Scandal s7 ep 7

Quinn is still missing, and Olivia, Jake, and what’s left of B-613 and QPA are in something of a lather. I’m a little baffled, though, by Olivia’s declaration that she’s going to turn the whole of the governmental apparatus of America into one giant Quinn-finding machine, or whatever it was, when the obvious first course of action would be to find out what Rowan has been up to. And, sure enough, we don’t need to wait too long for Rowan to “reveal” to Olivia that he’s responsible: “I have Quinn Perkins. She is mine.” In return for her release he wants his freedom. And his dinosaur, which bears a lot of metaphorical weight this week.

Olivia rejects Rowan’s offer. In part this is because if she concedes ground this time, she expects that Rowan will try the same trick repeatedly. Also, though, there’s a healthy element of self-interest: Quinn knows that Olivia organised the assassination of President Rashad and the First Niece of Bashran, which means that Olivia has something to gain, in theory, were Quinn not to survive. “All your problems go away”, Olivia’s mother explains in a somewhat random appearance, “if this bitch dies”. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the episode revolves around Olivia and Rowan having lengthy monologue battles in which they are, essentially, saying “You’re bluffing!” “No, YOU’RE bluffing!” to each other.

And the rest of the episode doesn’t have much to offer. Fenton has taken the episode off to recuperate after being brutalised by Charlie. (Cyrus smoothly lets Jake know that he’s aware of exactly what B-613 was up to there when it tried to frame Fenton.) Mellie gets her nuclear treaty signed, or she doesn’t – I lost interest in there somewhere – and kind of agrees to work with Fitz and Marcus on their criminal justice reform programme. And an Olivia aide looks as if she’s about to blab state secrets to Curtis Pryce, but as poor Curtis ends up face down on a hotel room floor it may be that he has outlived his usefulness to the show.

We end, though, in Rowan’s living room, for one final round of “You’re bluffing!” as he and Olivia run the clock down. He then leaves the room with a gun, and we hear two shots and a woman screaming before he returns. “Do you”, he demands of Olivia, “want to see the body?” Well, yes, I think we do, actually, Rowan, if you’d be so kind: Katie Lowes has given birth in real life and may well want a little time away from the show, but this is TV so I don’t believe for a second that a couple of offscreen gunshots mean that she’s dead. Scandal now goes on hiatus before its final, final run; let’s hope the concluding episodes are better than this.


Scandal s7 ep 6

It takes no more than a few seconds of this episode to “reveal” that the Jake/Olivia/B-613 axis was behind the assassination of President Rashad and his niece, and for the rest of the episode Jake and Olivia are trying to ensure that their latest atrocity will have the geopolitical consequences they were looking for. To start with President Mellie wants to “drop every last American bomb”, as she snarls at the startled Bashrani ambassador, on the rebels now running his country. The thing is, though, Jake and Olivia planned that the new regime in Bashran would sign the disarmament treaty, in return for which it would be recognised by America. So… that’s what happens, as a chastened Mellie is obliged to realise that being POTUS doesn’t count for much if B-613 wants something to happen, as it doesn’t actually answer to her. In fairness, it took Fitz years to work that out.

Are we done, then? Not quite, because a horrified Quinn has worked out that Olivia was behind the attack. She then goes missing on the day of her wedding, which – just for a second – leaves open the possibility that Olivia has taken care of her as well in order to prevent her blabbing about the plot. But no: even Olivia has her limits, although the stakes are raised with the revelation that Quinn, before disappearing, phoned Curtis Pryce and left a cryptic message on his voicemail saying that she’d discovered who was behind the assassination.

What Jake and Olivia need, then, is a convenient patsy, and a Mr Big to tie him to. The patsy – a soldier who was on the tarmac when the plane was being refuelled – is easy enough to find (and kill), but there needs to be someone else behind the bomb and the disappearance of Quinn. A billionaire, perhaps, and one with business ties to the area which might mean he would want to encourage regime change. Maybe even someone who has been making efforts to get close to someone in the White House…? And so it comes to pass that poor Fenton “Fentsie” Glackland finds himself clingfilm-bound and being thwacked with a bag full of oranges (?) by an enraged Charlie, all the while maintaining – correctly – that he doesn’t even know who Quinn is, still less did he arrange for her abduction.

