Scandal 1.7: Grant for the People

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Season 1The first season comes to a close with this seventh episode. In the last episode, we witnessed Billy Chambers, chief of staff to the Vice President, stab the reporter Gideon in the neck with a pair of scissors. This episode opens with Quinn returning to Gideon’s apartment with bagels. She walks in, sees Gideon on the floor bleeding out, and freaks. She attempts to help her fallen boyfriend by pulling the scissors out of his neck. (While Grey’s Anatomy fans are yelling, “Nooooo!”) Unsure what to do, she calls Olivia.

Olivia: We can’t call the police.

Quinn: Why? When someone dies you call the police.

Olivia: Because if we call the police they will find out who you really are.

Wait, what??

Scandal has been pretty Olivia-focused this season, which isn’t a bad thing. Kerry Washington gives a demanding performance as the Washington fixer, but it has left many, many questions regarding the supporting cast. Quinn, for example, is a load full of questions. She came onto the scene in episode one as a means to introduce Olivia. We really don’t know anything about her. In the brief flash-backs the season has had, none included Quinn. Now this. Who is this girl?

Abby: We broke the law for her.

Huck: Olivia hired her. Olivia knows who she is. That makes her worth protecting.

Despite that, the group cleans Gideon’s apartment, leaving no evidence that Quinn was there. When they are done, Olivia uses Gideon’s phone to call the police. In the meantime, Billy returns to his office in a daze. He decides to enter a press conference regarding cult killings in Georgia and announce that he was Amanda Tanner’s
boyfriend, that the President slept with her, rejected her, and that is why she killed herself. He goes on the talk show circuit in D. C., talking bad about President Grant. He also releases the sex tape telling the press that it is President Grant and Amanda Tanner
(but we know that it is Fitz and Olivia). Olivia is called into the White House to fix it.

822x-1After a round of conversations about Olivia coming out and saying it is her on the tape, Fitz saying it will resign, and Cyrus not accept any of it, Olivia sends Fitz to Georgia to be President. The idea is to put the attention back on the cult crisis, not on the President’s sex life. Olivia’s team puts the pieces together enough to figure out that Billy killed Gideon. Olivia walks into the men’s room while he is in there.

Billy: I know you didn’t come in here to use the men’s room. You might as well say it.

Olivia: You’re a murderer.

Billy: I…I’m not proud of that.

Billy adds, “By the time I’m in prison, Sally will be President and will be the finesest
President.” All of this for the last three years has been about getting Sally into the Oval Office. Sally opens a letter from Billy during a cabinet meeting and gasps aloud when she reads it. She knew nothing of what Billy was doing, but doesn’t offer any support
to the President, either. It is clear that she will use this crisis to her advantage, if she can. First Lady Mellie Grant blames the whole thing on Olivia. Why? If Olivia had not broken Fitz’ heart and left him vulnerable, Billy Chambers wouldn’t have put that shiny red Amanda apple in his face. Mellie, to say the least, is pissed. Mellie and Olivia have a come to Jesus moment. Olivia will no longer be called to fix things for the administration. Mellie is taking things into her own political savvy hands. She goes on 20/20 to say that it is her on the sex tape and that she is now pregnant. How dare Billy Chambers invade their privacy like that? Truth is, she is not pregnant, but she will be . . . . .?

JOSHUA MALINAThe President asks Sally to give him her support. She rattles off on a few things, basically refusing. The President hands her a folder that Olivia prepared for him. It turns out that Sally’s beloved teenage daughter had an abortion. Something that will cause Sally’s supporters to rally against her. It’s a nasty political move, but one that works. Sally’s go on camera showing her support for the President. We don’t find out who Quinn is in this episode. In fact, Olivia holds tight and will not even tell her team who Quinn really is. This causes a tension amongst the team. Some are willing to follow Olivia wherever Olivia goes. Others don’t think they should work so hard for someone they don’t know. U. S. Attorney David Rosen (Josh Malina) who has had this give and take with Olivia all season, becomes more and more curious about who Quinn is. Mostly
because she was seen coming and going from Gideon’s apartment. He comes to take her in (David investigating Gideon’s murder is just one of the side stories in this episode). He has figured out who Quinn really is. So, who is she? We have to wait for Season 2.

