Thursday's episode focused on a beloved professor accused of sexually assaulting his students

By Lynette Rice
November 06, 2015 at 06:07 PM EST

Gee, where on earth did Shonda Rhimes get her inspiration for Thursday’s episode of Scandal?

Titled “Even the Devil Deserves a Second Chance,” the episode focused on a former college student named Hannah, who alleges her professor and latest Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Frank Holland, drugged and raped her while she visited his home. Olivia and her team end up interviewing scores of victims, who describe how Frank, who is white, lured them to his house under the guise of a mentorship. He offered them drinks like coffee or tea. Next thing, the women recalled, they woke up feeling like they had some “horrible dream” by finding Holland on top of them.

“If you think you can take this guy down,” said one former student to Olivia, “then good luck. That man has lived in a bulletproof tenured bubble for than 20 years.”

When Olivia finally confronts Frank about the allegations, she’s surprised to discover that his wife Janet not only knew about the assaults but continues to believe her husband is some kind of saint. “One thing that has been true since time began is that young women are going to throw themselves at their professors,” Janet tells Olivia, adding, “My husband has created quite a legacy and it’s my job to protect it.” 

“I’ll never understand how women stand behind these kind of men,” Olivia says later. “The system is set up to silence women like Hannah and protect men like Holland. It’s not a cover up. It’s a burial through bureaucracy.”

In this case, the white hats prevail: Olivia assembles 22 of Frank’s victims, who commandeer one of the professor’s lectures. Though he’s not prosecuted, Frank loses his job at the university while the White House stays mum about whether it plans to take back his medal.

When asked what inspired her to write the episode, Rhimes gave this quote to EW: “I don’t need the Cosby scandal to inspire me to tell a story about rape. As if that is the only instance in which rape is relevant. Somewhere in America, a woman is raped every two minutes. Every two minutes. Let’s not diminish or insult the stories of these survivors by suggesting that I could only decide to tell a story about rape because of a celebrity scandal.”

More than 50 women have now come forward with accusations against Cosby of sexual assault. Several of those women recently participated in Cosby: The Women Speak, a special on A&E. Cosby was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002, an honor he still holds.

“With respect to the medal of freedom. There’s no precedent for revoking a medal — we don’t have that mechanism,” President Barack Obama said earlier this year when asked whether he would strip Cosby of the medal.

Speaking of sexual assault, Obama added, “And as you know I tend to make it a policy not to comment on the specifics of cases where there might still be — if not criminal then civil issues involved. I’ll say this: If you give a woman, or a man for that matter, without his or her knowledge, a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape. And I think this country – any civilized country – should have no tolerance for rape.”

Watch the full Scandal episode here.

Shonda Rhimes’ political drama: Sex! Murder! Olivia’s suits!
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