I’ve never minded the procedural aspect of “Scandal.” Usually it feels like a fluid part of the show, a way to give a stand alone element to the complicated and endlessly twisty storyline of Fitz and Olivia’s on-again, off-again, (rinse, repeat) relationship. With Jake back in the picture and Command coming under greater scrutiny, I didn’t need a great case for Olivia and her Scooby gang. But this week I kept checking my channel guide to make sure I wasn’t watching “Law & Order” reruns.
Not only was the story of the sexting senator predictable, it’s subtext — hey, Olivia, chat at length with the wife of a cheater! — is well trod terrain in the “Scandal” universe. Maybe Olivia needs to be reminded over and over again of how damaging the other woman can be to those around her, but I think the rest of us get it already. That the senator’s wife is the one who actually did the killing wasn’t a surprise and certainly didn’t deserve the time it got. I expect a roller coaster ride from “Scandal,” and this week was dedicated to little more than a plot speed bump.
The rest of the episode delivered at the show’s usual breakneck speed, which only made this odd court case seem more stagnant. Lisa Kudrow (“Friends”) emerged as a Democratic rival for Fitz thanks to Mellie’s careless comment into an open mic, and I think this could be genius casting. As Cy endlessly reminds us, it’s an election year, so it’s time to get on with it. No sooner than we’re introduced to Senator Josephine Marcus than Cy has begun the process of digging up dirt on her. “That’s how Nixon did it way back when, and it still works,” he growls, reminding me how much I love the episodes that have a heavy dose of Cy, and how disappointing it is when all we see is his husband straddling him and begging for “it” (a quote, a quote, jeez, how did we ever think it was anything else?) and Cy tearing into Mellie so relentlessly even Fitz tells him to quit it.
Speaking of that moment — when Fitz takes Mellie’s hand, watching her face soften, then transform into a scowl of disgust? Priceless. More was said in that short scene than in the many, many minutes of rapid fire babble later in the episode.
What we’re all eager to see more of — Jake — we do ultimately get, though it doesn’t ring entirely true. Jake, as he himself admits, has been stuck in a hole, then pulled out for a beating every other day. Upon getting away from B613, Huck was a crazy mess rocking in a fetal position in the D.C. subway. Jake seems like he’s ready to go for a jog. Either this is a clue (which I can’t rule out), a fundamental difference in Jake and Huck’s experiences with the organization or base temperament (admittedly, it seems Huck’s stay in the hole was longer and his duties more lethal) or a cheat.
Jake seems to be on deck solely to force Olivia to face her demons — or, shall we say, her demon Dad. As much as she pushes Jake away, as much as she clearly seems to still be hung up on Fitz (when your date has to loudly ask you if you’d like more wine so you stop asking your ex if he’s okay, that’s a problem), he clearly thinks she’s the only smart, attractive woman in Washington D.C.
Other storylines are tossed into the mix almost as afterthoughts. Quinn follows Huck to his AA meeting, and, as someone who works for a high profile organization like Olivia’s and knows how to torture a man with a drill, forgets to turn off her phone. Ultimately, she bugs Huck so much he tells her to stop being creepy, which, let’s face it, she certainly was being. I was expecting her to whip out a notebook as she quizzed him so she’d know what to do when she started her serial killing spree.
Abby and David may be back on, which seems like another invitation for David to get kicked in the head, as that always seems to be the way things work out for him. I sometimes feel as if David will someday discover he’s actually a character in a James Thurber short story, and he somehow ended up on this show by accident.
Finally, the “minor” storyline that was shunted to the side because of the big, dim procedural taking center stage is hardly minor at all — it’s our first glimmer of what Remington’s about. Fitz knew Foster well enough to give him a military burial (and make an appearance at it), plus Jake and Huck join forces to do enough sleuthing to determine that Fitz and Foster were on mission that took them to Iraq. Knowing that Fitz has such a weak commitment to doing the right thing (see: Olivia), I can’t imagine what went wrong, but given that it’s cost Foster his life, I’m betting this one’s a doozy.
It’s an intriguing start, and I’m fine with this storyline being handed out in dribs and drabs. We’re certainly left with more questions than answers, especially when Fitz goes slamming into Command’s office despite’s Cy’s pleas that he leave the past in the past, before people start digging and “we know what they’ll find at the bottom of that Cracker Jack box, don’t we?”
But to make the continuing storyline shine, the procedural needs to be as smart and compelling as possible. I don’t know if someone at ABC is begging the show to create episodes whose cores are easy to comprehend by casual viewers who won’t be able to easily jump into the larger storyline for just an episode here or there (there’s a reason why the “Law & Order” franchise is scattered all over basic cable like so much dirty snow), but if so, well, that’s not the stuff of gladiators, is it?
Are you eager to see more of Lisa Kudrow? What do you think is going to happen to Command? Do you think Jake is going to join the team?