What we do find out in this episode is that Charlie was hired by Cyrus to kill Amanda. Charlie shows up at Cyrus’ home on a Sunday to tell him that he is leaving town and that Cyrus will need to wire the rest of the money to him. We also learn that Huck has tasted his own life just enough to want it back. “I can take care of Billy for you,” he tells Olivia, who quickly tells him that she does not want him to kill Billy. But Huck is more clever that. He goes to Charlie and tells him that Billy may not be as loyal as Charlie is, implying that Charlie should take care of Billy. As Olivia leaves the White House and passes the security guard, the guard says to her, “When you walk through these gates, everyone breathes a little bit easier.” As the scene closes, Olivia leaves her pass with the guard, indicating that she will not be coming back.

This final episode of the season, while a short one, has set up endless possibilities for season two.

Scandal 1.6: The Trail

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Season 1We often find ourselves on a trail, tracking down much-needed information to complete a task, to solve a problem, or hosting an event. As a parent, a youth minister, or a teacher, you are following of trail of Facebook and twitter postings, side comments, and behavior to discern what is going on with a teacher. As a detective, you follow a trail of evidence to discern who the suspect is and why. However we are doing it,  we are, in a way, connecting the dots in order to formalize a picture of what is going to happened or what has happened.

Olivia and the gladiators find themselves in this place in the sixth episode. Which in many ways is an amazing feat in story telling. The episode seamlessly flows from present day to two years ago, connecting the dots. This back and forth continues until the picture comes into focus. The trail this storytelling style fulfills is not just answering the Amanda Tanner questions, but it is a trail of understanding these characters more and more.

Two characters are convinced that there is more to this Amanda Tanner thing than suicide. Gideon, the reporter who has eyes for Quinn and David the district attorney. Both are spending time looking into this Amanda Tanner thing, trying hard to discover what really happened.

Billy Chambers, Cyrus, and Olivia

Billy Chambers, Cyrus, and Olivia

As the dots are getting connected for the two men, the viewer is taken on a trip down memory lane. The flash backs take us back two years ago with Fitz’ presidential campaign is suffering. Cyrus brings in the best to fix it: Olivia Pope. This is the first meeting between Olivia and Fitz. Olivia tells them that the reason the campaign is struggling so is because the American people do not believe that Fitz and Mellie’s marriage is strong. Olivia preps them in showing more affection towards one another.

The Governor loses New Hampshire primary to Sally Langston, the same Sally who will become his Vice-President. He loses the primary because a story is leaked that Mellie had an affair with a man who was advising Mellie on literacy. Olivia pulls together her people – for the first time possibly – to fix this problem.

Abby is at home baking, looking like a Stepford Wife, freshly divorced. Huck is a street person, complete with long hair and long bread. Harrison wears an ankle bracket, freshly out of jail. Together the team figures out that the advisor has been paid to do a number of adult films. He quickly decides to make a statement setting the record straight. What is fascinating about this is that it gives us a glimpse to the beginning of the gladiators.

Olivia: “I’ve got a guy.”
Fitz: “You’ve got a guy? Another guy? Hells angel? Mobster? A kind-hearted felon who owes you a favor?”
Olivia: “Technically he’s on probation.”

During these flash back scenes, the sexual tension between Olivia and Fitz is so obvious. Despite the fact that Fitz wanted her gone from the start. It seems that Olivia grew on him. It is also obvious that the relationship between Fitz and Mellie is slipping. But Olivia’s advice works. Fitz and Mellie start being more affectionate in public. Mellie takes it a step farther though. While having pie in Georgie, she unexpectantly announces that she has had a miscarriage. As she hugs Fitz, she whispers, “I think that’ll take care of it.”

She lied! She made it up! The trail to Mellie’s true side has ended. She was running for First Lady. She seems to be more of a political animal than Fitz. This starts to put together just how much Mellie knows about Olivia and Fitz. Statements like “I trust you will sleep better tonight,” that Mellie makes to Fitz are beginning to make more sense. She is concerned for her husband because of the political gain, less because they are married.

