It’s been established that this, the final season of Scandal, is all about a battle for Liv’s soul. It begins in earnest this week.
It’s also flashback time again, just like so much of last season, when it was done to take the focus off Olivia, to accommodate Kerry Washington’s pregnancy. That’s no longer a factor, but this episode is a reminder of last year, due to the decided lack of Liv’s presence. While she’s mentioned quite a bit this week, she’s seen very little. It’s a bit strange. The focus is on Fitz, and what he’s been doing since his presidency ended, and we saw him board that helicopter and leave the whole DC circus behind. He’s been living a relatively quiet life. But that, of course, is about to end.
Sweet home Vermont. To kick things off, there’s a montage of Fitz leaving Washington for Vermont. He has friendly, screaming crowds to greet him and a beautiful, big country house waiting for him. His first night there, he’s alone in bed, watching as he’s the topic of conversation on the news. The talking heads speculate about what kind of ex-president he’s going to be, and then one of them brings up the kiss he shared with Liv in front of the press just before getting on the helicopter. Fitz turns off the TV.
Day 1. On his first day as a regular citizen, the alarm wakes Fitz at 7 a.m. He goes downstairs and is surprised to see a full staff waiting for him. There are also some files, which a guy who introduces himself as Tad says are from Marcus Walker, concerning the planning for the Grant Library. Tad introduces everyone and is then pulled aside by Fitz, who promptly fires him. Well, first Tad has to fire the entire staff, Fitz says, and then he’s fired. Tad is confused, but Fitz says it’s nothing personal, he just doesn’t want a staff underfoot. He wants to do things for himself.
Fitz reiterates this request to Luther, a Secret Service agent assigned to him. He says he doesn’t want someone cooking for him. He wants to cook for himself. And if he needs something from the store, he wants to drive himself there. Luther isn’t thrilled by this independent streak but says he’ll try to accommodate it. Then we see Fitz at the market, where he does his own shopping and is told he’ll have to activate his debit card before using it. At home, he fouls up cooking his dinner at first but then gets better at it.
After a couple of weeks of this solitary domesticity, Fitz calls Marcus and leaves a message asking when he plans on coming back home.
Partying in Havana. Marcus has been spending the immediate aftermath of leaving the White House by catching up on his partying with a little R&R in Cuba. He’s seen dancing and drinking the night away in a club before going home with some hot young thing. The next day, a conversation about race with the HYT and the inquiring message left by Fitz, gets the ex-press secretary to think about wrapping up his southern vacation and getting back to work. Before long, he’s at Fitz’s door.
Fitz seems glad not just to be getting his professional life back on track, but also to be having some company in that big country house. One morning, when they’re out jogging, Marcus takes Fitz to a big plot of land in the Vermont countryside (at least, they’re supposed to be in the Vermont countryside, but that view suggests otherwise. Those look like western mountains in the distance, not the kind seen in the Green Mountain State, but poetic license, I guess). He tells Fitz this is where the Fitzgerald Grant III Presidential Library is going to be built. The land has already been bought. It’s a lovely location, and Fitz approves. As they stand gazing at the site, Fitz starts talking about all of the plans he has for the library and what great things are ahead for the two of them.
Day 41. Fitz watches a news report about the education bill Mellie is trying to get passed. He likes the bill and wants to use his influence to help her with it, but Marcus is hesitant. He says waiting 100 days before getting involved in a new president’s term is standard procedure for the outgoing president. Marcus says this as he’s looking at plans for the Grant library and asks what kind of role Olivia is going to play. He says she can’t just be ignored, since she was a high profile person in his administration, and now she’s Mel’s chief of staff. Fitz doesn’t seem comfortable taking on the whole Liv thing at the moment. Instead, he suggests going out for a drink. The Secret Service is, again, not crazy about going out on the town with the ex-prez, but it’s another argument Fitz wins.
Marcus and Fitz sit at the bar at one of the local pubs, just a couple of guys having a beer. They get reflective, and Fitz again talks about the future and how much they can accomplish together. He asks about Mel, but Marcus doesn’t want to talk about Mel any more than Fitz wanted to talk about Liv. Mellie is focused these days on being president. She doesn’t have time for outside distractions and that’s as it should be, says Marcus. Too bad he didn’t hear Mel’s rant last week about her lonely ladybits, he might be thinking differently! Fitz listens, and then he says Liv’s part in his presidency has to be acknowledged, but it shouldn’t be overstated. The library will recognize her for her small, advisory role only, because that’s the role she played. Marcus looks doubtful.
Breakdown on Day 74. Fitz hosts a lavish fundraiser at his house. Afterward, he and Marcus sit and have a cigar with one of the guests/donors, a fat old jerk of a guy who is the stereotype of the kind who must be humored by politicians seeking benefactors. Marcus, in particular, is clearly disgusted by him, but says nothing. As Fitz freshens the guy’s drink, he runs out of scotch and asks Marcus to go get another bottle. Marcus is annoyed and basically tells him to go fetch his own damn bottle. Fitz, now clearly annoyed himself, gets up to do so and gives Marcus a look on the way.
