Okay, so, anyone who has been within 100 feet of me over the past month knows that I have become obsessed with Scandal. Like "willing-to-stay-up-til-11-on-a-school-night obsessed". Like "Finally-forgiven-Tony-Goldwyn-for-killing-Patrick-Swayze-20-years-ago" obsessed. Shonda Rimes is a gifted writer, we saw that on Grey's before Grey's got old. And if you watch Scandal, you realize that Grey's is old. Cyrus Beene is now getting all of Miranda Bailey's monologues.
So what is this Scandal all about, you say? What has half of America rooting for an illicit affair, you wonder? And, if you think you can't possibly catch up before next week's finale - take heart. Scandal was a mid season replacement last year, and only ran for 7 episodes. This season was a full 22-episode order. That means there's 28 episodes in the books. We can catch up on 28 episodes. Scandal makes me love TV again. TV is my first love, and AI (my last blogging passion) has let me down so horribly (Nicky Minaj and Mariah Carey? Show killers. Even Randy Jackson finally sees the stink on this show and is leaving his chair next year). But I digress. If I tried to go into great detail on the first 28 episodes, I'd likely be sitting here typing until the season finale, but I'm going to give you a detailed set up and the highlights..how's that?
The show opens with Quinn Perkins joining Olivia Pope and Associates (Gladiators in Suits) as a new lawyer. I always think of lawyer firms that have associates as being big companies, but Olivia Pope and Associates is but a team of 6, including Quinn.
- Olivia (Kerry Washington of the beautiful cheekbones and odd mouth. I read somewhere that she's the first black woman in history to be the lead on a tv show. But that can't be right - in my limited mind - Nell Carter comes to mind from Gimme a Break, and Esther Rolle from Good Times. Maybe they meant drama. Whatev) Olivia Pope is a fixer - she tells us she's good, and she must be, as she can call anyone for a favor, and walks on and off the white house grounds like she's Sasha or Malia - without SS detail. Olivia's wardrobe is to KILL for. And it fits her nicely as I've never seen her actually eat. But she loves her wine. And her staff. And the President (oh how she loves the president). She talks fast, takes NO BULLSHIT (except from the President, but I think that's allowed), and she's lonely.
- Harrison Wright - a lawyer by trade. While we don't know his backstory, we know he's on parole and that he was in jail for 3 days. And whatever happened in those three days, it was real, because he has no desire to go back, despite realizing he operates in a very gray area of the law. No two ways about it, Harrison is fine, and I do wonder why it is that Olivia never looks at him, realizes that he's adorable, and goes off to make little Gladiator babies with him.
- Abby Whelan - snarky snarky liberal lawyer who was rescued from an abusive husband. Completely broke her radar on men, but more about that in a bit. Abby is quite bitchy from time to time, and she's the Greek Chorus of the show, because sometimes Olivia will tell them to do something and from my couch I'm like...dafuq? Abby is usually the one that is all...yeah, you're our girl, but is you crazy?
- Huck (no last name required) - The one person, perhaps on the show whose moral compass isn't on tilt. But he's a reformed assassin. Sorta. And he goes to AA. But he doesn't drink. He's addicted to the high from killing people. But you know you can't say something like that in AA because even though everyone is trained to not judge, someone saying "I like torturing and killing people" will elicit at least a raised eyebrow and a "Jesus" from someone. Oh - also, Huck has this Rain Man like thing happening where he can hack into a computer just about anywhere. So he's an assassin and he's brilliant with a computer. And he's a victim of PTSD so from time to time, he stops bathing. So just when you think you may want to date him, you're all...nah.
- Stephen Finch - adorable man-whore from the first season who went off to be normal in season 2, so he's not important.
Anyhoo, Quinn Perkins joins as the 6th Gladiator in the first episode. What Olivia Pope and Associates does by 'fixing' is save people's asses. Regularly. Saving a decorated war hero from a bogus murder charge (they think he killed his girlfriend; in fact, he's gay). Fixing it so that a revered bishop who dies in the arms of his lover is remembered for his work with the Lord, and not in the hotel), an airline pilot who is blamed for a plane crash, a business woman who is going to lose her job on a morals charge. OPA is constantly either spinning or preventing scandals, which is why they have the loyal support of practically everyone in Washington. Saving a kidnapped kid (who actually kidnapped herself). Helping the wife of a foreign official stay in the US with her children..it goes on. When there's a side story, it's almost always wrapped up in an episode, like Perry Mason.