The most eye-opening trail that is who got Amanda Tanner pregnant. We learn that Amanda was a volunteer working for Sally Langston’s campaign. When Fitz and Olivia gave in to the sexual tension for the first time, there was a recording device in the Governor’s hotel room recording it. That flash drive, the same one that would end up in Cyrus’ hands, was passed through the hands of Amanda and Billy Chambers, Sally’s chief of staff.

Yep, the very tape that was suppose to be Fitz and Amanda was actually Fitz and Olivia. This show just keeps throwing out twists and turns, keeping the audience guessing and engaged.

Throughout this entire episode, Gideon, the reporter, is following the Amanda Tanner trail too. And it all leads him to Billy Chambers. Billy, he learns, was Amanda’s boyfriend in the White House and the most likely baby-daddy. Gideon calls Billy out on it. At first Billy thinks that Gideon has very little to make a case. But then Billy starts to get uncomfortable with what Gideon is presenting, grabs a pair of scissors and stabs Gideon in the neck.

Yeah, that just happened. The right-winged, evangelical chief of staff to the Vice President just killed someone.

It seems that Billy forgot the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis. Cain kills his brother Abel. The Lord comes to Cain and says, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10, CEB). Even though Cain thought his murderous act would be a secret, God followed the trail of Abel’s blood that called out to him. The Psalm writer talks about secrets come to light in God’s presence. The trail of our actions will be revealed. We cannot hide from them.

The episode ends with this horrific act by Billy. But we do have this universal truth: it takes us a lot longer to connect the dots than it does God.  And for that, we should be thankful.

Scandal 1.5: “Crash and Burn”

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Season 1First Olivia and her associates had to deal with the shock of finding out that Amanda Tanner was pregnant with the President’s baby. Now they have to deal with the shock that Amanda is missing. Huck explains the most reasonable way that Amanda was kidnapped. “How do you know?” Olivia asks. “‘Cause that’s how I would do it,” he replies. This is the first hint that there is more to Hunk’s story than we know.

The client-of-the-episode is the husband of the pilot of Flight 684, which has crashed in Virginia, killing hundreds. Among the dead is a senator. Cyrus sees this an opportunity to get the Dream Act through. “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

The airline company makes a statement during the press release that the plane was in perfect condition. Translation: It’s the pilot’s fault. Olivia, Harrison, Abby, and Stephen are a few of many who get to listen to the airplane’s black box. While everyone is taking notes, Harrison is sitting, hands folded, eyes closed, listening.  They quickly learn that the black box recording was leaked out. In the midst of the team hustling and bustling back and forth, Huck yells out to the group, “Amanda Tanner is dead!”

Olivia calls the President out on having Amanda killed. Fitz calls her and tells her that he didn’t have anything to do with it. “Follow your gut,” Fitz says. “I don’t have a gut any more,” Olivia replies.

In a way Olivia feels out of her comfort zone. Things are getting way out of the norm. She goes to Huck and says that she needs him to take care of it, but she is weary in her asking. Huck says he’ll take care of it. The next time we see Huck, he has a guy named Charlie tied up and naked on the floor. He opens his tool box and is talking to Charlie about how Charlie taught him to do what he did for the government for so many years. “We both know,” he says, “what an artist I can be.” Huck talks about torturing another person as an addiction.

Huck tells Charlie that he is breaking his sobriety because Olivia asked him too. Olivia who found him begging for money in the subway. Olivia who rescued him after the government took everything from him. Huck had crashed and burned. Olivia was the one who found him, broken, and rescued him.

The President gets a black-mail letter, causing Cyrus to realize that Olivia and Amanda Tanner had nothing to do with the sex tape. The letter includes video of President Nixon resigning. A President who crashed and burned.

Stephen doesn’t get the inspection reports from the airline company because he wasn’t willing to sleep with one of the female employees. “I’ve lost my super powers,” he says. He goes back though, and gets the reports. We can only conclude that he crashed and burned.

Harrison and Stephen learn that there was something wrong with the plane. They track down a Ms. Hayes who tells Harrison that there used to be two people doing her job. She looks as if she has emotionally and physically crashed and burned. She is overworked and overwhelmed. All she wanted to do was to go to a child’s piano recital, so she fudged one of the reports.

scandal_s1_ep5_1274205618Huck finds out where Amanda is. Olivia tells David, who gets a diving team to retrieve her from the river. Olivia touches Huck’s arm to thank him, but he pulls back. We have gotten a huge glimpse into Huck’s life and yet there is so much we do not know yet.

