After last week’s dip into a ripped-from-the-headlines story line, Scandal returns to its narrative meat and potatoes: high-tension theatrics and general paranoia. This episode is still, in many ways, the first after Olivia’s adventures in being a terrorist hostage. It also happens to be roughly the halfway point of the season. After the high stakes of the past few episodes, this one comes in lower key, more table setting for the rest of the season than anything else. The problem comes in that nothing in this episode actually warrants the tension that is built up around it.
On one side, David Rosen is holding what is known, thanks to Aaron Sorkin, as a Big Block of Cheese Day, wherein various marginal members of the public get access to high-ranking members of the government. A woman comes in with a pile of files and tells Rosen she wants to bring charges against B613 and her husband will testify. Naturally, this spooks the former B613 members, particularly since the files she has are the ones David Rosen lost.
Turns out the husband is none other than Huck. He is the Diego Munoz of the title, and for the sake of narrative convenience she has now decided she believes Huck’s years and years of stories, and she wishes to put pressure on them. Naturally, this could all be bad news for, like, everyone. Literally everyone. But since Huck is the main cog in this plan, he decides he can just bluff his way out of it.
This seems like an excellent plan until they’re actually giving a deposition. Huck gets through the beginning, using that standby of people who don’t want to admit anything under oath, “I don’t recall.” But he caves and gives a lengthy description about the hole, the solitary confinement system of B613. Huck can’t give up this chance to get into an almost-normal groove with the family he thought he lost. And David Rosen, at heart a decent guy, can’t refuse to investigate and pursue the B613 case, whatever the personal losses to himself and his friends might be.
On the other side, we have the White House attempting to get their new Vice Presidential candidate confirmed. This whole thing went undiscussed last week, because, frankly, it was a far less interesting or important plotline compared to the bulk of the episode. So. With Andrew’s incapacitation, the White House needs a new Veep. They settled on the quirky, oddball first-term congresswoman Susan Ross (think younger, female Joe Biden), as a good candidate who would also be unelectable should Mellie decide to run after Fitz’s terms finish. We could debate for days the likelihood of Mellie making a credible presidential run on the basis of being First Lady—but considering the current circus gearing up in the real world Republican primary, we’ll let that slide. Fitz is committed to clearing the lanes for Mellie, and Susan fits perfectly.
This week, Abby is working hard to get Susan ready to make her way through a Senate confirmation hearing. Since Liv is bowing out, Abby’s paramour Leo Bergen is brought in to whip Ross into shape. There are many swift cuts between Leo and Abby’s prep and Susan’s public performances. Naturally, Leo gets too aggressive and pushes Ross too far. Abby confronts him and fires him, leading Leo to storm out of her apartment, his night mouthguard still in.
In the end Liv comes in and saves the day. She gets Ross back on board and ready, and critically figures out that the confirmation problem is not an issue with Ross. It’s a problem with Fitz and his completely peremptory approach to declaring and pulling out of the recent war in West Angola. He apologizes and all is well! Leo isn’t dumping Abby! Everyone’s pleased.
This episode suffered from fragmenting, trying to orient everyone after the Liv kidnapping gambit, but it suffered more from that old workshop chestnut: the show-don’t-tell issue. Part of the joy of Scandal is watching how the sausage gets made—we might roll our eyes at the extensive monologues these characters can engage in, but these are the moments when we’re allowed to see why and how minds are changed and problems are “handled.” This episode lays out the problem, tells us the answer, and then smash cuts to the happy ending montage. We never see the inflection points, the moments that change the course of events. The drama is in watching Fitz swallow his pride with the Democrats, or the moment of breakthrough with Susan Ross. This week was always cutting away just before things got good, fast-forwarding “hey, this worked out!” Hopefully, Scandal will regain its pacing next week.
Everything else aside this was actually a fairly light week for Ms. Pope herself. Her only other plotline this episode is to help her late neighbor’s friend Rose, who is dedicated to finding out where her friend has been over the last three weeks. Of course, for Liv, this means tasking Huck and Quinn to do the actual on-the-ground work of the finding. But Liv does determine that Rose and neighbor Lois were more than just “friends.” She brings closure to this elderly lady, and maybe some to herself?
It’s hard to tell. Honestly, the subtitle of this week’s Scandal could as easily be The Perils of Ignoring Your Mental Health Care. There have often been instances in this show when characters fail to take adequate care of themselves, psychologically. And in some cases it makes sense, even if it’s not the advisable path—it would be extremely hard to go see a doctor and tell him or her about your torture at the hands of a black-ops government agency that’s still functioning. However, for Liv? There’s no reason for her to not be at a psychiatrist’s office right now, discussing her PTSD after her experience as a hostage. There was no reason Mellie and the President should not have been in grief counseling after the death of their son. Scandal is happy to have a blooming garden of mental health issues to use as plot devices, but it never engages with the idea of treatment—not even to have the argument about whether it should be sought or not. It’s just glossed over. There were a couple of throwaway moments about “talking to someone” at the start of last week’s episode, and that was that. It’s a strange approach to take in an era when mental healthcare is ever more normalized, and particularly if the show wants to use such diagnoses as PTSD and depression as major plot points.