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‘Scandal’ Recap: Try A Little Tenderness And/Or Self-Mutilation

By / 11.22.13

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Previously on Scandal: Hoo boy. Rough week for Mellie.

Most television dramas, network or otherwise, will be perfectly happy with an A-plot and a B-plot for each episode. Maybe they’ll sprinkle in a tiny C-plot, too, but when this happens it’s usually just a brief runner to tie together the previous and following episodes, or quickly update the audience on a secondary character’s story. Scandal on the other hand, for better or worse (sometimes both) (usually both), crams as many interweaving plots into each 42-minute episode as it can, common sense and logic be damned. Case in point: By my count, there were five separate things happening last night, each of which could have served as a meaty A-plot in an episode of another show. Here’s a quick rundown, with commentary:

Olivia’s investigation into her mom’s death/disappearance. This whole thing is very confusing so far. But it’s supposed to be confusing. Olivia’s mom is either half a terrorist or someone who has been unjustly locked away by her husband for over two decades for the crime of … doing something? Or knowing something? I got nothing so far. All I know for sure is that (a) casting Khandi Alexander in the role has given me this sudden urge to watch dozens of episodes of Newsradio, and (b) sheeeeeeeesh that scene where she tried to commit suicide by chewing through her wrist was something, huh? I mean, I joked that she was a zombie last week, but after seeing her face covered with blood after gnawing through a substantial amount of her arm, I think I might have been onto something.

The thing with Lisa Kudrow’s character. Lisa Kudrow’s character is a Democratic candidate for president whose secret sister/daughter tried to frame her main competitor for a politically motivated Watergate-style break-in and theft just before the Iowa caucus despite a direct order from Olivia’s agency to lay back, and who chose to take all the blame and withdraw from the race rather than justifiably throw said sister/daughter under the bus. In real life, this would be one of the biggest political stories of the past 5-10 years. On Scandal, it was like the 10th most notable thing that happened in a single jam-packed episode, behind the part where the show finally let Harrison play kissyface with someone. This is exactly what I was talking about in the first paragraph.

Olivia and Fitz’s secret unfinished New England love cabin. More on this in a minute.

Quinn’s new B6-13 career. I know that the thing at the end of the episode where Huck showed up in Quinn’s apartment with a full set of very sharp truth-extracting tools is 100% a smokescreen and won’t actually lead to Quinn getting tortured, and I know that my annoyance with Quinn’s character over the past few weeks is clouding my judgment and I’m being terribly unfair about it all, but hot damn if a little tiny part of me didn’t think “Ugh, FINALLY” when I saw Huck sitting there on the couch with that “whiskey-drinking” look in his eyes. I’m going to tell myself that this was more about my brain hoping for the end of the Quinn/B6-13 plot than it was about me wanting Huck to turn her into hamburger for her sins. I’ll feel better that way.

Cyrus pimping out his husband. Speaking of people getting their comeuppance, James figured out Cyrus was basically whoring him out, and responded by actually following through on the adulterous tryst with the Vice President’s husband. (Probably. Unless they faked it to get back at Cyrus somehow. Which I suppose we can’t rule out.) Oh, James. Oh, sweet, innocent James. You actually thought Cyrus was trying to help you, even after over two seasons of him belittling and manipulating you at every turn. You are almost too naive to even live. You delicate, wide-eyed little fawn.

Anyway, this is why everyone on the show talks so fast. They’re trying to squeeze half a season of show into every episode. Again, for better and worse.

*****

One of this show’s defining characteristics — and one of my favorite parts about it — is its 60s/70s Motown/soul/R&B soundtrack. It seems like every week they’ll drop in a Stevie Wonder or Sam Cooke song as they zip from one outlandish plot to another. It’s great, and I want them to keep doing this forever and ever, but it does leave me with one question: What the hell kind of music budget does Scandal have?

I bring this up today because last night’s episode closed with a montage that was backed by a solid two-minute chunk of Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness.” I know that as a big, fancy, highly-rated network drama they’ve got a lot more money to throw at songs than, say, Mad Men, so it’s not quite as big a sacrifice for them to take things into the credits with a beloved 45-year-old song, but still, that couldn’t have been cheap.

NOTE: Someone, somewhere, be it your child or nephew or the group of ruffians who hang out outside your local 7-Eleven smoking cigarettes and practicing skateboard tricks, will refer to this song as “That song from ‘Otis’” today. Resist the urge to yell at them. Instead, educate them. Direct them to the full version of the original song. This is how one corrects an error.

*****

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Let’s talk about Fitz’s cabin for a second. And let’s strip away the part where he’s the sitting President of the United States. Let’s keep this simple.

He was having an affair. He loved the woman he was having an affair with, even though their relationship was problematic at best and doomed from the start at worst. So, flying in the face of all that, without telling her, he constructed a multimillion dollar cabin in the middle of Nowheresburg, New England that he planned to just, like, swoop her away to one day, leaving her job and all her friends behind, so he could get her pregnant a lot and they could raise little mountain babies.

This is something a crazy person does.

Now loop back in the part where he did all this while also serving as the Commander-in-Chief. And the part where he summoned her there months after their break-up to explain it all to her. And the part where she still has questions about the whole “you shot down my mom’s plane on my dad’s orders” thing. And the part where, despite all of those things, she still ran into his arms like he was the triumphant hero in a summer action movie.

Most Scandal thing ever.

Next week on Scandal: I feel like this thing where Olivia’s mom snuck out of a secret military hospital and surprised her on the street might come up.

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