If there was any doubt that Stephen returned to his old ways of sleeping with women to gather information, it was corrected in the closing scenes. When asked by the woman in the M.E. office if he was still in engaged, he responded, “not so engaged. . ” Stephen, too, had crashed and burned. Stephen gets the report and finds out that Amanda was pregnant, but it was not Fitz’ child. The President had been telling Olivia the truth. But it causes this viewer to wonder, who was Amanda talking to on the phone all those times? And what scheme was she playing?

The theme of crashing and burning is clear in this episode. Some of the characters are dealing with slips of morality. They come face-to-face with their failures. Let’s be honest, it will happen to all of us at some point or another. And likely more than once. It is clear that Olivia is not okay sending Huck in to crash and burn after he got “clean.” Olivia is hurting. You get the sense that this may be the first time she has come close to crashing and burning.

As Olivia receives the phone call from Stephen, learning that Amanda’s child was not the President’s, she opens her knocking door to the President.

It’s possible that Olivia is starting to pick herself up from her crash. It’s possible that Olivia is getting her gut back.

Scandal 1.4: “Enemy of the State”

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Season 1It is difficult to discern who or what is considered an enemy. Often we think that it is those people or forces who oppress us or others. At times it is those people or forces who stand in the way of what we consider is good and right.  But who decides who is an enemy and who is not?

“Enemy of the State” explores this tension. The client-of-the-episode is General Benicio Flores (Jose Zuniga) who is a South American dictator. Not all of the gladiators are on board with Olivia’s decision to take the General as a client. The story is told that his wife and two, young children were kidnapped from a resturant. He does not trust the American government to find them, so he has come to Olivia. And Olivia accepts the General as a client.

Though at first it is not completely clear to the gladiators what has got Olivia so distracted that she does not appear to be thinking this one all the way through. The truth is, she is distracted, as she starts this episode off chugging a glass of wine. Remember the last episode?

Amanda Tanner is pregnant with the President’s baby.

And Olivia is secretly (?) in love with the President.

Distraction. Major distraction. Got it.

Stephen (Henry Ian Cusick) and Abby (Darby Stanchfield), thanks to the Huck (Guillermo Diaz) being interested in a game boy that one of the kids was playing with, track the General’s wife and children to a woman’s shelter. She was not kidnapped, she ran away. She pleads her case to Abby and Stephen. Abby was one of the gladiators from the beginning who did not think Olivia should take a dictator as a client. Abby gets it why the wife wants to leave the General. And thanks to Cyrus, we know why.

We learn more about the gladiators as Cyrus investigates Olivia and her employees. It is an interesting and creative way for us to learn details about the gladiators that will only support the larger story as it goes forward. We learn that Abby was in an abusive relationship and that Olivia helped her to get out of it. This is why Abby has empathy for the General’s wife. The abuse is not physical, but she is marked with emotional scares.

196x150xfinch-and-olivia-work-with-a-dictator.png.pagespeed.ic.pjNfRl-Y0GAbby puts the General’s wife and children in a hotel room for the night. The next morning she goes to get them and they are gone. Stephen had disagreed with her discussion. His loyalty is with Olivia and he tells Olivia where the mother and children are.  When Abby goes to the hotel the next morning to get the dictator’s wife, she and the children are gone. Abby goes to the office, unsure what she will say to Olivia, and finds that the wife and the children are already there.

Afterwards, Abby and Olivia get into a heated discussion:

Olivia: I did what I had to for my client. I made a tough call. You don’t like it, Abby, too bad. It’s my name on that door, not yours.
Abby: Don’t talk to me about tough calls or names on the door…When Charles fractured three of my ribs and broke my jaw and threw me out into the snow in my nightgown, Olivia Pope took a tire iron and broke his knee cap and got me the best divorce attorney in the state and got me out of that marriage. It’s what Olivia does. It’s who you are. You are the gladiator. I would gladly follow you over a cliff, but you’ve gotta show up. You gotta be a warrior. You don’t get to pick and choose when the real Olivia Pope walks through that door. You made the wrong call.

