For a little while, Scandal‘s “The State of the Union” felt kind of like old-school OPA. Sure, it was only Huck and Quinn in the OPA War Room putting up glossy photos and freestyin’ their clients’ history, but this Case of the Week seemed poised for something particularly scandalous. Had the golden couple, the Elliots, been abducted? Was this a B6-13 op? Why weren’t they answering Cyrus’ phone calls, and missing flight after flight? Hit the jump “because we’re Republicans!!”
Unfortunately, the story of the Elliots turns out to be several “ripped from the headlines” stories melded together and diluted into one psycho couple who were about to become a double homicide. Olivia’s involvement with them, though, was thanks to some blackmailing by Cyrus (what he does best!), because the Elliots are apparently the face of gun control in America, and Fitz needed them there for his speech.
The warring duo also provided a moment for Quinn and Huck to have yet another unproductive yelling session about how Huck once tried to pull Quinn’s teeth out, and how she’s kinda turned on by it. What they did not address, however, were their matching outfits. Abby spilled the beans about the Huck/Quinn “office incest,” and Olivia confirmed it by demanding Huck look into her eyes, where he cowered like an abused puppy. But Olivia worked to start sorting them out, just like she eventually did for the Elliots. In Liv We Trust, as Cyrus reminded Abby.
But Abby has been looking to break free from being in Olivia’s powerful shadow, and hearing Olivia’s speech notes come through Cyrus irritated her. Further, Cyrus put all of his faith in Olivia delivering the Elliots, but told Abby he had given up entirely on having Mellie dressed and poised to appear at the State of the Union, to quiet the tabloid fodder about her having lost her mind (which shouldn’t be a funny thing, but Bellamy Young plays grieving Mellie with such gusto). Abby, seeing her moment to shine, basically Pope’d Mellie into attending the address with a convincing speech that started with “children die all of the time.” Well, whatever it takes.
All of the scenes with Mellie and Abby were great, and the Case of the Week wasn’t even that bad as a crazy B-plot. But the Shondaland mantra of “leave no plot behind” was never felt more than in David Rosen’s dizzying run through the episode. First, Jake was on his case about getting him files so he could investigate Harrison’s death, which David resisted and then gave in to. Then that old false battery case Harrison dreamt up when Olivia was trying to break up Abby and David came back to haunt David, and it was enough for Cyrus to drop his nomination. But David somehow found the time to blackmail a Senator into letting him keep that nomination, so all is well again. Or something.
Though grief, and moving on from the past, seems to be a theme oft repeated in these early Scandal episodes this season, David’s whirlwind flip-flop plot had little to do with it. Cyrus, on the other hand, had some interesting scenes that did play into that theme. He rejected the idea that some grief is worse than other grief, and claimed that “a broken heart is a broken heart. You can’t measure its cruelty.” Later, he’s approached by a man at a bar, rather improbably, and indeed, he turned out to be a sex worker. But, shock! He’s also working for Lizzie, the RNC Chair, who is looking to get some leverage in the White House. Deliciously evil.
As for Olivia and Fitz, they had their first “clear the room!” moment this season, along with her denial of her feelings (and like always when she denies her attraction to Fitz, she ran to Jake for a booty call). While Olivia and Fitz are still obviously the driving force of the series, it’s been nice to see how Abby and Jake are developing their own stories (not together, but simultaneously) as new characters to root for, ones whose struggles aren’t new, but feel a lot fresher than endless Fitz sad faces at Olivia.
“The State of the Union” had a few grand moments that really resonated, particularly regarding Fitz’s speech about gun control. The portrait of Mellie’s grief, which I was concerned last week was veering too far into farce, also took a surprisingly sincere turn when she broke down in the dark. Fitz being there for her was also a much needed moment for the two. It was nice, for once, to see them united.
Episode Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Jake pretending like he’s ok with Liv just calling him up for booty calls is all a front. He wants her to choose him, and she wants to choose him, but this is the Fitzgerald Grant show, so …
— “… Playing the part of a dutiful wife, who doesn’t wear sweat pants, or eat fried chicken, or hang out on graves” – Mellie.
— Charlie’s baaaaaaaaack! And looks like more love stuff with him and Quinn next week …
— “Where’s your Taliban now?!” – Lisa Elliot.
— “I’m not going to live in your apartment, waiting to service you” – Jake. Except …
— Lizzie: “You can’t make gun control your central issue.” Cyrus: “Why?” Lizzie: “Because we’re Republicans!”
— One of the things that initially made Scandal so interesting was Fitz being a Republican, and how that clashed with Olivia’s personal views. And yet now, he’s suddenly essentially a Democrat. Stick to your guns (not literally, apparently), Scandal. There’s more interest and conflict if the President stays a Republican.
— “I never believe Olivia Pope will fail” – Cyrus.
— “I pulled your teeth out because you couldn’t mind your own business” – Huck. Wow, don’t even know where to start with how problematic this is.
— “Unless you two are just together for the game, in which case you deserve each other and I wish you a long and miserable life” – Olivia.
— “How many more people’s children are we going to let die before we put a stop to this?” – Fitz.
— And on the far less serious side, oh my Lord, “MacArthur Park”? Really? Someone left the cake out in the rain? Come on, soundtrack folks.