants. Ed still isn’t happy.

No way to pick a Veep. Abby and Liv are at OPA, wondering what they have to do to defeat Hollis, when they notice he’s on Sally Langston’s show, the ironically named Liberty Report. He says it’s obvious he’s going to be the Republican nominee. Then he says the first of his two opponents to drop out of the race, will be his pick for a running mate.

This gets each of the campaigns talking. Abby and Liz hash it out, and predictably Liz says Susan should consider dropping out and taking advantage of Hollis’s offer. She’s down 140 delegates, and she has lots of ground to make up. Abby disagrees and says their mission is still taking down Hollis, so that’s where their focus should be. Liz counters that she dug up something on Mel. After her son, Jerry, died, she contacted a psychic, who she met with several times. She was trying to talk to her dead son while in the White House, and Mel sure wouldn’t want this info to get out now that she’s running for president. Abby says it might backfire on them, and more people might sympathize with Mel than condemn her, but Liz says it’s all they’ve got, so they might have to use it. And of course Abby has something damaging but isn’t ready to bring it out.

Mel considers the Hollis offer as well. She’s sitting and strategizing with Marcus, when she has an attack of insecurity and says maybe she should consider taking the VP slot. He tells her what a great president she’s going to be and to basically shut it with the dropping-out talk. Of course, it was just the vote of confidence she needed. He’s a good cheerleader. She thanks him for the pep talk. He’s happy to oblige. More bonding between these two.

Pa also has to weigh in. When Liv steps off the elevator at home that night, he’s waiting by her door. Since when did he stop just letting himself into her place? Why turn down an opportunity to remind her that he can walk into her life any time he wants? He tells her that Mellie should take Hollis’s deal. She says he just wants her to do it, because running against Mel and Liv, scares him. He says that if she doesn’t take the deal, Abby will. Liv says Susan would never do it, but Pa says Abby can’t be trusted. She’ll make a deal with Hollis if Liv doesn’t do it first.

Seeing things Jake’s way. Edison meets with Jake and tells him he hasn’t made up his mind yet who his running mate will be, but it won’t be Jake. But Jake sets him straight: Yes, he will be Edison’s running mate. Ed is told that saying no is not an option. Jake and Pa will take Edison to the White House, and Ed just has to be nice and smile and do what he’s told. Edison will be the next president, and Jake will be his Veep. It’s been decided.

Edison doesn’t like what he’s hearing and still resists, so Jake ups the ante. He asks if Ed remembers a car accident he was in, shortly after Liv introduced him to Pa. Ed was badly hurt. He was in the hospital for weeks. Well, that was no accident, says Jake. It was him, acting on Pa’s orders. Just more proof for Edison, in case he needed any, that the people he’s decided to link himself up with play for keeps.

Bye, Hollis. Meanwhile, Liv is in a power meeting of her own, with Hollis. She tells him Mellie is ready to drop out of the race and join his ticket. He’s happy to hear that, but Liv has a matter to bring up, which is Hollis’s overall piggish behavior. Mel is often turned off by his style and message and is wondering how she’ll deal with that. Hollis blows it off and says he’s just being a good businessman, telling the rubes what they want to hear. He doesn’t believe any of it. Once he’s in power, he can govern in whatever style he wants, but right now he has to keep the brainless masses happy, so they’ll vote for him. Liv smiles and says they have a deal.

Back at OPA, Liv informs everyone she just saw Hollis. They all immediately jump all over her about making a deal with him, but Liv but Liv follows it up by saying she also saw Sally. She turns on the TV to Sally’s show, with Hollis on as a guest. Is Sally’s show always on? Is it the Sally Network? Sally just happens to ask Hollis about the people he’s meeting on the campaign trail, and he gushes about how touched he is by the support he’s getting from all of the great folks. It’s been a privilege to get to meet all of these wonderful people in small-town America. Sally seems dubious, says that’s not what she heard, and goes to the tape. She plays a recording of Hollis mouthing off to Liv about how much he hates the idiot unwashed masses. Liv had her phone sticking out of the top of her purse and recorded the whole tirade.

Hollis has been a stand-in for a certain American politician, which culminated in the title of this episode. And this little tableaux is strongly reminiscent of the incident with Mitt Romney during the 2012 election. He was covertly taped making incendiary remarks that were meant for a certain, specific audience and not mass consumption. Once everyone got to hear these remarks, it dealt his campaign a blow from which it never recovered. Hollis ain’t getting up off the mat, either. He’s speechless for a moment but then says the remarks were taken out of context. Sally immediately points out that we just heard them come from his own mouth, and he’s speechless again.

There’s a celebration at OPA, as Liv and Abby toast their success. They do this even as they know that with Hollis is out of the way the truce is off, and they’re enemies again.

Who knew Ed had it in him? Liv drops by Edison’s office. He’s still all full of bravado and confidence that he’ll win. Liv says that even if he does, Pa will be the one in control. He scoffs at that, but she asks if Pa has suggested Jake as a VP yet. That stops Ed in his tracks. He sits down, drops the attitude and says he feels trapped. Liv tells him to drop out of the race, and she’ll help him handle Pa. He says he still has things to say about race and Hollis Doyle. Things Pa told him not to.

So the next day, when a reporter asks a question about Hollis, Edison lets loose. He gives an epic speech about Hollis’s bigmouth, boneheaded remarks and race in America and Black Lives Matter, and as he goes on, more and more reporters wander over. It’s a thing of beauty that must be seen to be fully enjoyed and appreciated. But it’s way too blunt for the campaign trail, and it’s exactly what Pa told him not to do.