The enemy theme continues as the Amanda Tanner storyline continues to develop. Cyrus is still convinced at Olivia has something to do with it, which is why he has her team investigated. Olivia comes clean with the gladiators that she has made a some mistakes. Olivia lays out what the case is concerning Amanda Tanner, and gives the group a chance to vote on whether or not they will take her on as a client.

As the group votes, we get glimpses of Amanda in her apartment. As the last vote is cast – Abby says, “Over a cliff,” affirming to Olivia that taking Amanda as a client is the right thing to do – we witness an unknown figure murdering Amanda. Making it clear that Amanda is seen as the number one enemy of the State. It also shows how unpredictable the show and how many twists and turns it can have.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, encouraged those who joined in the movement to follow three simple rules: do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. The human journey is finding the balance between doing no harm and doing good. The journey is not always so black-and-white. Not nearly as clear cut as we would want it to be. Doing good and doing no harm is cloudy at best. This is where we find Olivia and her associates in this episode.

We want nothing more than to be able to wake up each day and know – without a doubt – who or what is or is not, our enemy. What Scandal shows is that life is not predictable. Olivia and Cyrus both act like they know who the enemy is, when in reality they do not. We don’t either. We have guesses, but as the audience our guess is as good as knowing the brand of pen’s the writers use. The best we can do is sit back and wait to see what happens next.

But I have a feeling, the enemy lines will just get blurrier and blurrier.

Scandal 1.3: “Hell Hath No Fury”

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Season 1“In a case like this, perception is more important than evidence.”

Olivia is in go-mode in this third episode, one filled a number of “wow”s. A wealthy CEO of a company that contracts with Olivia’s office, has a son accused of rape. Olivia tells the CEO and mother that her contract is with the company, not the family. “All day people tell me what they think I want to hear,” she tells Olivia, “But, you . . . you will tell me the truth.” Travis, the 27-year-old son, is a no-show to court. Olivia and Harrison find him in a hotel room with a blond.

In the meantime, Amanda Tanner, the season one main storyline, demands a sit-down with the President. The President, the meantime we learn, has not been sleeping. He awakes one morning, not realizing he has slept in, only to find that the First Lady has canceled all of his morning appointments.

Cyrus receives a CD with an audio recording of what he determines to be the President and Amanda Tanner having sex. Cyrus jumps to the conclusion that Olivia is behind it. This is why they wanted the sit-down. In the meantime, unbeknownst to Cyrus and the President, the First Lady invites Olivia to the State Dinner. And we collectively say, “Wow,” because we think we know what the First Lady does not know.

Olivia follows her gut and believes that Travis did not rape his accuser, Helen. They make an offer to settle with Helen, whose bank accounts are running on the low side. However, Helen does not want the money. While getting ready for court, Travis makes an interesting statement to Harrison about how money can make things go away. The gladiators investigate a little deeper and discover that Travis had raped another girl named Rachel. Travis paid her off to keep her quiet, and the charges were dropped. And it turns out, Rachel was a friend of Helen’s. Helen’s accusation against Travis was to receive justice for Rachel’s rape.

And there’s another “wow.” Travis acts like he did nothing wrong. He acts like because he has enough money, he can make it all go away. He is not quick on the responsibility uptake.

JEFF PERRY, TONY GOLDWYNOlivia tells Travis’ mother that it’s not her fault; that who and what Travis is, is not his fault. After she goes to the State Dinner, and Cyrus corners her while she is on her way to meet the President and tells her to leave. Cyrus tells Olivia that the meeting is off. He then goes to the President, who is waiting for Olivia, and tells him that Olivia has called the meeting off and that the whole thing was a set-up.

And another “wow.” Cyrus did what?!? For the first time we see a darker side to Cyrus. A side that says to us that he will do anything to protect his interest. But, how far will he go?

That evening the President asks the First Lady why she invited Olivia. “Because you needed to see her,” Mellie says, “I trust tonight you will sleep like a baby.”

Yep, there it is. Another “wow.” Mellie knows what we thought she didn’t know!?!

Olivia leaves the White House and stops at Travis’ mother’s home.

