Scandal s7 ep 14

At this stage in the game, ‘The List’ is probably about as good an episode of Scandal as we can reasonably expect. In the ripped-from-the-headlines #TimesUp/#MeToo part, a worried father turns up in D.C. looking for Olivia’s help in finding his daughter Alisha, who had been interning for a congressman but has gone missing. Olivia, under the umbrella of the Fitzgerald Grant Institute, looks into it, and discovers that Alisha had declined to sleep with her male boss, information which made its way onto a list in which young female employees were rated sexually; Alisha then, in consequence, lost her job, was unable to find another one, and killed herself.

Olivia eventually manages to persuade Alisha’s roommate, who did sleep with her boss (and kept her job) to go public about what has been going on; and Mellie – the recipient of an advance from Jake – indicates that she will introduce legislation aimed at curbing sexual harassment. Meantime Fitz, who can read a room, worries about whether his behaviour towards Olivia when they first met was inappropriate. (Any man of a certain age in possession of a conscience is asking himself the same sort of questions about his past behaviour.) Olivia assures him that if there was a line they crossed it together and that she would do so again.

All of this, though, starts to provide evidence that Gladiator Olivia might be returning, which is of importance for the episode’s other storyline: the ongoing investigation into the hijacking of Air Force Two. Olivia tells Abby that it was Cyrus’s doing in the hope that QPA will look into it. But Olivia’s name is still toxic at QPA, so when Quinn and Charlie find out where that suggestion came from they stop investigating. Huck, though, keeps going, and turns up the information that the virus which infected the plane’s systems was created on Charlie’s laptop. Charlie, of course, used to be Cyrus’s hired gun, so Quinn thinks that they might have been working together again. The FBI finds out about Charlie’s supposed involvement as well, which leads to his arrest, and which brings Quinn to Olivia’s door looking for help. And David Rosen recuses himself from the investigation, leading to the appointment of a special prosecutor, someone we’ve already seen conspiring with Cyrus. Now, that’s entertainment.

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Scandal s7 ep 13

VPOTUS Cyrus and Chief of Staff Jake are butting heads, and Jake appears to be winning: he is told that he, not Cyrus, will be delivering a speech at the Al Smith dinner, and a livid Cyrus is sent instead to Lisbon, with Rosen, for a summit about digital piracy. On the way there, though, Air Force Two is hacked, and someone else starts to control the plane, pointing it towards Washington, D.C., apparently with the purpose of crashing it. 

Who, the watching world wonders, is capable of such a thing? Well, it could be anyone – literally, anyone – who’s had a leading role on Scandal over the past seven years, because they’re all capable of such a thing. Cyrus says that it’s Jake’s doing. Mellie also suspects Jake, whose reply – that there are many better, more efficient, and less suspicious ways of killing Cyrus if that’s what he wants to do – doesn’t get him very far, and Mellie orders that fighter planes are scrambled to shoot AF2 down if need be. I worked out who was behind the hack about halfway through the episode, although I’m sure others will have got there more quickly than I did.

The other plots – Rosen doesn’t propose to Abby, and Olivia visits her mother to celebrate the latter’s birthday, then provides her with the means and money to go to Paris – are somewhat inconsequential, although Maya on the loose has the power to influence the show’s closing run of episodes. It looks, though, as if REDACTED’s all-or-nothing bid for the Oval is going to be highly significant going forward. An average episode.

Scandal s7 ep 12; How To Get Away With Murder s4 ep 13

We’ve  moved on a few months and Olivia, now a guest lecturer at a university, scrawls “How To Survive A Scandal” on a blackboard. This is a nicely meta touch given that Annalise Keating is in the back of the lecture hall. Yes, we’re in the Shondaland universe, and it’s the Scandal/How To Get Away With Murder crossover episode(s).

Annalise wants Olivia’s help with a class action: she’s representing around 100 people in prison, all poor and mostly people of colour, who had to rely on overworked public defenders at their original trials. Annalise’s argument is that this equates to unequal treatment, and she wants the case fast-tracked to the Supreme Court. For which she needs some political nous of the sort that Olivia can provide. Olivia vacillates – largely because of Annalise’s reputation, which I must admit I’m not up-to-date on the details of, having missed the last couple of seasons of HTGAWM – but eventually agrees to take the case.