Huck intervenes seconds before Charlie cuts Fenton’s arm off, so that’s good. Olivia and Jake discover evidence which suggests that Quinn wasn’t about to dob them in, so that’s good too. (And presumably means that Rowan, Fitz, or some combination of the two is behind the abduction of Quinn, as they’re about all that’s left.) It’s a remarkably busy episode, although it feels as if the writers have just flung everything in, hoping that it will work. I thought most of it did. I enjoyed it.

Scandal s7 ep 5

We start with Olivia bellowing at her father: not something I’m necessarily opposed to, but throughout the scene, and indeed the entire episode, Olivia is psychopathic with power: yes, she’s been driven and amoral before, even a killer, but I’m not sure she’s ever been so entirely detestable. It is, she informs her terrified daddy, a privilege to speak to her, and could he please relay to Fitz that he’s to return to Dunrulin’ stat? Fitz’s look of bemusement when this is passed on is a thing of beauty, and possibly the highlight of the week.

Meantime, the Mellie/Olivia team has to decide whether to go to war in Bashran to return President Rashad to power. Mellie is determined to, and while there’s a certain amount of blather about the safety of the world there’s little doubt that she’s thinking with her ladyparts. I think the show can be given a pass on this as President Fitz did the same, mutatis mutandis, a few seasons back. And although Olivia and Jake have cooked up a B-613 plan which might deliver the same end result – set warring factions in Bashran against each other, bring the coup down, send Rashad back as peacekeeping hero – Fitz rats Olivia out to Mellie, who wants a proper, Congress-approved war, and no more B-613.

So while VPOTUS Cyrus is twisting Senatorial arms, work-shadowed by new love interest Fentsie, QPA is brought into action to protect Rashad’s niece Yasmeen, a student in America, and an obvious source of vulnerability. Inevitably Yasmeen doesn’t do what she’s told – hey, it’s just a credible threat to her life – and runs away, but tracking down a college student is no more than an early-morning stretch to Huck and Charlie.

There’s too much in this episode which doesn’t work – in particular, Yasmeen’s storyline is outright dull – but at least the final few minutes give us something to get our teeth into. Mellie, who by now has made out with Rashad in the Oval, decides to allow Olivia to do whatever she has to in order to return him to power. Olivia manages to convince Mellie that Fitz needs to be kept out of the White House and returned to Vermont; Fitz, in turn, makes it clear to Olivia that he preferred her previous incarnation. And, the ground having been prepared by Olivia, Rashad and Yasmeen are put on a plane back to Bashran, which REDACTS while on the ground in America, presumably REDACTING them into a million little pieces. It may be a reach, but I’d hazard a guess that the world’s leading black ops organisation might have had something to do with it, and that Mellie might take some persuading that it was the right course of action.

Scandal s7 ep 4

Once more we’re outside Olivia’s front door, although this time we get to see what happens: predictably, new squeeze Curtis Pryce, faced with the possibility of polite conversation with Fitz, makes a swift exit. But what does Fitz want? Well, he’s discovered that over 200 African American girls are missing, no-one seems to care about them, and he’d like Olivia’s help to find out what’s going on. Olivia suggests, rather snippily, it’s one for QPA rather than her. In fact, I had some difficulty in working out why Liv was so tetchy: last time we saw her and Fitz, were they not making out on the White House lawn in full view of the whole of Planet Earth? Anyway, QPA pick it up, find a poster girl for the cause – missing teenager Zoe Adams – and get the girls’s mother to go public. This is all something of a ruse by Fitz, with Rowan’s help, to remind Olivia of “who she is” and separate her from B-613, but since Olivia is de facto the most powerful woman – perhaps person – in the world it might be that she doesn’t need saving, exactly.

Meantime Mellie is trying not to fling her tongue down the throat of Bashran’s President Rashad, while working on a nuclear treaty between him and President Nazari of Dakal. “Anything else you need?” she enquires coquettishly of Rashad at the end of one meeting. Olivia, needless to say, can sniff this sort of thing out from a mile off, and tries to keep the boss’s mind on the job. And it’s quite a job: Nazari won’t sign the treaty, and Rashad’s been deposed in a coup; the latter, per Papa Pope, being something that Olivia could have prevented had she been concentrating on B-613 rather than Fitz. “Are you Command”, thunders Rowan, “or are you someone’s girl? You can’t be both”.