I was wrong before about it not being your fault. It IS your fault… You love him, you do. But you can’t fix everything for him. You can’t. He’s playing you, because you let him. You give him everything he asks for, and you clean up his messes, and you believe him even when he lies to you and that is NOT LOVE. Love is making him face who he is. The best thing you can do for him is to do the best thing FOR him. It’s not your fault what he did, but letting him get away with it, THAT IS your fault.

And there is. This is hands-down one of the reasons this show is so good. The writing is incredible. These little Olivia monologues are the stars in the crown of this show. And without Kerry Washington, I’m not convinced that it could be done.

Olivia had an ah-ha moment in this episode. Because you love someone does not mean that you let them do whatever they want to do. This mother never made a little league game in ten years. To make up for her absence in her son’s life, she gave and gave and gave to the point that she was blinded to who Travis is.

Back to Amanda Tanner. Quinn goes out with the reporter who is trying to get the scoop on Amanda. Olivia has told him that she will give him information at the right time. Quinn asks him why he has been calling Amanda. The reporter says that he has not. Quinn believes him and tells Olivia. “Amanda is not telling you the whole truth,” Quinn says. Olivia goes to Amanda, tells her that the only way she can help her is if she is completely honest with her.

And this is when the final, and perhaps greatest wow-factor happens. Amanda says two words that change the scope of the show. “I’m pregnant.”

Oh snap!

The theme of the episode could easily be summed up as perception. Olivia places value on perception. As long as someone has a perception – an appearance – that makes it seem that everything is okay, than everything is okay.  Yet, the “wow” moments of the episode are connected in some way or another to a change in the perception we had of that character. It’s as if everything we thought we knew about these characters all changes. Mellie and Cyrus especially. What are they capable of that in the last two episodes we may have never thought?

Travis and Amanda, on the other hand, seem to live and function within a truth that is not truth. Travis thinks that he can do whatever he wants, as long as he keeps up the perception of the rich CEO’s son. Amanda is living in the perception of being loved by the President, which is not a reality or a truth. Yet, she believes it to be truth.

And these characters believe – really believe – that these self-perceptions are real. Philosophers like William James and John Dewey hold that a belief is true when it proves to have some value of success connected with it. For Travis, he believes his perception of life because it has been successful for him. His mother, a bit of a co-dependant, enables this truth to continue to exist. This is why Olivia goes back to his mother to say that who he has become is indeed it her fault.

Yet, the perception that seems to matter, does not compare to the deep truth that resides within.

Scandal 1.2: “Dirty Little Secrets”

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Season 1This episode’s client-of-the-week is DC’s finest madam. DC police want to their names on her little black book. Olivia and her gladiators are charged with protecting the list, once they find it. And once they find it, they realize that the President’s nominee for the Supreme Court is on that list.

Meanwhile, a mysterious, unknown reporter comes by to see Amanda Tanner. Quinn (Katie Lowes), who is still figuring out what it means to be a gladiator, keeps him out of her room. Amanda is still unsure if she can trust Olivia or that she wants Olivia’s help. By the end of the episode, Quinn convinces her that its a good idea.

“If its serious, get Olivia on it.” -Mellie

While Cyrus is now fully aware that Olivia and the President had an affair at one point, we don’t know that anyone else does. So, we feel the awkwardness when the First Lady, Mellie (Bellamy Young), says that they should “get Olivia on it” to fix the Supreme Court nominations. The Judge says that he has never paid for sex. Olivia believes him and commissions the gladiators to find the truth.

It turns out that the Judge’s name is on the list because one evening he met one of the Madam’s girls by accident. She was stood up and he happened to buy her a drink. They fell in love and got married, not having sex until their wedding night.  His wife continued to work for the Madam and paid for her husband to get through law school.

But, she never told her husband what she was doing. He had no idea. Olivia talks the wife into telling the Judge the truth. She does so, but at the risk of losing the nominations.

Moved by compassion that a good man and a good Judge was losing a seat on the Supreme Court because of someone else’s mistakes, Olivia calls all the Johns together. These are all men of great political power. And Olivia fixes it. There is no longer a scandal preventing the Judge from the nomination. The Johns all recommend him for the Supreme Court.

