I went to yoga this morning to work out the knots in my shoulders caused by the stress of watching this week’s episode. I still cannot believe what happened last night. This week was the first time I’ve felt like we were back to the dramatic, jaw-dropping goodness of the first two seasons; watching this episode was like getting punched in the face, and just when you recovered your balance, getting punched in the stomach, over and over again. It was goddamn relentless.
If you are anything but Team Mellie after this week, you can GTFO of my life forever. Bellamy Young put in a stunning performance, and every move, every expression on her face brought out the full weight of what she has had to carry as the wife of Fitzgerald Grant III.
Let’s get into the five key plot points and work through our collective trauma together (and maybe send a psychiatric care bill to writer Peter Nowalk, who deserves one million high-fiving angels for writing such a complex episode).
1. Mellie Was Raped by Fitz’s Father
Big Ger, Fitz’s senator dad, came back from the grave in flashback mode to really drive home what a mean, sadistic shithead he really was. In the past and in this episode, he took pleasure in ripping Fitz down every chance he got, but his drunken rape of Mellie was absolutely shocking. We saw the Mellie and Fitz of fifteen years ago deeply in love, considering whether or not he should run for governor; it turns out that Big Ger was the one who hired Cyrus, but Fitz balked at Cyrus’s suggestion to play up his military career. We know now it’s because of Fitz’s involvement in Remington, which Big Ger, who we learn was involved in the cover up, told Mellie about it in the most cavalier way possible before assaulting her, but there was a lot of Waspy, drunken, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, I learned it by watching you arguing between Fitz and his dad before that. When Cyrus was about to quit, Mellie went to Big Ger for help, and he raped her.
I resent the way rape is often used as a weapon against powerful women in movies and TV shows, usually as a way to take them down a notch, but in this instance, the way we saw her near-catatonic state after screaming and struggling to get her father-in-law off of her and failing, the terrible effect of the rape moving across her face as she lay unwillingly next to Fitz after it happened, and her refusal to discuss it the following morning at breakfast with her rapist was strangely the event that brought out her more demanding side. I don’t want to get into the politics of that too much — it was horrific to watch that scene, and I won’t paint it in any other way — but the domineering Mellie we know today seemed to be born in that moment, transformed from the Laura Ashley–wearing novice hanging around with her mouth agape in the first part of the flashback to a woman intent on literally sacrificing herself for her husband at any cost.
Later, Fitz notices Mellie isn’t drinking during her toast to his gubernatorial candidacy, and she tells him she’s pregnant. But who is the father —Fitz, or Big Ger? At the beginning of the show, Fitz did say, “I’m trying to get you pregnant, so be quiet and let me work,” jokingly while they were fooling around, so it’s not like they weren’t trying. When the present-day White House reporter asked if Mellie had lost a piece of herself or made sacrifices to the Grant political dynasty, no one has any idea just how much.
It was touching, then, when Fitz finally stood up for Mellie, even if it did take one of her booze-fueled monologues for him to consider his own selfishness. This act of defending her, on-camera, in front of the nation, was kind, and well deserved. I don’t imagine he wants to get back together with Mellie in a real way, considering his call to Olivia at the beginning of the episode, so what’s his end game? Is he keeping it civil, or really working to understand their relationship?
Present-day Cyrus and Mellie are scheming to frame Daniel Douglas by getting him caught in the act with a hooker they’ve hired until they see him flirting with James and realize he’s gay. So THAT’s what Sally was talking about earlier when she replied “You’re lying” so matter-of-factly after Mellie told her Daniel was getting handsy with an aide — she knows her husband has cheated on her with men. Also, is there something about Jack Coleman’s face that says “hire me to play closeted male political figures”?
2. Pope and Associates Investigates the Plane Crash That Killed Olivia’s Mom
Liv basically sat everyone down and said, “Look, my mom died in a plane crash, my dad was the one who gave the order for it to happen because he’s the head of B613, and the President of the United States was the one that actually shot the plane down — any questions?” The gladiators get right to work figuring out what happened, and get far enough to interview a few key people associated with the airline and find out that someone named Omar Dresden was taken off the plane by a federal marshal before it finally took off. When they track down the employee who drove the staircar to the plane, he’s been murdered already. Even though Liv is “surrounded by murderers” and “standing in a graveyard” made by people she thought she loved, she isn’t backing down on this investigation, and I love that. By the end of the episode, all of her leads have gone cold, but I have a feeling that won’t stop Olivia from finding out the truth. What’s Papa Pope going to do when he finds out that she’s exposed him as the head of B613 to her employees?
3. Quinn Becomes Part of B613
I refuse to believe Quinn is this dumb. I know she’s eager to get recognition from Huck, but kissing Charlie and being coerced into murder? Come on, girl, get it together. It took Charlie about two seconds to convince her to waltz into a building and inject the security guard (the same one whom Liv was looking for) with a “harmless” solution that would just make him sleep, and it was only when he was foaming and bleeding from the mouth that she realized how badly she messed up. I think she set out to get some dirt on Charlie in an attempt to impress Huck, but it’s backfired miserably. But the smile on her face when she jabs the guy with the needle! It’s no joke that homegirl loves a good killing. Charlie, of course, blackmails her with the security footage, saying, “You belong to B613 now.” Whether that means they will keep her at Pope and Associates and use her as a sleeper agent or make her a Jake-style prisoner is not certain, but I’m pretty sure it’s the former. I want to feel compassionate for Quinn since she was so thoroughly duped by Hollis and the gang in the first season, but she’s acting like an idiot no matter how you slice it. Either she tried to go rogue and pull off a big job like nabbing Charlie on her own just to impress Huck, or she really loved Charlie because he let her do the dangerous stuff Huck wouldn’t. Do you think it’s possible she did this is all on purpose to find a way into B613 and infiltrate them on her own? Ai yai yai, that would be the stupidest idea of all.
