Blogging Scandal: ‘Defiance’, Season 2, Episode 7.

Stacia,

Sorry for missing the recap of the last ep. Where were we?

When last we kicked it with Olivia Pope and associates, the man Fitz had defeated for the White House had concocted an elaborate, extemporaneous plan to murder his way into the presidency he was so cruelly denied. (Yes to everything you’re thinking, y’all.)

Since then, the show’s dug a little bit into Huck the Deus Ex Machina’s backstory with an odd little plot about his old running buddies, a bunch of highly trained secret government assassins who are called in from the cold because of some McGuffin. Because Scandal is Scandal, all those superspies end up in a conference room with their guns drawn on each other and waxing verbose their innermost motivations, and it takes a speech from Harrison about Olivia’s awesomeness and how she has everything under control to keep them from shooting each other up. Yes, that’s right: there are top-secret spy machinations going on that only Olivia can set right, because she’s an ecru-clad Batman!

But that’s all the time we should spend on that ep, which didn’t really move the ball on anything, because Scandal’s writers went ahead and shot President Fitzgerald Grant.

laura and I joked that a presidential assassination attempt was in the offing, because it’s the kind of Big Dramatic Plot Twist that Scandal’s writers can’t help but avail themselves. I’ll cop to being legitimately shocked the moment it happened, but almost as soon as it was over, all of the frayed edges of the plot threads that got us to this point started to show.

The Twitterverse read Mellie’s last-second suggestion that she and Fitz ditch the gala — after he tells her that he’s no longer dealing with Olivia — as a sign that she was trying to prevent him from getting shot. That seems about right, but wouldn’t she put up more of a fight? (Something like: “No, you really, really shouldn’t get out of this car, and I can’t tell you why, and I know you don’t trust me, but you have to trust me here.” That would at least get his attention.)

But let’s say Mellie is in on this assassination plot. What does she stand to gain by having Fitz killed? And how does it relate to her role in the Secret Conspiracy Whose Revealed Purpose Will Ultimately Disappoint Us?

Regarding the scandal of the week: Olivia’s declaration that Harrison can handle the mess about the billionaire who has lost his mind and angered his family was basically the show declaring that this plot doesn’t really matter. I spent most of it thinking that there’s no point of being a billionaire if you can’t drive a motorcycle through the foyer of your mansion. Looks to me that he was doing rich right! If I was that rich I’d graft a narwhal-horn onto a Clydesdale’s forehead and ride around Brooklyn on my Gully Unicorn. If rich is just sitting on boards and getting hospital wings named after you, count me out.

This story basically seemed to be a vessel for a telegraphed subplot about how Harrison was originally sent by Olivia to keep Abby and David Rosen apart but is actually develops genuine feelings for her. Oh, no! What will happen when she finds out that Harrison has really been lying to her? (I, for one, will continue to give zero damns.) But I am really curious as to what you think about the show’s treatment of Abby’s survival of domestic abuse. Lindywasp made the excellent point about this show’s somewhat bizarre politics when she noted that its heroine is someone who basically uses the broken people indebted to her to fix the problems of her extremely rich and powerful clients.

Also, Quinn pointedly confronts Deus Ex Machina about his role in whatever got her to where she is now. Harassing a bloodthirsty trained killer while he’s trying to eat his sandwich seems like breathtakingly bad judgment, but okay. Quinn thinks he was in on the plot to kidnap her — on the Supreme Court Lady’s private plane — and his face gives away that she’s on to something. Again, gor a trained spy, Deus is supremely bad at protecting secrets.

I didn’t even get to Olivia’s new #SenateBoo, but come on. This dude is so obviously a placeholder and a plot contrivance. The show doesn’t take him seriously as a suitor for Olivia and neither should we.

What do you think of the stolen election subplot? I think it has some potential, but like so much about this show, it would work even better if the writers didn’t try to get to all the plot points in such ham-handed, devil-may-care fashion. Nevermind that Cyrus’s husband would never be allowed to cover the White House by his paper because of the obvious conflict of interest, or that Cyrus’s inability to keep his husband from sniffing out information that could bring down the president brings up some questions about his political competence. If it was that uneasy to uncover the damn rigged machines, why hadn’t someone else uncovered it already?

Notes from a scandal:

  • Learning the word “ecru” is one of the ways our Scandal discussions on PB have made me a better person. Thank you, guys.
  • Emily Nussbaum wrote earlier this year that Kerry Washington’s beauty is so considerable that it functions like its own special effect. That was never more true then when she came out in that dress to meet Senator Davis for that gala. Her magic is real and pure.
  • Columbus Short’s suits are the secret star of this show. Alas, they give your boy dope clothes in lieu of actual character development.