By comparison to all of that, the developing relationship between Cyrus and Fenton Glackland (“Fentsie”) feels almost quaint: they play a virtual reality game; they hang out; Cyrus decides that he can keep the Cézanne Fenton gave him if he pays $20 for it. I’m not sure the ethics of that would survive the most cursory scrutiny, but given what Cyrus has done in the past it’s endearingly harmless. All of which gives VPOTUS and POTUS a reason to bond over their love lives: Mellie breathlessly confides that Rashad makes her go “all twitchy inside”, and Cyrus worries that Fenton is “beneath” him. It’ll be interesting to see if the show follows the Cyrus/Fenton relationship through: a romance between two middle-aged men, neither (and I say this with no disrespect to either actor) of whom have conventional movie-star good looks, would actually be quietly radical on a network show.

Anyway. Missing Girl #1 is found alive, with no word (unless I missed it) of where she’s been, whether she’s connected to the other missing girls, and which of the show’s Big Bads (I assume) is behind it. I guess we’ll come back to that. Mellie and Olivia argue about whether to send troops into Bashran to help out Mellie’s crush. Olivia and Fitz kiss, because of course they do. And the final scenes are soundtracked by TLC’s sublime ‘Waterfalls’, nicely rounding off an entertaining if preposterous episode.

Scandal s7 ep 3

So what has Fitz been up to all this time, apart from turning up uninvited at Olivia’s door at the end of last week’s episode? Well, on day 1 of his second life he headed off to Dunrulin’, Vermont, now both a former President and a single man with a lot of time on his hands, which means he can start – haltingly – to adjust to post-Oval life. But he’s bored and a little twitchy, so he ropes Marcus in to start work on his Presidential Library, and to have someone to listen to him when he frets about how his presidency will be defined: will he be remembered for the good things he did, or for #Olitz? Marcus sagely observes that being thought of only in the context of your partner is a problem which has plagued women since for ever.

But there’s more: Fitz has sacked his house staff, but the difficulty is that he’s used to having, well, servants around him, and to having his every wish catered to, and I suppose that’s a hard habit to get out of. Which inevitably means that he starts to treat Marcus as the hired hand, and since Marcus isn’t putting up with that sort of shit they come to blows. Marcus quits and calls Mellie, who essentially tells him to suck it up, because she knows that while Fitz can be high-maintenance he’s worth it.

Once Fitz and Marcus have made up there’s a nice sequence in which Fitz gives visible support to a young African American man who has been campaigning to have a statute of the appropriately-named slave-owning General Cyst removed. I was less keen on Rowan’s appearance, oddly out of sync with an otherwise medium-paced episode, in which he lets himself into Dunrulin’ in order to tell Fitz that Olivia needs to be stopped: she’s now Command and, essentially, running America and therefore the world. Fitz might reasonably wonder what that has to do with him; but on his 101st day out of office he helicopters back to Washington, D.C., in order to be standing outside Olivia’s apartment when she stumbles out of the lift entwined around Curtis Pryce. Not a wholly successful episode, but I liked quite a lot of it.

Scandal s7 ep 2

No Fitz last time, and when I saw that Tony Goldwyn was directing this episode I assumed the same would be the case this week. I was almost right.

Anyway, the White House is hosting a state dinner for President Rashad of Bashran, as President Mellie would quite like him to sign a nuclear arms treaty. This is somewhat complicated by a number of factors: top of the list is the subject matter of last week’s episode, when an apparently mild-mannered academic was revealed to be the CIA’s point man in Bashran. On top of that Rashad doesn’t want to give ground to radicals in his own country; and on top of that there’s discernible chemistry between POTUS and POB, this whole, um, area being something very much on Mellie’s mind. “I’m Single Female POTUS!” she wails to Olivia. “A human chastity belt! There’s a famine in my lady bits!”

Also at the state dinner: the entire staff of QPA, who want to drum up some interest in their Olivia-less business, and have managed to blag some invitations from David Rosen, who clearly hopes that in return Abby will sleep with him. She doesn’t. On the bright side, we do get to see Huck’s attempts at smalltalk – it’s not his thing – and his undiminished ability to pick out a wrong ‘un, correctly identifying a would-be Rashad assassin masquerading as a legitimate guest, and thus saving Rashad’s life. This goes some way to make up for an earlier Olivia/Mellie attempt to strong-arm Rashad, directed by Jake from Roosevelt’s White House swimming pool, now drained and repurposed as a B-613 command centre.

