This week broke down into a meat-and-potatoes episode of Scandal. Everything proceeded neatly on the lines it was expected to. My roommate called the “twist” in the B-plot in the first 10 minutes of the show. Which is to say, it was unexceptional, but it was here to do a whole bunch of table setting for the run-up to the finale.
So let’s get to that B-plot. Olivia is woken late in the morning by an urgent call. It wakes her from slumber and from an embrace with a stranger (Franklin? Russell? Does it matter?)—one who seems to think her name is Alex. That’s okay though—he is an extremely attractive stranger, and takes her subterfuge and her midnight mutterings in Farsi in stride. However she is dedicated to her work, and so we find her meeting with a Congressman whose father is currently on his last legs on death row.
The father’s crime: Shooting the math teacher who statutory raped and then broke the heart of his 15-year-old daughter, after said daughter had hanged herself in her bedroom. The Congressman is vehemently certain that his father is innocent—he recounts in gory detail his experience when his family discovered his sister’s death. His father refuses to cooperate, attesting to his guilt at every turn.
Liv gets her guys on it, and realizes that Mr. Hoffman was basically a professional predatory sleazebucket, preying on the girls he taught. It doesn’t take long for Liv and company to determine that maybe another parent, or his wife of the time, could have pulled the trigger. They settle on the wife, only to find that she’s been dead for weeks after a bout of pancreatic cancer.
Huck and Quinn examine the house, and coincidentally discover the gun that was used to kill Mr. Hoffman. What could be better? A dead wife who killed her husband—nothing could be easier and less hurtful (theoretically) to all parties involved, right? But Liv figures out that the gun hadn’t spent 15 years in a basement after the crime. She susses out that the Congressman himself was responsible—he killed his sister’s rapist, and his dad took the rap.
In the end, the Congressman confesses. In act, he’d been dying to confess for years, since the day he committed the crime. He’s been holding it in, waiting for the moment he can take responsibility for his actions. Congressman Reed is a dream of a politician—he holds the truth above all things, especially his personal actions and his personal truths. He’s wildly unbelievable as a Congressman, mostly because he takes responsibility for the crime he committed (eventually—let’s not forget, he’s no saint) and sets his dad free.
Out of order, but now let’s get to the A-plot, the meat of the episode and the set-up for next week. David Rosen continues to pursue his campaign against B613, and his latest gambit is to try and force Jake Ballard into testifying. This goes about as well as you would think strong-arming a professional assassin into doing something goes. (Not well, is how that goes.)
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But David Rosen is a smart guy. He finds other agents who worked with Jake, and he persuades them with promises of immunity to come to the States and prepare to testify. Now, Jake when he left David at the start of this episode seemed a little crazy-eyed. He shoved David Rosen down into a desk, after all.
The group assumes that Jake has gone totally AWOL. And we know that Jake knows everything because he’s bugged all premises. Charlie, deemed supervisor of the spy buddies, comes back from a supply run to find that almost all three have been brutally killed. They fight, they struggle, and Jake runs away without killing Charlie. It becomes clear to the group that Ballard has gone completely off his nut. He’s in full “kill ’em all” mode and they believe he could hurt anyone, even Liv.
The A-plot wraps up with David Rosen offering himself up as a witness. He was there, after all, when Jake shot a bunch of reporters and James. When it becomes clear that there’s no way to bring Jake in, David is finally willing to put himself on the line. In the end, David Rosen is always the white hat. He’s a man who, yes, will deflect as long as he can from harming himself, but when the chips are down, he’s on the side of the angels. And he will tell the world that Jake killed James.
But luckily he doesn’t have to, because Jake Ballard is not the murderer you’re looking for. A carport standoff reveals that it’s actually David’s assistant Holly who is the B613 sleeper. She killed the witness-agents and is thoroughly willing to kill all parties around in the parking garage. She doesn’t get the chance—Jake shoots her down.
This turn did in fact surprise me—I had assumed that Jake went chicken-killer over an accusation and everyone was going to suffer for it. Turns out, he’d been surveilling everything, but in company of Liv. Everyone knew what was going on, and everyone was safe. This is the case until literally the final moments, when Rowan Pope reappears at his daughter’s door. And can I get a hell yeah? Hell yeah! Because I have missed Liv’s conniving, murdering, and extremely thoughtful father these past weeks.
Finally, we have a C-plot. Mellie has a half-sister (True Blood‘s Lauren Bowles), and she’s, well, not great for the family brand. This entire line is a bit sad—it’s sad to see them use up some of the very viable “Mellie’s Family” plotline that’s sure to emerge as she embarks on her campaign. It’s sadder because her half-sister Harmony hints at a whole lot of buried family bullshit, but all action is cut off by a swift Fitz-based resolution. Mellie deserves the plot-meat that would be a full throwdown with her family—but frankly, her run for a seat deserves a lot more time than an afterthought of a C-plot.
It all works out, because Fitz accepts that he needs to do what are traditional “First Lady” duties, the smoothing over, the friendly negotiations. There’s a very rich vein there, of figuring out how the world works when your wife is the rising star. Scandal sidesteps it a bit. Harmony and Mellie come to a resolution. The world spins on. We’re not forced to consider what it means for a president to be the support staff in a meeting. Though, to be fair, some of my favorite moments from this season have been Mellie and Fitz chatting together in private. When they stopped arguing about Olivia, the pair actually figured out a political marriage. “No one’s ever hated you,” Mellie tells him. “You’ve got that thing that makes people love you. And I don’t. I never have.” Mellie’s always felt insecure, but it’s charming as hell that she’s opening up about her worries. And it’s equally excellent that Fitz can listen and talk and accept his place in her life going forward. They provide each other’s best moments, and we’re rapidly heading toward a world where best moments might not matter.