I was underwhelmed by this premiere, and not just because I am already tired of the Fitz-Liv drama cycle. Together, Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald Grant are a great, sucking yawn, propelled by their nethers like a Harvard-educated Benny Hill skit in slo-mo, but with much better clothes.
While we were rewatching seasons one and two this summer, taking breaks between throwing ourselves on the floor to sob like a leaking wound whenever we saw Huck onscreen and throwing magnums of wine at our TVs during every other mole-filled, murderous moment, the Rhimesian landscape of Washington, D.C. was being rocked by the news that Olivia Pope is the president’s mistress. Olivia Pope, a woman so flawless as to have evolved past the need to defecate, absorbing and repurposing her own waste as fuel so she can walk to meetings faster, was banging President Dopey Dope Dope like a commoner.
More shocking, perhaps, is that the news was broken by Vanessa from the style section of the Post, not someone more prestigious like the White House Press Corp or a fraying broom with googly eyes glued to the handle. This was glorious subtext — there’s an ongoing discussion in feminist circles about the style section being the go-to for ANY news pertaining to women, no matter how unrelated to style it may be, so hat tip to the writers for knowing that, in real life, a story about the leader of the free world having an affair would be on equal footing with popular handbag trends for winter as far as newspapers are concerned, simply because the story features someone who owns a vagina.
Once everyone stopped daydreaming about the perfect cherubs these two gorgeous assholes would produce, they got down to business. Cyrus stomped around like a rooster with explosive diarrhea, bombastically declaring that he could fix everyone and everything, Olivia shut down emotionally while her business collapsed around her, and the Gladiators skulked around in the background, trying to find ways to infuse themselves in the situation, which they did by framing a White House aide as the person who had an affair with Fitz, diverting attention away from Olivia.
The real heroes of this episode are Papa Pope, Sally, and Mellie. Papa Pope is mean, and he wastes no time cutting people right to the bone. He’s a PROFESSIONAL shade thrower (the line about Olivia never being quiet for 22 minutes as a child), the ultimate schoolyard bully (“You raised your skirt and opened your knees and gave it away to a man with too much power”), and, ultimately, Fixer Ab Aeterno — the No. 1 stunner, willing to whisk Olivia away on a plane and set her up with a new life before she can blink. So Liv’s no-nonsense capabilities are genetic — who knew? If you were raised by black parents, Papa Pope’s admonishment that Liv had to be “twice as good to get half of what they have” was a familiar sentiment, and one of the few times the show delves into racial politics (quickly followed up with “you slept with that ...” — leading me to believe he was going to say, what, white man? Jerk? Loser?). I was thoroughly skeeved when he caressed her face after giving her such an intense dressing down; it hinted to a history of emotional abuse that clearly leads her to make such disastrous romantic choices as an adult.
Also, when Cyrus put together the kill file on Liv, we learned that Liv’s mom died in a plane crash when she was 12. I will bet you ten American dollars that either (a) Papa Pope was behind the plane crash and murder of his own wife and Liv eventually finds out, or (b) Mom faked her death, and we’ll see her show up in a future season.
Sally had a small but intense role this week. A peek behind the curtain revealed that she is having some marital issues, and Fitz appears sympathetic for a moment when he encourages her to use his press conference to get some strong footing in the Republican Party. I hope to see more of Sally this season; she’d make a great villain, but a better ally, since we’d always be questioning if we could really trust her.
Mellie did what Mellie does best, which is to rip the scene down, chew it in her mighty jaws, and spit it out. Of course she’s the one who figured out that Fitz leaked Olivia’s name to the press! Fitz continually underestimates her, and it’s beautiful to watch her lob bombs at him just when he thinks he’s outsmarted her.
Finally, what the shit happened during Operation Remington? What could be so bad to give Cyrus that reaction?
New for this season: The Scandal Leaderboard! All of the scoring is arbitrary but necessary:
+10 points to Olivia for shouting “No! No!” when she saw the plane her dad wanted to stuff her into; it was a great imitation of the voice my 4-year-old nephew uses when he doesn’t want to take a bath.
+18,000 points to Cyrus for “Who are you and how did you get this number?” It is not only how I answer the phone now, but a way of life.
+/- 2 points to Abby, who got a flat iron and a weave while Liv was locked down in a major crisis. I can’t tell if I’m impressed or skeptical.
–23 points to Sally for commenting on Cyrus’s “godless homosexual lifestyle.”
+24 points to Sally for saying, “and that poor, sweet brown baby that you have dragged into it,” because I have never laughed harder at network television.
–16 points to Olivia — Olivia as a D.C. party girl? Boo.
–47 points to Fitz for this: “I’ve failed you as your teammate, your president, your fellow citizen.” That’s a lot of responsibility for one complete cockbag.
–45,000 points to the Bunker: That scene was brutal.
+38 points to Olivia for the coat she was wearing in the bunker, a very sophisticated shawl-coat combo that made her straight-up look like the Pope.
–89,000,000 points to Fitz for saying he leaked Olivia’s name to “free” her. This move was selfish at best, but gave the whiff of someone positioning pawns, and I don’t like it.
See you next week!