Later, Fitz walks into Marcus’s room as he hastily packs. Before Fitz can fire him, Marcus says he quits. Then they have words. Marcus calls Fitz controlling. Fitz says Marcus is always angry and bitter. Marcus says he’s nothing more than a glorified valet working for Fitz, who’s a narcissist. Then he says Fitz didn’t accomplish anything during his presidency that Liv didn’t have a hand in. She did everything for him, and he got the credit, while she got a reputation. Fitz counters that Marcus is a poseur and says he wants to be an activist, but he doesn’t want to put in the work to affect change. He just wants power, and he latched onto Liv, Mel, and then Fitz himself to get it. He calls Marcus a coward. Marcus dares Fitz to call him that again, which Fitz does, and the fists start flying. After they pummel each other a bit, Luther rushes in to pull them apart. Marcus picks up his bag and leaves.
Analyzing Fitz. Mel is in the Oval Office when she’s told she has a phone call. It’s Marcus, calling from his car, fresh from his battle with Fitz. It’s funny that, upon being told who’s calling, Mel instinctively smoothes her hair before picking up the phone. Hee!
It’s the first time the two have spoken since Mel took office. She knows something must be wrong, and he tells her he quit working for Fitz. Mel gives a rueful smile and says that Marcus is in stage two of his relationship with Fitz Grant. In stage one, Fitz shows the best side of himself and is too charming to resist. He’ll talk about what a great team the two of you make and how you’ll conquer the world together. Then in stage two, Mel says, you see Fitz for what he really is: entitled, selfish, and unmotivated. It’s a tough realization, and stage two can be long and painful. But she claims while it can be hard, it’s worth getting through, because it leads to stage three, which is when you come to see that Fitz has a magic about him; it’s a charisma that few have, and people respond to it. For all his faults, people are drawn to him and want to be around him. “Fitz can be challenging and complicated,” Mel tells Marcus, “but right now, he’s yours.” She tells Marcus to take advantage of that relationship and not quit, because he’s worth it.
Marcus takes this all in. Then he says he’s proud of her, and she smiles but doesn’t answer. There’s a long silence before she thanks him for calling.
Joe Morton picks up a paycheck. Back at chez Fitz, he checks out his bruised face in the bathroom mirror before walking into the living room. There, sitting on the floor waiting for him, is none other than Papa Pope. One of the threads throughout this episode is an old gun Fitz’s father gave him, which he came across while unpacking. It’s also the gun, once upon a time back in the first season, that Cyrus said Fitz would use to blow his brains out one day when he was out of office and feeling irrelevant. As Fitz walks in, Pa has found the gun and is menacingly holding it as he says hello. But that’s just meant to briefly shock us before he hands over the gun quickly, saying he hasn’t come for Fitz and casually insinuating that if he wanted Fitz dead, he’d already be in a body bag. He’s there about Liv.
A paranoid Pa starts looking around, asking if Fitz has seen or heard anything strange in the house. Fitz says no, but Pa is still jumpy. He says Liv is a problem. Fitz has been ‘had’ and that after he decided not to revive B613, Liv turned around and did it herself, installing herself in command. Fitz doesn’t see that as a problem. It appears he’s still smitten with Liv as he says that if that’s true, she’ll run it the right way. Pa disagrees. He talks about how Liv has changed and can’t be trusted and alludes to her killing Luna Vargas. She’s out of control, and it will only get worse. Fitz needs to step in. But Fitz says Washington is his past. If Pa thinks there’s a problem, he needs to handle it. Pa says he no longer has any power, and besides, Liv is watching him. She needs to be reined in, and there aren’t many people who can do that; Fitz is one of them.
Reunited, and it feels so good. After Pa makes his point and leaves, Fitz is alone once again. That night, he’s sitting outside his house holding the gun, when Marcus drives up. Marcus eyes the piece a bit nervously, but the gun is again a red herring, as Fitz has no intention of using it. They’re both obviously ready to make up as each rubs his wounds and acknowledges that the other can pack a punch. Marcus sits. They know they both said some unfortunate things during the fight. Marcus says one of the problems is that although they’ve worked together for a while, they don’t really know each other that well on a personal level, and that needs to change. Fitz agrees. Then Fitz says he’s had a change of heart; when the 100 days is up, he’s going back to Washington. Before he leaves, though, he wants to do something meaningful.
Here’s where the episode’s plot-device subplot, which involves a Confederate statue, should be mentioned. An African American man, described as a student, has been staging a sit-in at said statue, as he wants it brought down. Where the guy is a student isn’t mentioned, nor is exactly where this protest is taking place. It seems like a local thing for Fitz, so presumably a college in Vermont. Apparently it’s such a plot device, the writers didn’t even care enough to bother to spell that out. Several news reports are seen throughout the episode of the guy sitting by the statue in the freezing cold, talking about how it offends him that he has to pass a statue of a slave owner all the time. It should come down. Just before he goes back to Washington, Fitz shows up with a press entourage, the guy gets national publicity, and the statue is torn down. That’s simplifying things, but just a bit. Anyway, Fitz has done his good deed and is ready to return to DC.
And the episode ends exactly how the last episode ended, where Liv comes home, making out with that annoying Pryce guy, to find Fitz waiting by her door. Only now we know why he’s there. Pa convinced him that he can save Liv from herself.
So what’s next for Liv in her Faustian struggle? A preview of 07.04, “Lost Girls” –
While Liv is busy running the free world, the team at QPA works with an unexpected client to solve an important case; at the White House, Mellie prepares for the upcoming nuclear summit with President Rashad and Prime Minister Nazari.
Hee! Liv is running the free world! Mel may be president, but that doesn’t mean she’s in charge! It’s nice to see QPA get clients. Now maybe Quinn can start paying for that new furniture. And will President Rashad give President Grant a hand in removing the cobwebs from her ladyparts? Stay tuned…