G.D.,

Lemme backtrack to the previouslies for the sisters out here: in your haste to cover actual plot points, you extracted all the juicy subtext we read for: a.) Harrison’s “What do you need?/We family, girl.” speech had women’s flanks aquiver; Edison, Liv’s rebound man, pointed out to her that he should have bedroom access because of their relationship history, which included him “watching her press her hair” (thereby setting off a buzz among Team Natural about Liv’s true hair texture); and then, chicks kind of lost their minds when, in that episode’s final moments, Edison showed back up at Liv’s door with DVDs and groceries, saying “Let me in. Because I am a man, and I don’t play games.” Access: granted. Boots: knocked.

Now. Back to this week:

G.D., I’m glad you covered both scandal-of-the-week and Quinn’s Pointless Subplot of Possible Domestic Terrorism. I paid attention to neither.

What I am sitting up straighter for each week is Columbus Short’s steadily increasing screen time. Sometimes, Shonda has a meta way of dealing with cast problems (i.e. character-assassinating Dr. Burke as a parting jab at Isaiah Washington before his infamous firing from Grey’s; or killing off unlikable or extraneous characters instead of leaving the option open for them to return to the show later). This has never been truer than in the case of Harrison: after a season and a half of having him do nothing more memorable than recruit Quinn with that Gladiators-in-a-Suit spiel, here the writers are, stepping up his game while simultaneously giving him dialogue that acknowledges the late pass. Women viewers are grateful for it.

G.D., I know you’ve said that he still has pretty anemic character development, and I agree, but it’s clear, he’s up for the gig of becoming Liv’s new righthand and confidante, following the departure of Steven (Henry Ian Cusick, we hardly knew you!). As a longtime Short fan, I’ve been rooting for him to get a role that showcased his range in a way that would finally elevate his star status. He’s been doing yeoman’s work in middling action flicks for a while now, but this role is a thing apart. They’re giving the opportunity to serve us romance, intensity, intellectual prowess — and when they give him a back story, even if it’s wack, he will finesse the hell out of it. I think stepping him up as a character will have long-term payoff.

To address your domestic violence point: on a moral repugnance scale, exploiting Abby’s battered spouse past is a 10. Just gross. Also: Rosen’s supposed to be Liv’s friend. Just how much more does she intend to screw him over? Was there no other way to split them up?

Now, onto the last-minute twist: when I tell you I was 0 for 3 in my assassination predictions…

I thought it would be Cyrus’s husband, the intrepid, unethical reporter; Edison (because of the Prez pining over post-coital photos of him and Liv and also: black majority leader); or Foghorn Leghorn, the Illuminati mastermind. Any of those would’ve made more sense to me than POTUS himself, who hasn’t even been on screen in two weeks. As a Shocking Plot Twist, I don’t like it. And as a logical progression, I don’t like it — especially with Mellie’s way too on-the-nose foreshadowing.

But this is what we have, so let’s roll with it. Next week: sobbing Liv in a gorgeous gown at a hospital (a Shonda staple), yellin’ Mellie, and lots of red herring suspects. Let’s go!

Notes on a scandal:

  • Maybe they should do away with the Scandal of the Week concept and just let Liv fix the principal White House cast’s problems; they have enough of ‘em.
  • Side-eye to Liv and Fitz for using sundry senators and Secret Service men to play out the dynamics of their fraught relationship. Edison doesn’t deserve this. I’m curious as to how he’ll respond when he finally does find out that Liv’s “ex” is POTUS.
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Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs about race and ethnicity for National Public Radio. He is a native of South Philly and reads and writes and runs and rants. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to him on Facebook.

9 comments to Blogging Scandal: ‘Defiance’, Season 2, Episode 7.

  • I wish there was an episode every night, so there would be more recaps. I find this endlessly entertaining.

  • I blame you for my #scandal watching. The recaps are awesome.

    Altho, I thought her suggestion that they skip the gala was some intuition shit. I don’t watch regularly enough to know the full back story tho.

    Keep it going.

  • To be clear, Mellie said she didn’t want to go in BEFORE Fitz said he wasn’t seeing Liv anymore then she doubled down on her plea afterward. I’d say she didn’t know about the assassination attempt at all and was truly having one of those moments when she becomes a human being and tries to reconnect with her husband for 3 seconds.

