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'Scandal' recap: 'Put a Ring on It'

Wedding bells ring in the White House Rose Garden.

Posted on

Eric McCandless/ABC


TV Show
Drama, Thriller
run date:
Kerry Washington, Tony Goldwyn, Joshua Malina
Current Status:
In Season

Going to the White House and we’re gonna get married. Going to the White House and we’re gonna get married! Like any good TV show, Scandal is ready to throw a wedding episode. In this case, it’s for Cyrus and his prostitute-turned-contractual-fiance Michael. Bonus, it’s a shotgun wedding, because Michael has been caught getting frisky at a popular DC gay bar. 

Beyond being a wedding episode, this was a Cyrus mythology episode, delving into the background of the Chief of Staff. After the initial plot with Michael was resolved early in season 4, Cyrus has essentially dropped off the radar. Here we get a fuller and more humanizing portrait of the man, specifically with flashback glimpses into his matrimonial history. 

We meet his first wife, Janet (Shameless‘ Emily Bergl), whom we can presume from context clues that Cyrus married sometime in the ’80s, mid-AIDS crisis. One of his ushers clearly knows his proclivities, but Cyrus is fully engaged in pushing down his homosexuality and marrying a nice Catholic lady. (Also, can we just tip our hats to Cyrus Beene’s ability to snag men who are much, much hotter than him? Especially given Flashback Cyrus’ wig situation.) It takes Janet 16 years to catch on, at which point she demands a divorce.

Cyrus’ next wedding, if anyone could forget, was to journalist James Novak. Dan Bucatinsky returns to give us some more charming moments of Cyrus with the true love of his life. Even when they fight, the interludes with James have been the moments—in all seasons—when Cyrus has seemed the most like a fully formed person. His relationship with James gives him a dimension beyond just cold-blooded political shark (though that is heftily apparent as well).

And then there is Michael. As you might expect from a relationship with a prostitute who was paid to seduce you in order to undermine your political career, Cyrus doesn’t super trust Michael. In fact, they’re living in opposite ends of the Beene manse. The wedding had already been put off multiple times, but their hands are forced by Michael’s dalliances. The White House steps in, in the form of Mellie, to host a secretly shotgun wedding. 

A move by Sally Langston, who has become a Nancy Grace-type figure, reveals that Michael broke the terms of their agreement. The crack team of White House specialists ready to disavow Michael and throw him to the wolves, a.k.a. the press corp. There’s just the case of a dinner with Michael’s estranged, homophobic parents to get through first. Truly, nothing can bond two people like a reprehensible third party, and Michael’s parents are ready and willing to accommodate, talking about how they’re ashamed and annoyed that none of the camps they sent Michael to “fixed him.” 

In the end, Cyrus can’t help but feel sympathy for Michael. They are gay men who have suffered, though very differently, because of their sexuality. Cyrus trudged through a self-imposed marriage, closeting, and loneliness before meeting James. Michael bore the rejection of his family and community. When it comes down to it, Cyrus can’t promise to be a good partner, or a loving one, but he does offer Michael the promise that he will be there for him. It’s not the most romantic basis for a marriage, but right now, it’s what both Cyrus and Michael need—someone in their corner.  

The whole episode was interested in relationships, and the ways we navigate them. The opening sequence showed us many, many people waking up at 4 a.m.—Abby in bed with Leo, Quinn in bed with Charlie. Others, Liv and Cyrus, were notably alone. Abby and Leo play another facet of this episode’s examination of relationships. In this case, it’s what they refer to as “church and state,” but can be more broadly recognized as what kind of confidences stay in the relationship, and what kind can be used outside of it. Abby lets slip some information that Leo pounces on for Sally Langston’s benefit. In retaliation, Abby snoops through Leo’s phone for tidbits that can help the White House team. 

Both of these actions scream, “this is not a healthy, trusting relationship.” And yet, Abby and Leo, divided as they may sometimes be, can seem like the most well-adjusted couple on this show. They take the breaches of “church and state” in stride (eventually, there’s some yelling) as part of having a relationship between DC power players. And they seem mostly at peace with each other after the dust has settled.

The final thread running through this wedding hoopla was Liv and Fitz—and the edging back to a reconciliation. We got a flashback wherein he gave her a ring, called “dubebe” or “sweet baby” (gag)—a ring she threw at him, spitefully, the night she returned to DC from her hostage nightmare. Liv disavowed Fitz for abusing and misusing his power as President during her kidnapping. Refusing to wear the ring was another signal that their rift was still in effect. By episode’s end, Liv once again has “sweet baby” on her finger, and Fitz makes note of that across the wedding. Looks like a reconciliation is in the cards.