But the scandals they have not fixed, the scandals at the heart of the series, and (in my opinion) for what the show is named, are the scandals that involve these very people. Folks, these people are a MESS. I'm gonna give you the highlights in order, even though much of Scandal is told in flashback. In fact, the show opens in the 2nd Year of the President's term, but we actually met these people on the campaign trail. Anyhow, the reason Quinn is in Washington is because she was on the run, accused of setting off a bomb in an office building that killed 7 people. She's hiding in a hotel and the next thing she knows she's been drugged and wakes up in DC overlooking the Mall, with a passport and id that say Quinn Perkins (and NOT Lindsey Dwyer, her real name), and a lot of money on the bedside table. So you know who ever did this is connected, and not just because she woke up in what could, from the view, be the Hotel Washington. That place ain't cheap. Quinn, who is a lawyer and is smart, obviously knows something is fishy, but her choice is basically working with her hero Olivia (it's never quite explained why she worships Olivia) and going back to face charges of killing people. It's a no brainer and she suits up. She spends a lot of time watching and looking and wondering how and the hell Olivia is going to make payroll seeing as I've never seen a client PAY.
Obviously, if you've caught any channel 7 snippet about this show, you know one of the two main scandals is the fact that the President of the United States, Fitzgerald T. Grant (played brilliantly, painfully, by Tony Goldwyn) is in love with Olivia. Not just had an affair on the campaign trail, but is in love, wants to leave his southern bred lass First Lady for, in love with Olivia. And here's where I think you get some of Shonda's best writing -- ever. As tortured as it was with Derek and Meredith, Derek never had as much to lose. Fitz literally has the weight of the free world on his shoulders, and the words he utters as he realizes he has this dream life that he worked so hard for and doesn't want it, are heartbreaking.
The other main scandal on the show is that President Grant is the President because of a teeny tiny election rigging that went on in a teeny tiny town of Defiance, Ohio. You see, Hollis Doyle owns Cytron, the company who made these new machines. In his employ was Jesse, a computer geek who figured out how you could rig the machines. He was paid handsomely by Hollis, fixed that one machine in Defiance, and (figurative) BOOM! Inauguration balls for Fitz, and his wife, Mellie. There was also some hot lovin' in the Oval office the first night, not with Mellie. We figure out very quickly which Secret Service agent was truly loyal, because on a run, he's all "Mr. President, I understand that you want to get your swerve on, but maybe not in the Oval Office where there are cameras". We also figure out the other Secret Service detail is loyal to Mellie, because every time he's asked, while he doesn't say it outright, he ALWAYS gives it away, and seriously? Dude! The first word in your job title is SECRET. Learn!
Back to Jesse, when he realized what a killing Hollis made, he got greedy and demanded more. Hollis has never let anything like morals get in his way and next thing you know, (literal) BOOM! in the cytron building, where Quinn has been framed. Turns out, Quinn has been bought to Washington by Huck and Olivia because OLIVIA was in on the election rigging. The dirty half-dozen-minus-one that came up with this idea:
Hollis Doyle - this man loves power and the idea of getting free reign in the white house is too attractive. Plus, Hollis loves money. Because money gives him power. And it does not set well with him when the stolen white house wants to...ahem, do good things and serve the people.
Verna Thorton - I don't know what she did before the election, but after the election she is sworn in a supreme court justice. You don't have to remember her, as she's dead now. But you'll probably want to remember that, on her death bed, she was killed (or euthanized; after all, she was terminal) by Fitz. Yup. After Verna tells him about the election rigging, and breaks his heart, the president goes all Carl Bruner (Ghost) and takes off her oxygen mask. Incidentally, the US District Attorney, David Rosen, was waiting outside her hospital room to take her statement where she fully planned to confess to election rigging to clear her conscience before she died.
Mellie Grant - The first lady is bad ass in her own right. She's smart, she's cool, she's calculating. And for her, being FLOTUS is her ticket into the white house, but that's not all she wants to do. She understands that being the First Lady is a business, and when her fake miscarriage didn't swing voters, she figured a little election rigging was in order. Mellie's fatal flaw is that she actually does love the brooding Fitz. Not that wants him, but she's spent a lot of time creating this president, and like any badASS, she ain't giving him up without a fight.
Cyrus Beene - In my opinion, Cyrus is one of the most complex, interesting characters to show up on television in a long time. He is devoted to the president. The white house is his first love, his life, but since he knew he'd never be president (too ugly. too gay. his words, not mine), he has "settled" for sitting at the right hand of the power. Cyrus loves his country, always refers to it as "this great nation", and understands that sometimes the American people have to be guided to the right decision. Cyrus isn't really bound by any sort of moral or ethical law, or real law, as in these last 28 episodes, he's had the president's mistress killed, almost killed his husband, and yes, election rigging. Last night, he told the Good Secret Service guy (after the GSSG told him he wouldn't let Jesus in the door) that he shouldn't confuse him with Jesus. "Jesus is good. Jesus saves. I destroy." Cyrus is a monster. And yet, he's SO human. I can't help but love him. He also has the number of an assassin on speed dial (Charlie, not Huck).