And that takes us into Scandal proper, with Olivia lining Fitz up to help, and Mellie, Jake, and QPA on the other side trying to stall the case, Mellie pretending it’s because she wants to hold it back until there’s a better chance of success, but really just wanting to deny Olivia a win. It’s tremendous fun, with the added thrill of seeing Kerry Washington and Viola Davis, two of the leading TV actors of their generation, going head-to-head, in particular in an incendiary scene which starts with Annalise (correctly) accusing Olivia of dishonesty, and leads to a full-fledged argument about the lived experience of African American women, which Mr White Privilege here certainly isn’t going to comment on. There’s even room for a nice little subplot, in which Michaela flirts with Marcus.

The case having been accepted onto the SCOTUS docket, it’s over to How To Get Away With Murder for the second half of the story. And while this was also good, it really just confirmed my decision that HTGAWM and I are better off apart: everyone in the show is still thoroughly unlikeable in a way which is quite distracting. In particular, Asher is still Asher, making Michaela’s decision to do it in a car with Marcus entirely defensible. A bit too much of the episode was, I thought, given over to Annalise having a crisis of confidence which we know she’s going to resolve in time to appear before the court, but that’s more than compensated for by casting the magnificent Sharon Lawrence as opposing counsel.

Scandal s7 ep 11

Mellie is installing Jake as her new Chief of Staff, and Olivia is furious. However, Mellie makes a huge tactical mistake when she tells Olivia that she has until the end of the week to resign, failing which she will be fired. This, of course, gives Olivia time to organise her counterattack. “You can’t”, she snarls at Jake, “take Command”. Jake himself, being security-cleared by David Rosen – which seems bizarre, given everything which… oh, never mind – admits that he and his wife are in an open marriage. Not a problem, says Rosen; “it’s not like you asked Russian hookers to pee on you”. And as rumours start to sweep D.C. that Olivia is out, Quinn suggests to Papa Pope that this might be a good time to take Olivia down. His response is to issue physical threats against Quinn’s baby daughter while actually holding her, making the point that Olivia is, when all’s said and done, his baby.

Meantime, QPA has a client. Remember those? This one is a mild-mannered mid-ranking State Department staffer who one day found $12m in his bank account and then received a message in Russian suggesting that this was a payoff. I’m not a traitor, he protests; can you make this go away? Fair enough, I thought; we might need a Case of the Week if the A-plot is just going to be another edition of Musical Chairs At The White House, and the C-plot is Papa Pope issuing verbose threats.

But then – and it’s to Scandal’s credit that, seven seasons in, it can still do this to me – the Case of the Week and Olivia vs Mellie are brought together in an almost laugh-out-loud way. As the whole thing explodes all over cable news, Olivia is watching with glee while literally munching popcorn. This all provides Cyrus with a chance to make mischief, and he starts to play for both sides: he suggests a handling strategy to Mellie, then when she goes along with it provides Olivia with the proof that Mellie has been engaged in tampering with justice. And if she were to use that to bring Mellie down… well, then, the Oval would pass to the present VPOTUS, one Cyrus Beene.

Quinn, by now, is on the warpath, and she confronts Olivia at home, threatening to shoot her. Olivia is in fact shot, but only a little and not by Quinn anyway, who then heads over to QPA to break the news to everyone else that she is, in fact, alive. And Olivia starts to make the public statement in which she will bring Mellie down… but, apparently at the last minute, she seems to change her mind, and simply resigns. Is this the start of Olivia’s redemption, just in time for the series finishing? Actually, this was very good indeed, largely because Scandal seems, this week, to have remembered its duty to entertain.

Scandal s7 ep 10

After last week’s misstep, this was a bit more like it. The show lands two decent punches even before the credits: Olivia is taken to Vermont by Fitz, but when she gets there she discovers that it’s an intervention of sorts; half the cast is there, all trying to persuade her to resign from the White House, leave B-613, and essentially save herself. And Charlie is still throttling Rowan, which he’s been doing for quite a while now, but is dragged off him by Quinn, thus confirmed to be definitely alive in the present-day timeline. Somewhat, it should be said, to Charlie’s surprise.

