Scandal Recap: The House in Vermont

Photo: Mitch Haaseth/ABC


Day 101 Season 7 Episode 3
Editor's Rating 2 stars

This much is true of Scandal: You never know what to expect next. Take “Day 101” as a potent example. Last week’s surprisingly zesty and action-packed episode featured a thwarted assassination plot and a surprise wedding, plus that great cliff-hanger with Olivia and Fitz reuniting as she and Curtis Pryce are mauling each other in an elevator. So what should follow such an intoxicating episode, one that had me soberly considering whether Scandal needs an eighth season? Well obviously it should be an hour of Emo Fitz sulking around a big, empty house in rural Vermont.

Has there ever been a more boring episode of Scandal? Or one that features so little of Olivia, who only shows up at the last moment to give us an alternate angle on her awkward run-in with Fitz? If the answer to either question is yes, then I’ve already forgotten about that episode, just as I will forget “Day 101.” It’s an easy episode to forget because it does nothing to push the story forward. In fact, it goes backward, jumping back to the first moments of Fitz’s lonely, disorienting post-presidency phase. For those who spent the entirety of the first two episodes wondering what Fitz was up to during every minute of every day, “101” covers the adventures of Former President Fitzgerald Grant in painstaking detail.

Once Fitz has had enough of putzing around his new digs and perfecting his roast chicken technique, he calls Marcus Walker and says it’s time to get to work. Marcus has been unwinding in Cuba, where he learns all about Caribbean racism and decides he’d rather be changing the world with Fitz than lounging poolside at a luxe resort. But when Marcus arrives, he finds a shell of the former Fitz. Fitz won’t focus on developing his presidential library or shaking down potential donors, in part because he’s too busy obsessing over Olivia as he lives alone in the palatial estate he bought thinking he’d live there with her. (Though it’s possible Fitz is in some kind of poultry stupor, which is a fairly common side effect of eating an entire roast chicken every night.)

Regardless of the reasons behind Fitz’s post-POTUS ennui, Marcus decides he’s had enough of minding Fitz, especially when there’s important issues that need his attention. A student at a college in Fitz’s new town has decided to stage a one-man protest, pledging to sit outside in the dead of winter until a Confederate statue is torn down. It’s the type of issue that would have once energized Fitz, who’s still basking in the legislative glow of his police-accountability act. But now, Fitz is too afraid of ruffling feathers in his new town to throw his weight behind a telegenic underdog in need of a celebrity spokesman.

Of course, Fitz comes around in the end, stopping on his way back to D.C. to help draw attention to the student and the Confederate statue. Apparently Fitz’s intervention was all the situation needed, because it comes down quickly and with little fanfare during one of Scandal’s classic soul montages. With that bit of business taken care of, Fitz resolves to step back into the political fray after sitting on the sidelines during Mellie’s first 100 days in office. (Fitz is such an entitled brat, he doesn’t even understand the issues that would arise if he so quickly insinuated himself into America’s first female presidency.) But his return to Washington is about more than his intense discomfort with being out of the spotlight for too long.

For Fitz, all roads lead back to Olivia Pope, and this occasion is no different. His biggest reason for returning to D.C. is to prevent Olivia from permanently stepping over to the dark side now that she’s taken over B6-13. Why does he know all of this? Because Eli Pope shows up unexpectedly for one of those monologues where Joe Morton chews the scenery so hard, if you squint you can see molar imprints at the edges of the frame. The first two episodes made clear that the final season is about the war for Olivia’s soul, but now Eli has clarified that saving Liv is not a “when you get around to it” sort of thing. It needs to be done now, Eli says, lest Olivia goes past the point of no return and starts traveling the globe, killing vice-presidents for sport. B6-13 is not just a clandestine spy outfit, it’s also apparently an evil talisman that possesses the soul of its owner. Olivia’s exorcism? It’s handled.

It’s safe to assume the only thing that can break the B6-13 spell is true love’s kiss. That’s the only valid reason to bring Fitz back into the fold, because this show screeches to a halt whenever he’s in it. The same goes for Eli and Jake, who only serve to turn Scandal into a three-way tug of war in which Eli is yanking on both of Liv’s arms while Jake and Fitz tug on each leg. If Olivia is going to step to the bad side, I would much rather see her make that decision on her own, not influenced by whichever powerful man happens to be in her orbit. But of course, concluding Scandal means tying a pretty bow around #Olitz, which for the record is a hashtag that exists in the world now. Honestly, I’d prefer to see the show end with Olivia as a single, wine-drunk badass, even if it means she would miss out on all of Fitz’s amazing roast chicken.

Scandal Recap: The House in Vermont