What is fascinating about a show like Scandal is how it illuminates human nature. Without apology, it shows the imperfections of humanity. But at the same time, in the midst of imperfection and brokenness, we catch glimpses of perfection. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had a simple approach to moral and ethical issues: our faith is active in love. At this point in the series, there is no evidence of any of the characters having a faith, however, Olivia functions in love. A deep love for humanity and for others. A Christ-like love. Olivia is not perfect, and she would be the first to tell you that. But she in the midst of that, she can show love to others.

Maybe it was from guilt, that by revealing the truth she ruined a man’s life. Or maybe it was because she saw something in that man and who he was meant to be that others could not. Maybe it was a combination of both. Either way, Olivia acted with love and compassion for fellow humanity.

Or maybe its because Olivia knows that to be human is have dirty, little secrets. Even if you are Olivia Pope.

Scandal 1.1: Sweet Baby

28398“We are gladiators in suits.”

And the first ever episode of ABC’s Scandal begins.

Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and her gladiators are in the business of fixing other people’s lives. Politicians, American heroes, public figures, and even the President of the United States. This first episode delivers a sweet talking, fast paced story that continues on to the current season.

In this episode, there are two main parts. The first is the typical client-of-the-episode storyline. It involves a decorated war hero, Sully, whose fiancé has been found dead. The gladiators are charged with proving that Sully did not do it. Sully tells Olivia more than once, “I did not kill her.” Olivia, despite the questioning of her gladiators, believes him.

Meanwhile, the second part begins to unfold. This storyline involves Amanda Tanner, a White House aid, who claims that she had sex with the President (Tony Goldwyn). White House Chief of Staff, Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) seeks Olivia out to help take care of it. At first Olivia says no, she doesn’t work for the President anymore. It takes some convincing, but Olivia finally agrees and “takes care of it.”

This Amanda Tanner storyline is the backbone of the first season. Olivia looks the President in the eyes and asks him if he had sex with Amanda. He says he has not and Olivia believes him. “I trust my gut,” she says. And as the gladiators know, Olivia’s gut is usually right on. But, Olivia’s gut is called into question with Amanda tries to kill herself. When Olivia comes to Amanda’s hospital room, Amanda tells her that the President would come to her and call her “Sweet Baby.”

At the sound of the nickname, Olivia knows that she has been lied to. The truth that she thought was being told, was in fact a lie. Olivia’s emotional attachment to the President clouded her judgement.

St. Augustine confronts the Roman patriotism in The City of God. Augustine saw the goals of Rome as post-fall goals such as worldly glory, pleasure, and power. Augustine draws on the idea that Christians are citizens of two cities. The City of Man (Rome) and the City of God. As such, Christians are on a journey representing the City of God while living in the City of Man.

In the midst of this huge discussion, Augustine divides the human race into two catergories; “one consists of those who live according to human standards and the other of those who live according to God” (emphasis added). Augustine will include ponderings on lies and truths:

When, therefore, man lives according to himself, – that is, according to man, not according to God, – assuredly he lives according to a lie; not that man himself is a lie, for God is his author and creator; who is certainly not the author and creator of a lie, but because man was made upright, that he might not live according to himself, but according to Him that made him, – in other words, that he might do His will and not his own; and not to live as he was made to live, that is a lie.

Olivia encounters two sets of lies in this episode. One, the President, a man she loved (or loves?) and trusted deeply lied to her about having an affair with another woman. The second was Sully lying to himself about who he really is. “Who you are,” Olivia tells him, “shouldn’t be a secret.”

Both the President and Sully were living according to human standards, living for the City of Man. Augustine, in not subtle ways, says that when humanity lives for itself, humanity is not of God but of sin.  Humanity is seeking blessings from the City of Man instead of accepting blessings from the City of God. Lies are sin, Augustine argues. “The source of man’s happiness,” he writes, “lies only in God, whom he abandons when he sins.”

The lies in this episode represent humanity living according to human standards. The lies are cover-ups, preventing them and others from seeing the truth. Olivia’s gifts of truth-knowing were comprised because of her own desires to trust the man she loved so deeply. Olivia and her gladiators will continue to encounter more challenges between the City of Man and the City of God as truths and lies are revealed.

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