Dare to be better than Olivia Pope

By Justin Kirkland
April 19, 2018 at 11:37 PM EDT
Eric McCandless/ABC
S7 E18
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Over a cliff.

I remember the first episode of Scandal I watched. I had just moved to Washington D.C. and there was something cool about seeing a show that took place in the city you lived in, and after episode one, I was ready. I wanted to be a Gladiator. I wanted to address scandals. I wanted the best for Amanda Tanner, even if she was Fitz’ second sweet baby. I was excited because Scandal was doing something that hadn’t been done in over 30 years. It placed a black woman at the helm of a lofty ship and set it sail. And as a writer and purveyor of television, we can split hairs. Locking Olivia in an underground bunker and selling her on the black market? Strange. Season 6entirely? A little disastrous. But that’s the point, right? If you’re reading this, you didn’t sign up to go over a small sand dune. Not even a lofty plateau. You said, “I’m going to go over a cliff. I’m going to try and find the white hat, stand in the sun, drink the wine, eat the popcorn, believe in the Republic.” You said, “I’m ready for the cliff.” And it’s too sentimental and overwrought and over the top, but I’m really happy to be here going over the cliff with you. So let’s resolve it. Let’s recap. Straight over the cliff.

When we last saw Olivia, she had made the deal with Mellie that they’d all stand in the sun together. But now, it’s raining. And Olivia has met Lonnie in a warehouse, where he is offering her a Senate hearing. All that Lonnie wants is that if Mellie stays president, she will make gun control a top priority. She agrees, but with that, our boy Gary Clark/Lonnie shoots himself. That launches us over to Sally Langston at The Liberty Report, where she reports on his suicide. The suicide means that there will be an investigation, and guess who is vowing it will happen? Ol’ Senator Reston. Look at that! Nice to see you again, long lost friend.

Of course, with this investigation, David Rosen is back in charge. He’s headed over to QPA to let the team know that when B6-13 comes to light, Cyrus and Jake will be screwed (in Abby’s words). But Huck wants to know, when they admit to the truth, if their team will be screwed as well. Jury is still out on that (no pun intended). Next up, Olivia heads over to the Tidal Basin to meet Rowan. Olivia, in her own way, looks for her father’s support, but all he says is that she is extending her hands to be shackled. She’s nothing but a slave to the government, in his eyes. Rowan insists that he’s stayed in the shadows for the better of himself and people like him and Olivia, but Olivia insists that is not the truth. Once she’s done, no one will be in the shadows. Everyone will be in the sun, whether they like it or not.

At the Capitol, reporters have come together to discuss what could come next after this B6-13 exposure. But at the White House, Mellie is throwing back some hooch right next to her First Lady portrait. After all, that’s all the country will have left to remember her by when she’s impeached, but she’s ready, even if it’s all about to fall apart. Back at QPA, sans hooch, Abby, Huck, and Quinn sit and talk about everything they may have to give up to testify against B6-13. They all know there’s a lot at stake, but it all has to be done. So Fitz, Mellie, Olivia, Quinn, Huck, Abby, Tom, and just about everyone else you can imagine sit in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee to testify. Of course, Hollis Doyle gives no leeway because he’s a total a-hole. Everyone else though?  They sing like canaries. Following their testimonies, though, David explains that they should all prepare for the worst. They know what they’ve done, so all that the group asks is for Quinn and Charlie to have a moment together. Mind you, Quinn and Charlie use it to make out and look at pictures of Robin, but the big moment is when Quinn takes off her jacket to reveal a white dress. She’s here to marry Charlie, and Huck officiates. Turns out Charlie’s real name is Bernard Gusky, which was only barely distinguishable through all of my tears because, guys. This is too much.

As Abby calls David to tell him about the wedding, guess who is in the parking garage? Just that robot man Jake. Remember when he didn’t kill David and killed James instead? What a time! Now they’re in this parking garage, and all I can think is that Jake is going to be the real S.O.B. we all know him to be now. After giving a speech about “whether or not David is smart,” David puts his arms out and says that he’s ready to stand in front of Jake, man to man, and face his fate. Hoo girl…this is foreshadowing. He says, “I’m not your b–ch, Jake Ballard. I. Am. Not. Your. B–ch.” Jake holds the gun to David’s head, but all David says is “People will miss me,” and then he calls Jake a b–ch. A b–ch to Rowan and everyone he’s subscribed to. This is definitely the bravest David has ever been, and when David walks away, it’s almost certain that Jake is going to snipe him in the back, but he doesn’t. David lives because Jake has no true allegiance or support. Is it fair to say that Jake has been redeemed? Absolutely not. Jake is part-robot, part-Twitter-meninist who complains about women leading them on. But at this moment, Jake does the good thing. Let’s call it White Hat-adjacent.

