Scandal recap: 'Like Father, Like Daughter'
An unlikely member of the Grant family calls on Olivia Pope for help out of a jam.
It appears Shonda has heard and heeded the call to bring the salacious back to Scandal. Last week’s mini-cliffhanger (is it a cliffhanger if it’s with a newly introduced character no one really cares about?) is mentioned and then promptly ignored for the rest of the episode. “Like Father, Like Daughter” was swapped in for a different episode, so perhaps we’ll pick back up with law-school buddy Katherine at a later date.
Things kick off in high gear right from the start as Olivia is summoned to a happening party. But she’s not there for sweet glowstick necklaces and Jello shots. Turns out President Grant’s daughter slipped her Secret Service detail (seems plausible, given the Keystone Kops standards of our real-life agents). After all those social-media-obsessed millenials have their phones conveniently shut down, Liv and Quinn get a very drunk and high Karen Grant to her helicopter evac—very discreet. Just when they seem to be in the clear, Karen discovers that there is some evidence of her evening’s activities, namely a rather explicit video of a ménage à trois. Liv dials up Cyrus, breathlessly declaring, “I just saw the dirtiest sex tape I have ever seen in my entire life, and it stars [the President’s] teenage daughter!” (That can’t possibly be, true, right? She’s a fixer in D.C. You just know there’s some seriously nasty stuff she’s had to sweep under the rug.)
Liv’s call interrupts Cyrus in his own little transgression, as he and Michael are indulging in some postcoital pillow talk. He abandons his paid paramour to meet with a President giving his delinquent daughter the “what were you thinking?” talk. When Fitz reaches the (honestly not improbable question) of whether the sex was consensual, Karen unleashes on him, taking what seems to be a cruel glee in telling her father that she stole a jet, got drunk, smoked, and “shot up something awesome” (color me surprised: that party looked more like a Molly scene), and mocks his assumption that it must be rape, hissing out, “How lame are you?”
Pope and her remaining associates get to work finding that video, going through a lineup of possible sex partners—scored, oddly enough, to Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out.” Scandal, I don’t quite know what message you’re trying to get across with this. Meanwhile, Abby is feeling left out of the loop and attacks Cyrus for letting things go on over her head. He reminds her that, yeah, a lot of the things that go on in the White House will be above her clearance, and she should maybe stop comparing herself to Olivia Pope if she wants to remain sane.
Everyone’s taking pieces out of one another, it seems. Our next argument setpiece comes courtesy of a deranged Mellie, who runs across Olivia in the corridors of the White House and completely flips her s—. She storms into the Oval to berate Fitz, only to find herself on the end of a dressing-down. “I have dealt with drunk Mellie, Smellie Mellie, and screw-everything-to-hell Mellie, and crybaby Mellie, and eat-everything-that-is-not-nailed-down Mellie, and I have not complained,” Fitz tells her, before unleashing a lot of complaining about how she has abandoned their family in her grief. This is a bit rich; historically, neither Grant has spent a whole lot of attention on their children. They had the last baby as a political stunt to distract from Fitz’s affairs! No one’s in danger of getting a gold medal for their parenting skills. Mellie does get the last word, though, noting, “A sex tape. She takes after her daddy then, doesn’t she.”
NEXT: Naturally, it’s handled.
Meanwhile, Karen’s sex partners are found, and Liv is dispatched to meet with the teens’ parents. Anyone with a working internet connection knows the value of a celebrity sex tape, so unsurprisingly, these WASPs are eager for a payday in exchange for the video. They ask for and get their $2.5 million after Liv coaxes the president into accepting. It’s when they have the gall to ask her for another $500K that Liv gets righteous. “I’ll do anything and everything to assassinate what little character you have, and I won’t give it a second thought,” she tells them. After a display like that, I would sit down and quietly sign my NDA, too.
How did Liv get that initial $2.5 mil out of the ever-proud President Grant? During one of their heart-to-hearts in the Oval, of course. After four episodes of tense mini-meetings and stoic Presidential staring, and Kerry Washington’s expressively tremulous lower lip and Bambi eyes, we’re back into the Fitz-Liv vortex. Their undeniable attraction is acting up again, and talks about whether Fitz is a good parent lead to some frantic making out. Liv cuts it short, though, and drops the bomb: When she left, Jake left with her. That effectively takes all the sexy out of the situation.
While Olivia’s cleaning up the loose ends, Mellie goes for a heart-to-heart with her daughter. She cuts right through the typical mom bullshit to the heart of the matter: Karen, like everyone else in the Grant family, is grieving. And, sometimes, trying to handle that means making some reckless decisions. Then she hits her with the oldest cliché in the book in terms of men and women’s hook up culture. “It may not be fair, it may not be right, and it’s definitely sexist,” she says. “If you were a boy, they’d be giving you high fives. But you’re not, so your knees are going to have to stay together.” It’s both a deeply frustrating double-standard, and from Mellie’s point of view, a completely necessary one to play by. Here’s where I’m going to make my now-weekly plea to the writers to remember that Mellie when she’s like this—a person!—is way more true to her character than arbitrarily crazy Mellie.
Meanwhile, things are heating up in the war between Jake Ballard and Rowan Pope. It kicks off with a literal blast, namely a car bomb placed in Jake’s car (never fear, he notices before getting in and explodes it as he walks away). This seems a little… flashy for the devious Rowan Pope. Manipulation, such as he and Ballard both put to Secret Service Agent/B6-13 Operative Tom, is more his style. A lot of threats, both veiled and overt, are made. Jake misses his window with David Rosen, whose conscience is firmly back in the driver’s seat. There will be no more blackmailing for him!
Karen’s disappearing act from her detail occasioned a full review of the Secret Service, which puts Agent Tom in the hot seat. Evidence has been found that he was at the Fort where the meningitis strain that killed Jerry Grant was held. Now we get to see Rowan Pope in his element, brought in to question Agent Tom—his own loyal man! Rowan is literally the devil on his shoulder, pressuring Tom to give up who ordered him to take that bacterial strain. “You want me on your side! You need me on your side!” Rowan exhorts him, getting Tom to point the finger for this treason directly at… Jake Ballard. We exit with both of them being taken into custody.