The offer to Olivia is that unless she walks away, David Rosen will prosecute her for, well, quite a lot of things, although the assassination of President Rashad, and trying to cover that up by murdering Quinn, will presumably both be high on the list. In fairness, there’s something a little hypocritical about watching Olivia being lectured by people like Huck, Fitz, and Abby, whose crimes could keep a reasonably-sized DA’s office going for the next couple of decades. Olivia even has to endure the indignity of being called a monster by Huck. Huck! Nope; she’s not having that.

Thing is, though, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to make of Olivia these days: the way in which she’s shot this week, strutting and soundtracked by Janet Jackson hits, would suggest that she’s still Scandal’s beating heart, its alpha female. (Or maybe it’s because Kerry Washington directed.) On the other hand, she hasn’t worn the Gladiator’s white hat for a while now: she’s a deeply unpleasant person these days, and has been for ages. Perhaps the point is that we would be rooting for her were she a ruthless white male antihero, and we’re… less likely to when she’s female and African American?

I don’t know. Anyway, while Jake, Mellie, and Cyrus circle each other at the White House, Olivia drafts a resignation letter, says she’ll put Jake in charge of shutting B-613 down, and tells everyone in Vermont that she’s going to quit. But when she heads back to D.C. she does no such thing; instead, she does the nasty with Jake. A solid episode, with the advantage that I now have no idea whether Vermont, jam, and Fitz is endgame.

Scandal s7 ep 9

Spoilers, kind of

This episode, Good People, is something of a Quinn and Rowan two-hander: it starts by rewinding to the point at which Quinn was abducted by Rowan, then shows us what happened thereafter from their point of view, although we didn’t quite get to the end of last week’s episode and Charlie throttling Rowan.

So, yeah, the big headline is that Quinn isn’t dead: in fact, she’s alive, and now fully aware of the fact that Olivia was prepared to sacrifice her. But we take an unnecessarily long time to get there, we really do.

There were one or two things to like: I was entertained by Rowan’s repeat visits to a big supermarket, where he starts by getting store employee Marvin to give him a bit of buying advice. In due course Rowan and Marvin become friends, resulting in Marvin (a) buying a gun for Rowan in his own name; (b) delivering Quinn’s baby; and (c) ending up dead on Rowan’s basement floor. But that apart there wasn’t much going on, and with only a handful of episodes left, I’m not sure the show can afford to fritter one away on something as insubstantial as this. Scandal in its pomp would have combined last week and this, crammed the action from both into the first two-thirds of an episode, and had enough time left over for Huck to torture a randomly-selected member of Congress.

Scandal s7 ep 8

Quinn is dead, folks. Very, very dead. No, we haven’t actually seen the body; Rowan throws a body into a car, for sure, and sets fire to it. And yes, that corpse is burnt beyond recognition, and identified only by some DNA from some blood and hair, but there could clearly be no suggestion that these are the sorts of things which might be planted. Oh, and some bits of her wedding dress are there as well. Yes, it’s totally Quinn. I mean, I’ve watched TV before, so I know what’s going on. What’s utterly baffling, though, is that the assembled OPA alums, who have been responsible separately and collectively for a double-digit number of intricately-planned conspiracies, seem quite happy to accept this. Come on, folks.

Anyway. Charlie claims that Quinn loved a story about someone being cremated and the ashes then put into bullet casings, so even though it’s demented that’s what they do with “Quinn’s” “remains”. And most of the rest of the episode is about how Quinn’s friends and colleagues cope with their “loss”: Olivia drinks whisky, is unnecessarily mean to Fitz, but then sleeps with him; Huck realises that Olivia quite probably had something to do with Quinn’s “death”, and starts investigating; Charlie is too emotional to deal with the baby goods in their apartment, so Abby and David go round to dismantle the crib, and find a flash drive. And while they’re doing that, Charlie goes to Rowan’s house asking to be readmitted to B-613, but while there hears a crying baby. Obviously can’t be Quinn’s, because she’s dead and Rowan doesn’t have ob-gyn skills, as far as I’m aware. So it must be someone else’s baby, although Charlie throttles Rowan anyway.

Oh, and in non-connected news, Fenton breaks up with Cyrus, because he’s discovered that Cyrus is a psychopath. It isn’t a terrible episode by any means – and the lengthy Quinn reminiscences have a certain power – but it relies too heavily on the premise that everyone on the show accepts, without question, that Quinn is dead. Maybe she is. That would truly be a twist.