Scandal Recap: Occupational Hazards

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Kerry Washington as Olivia on Scandal. Photo: Nicole Wilder/ABC
Scandal
Show
Scandal
Episode Title
A Few Good Women
Season
4
Episode
21
Editor’s Rating
4/5

In the world of Scandal, occupational hazards aren’t just about hurting your back if you lift something heavy, like Cyrus’s bad wig collection. They are about possibly being kidnapped, tortured, or killed, or if someone wants to use you as a chess piece in a twisted game. There’s no real insurance for these types of injuries, even though we have a Jake (who should probably start working at State Farm).

Susan Ross is a thorn in Cyrus Beene’s side for continuously having the nerve to use her title as vice-president to actually do something. During a visit to a naval base, a female officer (Amy Martin) salutes her and Susan sees a bruise on her wrist. She deduces that she has been assaulted on that ship, and although Amy neither confirms nor denies, Susan takes it upon herself to take her to the White House. However, Cyrus and President Grant chide her for doing something so far outside of her pay grade (yep), and when they demand that Amy be returned to her ship, the VP goes to see Olivia Pope.

One in three women in the military has been sexually assaulted, and the culture of rape in the military comes with no protection for those who have been assaulted (same as in regular life). You can tell from how scared Ensign Martin was to even admit her assault and how the men at the top of the food chain (Cyrus and Fitz) thought it wasn’t their place to address it. Many servicewomen (and men) know that to come forward with their stories of rape, especially when they involve high-ranking officials, is to face persecution, not protection. In Amy Martin’s case, her rapist is a four-star admiral (John Hawley) who is basically Head Sailor in Charge. How does a lowly communications officer take him on? With Liv behind her, and with a push from Mellie Grant, who was able to convince Fitz to ensure an investigation with one strut into the Oval Office.

Let’s talk about Liv’s other baes, though. Olivia’s main side bae, Jake, is lying in her bed, recovering from being used as a knife pincushion by her latest side bae, who is across the hall in her neighbor’s apartment, in a makeshift torture chamber. The Gladiators are using all their drill skills on Russell to find out what Foxtail is, but he is giving them nothing. Watching Jerry Springer all day must be boring for a trained assassin because Jake figures all this out, and he basically reads her like some Uno cards. They are wasting their time if they think Russell is going to spill the tea on Foxtail because he is a Rowan robot without the defect of being easily tampered with by external forces. Jake makes it plain. Russell is a better version of him, and he even showed up in Olivia’s life the same way he did. Random dude whom she keeps running into in public, great lay. ALL of it a setup from her dear father. The difference is that the secrets between Olivia’s thighs didn’t make him step out of Rowan’s line. Hell, the dude tried to take a kill pill earlier that day just so he wouldn’t have to betray Command.

When Liv leaves, Jake goes across the hall and tells Huck he needs some alone time with Russell. He unties one of his fellow agent’s hands because he’s curious to find out about one of Rowan’s other minions. Turns out that Ballard is actually the pride and joy of Rowan, according to Russell. Hilarious Papa Pope impressions happen, and you know damn well if he were to walk in at that moment, they’d both pee their pants. Jake does hip Russell to the game that their boss plays, especially with Liv’s life. It is all about controlling her, and whenever she feels safe from his grip, he sends one of them to grip her life tighter. This is why her full name is "Olivia Carolyn Dysfunction Pope." The "Dysfunction" is silent. Call her Liv for short.

Back to Amy’s case, which is set up to fail because the Naval attorney assigned to her case is some young, flighty dude named Virgil. Olivia has to literally put words in his mouth when they face the Admiral because he’s so starstruck. Of course Admiral Hawley denies the allegations, but Liv gets a call from Amy, who wants to see her immediately. On the boat, Ensign Martin tells her she needs to get off because she is pregnant with his baby and wants an abortion immediately. They get her to Liv’s by asking for medical leave for a sick relative, and they find out that their request to see security logs — which will show where the Admiral was on the night he raped Amy — was denied.

Olivia pulls her trump card and calls Fitz, letting him know how WRONG it is that rape in the military is basically considered an occupational hazard. Even though he balks, you know he makes those security logs appear the next day because you don’t say no to boo, even though y’all are currently on the outs. When he gets to bed late and tells Mellie it’s because he was talking to Liv, she basically replies with, “Cool.”  

I need to talk about the evolution of the relationship between Mellie and Fitz, and how this episode really captured their partnership. They have spent so long at odds that to see where they are now does my heart some good. They are lifelong BFFs now. He is present when she snaps at Lizzie for insisting that she go to Springfield to win over women voters. That is the place where their son Jerry was killed a year ago, and she knows she has to go, but she doesn’t even know what to say. She’s still a grieving mother, and as they lay in bed, Fitz holds her, and they remember their son. He advises her to throw him under the bus, letting her scalp him publicly. She does just that on the stage, to rousing success. She gets a standing ovation.

Meanwhile, there’s a good (as it could be) ending for Amy Martin. She gets her abortion, while Liv holds her hand. The logs show that the Admiral had an alibi, but security tapes exist, showing him dragging Ensign Martin into his office, and he confessed to raping her. She maintains her position and is not punished for coming forward. Fantasy, indeed, and once again, Scandal gives us justice when we usually don’t get it. If only closing credits could bring real-life closure that was this neat.

There were no plot twists that ended with Amy being outed as having lied about the rape, or the person who did it. That trope is used far too often when discussing sexual assault — placing women in positions where they are questioned about their truths is part of rape culture, and thankfully, Scandal didn’t do that. The abortion was handled with care, not through the lens of judgment, and it was a strong statement: a show run by a woman showing a woman literally stand by another who made a tough choice for herself. It didn’t force her to explain herself either, and it didn’t try to demoralize that character. That was incredible to see. Thank you, Shonda and team!

Elsewhere, Virgil shows up to the torture chamber claiming that he left his files behind with Liv, and Huck lets him in (why?). The flighty attorney quickly incapacitates Huck and goes over to Russell, removing the duct tape from his mouth. He is also one of Rowan’s minions. DA FUCK?!? EVERYONE is B613 at this point. They must have had a busy recruiting season. Quinn and Liv show up, and Jake assures them that Huck is alive but Russell is gone.

As Mellie steps off the podium, she is taken to see an important constituent, and his security detail refers to her as “Foxtail.” Mellie enters a private room and shakes the hands of a grinning Rowan Pope. Holy shit.

The season finale is next week, and all hell is sure to break loose.

Favorite quotes:

  • “You, the largely powerless figurehead of the United States, are some sort of sexual-assault bloodhound in your spare time??” —Cyrus to Susan.
  • “How can Amy Martin expect fairness from a military judicial system in which everyone from the investigators to the judges to the jury all salute and take orders from the man she’s accusing of a crime? Isn’t that why we have a military? To protect our rights and our freedom as individuals? To have our day in court.” —Olivia to the press.
  • "What about murdering your vice-president? How long has that been illegal?” —Cyrus Beene, only half-jokingly.
  • "We both came off the same assembly line. The only difference is I'm in love with you! Command would call that a defect. Russell does not have that defect. With Russell, Rowan built a better me." —Jake to Olivia.