4. Omar Dresden Lives
Liv and the gladiators know the passenger taken off the plane was named Omar Dresden. As their search for him intensifies, Papa Pope starts killing off witnesses to keep his secret safe. He pays a little visit to Omar … who TURNS OUT TO BE OLIVIA’S MOTHER, Maya Lewis! She’s alive, Papa Pope has kept her locked up in a cell behind heavy doors, not unlike the one in the intro to Mystery Science Theater 3000, and all he has to say to her is “Our daughter has been asking about you.” When they announced that Khandi Alexander was going to play Liv’s mom, I didn’t think they meant this week, but I totally called it that she was still alive back in episode one of this season. Papa Pope, what is your game? I can’t figure him out. Was he the one who ordered her to be taken off the plane, and if so, why do so only to have her locked away for the past two decades? He was the one who ordered the plane to be shot down, but we still don’t know why, so does her being alive have something to do with it? What was she doing on the plane in the first place — did it have something to do with the venture capitalist she used to work for, like Fitz’s security detail discovered, or was it something else?
5. Cyrus’s Flashback Wig
The wigs this season are officially out of control, and this one was so terrible it deserves its own category. It looked like a cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and a lopsided Criss Angel, topped off by the patchy pubes on his face. I cried real tears every time he was onscreen, trying to look menacing but achieving Monty Python levels of absurdity. At least we got some comic relief in an otherwise heavy episode.
Leaderboard of Arbitrary Points, Week 7
+1 million points to Mellie for basically building Fitz from the ground up to her own detriment. For having a child that may or not be her father-in-law's. For drunkenly waltzing around the seal in the Oval Office and saying “Let’s get some estrogen on this seal, see what happens!” before launching into her “I’m tired of doing everything myself” rant that Fitz so desperately needed to hear. For standing up to Big Ger in her own way when, at breakfast the morning after he assaulted her, he called her an asset, and she fiercely declared that she was Fitz’s WIFE. For playing the “Snow White” to Fitz’s “Richie Rich” even though he routinely discounts and dismisses her.
–11,000 to Cyrus for barking at James about Josie handing him his ass last week before finding out he got fired.
+40,000 points to Liv for resisting the lure of Fitz this week, even though she did sort of pathetically run back to answer her phone when he called. But she only answered to tell him off! So baby steps and high-fives. I’ll add another 10,000 points for her saying “So what?” when Fitz said “I love you.” Physician, heal thyself!
+ 5,000 points to James for saying, “You control everything, which is exactly why I want to kill you and have sex with you at the same time” during his argument with Cyrus. I hope his being fired doesn’t mean we’ll see less of him.
–1,000 points for Fitz just now finding out that Rowan is actually Eli Pope, and Olivia’s dad. You’re the goddamn President, Fitz, and you have a secret service member assigned to follow everyone that comes in contact with you — did you NEVER catch on to Olivia and Papa Pope meeting, having dinner, anything?
+8,000 points to Abby for that hug she gave Liv. “I’m going to hug you and you’re going to stand here and take it.” Remember when Liv revealed that Abby used to bake a lot when she first saved her from her abusive husband? I love the tenderness of their friendship.
+300 points to this exchange between Sally and Mellie:
Sally: “He’s getting so big, isn’t he.”
Mellie, exasperated: “He’s huge.”
Mellie definitely uses that kid as a prop, and I love how much she outwardly loathes Teddy sometimes. Teddy can feel it, too—he reached up to snatch the pearls from her throat right after she said it.
+10,000 points to Mellie for this speech: “If you knew the sacrifices that I have made … the things that I have given up and the pieces of myself that I have given away for you and you treat me this way? You declare war on me, and you shame me, and you make me beg for scraps when I have done nothing but fight for you! You don’t have to love me. But we are in this hell together and the flames are burning us with the equal intensity, baby, so the least you can do is be my friend. The least you can do is show up, for me. Show up for me, Fitz!” She just shit on his entire life with that speech, and he deserved it.
+10 points to hearing “I made you, so I can destroy you,” something I and every other black child heard growing up. I’d give it more points, but it was said by Big Ger.
+100 points to the side-eye Fitz threw at Big Ger when he walked into any room.
+50 points to Cyrus for saying “Cyrus: You’re way better at picking out hookers than you are china patterns.”
+1,000 points to Fitz and Mellie for this exchange:
Mellie: I wish I could wear gloves — Jackie Kennedy had it easy!
Fitz: Well, not that easy. You’ll cut that part, right?
+300,000 points to Fitz, for finally sticking up for Mellie and proving that he’s not entirely made of feces. “With all due respect, Carla, that wasn’t a question, it was an attack. Ask my wife anything you want, she’s more than capable of handling herself. But if you want to attack her, to treat her like a witness on the stand? You’re gonna have to go through me first. I HAD THE AFFAIR. I damaged our marriage and caused the public grief, and I should be the sole carrier of the blame and outrage for this embarrassing fiasco. To place it elsewhere, to blame Mellie for speaking out? Is false. We’re moving on, asking America to do the same.” Three cheers for moving on.
What did you guys think?