Scandal s5 ep 17

Lillian Forrester, journo and (ex?) Presidential squeeze, has been making repeated visits to a hospital. Uh-oh, concludes Abby; she’s expecting a little Fitz. But it’s worse than that: she has, in fact, been calling on former Vice-President Andrew Nichols, who’s been recovering from a stroke induced by a bit of Huckery a few months ago. Anyway, Nichols has told Lillian about how the President went to war for the sake of his mistress, and she’s planning to run the story.

This sets off a chain of events which ends up in one of the most desperate, yet silly, incidents in Scandal’s history. To start with, Fitz is prepared to go on TV and admit what happened, while keeping Olivia and the kid***ping out of it; Olivia, though, insists that she can fix it, and is able to get Nichols’s price for killing the story. But then he goes back on that, leaving at least some of the President’s Secret Society (Mellie, Cyrus, Olivia, etc – all of the usual fixers) contemplating whether Nichols needs to be killed, a view also taken by Rowan and his pseudo-son (or whatever) Jake. I don’t really care what Jake is up to, but I will grudgingly concede that the continuing device of having him sit quietly and eat when Olivia visits is quite funny. While everyone tries to decide what to do, Huck jabs a needle in Nichols’s neck – again – and takes him from his ward to the Secret Bunker under the White House, where he’s held for days. Didn’t the hospital notice that one of the highest-profile patients on the planet had simply slipped away?

Possibly the most telling moment in the whole episode is when Abby wonders what will happen to her when Fitz admits what happens and loses the Oval. Olivia – in, apparently, all seriousness – suggests that Abby could come back and work for her, kind of missing the point that Abby is unlikely to want to go from being Chief of Staff in the White House to being a worker ant at OPA. From then on, anyway, the two of them are on a collision course, with Abby managing to put Mellie in the firing line of Nichols’s revelations.

So Olivia’s pissed, and added to that she’s traumatised by having PTSD-induced flashbacks to her kid***ping, which of course was a Nichols plan. To be clear, I suppose at least the show is acknowledging Olivia’s ordeal by not just forgetting it ever happened, although ideally it would never have happened.

Then Olivia confronts Nichols, who responds with a torrent of unpleasant and explicit insults. And the thing happens. If you’re being generous, you could say it’s a woman turning on an abuser; if you aren’t, you could say it’s a show trying harder and harder to shock, as its audience falls lower and lower. For my part, I don’t know what Shonda is playing at. Stuff happens with the Vargas campaign as well, but it’s an afterthought; following a couple of reasonably entertaining episodes focussing on the forthcoming Presidential election, ‘Thwack!’ is a considerable step back.

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