Back at Cyrus’ office, Cy confronts Jake, but Jake informs him that he didn’t do David in. When Cyrus tries to stop him, Jake says, “Take your hands off me,” but Cyrus calls Jake out for being a coward. As you might imagine, that does not settle well with Jake, who says, “Until you put a bullet in someone’s head or snap somebody’s neck, don’t question me.” And Jake walks out. That’s not great because ol’ Beene (why have I not made this joke 1,000 times before?) is not one to back down from a challenge. For the moment, Cyrus is stuck with David Rosen, and David? Well, he’s made it home to Abby, where he should be. He tells her that he’ll wait for however long it takes, even if she does go to prison. But at the moment, David gets a call from Cyrus — he wants to deal. Cyrus is ready to make a plea for the hijacking. David meets with him and offers him a drink, and all I can do is scream. It’s clearly poison, but David can’t hear me because I’m on the other side of the screen. David takes a drink as Cyrus admits that he’ll do anything to get to the Oval, and David falls to the floor clutching his neck as he dies. Guys, we made it seven seasons. Over 100 episodes. But tonight, on this final night, it looks like we lost David Rosen. Cyrus is a monster, guys. You don’t kill a man who made it through The West Wing. Who’s next? C.J. Cregg? Just kidding. Don’t be f–king morbid.

Next thing you see, Abby is with Olivia, Quinn, and Huck at the morgue. Abby immediately knows that it’s a trap, and y’all. This is only halfway through the finale. I can’t help but feel that Shonda is going to go full Quentin Tarantino and pull a full massacre. Abby is going to lose her mind, right? Maybe not. When Huck says that he’ll take care of it, Olivia demands, “No more blood. If David is gone, we’re the only good guys left.” Eh, feels like that ship is sailed, sister. When you place an entire chair leg in the skull of a former vice president, it feels like you’re saying, “I’m done with the White Hat. Do you have a nice blood-stained fedora I could wear?” Quinn heads over to Rowan’s to collect her things and leave, and it seems like he’s not willing to give any leeway for Quinn’s cause, but Quinn says that all she has left is being a parent. And even though Rowan remains cold toward her, isn’t that the role he’s been most vulnerable in all along? The only thing that’s ever held him back is being Olivia’s dad.

Sitting with Fitz, Olivia finally admits that she is the problem. The scandal. Fitz insists that Cyrus can’t have the Oval and there’s got to be something that they can do, but Olivia implies that the situation is out of their control. Officially not handled. She is going to jail the next day and this could be the last time they are in a room together, so they can either sit with the feelings or do something else. A or B. Choose an option: A or B. So Fitz simply says, “Take off your clothes.” While that’s happening, Rowan hears the news about Rosen. Why is that important? Well, let me tell you. The committee has postponed their decision because there’s a new witness: Rowan. Not Eli Pope, the civilian that everyone knows. Rowan, Command of B6-13. And you know that speech-giving thing that Rowan does? Well, it’s in full effect. And he launches into everything that he’s done for America, even going as far to say, “I am what Makes America Great.” Did you hear a scream in the distance? It was me. All me. I take full responsibility because in a few words, during “America the Beautiful,” Rowan Pope reclaimed “Make America Great Again.” With that, Jake is taken into custody and Quinn announces that “the good guys win,” but Abby quite somberly says, through tears, “The good guy’s dead.”

Olivia goes to see Jake in jail to apologize because at one point, he wanted to stand in the sun. And Olivia pulled him out of it. But Jake doesn’t blame her for it. Yes, he’ll be in maximum security in Illinois (wow, yikes), but jail is nothing to him. Because as Jake quotes wiser words than his own, “Freedom is never lost. I am always free. They can’t cage me.” With that, Olivia says goodbye to Jake.

The next day, Rowan’s statement has had quite an impact. Mellie Grant stays in office, and Olivia is back in a beautiful white jacket with a black blouse underneath. It’s a poignant style move from the costumers because is there really any escaping her evil? As Cyrus walks into the Oval, Olivia presents him with his resignation papers, but all Cyrus asks is for Olivia to have a drink with him (OLIVIA, YOU IN DANGER, GIRL). Olivia says no (yes, queen), and Cyrus says a good stiff drink has been his only way forward. With that, he signs his resignation papers, looks at the seal in the carpet of the Oval, and leaves. On the balcony of the White House, Olivia says that they have to discuss what comes next. In this moment, it feels like Mellie and Olivia were always meant to find each other. But when Mellie says that they should figure out the future together, Olivia declines. It’s time for her to take a step back. Mellie will be fine on her own. With that, Olivia is finally seen walking away from the White House. Away from the Washington Monument and the African American History Museum. Quinn, Charlie, and Robin reunite. Fitz’s presidential portrait is unveiled, and Mellie signs a law enforcing gun control alongside Marcus. Jake sits in jail fantasizing about Olivia (still kind of creepy, but, sure). Abby and Huck head to the cemetery to honor David’s memory. Rowan and Olivia have dinner, and eventually Fitz meets Olivia outside the Capitol.

Is it the Scandal we started with? No. It’s no case-of-the week. There’s no big reveal, or even an overarching story that brings us to the end of each season. That’s kind of the point of Scandal though, right? That the scandal becomes more than we can handle? At the end of the day, the entire series ended up being the thing that needed handling, and every character, in their own guilty filth and honor, has to move forward with all the things they’ve done. The one good guy from the show, David Rosen, is dead. But the big takeaway is when two young black girls head into a museum full of portraits to stumble on a portrait of Olivia Pope, enshrined in history. A strong black woman with natural hair and a beautiful turquoise dress, staring them back in the face daring them to be better than she was.

And that is what the other side of the cliff looks like.

Episode Recaps

Shonda Rhimes’ political drama: Sex! Murder! Olivia’s suits!
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  • 04/05/12
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