Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

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Scandal 3.5: More Cattle, Less Bull


The client-of-the-week in this episode is the Democratic congresswoman Josephine Marcus, played by the always brilliant Lisa Kudrow. Last week, we saw her as the President’s biggest critic who got a huge boost in the polls after Mellie was caught on tape saying not-so-great things about the Congresswoman under her breath. Now, she is running for president.

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Scandal 3.2: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Shonda Rhimes’ drama took a bit of a breather from the action of the last episode. The show slows down to develop the characters in this hot mess they have found themselves in. And Rhimes does so in a style that has been used in all of her shows, including Scandal. The balancing act of flashbacks and present time story lines. The storyline of the flashback compliments the present storyline. It is not always done well, but in Scandal, it is.

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Scandal 2.20: A Woman Scorned

Ponderings - Scandal Season 2 recapsThis week’s episode was crafted perfectly for Olivia and Mellie to show off. Or, rather Kerry Washington as Olivia and Bellamy Young as Mellie show off some acting chops. The two are adversaries in this episode like never before. Together they got Fitz in the White House, but against one another, they are bringing Washington to her knees.

Fitz, who cannot seem to make up his mind, wants Olivia back now. After seeing in her the hospital bed, it seemed to wake him up to his true feelings for Olivia. Mellie has moved to Blair House giving Fitz a limited amount of time to figure out what he is going to do, choose Olivia or choose his family.

Jake Ballard, in plain clothes, is babysitting Olivia for the President. Olivia calls the President and tells him to call off his puppy, but Fitz won’t budge. And Jake won’t either.

Cyrus and James are still fighting, but when James gets a job at BNC (“I could be the next Anderson Cooper”), all is forgiven.

The Gladiators are trying to figure out who Baseball Cap guy is. Huck offers to help, and right away he identifies Baseball Cap as Charlie. When asked how he can tell, he answers, “That’s Charlie’s ear.” Huck is the one who tells Olivia it is “Cyrus’ Charlie.” Which makes Cyrus appear to be Albatros, which is what all of us were already thinking, right? Charlie in the meantime is at Jake Ballard’s place digging up dirt on him and Olivia. Charlie finds video of the two having sex, which is saved in case Cyrus needs to use it.

Olivia does not want to bounce on Cyrus as Albatros until they are certain.

This is one of my best friends. . . . We have to be sure.

The Gladiators are given the task to investigate Charlie and see what other clients he has. They find out that he goes to the same bakery shop every Thursday, and he attends a book club on Thursdays where he started dating a girl named Tammy. Olivia also gives the green light to have them look into Cyrus’ phone records.

In the middle of all of this, the President wants to see Olivia, which throws her into an intense moment of yelling at the President: “You do not summon me!” and “Stop getting my hopes up.” and the best line, “You want me? Earn me!”

Cyrus is going back and forth between Mellie and Fitz. Neither are giving in. Mellie has made arrangements with BNC to do a prime-time interview, where she will spill the beans about his affair with Olivia if he does not choose family. He takes a deal to Mellie that offers her a bright, political future. Mellie rejects it. Finally, Cyrus gets an idea. “What if,” he says to Mellie, “I could get rid of Olivia Pope.”

In the meantime, Huck has come clean with Olivia about Charlie. Charlie was one who killed Amanda Tanner. “I didn’t say anything because there is a code.” Charlie has been Cyrus’ guy for at least two years. Cyrus isn’t looking good right now.

Now, with the whole Albatros thing, this makes us wander what Cyrus has up his sleeve. He has the President’s secretary call Jake Ballard to the White House. Cyrus goes to Olivia’s, but Jake is still there, guarding the door. He is a good puppy, only leaves with the President tells him to. Afterwards, Jake tells Olivia he thinks Cyrus is the mole (red flag, people.) Olivia still cannot wrap her head around it. Cyrus would never be disloyal to Fitz.

The Gladiators interview Tammy and find out, eventually, that she was the court reporter for David’s grand jury on Defiance. Her laptop, where she transcribed everything, was stolen. Guess by who? Charlie! All the pieces fall into place, which means that Cyrus is not the mole. Someone else is using the gifts and talents of Charlie, but who?

Perhaps it is Mystery Man that Jake keeps meeting in DC parks. Jake tells Mystery Man that Cyrus is getting too close. Mystery Man does not give him permission to look into it, just to take care of it. Which leaves us wandering, who is going to die next?

Mellie hand picks James, Cyrus’ husband, to do the interview, surely to piss off Cyrus. Mellie tells James and the rest of America that the President had an affair. And where is the President?

Scandal gold.

Scandal 1.7: Grant for the People

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

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.

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