    I’m growing increasingly annoyed with Kerry Washington’s performance of Olivia in this show. Wait. I don’t know if my beef is with KW or with the way Liv is written but ultimately I’m unimpressed. What’s with this constant on-the-verge-of-tears look on KW’s face EVERY EPISODE? She must suck at poker. Her glassy eyes welled up with tears betrays every freaking emotion in her body whether she’s talking to Fitz, to Edison, to her staff, to anyone. It’s weird that I’m supposed to view her as this empowered and empowering example of black womanhood when every week I’m hit over the head with how unstable, fragile and dependent she truly is. Yeah yeah I know… diverse, multifaceted depictions of black women on TV. I guess I’m just here for the fashions.

    I was also ready to throw the remote when Fitz was looking at those surveillance photos of Liv and Edison. WHO FLIPS PHOTOS ANGRILY LIKE THAT? I’m not enamored by this so-called “romance” between Liv and Fitz. I find it downright scary and unhealthy. The way he was fixated on the piece of Liv that was in view of the camera when that Congressman resigned? Whoa. Sorry but nobody is THAT much in love. We call that crazy, not love. Like neither of these people can fully function because of their intense love and desire for one another? Is this what women fantasize about in their bubble baths? Must be because Shonda is doing this for someone’s benefit… and to great success.

    • right. Olivia’s minions and clients go on about hwo strong and competent she is, but we never actually see her be strong and competent. You’d think someone charged with being the secret-keeper to powerful people would, as you said, present a better poker face. but she’s always falling to pieces or brooding.

  • In Liv’s defense I think they are trying to show she is carrying the weight of the world alone. In real life I often hold it together just long enough to make it so in true that would be a true to life portrayal IMO. I can’t lie I have been involved with someone that when we broke up just seeing a picture of them threw me off (only once) it’s rare but it happens.
    Now what is bugging the shit out of me is that senator place holder hasn’t figured out that she was shagging the POTUS when her face tells it ALL!

  • Tah

    I disagree with some of what Nakia is saying. I think there are intentional viewer interpretations and there are actor/cast interpretations. We the viewers see Liv as seemingly on the brink but I don’t necessarily believe that her character is viewed that way on set. It could be that the other characters all have their own crosses to bear and are semi aloof to Liv’s “flaw”. I think this portrayal of Liv is done intentionally and I actually appreciate it. In my opinion, it humanizes her.

    I am with you though Nakia, (partially:) on the Fitz/Liv thing. It does appear unhealthy but that’s kind of what an affair is right? The way he was flipping through the photos was over the top but I thought the screen fixation was more of a heartbroken longing than crazy. I am certainly not one of those bubble bath women you mentioned, in fact I am typically not even a fan of Shonda’s work or most dramatic network televison (outside of cable programming I watch this and Nashville….don’t sleep on Nashville:) I do think though, she has a complete winner with this show.

    P.S. I didn’t get that Mellie didn’t know about the attempt, she was too persistent in skipping the venue and the “A girl can dream.” comment earlier in the show is still lingering in my head. Yeah, I know that would be way to obvious and I certainly don’t think she set it up but her having knowledge of it is a good possibility.

    P.P.S. First time viewing this blog and it is hilarious :) So, thanks for that!

  • Tah

    Well first, I am not a huge fan of medical dramas or dramadies. I like to be able to completely distinguish between the television shows I choose to watch so I don’t care for the blending of drama and comedy, intentional or otherwise. Second, compared to some of it’s medical predecessors like E.R., Trapper John M.D. and Quincy (yes I took it back:) I don’t find the storylines of Grey’s or Private Practice to be as thought provoking. That key dramatic element that I would expect to see in a medical show, I just don’t see in Grey’s or Practice.

    Also, Scandal has that on the edge of the seat feel, pretty much weekly and not just the end- of- the-episode- cliffhanger- twist kind. At least one of the plots in each episode has me mentally engaged later on. For example, the vote rigging sub-plot in “Defiance” was a plus for me because, A.) It aired at a time of relevancy. America just wrapped up a presidential election and any person who has been engaged in politics, even if just conversationally, has thought about votes being compromised. And B.) That sub-plot was just interesting. It made me think Cy’s husband is going to get himself killed in the name of great journalism! Not to mention, the damage this is going to do to their relationship.

    I think Shonda Rhimes is brilliant. Grey’s Anatomy is still going strong even with all of the casting changes they have undergone over the years. And although Private Practice is ending, it certainly has had a great run; which doesn’t always happen with spin-offs. For me though,conceptually and overall, Scandal is her strongest show.

  • gotcha. don’t know if i agree with any of that, but i feel where you’re coming from.

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