It’s hard out here for a Gladiator. Not so much for the Gladiators on Scandal, but for the Gladiators watching Scandal. There is so much that our beloved show asks us to accept (a point illustrated perfectly by Lena Dunham’s sketch on Saturday Night Live last week), and sometimes it gets to be a bit much. Last night’s episode gave us three (maybe four) Olivia Pope monologues—and this isn’t entirely a bad thing! The Scandal monologues are everything! Especially when they concern the political affairs of the United States government. But when you find yourself counting the number of times Olivia gets all hot and heavy and starts speechifying, eyes perpetually on the brink of tears, it probably means they’re getting to be a little trope-ish. There’s a formula with Scandal, and while the formula itself is unique, it’s getting to be a wee bit predictable. A lot of exciting stuff went down last night (no surprise there), but much of that excitement was lost among the usual Scandal tricks.
“No Sun on the Horizon” sees President Grant and Vice President Sally Langston making preparations to face-off in the first debate of the campaign season. Langston is losing her mind, quoting way too much scripture in her rehearsals, with way too much fury. So her campaign assistant calls in a preacher to help her get back on track. And Team Grant finds itself divided when Huck and David Rosen bring Olivia the tapes of Cyrus and Sally working together to cover up Daniel Douglass’ murder. When faced with the decision to bring the bad guys (her friends, her colleagues) to justice, Olivia decides to do nothing. But this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who’s been watching the show for the past few seasons. Olivia is a strange character—she likes to yell and wag her finger at Cyrus, but she rarely does anything to actually put him in a position to pay for his wrongdoings. Perhaps it’s because she’s done her own dirt and she has her own skeletons. But whatever it is, it makes all her finger-wagging seem more ritualistic than meaningful.
This week, those of us on Team Jake were in for quite a treat … and the shock of our lives. Olake is back on, as Olivia was seeking some comfort lovin’ from her fake boyfriend. It was great. But, of course, things get awkward as soon as Jake starts catching feelings. (He should have known that it was the wine talking when Olivia said with a straight face, “Take advantage of me Jake.”) The only problem with their scene together was that Jake suddenly morphed into Fitz! Begging Olivia to run away with him so they could get away from all the big, bad political going-ons that had turned them into murderers and conspirators? We all know Liv never goes for this, so it wasn’t a surprise when she shut him down the next day and was back to business as usual. Jake, however, takes it pretty hard and “gets back at her” by officially putting disgraced Gladiator Quinn on B6-13 duty. Liv is going to be sooo pissed when she finds out about this.
Sally Langston’s preacher has the exact opposite effect for which he was hired, and she decides to confess her sins publicly. Bad idea. The kind of bad idea that inspires Cyrus to hire Charlie so that he can kill you. Now here was an interesting turn—as Command, we learn that Jake has put a ban on all types of killing! Amazing! So Cyrus (after being shut down by Charlie) goes straight to Jake and asks him to “take care of it” except it’s Cyrus, so he actually says, “I need you to kill Sally Langston.” Jake turns him down … for the moment.
Olivia gets the brilliant idea to have Fitz throw the debate so that Sally can win. She knows that nothing compares to political power on the horizon, and that the voice of God (which Sally claims she’s missing and can’t live without) will be all but forgotten once she hears the applause of the people. And she’s right. Although Fitz fights against the idea at first, he ultimately finds a way to “accidentally” bring up his infidelities. Sally forgets all about her confession (and her God) and jumps all over the opportunity to gain the crowd’s favor. A good thing, too, because Jake had a sniper waiting in the wings just in case she went ahead with the confession.
And now, about that ending. Jake sets up a fake meeting between David and James, and at first it’s all going the way we expect it to go. James says he has changed his mind and doesn’t want to bring Cyrus to justice after all. (This is seriously, like, the third time he’s done this to David, and it always happens after Cyrus apologizes to him for killing someone, or stealing an election, or whatever.) David gets pissed and gives James a hard time for, once again, being wooed by his political monster of a hubby. And then something legitimately unexpected happens. The two reporters with them working on the case get shot and killed. BOOM. And suddenly we see our beloved Jake! Jake, who just wanted to run off into the sunset with Olivia (he seriously said something like that) is holding a gun and points it at either David or James (guessing which one is the fun part). This moment ties in well with the very first opening scene. We saw Jake sitting in an unknown location explaining to an unknown audience that he has no family (or that he had a terribly dysfunctional family, including a sister who has since died), and this has made him perfect for the B6-13 lifestyle. As he faces David and James, gun in hand, there’s a flash back (or forward) to that scene. It’s great to get a glimpse into the troubled mind of Jake Ballard, but there’s also this implication that he’s standing there, killing all of these people because Olivia Pope won’t run off with him. Quinn had taunted him a bit earlier, warning that Olivia was only pretending to care, that her “We are family” schtick was precisely that—a schtick she uses to get what she wants. Like Fitz, Jake seems to be going over the edge because of Olivia, but the whole appeal of Jake has been that he’s not Fitz! At least he wasn’t before this episode.
—Mellie’s Sally Langston impersonation at the beginning of the episode was amazing.
—Olivia Pope noted that every single person running for president of the United States is a murderer. Totally frightening. And hilarious. But mainly frightening.
—Where was Adnan Salif? And where was Olivia’s mom? They closed out last week’s episode with this sweet little cliffhanger that totally was not addressed this week! Not cool.
—Can it please not be David who gets shot? Abby does not deserve this, and honestly? James/Publius has been so wishy-washy it’s officially getting old. So yes, he deserves to die.
—And finally, this. It feels bad to say it (because many of us are more excited about Kerry Washington’s baby than we should admit), but it is so distractingly obvious that there’s a baby bump underneath all of Olivia’s fabulous clothes. One glass of wine is fine, but watching her fake-chug that second glass? Awkward!
Favorite Quote of the Episode: “What would Olivia Pope do? Someone really needs to put that on a bracelet.” (David)
Shannon M. Houston is a New York-based freelance writer, regular contributor to Paste, and occasional contributor to the human race via little squishy babies. You can follow her on Twitter.