Scandal s5 ep 13

There’s a Case of the Week in ‘The Fish Rots From The Head’, but not a great one: Abby calls OPA in because some (male, obvs) Secret Service agents were partying in a hotel, and it “got out of hand”, by which everyone means that there’s a (female, obvs) dead sex worker, with track marks on her arms, lying in a pool of blood on the floor. The agents assure the OPA team that she fell and banged her head on a table, having shot up beforehand. So as far as Quinn and Olivia are concerned it’s just a clear-up job, and one which is accomplished before the first ad break.

Marcus, though, still seems to have some idealism left in him; he doesn’t like the look of it, and despite being warned off by everyone else – we’re here to protect our clients, not investigate them, etc. – he does a bit of digging. And sure enough, to no-one’s surprise, there’s evidence to suggest both that the dead ho was murdered, and that the Secret Service agents tried to cover it up. (A cover-up of which OPA was an enthusiastic and probably well-remunerated part, but let’s not say anything which would impede the donning of the white hats.)

Olivia’s reluctant to turn on her clients. But she knows that Abby’s supervising the turnstile outside POTUS’s sleeping quarters, as one woman after another gets Presidentially laid, with non-disclosure agreements signed, digital devices surrendered, and the Secret Service assisting. (Presumably last week’s journalist girlfriend has been kicked to the Pennsylvania Avenue kerb.)

Olivia realises that it’s the same Secret Service which is murdering hookers and, at the same time, enabling POTUS’s tomcatting, and the lightbulb above her head goes “bing!”. She hits the White House and tells Fitz to clean his act up; it’s his “reckless, negligent, selfish” behaviour, she claims, which is setting the tone for the Secret Service guys. Although it has to be said that Fitz is a divorced single man having consensual sex with adult women, so I really don’t see where the issue lies. Moreover, one of the triggers for Olivia’s outburst seems to be an incident when Mellie turns up unexpectedly with her and Fitz’s son, a woman in a bathrobe emerges from the Presidential suite, and Mellie spits poison at Fitz. I’m not so sure that Fitz has done anything terribly wrong here; isn’t he entitled to proceed on the basis that Mellie won’t just drop in?

In fact, I’d go further: Scandal is having a bit of a problem with sex at the moment. Two of the scenes this week in which sex is implied or shown are both nasty, and not in a good way. The Elizabeth and David relationship is probably supposed to be unpleasant. Jake and Olivia, though… I think I know what the writers are going for, and I think they’re getting it very wrong, but all in all I’d sooner not go there.

Anyway, it means that Olivia can take some time off from stalking Jake, who is apparently dating – and, by the end, engaged to – Ava Crowder from Justified. (Actually, this show needs Boyd Crowder stat.) One assumes that Ava has made her peace with Jake’s bizarre domestic arrangements: is it normal for the director of the NSA to live with the father of his ex-gf?

In the middle of all of that, I quite liked Cyrus’s storyline: after the way he was relieved of White House influence, it’s fun to see him slowly get back on the horse. Last week his relatively straightforward, if bloodily achieved, task was to get national recognition for Governor Vargas. This week he needs to get Vargas to run for President when he’s determined not to. This is trickier, but once he’s managed to engineer a made-up quadriplegic brother, a hostile meeting with Fitz, and an appearance on The Liberty Report, it all falls into place. And VP Ross is ambivalent about whether she wants Fitz’s endorsement, in response to which – having been somewhat startled by Olivia’s outburst – he promises to do better as a President and, y’know, as a man.

But it isn’t enough to save the episode. I used to complain about how far behind we in the UK were with Scandal. As it happens, we’ve probably never been closer to US transmission dates, but it doesn’t matter anything like as much as it used to. At the moment, and notwithstanding the season 6 renewal announced a few days ago, it feels like a long way back for the show if it’s ever to regain a level of consistent quality.

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