After Ed’s done with this classic rant, a reporter mutters that he just lost the presidency. As Ed walks back to his bus, he smiles to himself.

Jake and Pa watch Ed’s rant on TV. Pa is decidedly unhappy. He wants to know why Jake didn’t scare Edison, but Jake insists he did. Ed, apparently, will take any opportunity for an exit and calls Vargas to concede. He’s dropping out of the race, which leaves the Democratic nomination to Vargas. Cy is beside himself when the news breaks.

Power summit. Things are coming to a head in the Liv/Abby rivalry. At OPA, Huck and Quinn tell Liv they’ve discovered something that could sink Susan’s candidacy. At the White House, Abby is in her office grilling a Secret Service agent about the night of Liv’s abortion. Afterward, she calls Liv and says they have to meet. Later, Abby is buzzed on her intercom, and her secretary tells her that Olivia has arrived. Abby says to send her in but is told Liv is in the Oval, along with everyone else. This is a surprise to Red, who thought this meeting was a one-on-one.

Abby goes to the Oval to find everyone from both campaigns there, along with Fitz. Liv says before the situation gets out of hand, they have to share their information with each other. All of the dirt has to come out now, and it will only work if everyone’s on board. Fitz says this will unite everyone and is the best way to take on Vargas.

Liv goes first. As she’s about to say what she has, Susan cuts her off and asks if this is about the koala. Hee! I hope we dig into Susan’s past at some point, because there’s apparently some amusing material there. No, Liv says, this isn’t even about Susan but about David. Liv has found out the AG dropped the Tamarac Sugar investigation for Governor Baker’s endorsement. Yikes. Susan, who’d been sitting next to David, bolts up and says she can’t believe he lied to her again. In her blind rage, she crosses the room to the Mellie camp, and it’s funny how Mel reflexively moves over and makes room for her on the couch. Fitz says if it’s true, David will have to resign. Liz says that it will look bad if David quits. Everyone will start sniffing around about what’s wrong and what if they find out? No one knows, and it’s best to keep it that way.

They all argue about this a bit, and then Susan asks Abby what she has. Abby pauses. It’s obvious she’s had the info on Liv’s abortion confirmed but just as obvious that as dirty as this campaign has already gotten at times, she’s not ready to get that personal. Instead, she brings out the Mellie and the psychic stuff. She expectedly gets some pushback, particularly from Mel, who says she was grieving at the time and it’s heartless to bring it up.

All of it is enough for Susan. She gets up, says she quits, congratulates Mel, and walks out.

Susan being the badass we always knew she was. Liz is in Susan’s office, telling her she can’t quit. Susan says it’s too risky to think David’s secret won’t get out, and if it does, everyone will assume Susan was in on it. She can’t prove she wasn’t and has to drop out. David comes in. Liz gives him an eye-roll and leaves. He tries to apologize to Susan. She says she didn’t even want to run for president, but he convinced her. He made her want it, and then took it away. He tries to say he did it for her and that he thinks she’d make a great president, but fortunately, she has an answer for that and launches into the episode’s second awesome speech. She says sheknows how great she is. What she wants is someone who appreciates just how great she is. and David has proven, over and over, he’s not that guy. So she has no use for him.

Then Susan tells him he can go. He just got dumped by the vice president of the United States, and she has work to do. David looks so small. At least he has the decency to own his caddishness. He literally hangs his head as he walks out. Susan’s strong, steely front crumbles after he leaves, and she starts to cry. Whatever next week’s ep has in store for Susan, I hope she stops getting used as a punching bag.

Who else saw this coming? Susan quickly collects herself and makes a statement to the press that she’s dropping out and officially endorsing Mellie. As she’s making her endorsement, Mel stands nervously offstage. She can’t quite believe the fight is over, and she’s going to be the Republican nominee. Marcus can see she’s nervous, so he gives her another pep talk. That calms her down. She thanks him and they hug and look like they’re about to kiss, when an aide shows up to inform Mel they’re about to announce her. Mel collects herself and goes onstage. To be continued…

Two more things… Liv shows up at Abby’s door. She says she thinks Abby lost on purpose and asks what she knows that she was holding back. After denying there’s anything, Abby comes clean and tells her. She says she didn’t want to hurt Liv by telling a whole roomful of people about her abortion. Liv says it’s not something she’s ashamed of, but it would have been pretty uncomfortable, especially since Fitz doesn’t know. Abby’s surprised, but Liv says no one knows and asks how Abby found out. Abby tells her it was Pa and adds that she doesn’t think Pa is done with her.

Edison gets an office visit from Jake and Pa, who wants to know if his little speech was Liv’s idea. Ed starts to mouth off, but Jake grabs him from behind and pins him to his desk. He menacingly tells Ed it’s a shame they won’t be president and vice president, because they would have had so much fun together. Confident that Jake is about to deliver the proper ass whupping, Pa leaves. When he’s gone, instead of kicking Edison’s prep school ass, Jake whispers to him to get a message to Liv that he needs her help and to say that Jake wants out, because he’s “chasing the sun.”

Again? Liv and Jake already had the sun. Liv got bored before long and traded it in for the action. She’s likely do it again, so does Jake want to stand in the sun alone? Maybe he hasn’t thought it through that far.

And what about Pa? Has Jake just been pretending to be his little lap dog all this time? Or has he just changed his mind again? There’s scant time left to answer such questions, as next week is the S5 finale, 05.21 “That’s My Girl” –

As each presidential candidate gets ready to announce their running mate, Olivia finds herself in a potentially dire situation; Cyrus is presented with damaging information that could alter the race entirely.

We could be anywhere by this time next week. Here’s hoping for a smooth exit from S5 and a promising setup for S6.

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