David Rosen is the US DA, in the beginning, but he loses his job in a spectacular meltdown. In the first season he accidentally stumbles onto the election rigging and, aided by James Novak, Cyrus' husband who also happens to work in the Press Corps at the white house, along with Gideon, a reporter who is close to cracking the truth even though he thinks what he's following is the President's affair. We learn from flashbacks that in the very beginning of the Grant Administration, Olivia's conscience gets the best of her when she discovers Mellie knows about their affair. She quits. Fitz, rather than choosing his wife as the transitional woman, has a one-hour stand with Amanda Tanner. But it turns out that Amanda has been set up to sleep with the president...turns out she's pregnant by Billy Chambers, Vice President Sally Langston's chief of staff. Billy Chambers orchestrates the affair to discredit Fitz because apparently to be a chief of staff, you have to be loyal to the point of obsessed. Billy Chambers (and I'm not sure why, but for me, it's always Billy Chambers. Not Billy) wanted to bring Fitz down before the election, but by the time he got the evidence to Sally, she had already conceded in the primaries and agreed to be Fitz' running mate. Sally is a crazy-right wing religious fanatic republican, and pretty much hates Fitz for being soft on gays, and on religion, and you know, being a republican in name only. The first season ends rather spectacularly when Billy, who is full on bat shit crazy kills Gideon the reporter who's figured it out, and then, during a WH press conference, says - I'm heartbroken because my girlfriend Amanda died, and she was cheating on me with the president (and about that? I'm thinking no one cheats on you with the president. I'm thinking you're the fool who's with the girl who's with the president). That is enough to end a normal administration, but not the Grant Administration, as he (Fitz) pretty much orders VP Sally Langston to disown him. Which she does and last we see of Billy (until last night), he's in the elevator with Charlie, Cyrus' assassin. Despite all this, David takes the case to the grand jury, only for his case to implode when James lies on the stand and the case falls apart. After losing this case and Quinn's murder case (which Olivia fixed to get her off), he's pretty much fired because really...two cases? He leaves the US Attorney's office and goes to work as a teacher. It's a pretty sad fall - even Harrison notes of his new business cards "I didn't know they made cardstock this thin".
BUT IT'S NOT THE END OF BILLY CHAMBERS OR DAVID ROSEN. Turns out, there's been a mole (the Albatross) in the administration basically f**king up and making Fitz look like a moron. And it's Billy. And he's been assisted by none other than David Rosen. Revenge is serious on this show. Nobody forgets anything.
Only on scandal is the president's attempted assassination (during his birthday party) a side point. It was orchestrated by dead Verna to make sure the Defiance election rigging story never got out. But he survived only to kill her. There's some ironic justice in there.
Oh - and Jake. Captain Jake Ballard, maybe he's good, maybe he's bad, and he's played by the lovable Scott Foley. He has also shook the sheets with Olivia, and it was in his best interest for that to remain secret. But then it turned out, Charlie the Cyrus Assassin had taped this, and he's now turned this over to Joe Morton, Park Bench Guy, Man Scorned by Whitley Gilbert. PBG, we know is the head of the assassin unit of the government that has employed, at times, Huck, Charlie, and Jake, but we still don't know just how he fits in. There's a train of thought that he's Olivia's father. I don't know, but I know that next week's season finale is a finale that's worthy of a party.
I don't want to muddy already muddled waters with names that we may or may not see next Thursday, but there's also Edison Davis, the Senator Majority leader who was in love with Liv, proposed to Liv, and was rejected by Liv. He annoyed me. He also promised Liv he was done. Let's hope so.
So there you have it, enough of 28 episodes to really enjoy next week. But you should watch all 28 anyway (some of them I've watched twice. Don't judge me). This show, while soapy and funny, and campy, is more addictive than hot McDonald's French fries. And I think it's additive because you can't really say that none of this would never happen. This show thrives on ambiguity: the only black and white are on suits here. We live in interesting times, and where I think at one point we wanted to believe Washington was like the West Wing, it's probably more like Scandal (save the euthanized supreme court justice. Let's hope that would never happen). The writing on this show is so nuanced, so dead on, that even though they've never filmed an episode here, and there are a lot of scenes that take place in a park that is probably supposed to be McPherson Square but looks nothing like it, this show GETS it. The underground racism that is never spoken but it's there. It's there when one of Olivia's clients assumes the lovely red-headed Abby is the powerful Olivia. It's there in Cyrus' frank discussion with Fitz that Olivia's hue will never play well with his constituents. Olivia is successful and rich and lovely, but she's lonely. People who get married are "normal", and that's not good. The show never leans on any one thing, but neither does it flinch, and it's brilliant.
Until next week, Friends!