And, in a somewhat more curious subplot, we’re introduced to yet another dinner guest: uncouth zillionaire Fenton Glackland (sic); whose name has been chosen, I can only assume, because there’s no-one in the world called Fenton Glackland. Anyway, VP Cyrus is on Glackland duties – not, he’s assured, because Glackland’s gay – and has to content himself with the occasional snarky remark while he takes Glackland on a tour of the White House. However, when Glackland sees nothing wrong with jumping into the President’s chair in the Oval Cyrus finally loses his cool and starts shouting at him, leading to Glackland slinking off, somewhat hurt and deflated. But as it leads to Cyrus being gifted a Cezanne worth $100 million or so, and as Glackland is played by familiar face Dean Norris, I’m betting we haven’t seen the last of him.

Anyway, it’s big wins all round for the Mellie/Olivia team: Rashad falls into line on the nukes; he and Mellie have a Moment; and Olivia drags her fuck-buddy Curtis away from the dinner and his date in order to take him back to her apartment. Where, much to her surprise – and mine – an old friend is waiting for her. Another hugely enjoyable episode.

Scandal s7 ep 1

A quick reminder of where we are – President Mellie; VPOTUS Beene; Olivia as chief of staff; OPA is now QPA (Quinn, Perkins and Associates) – and we’re off, with Olivia in killer heels strutting the corridors of the White House soundtracked by Public Enemy’s incendiary ‘Fight The Power’. Even more amazingly, the rest of this multi-stranded, thrilling episode isn’t a let-down after that.

At the start of the episode, the priority for the Mellie/Olivia White House is getting enough votes to ensure the passage of Vargas’s bill to provide free college education. Cyrus is trying to persuade a senator that it’s for the good of the country, while Olivia is using the darker arts to blackmail into compliance a good ol’ boy Senator who calls her “missy”.

While that’s brewing, though, the cash-strapped QPA is consulted by a woman whose academic father, Professor Stewart, has gone missing in a made-up Middle Eastern country. Who could do such a thing to a well-meaning educator? Well, the Prof is, of course, one of the CIA’s leading assets in the region, and Jake – installed, more or less, as Olivia’s current FWB – advises that he’ll just have to be found and killed, as by now he’ll be in the hands of someone who’ll make him give up sensitive information about US activity. Olivia is disinclined to accept that advice, and insists that he has to be rescued instead. Jake is disappointed, reminding her (and us) that Olivia is also Command, which means taking hard and unpleasant decisions.

Meantime Cyrus is on manoeuvres: fed up with the duties of his office he’s tempted by a Senator into thinking that he should be sabotaging the education bill in order to revisit the topic as President in three or four years. After a pep-talk from Mellie, though, he’s back to being ride-or-die for the new President Grant. Except that the Senator who was trying to turn him was actually working for Olivia; and Cyrus, being Cyrus, will have known that. My hunch is that we won’t ever get to see President Beene, but who knows?

While that’s going on, Professor Stewart is still awaiting his fate. Jake steers around Olivia and goes straight to Mellie, persuading her that the Prof needs to be taken out. Olivia, of course, doesn’t take at all kindly to being cut out, so not only ensures that her plan will succeed, but puts Jake in his professional and personal place while she’s at it. Nevertheless, the sheer excitement of being all Presidential means that Mellie forgets herself and tells Olivia that she, Mellie, is the President, and that Olivia will have to toe the line. Nuh-uh, says Olivia; don’t ever lose sight of the fact that I’m the boss, and that if you want to ensure the success of the first ever female Presidency you’d better keep that in mind.

Of the show’s other villains: Papa Pope turns up, but just about keeps himself in check. There’s a new right-wing talk show host, Curtis Pryce (Jay Hernandez, Dante in Nashville s1), who Olivia doesn’t much like, but she beds him anyway. And we don’t see Fitz in person; we’re no more than reminded of his existence by a quote attributed to him, so presumably he’s in Vermont, either brooding or involved in at least of one of the ongoing plots. Even without Tony Goldwyn, though, I thought this was the best episode of Scandal for a long time, Years, probably.