Scandal Review: “The Fluffer”

(Episode 3.16)

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<i>Scandal</i> Review: &#8220;The Fluffer&#8221;

As the Scandal season finale approaches, we can’t help but have unbelievably high expectations for the next couple of episodes and the drama therein. “The Fluffer” is an appropriate (and, yes, inappropriate) title for a moment meant to set us up for the big bang. Mama Pope has got a gun … and by “gun” we mean “bomb,” and by “bomb” we mean “Presidential death sentence.” In “The Fluffer,” Olivia learns that sometimes when she’s trying to be good, she ends up being bad … and sometimes being bad means you kind of, sort of have a role in a presidential assassination plot.

This week we got to see a whole new Olivia Pope—AKA Abby Whelan up in the White House, rocking a mean, white coat and the attitude to go with. Unfortunately, nobody likes an Olivia (Fauxlivia?) Pope proxy, and Abby got no respect from Cyrus, Fitz, Mellie or Andrew. Olivia had been working with her Dad, which was why she couldn’t be at the White House … but wait —this is Olivia Pope! We’ve watched her do eight things at once in the past, so this bit of the plot felt somewhat contrived. Sure, it was fun watching Abby play Liv, but it felt like Kerry Washington maybe had a prenatal appointment and couldn’t shoot the opening scene? It’s fine.

And while it’s all sweet and everything that Papa Pope and Baby Pope are working together, it’s impossible to actually trust Eli. (We’re with Huck on this one.) But it’s important for the storyline that Olivia does. She’s the fixer, she’s the problem-solver, but she becomes pure daughter in the presence of Eli Pope. Asking him to really be her Dad (last week), and asking him to not hurt her boyfriend (this week)—it’s a great set-up to whatever’s about to go down between the two of them. And you just know something’s about to go down.

Meanwhile, Vice President Sally Langston orchestrates the release of faux presidential mistress Jeanine Locke’s new tell-all book about her faux affair (fauxfair?) with Fitz. And Fitz spends the episode throwing more tantrums because—poor Fitz!—his wife has been sleeping with his friend/running mate.

Olivia is in the dark about a lot of things, and everyone seems to pretty much be over her. She doesn’t know that B613 (Jake, Quinn and Charlie) is now on the Maya Pope case. Cyrus goes behind her back and releases the story about Sally Langston’s daughter getting a schmaschmortion at the schmaschmortion clinic. And Fitz tries to replace Andrew with Senator Ramirez. We can’t help but recall Mama Pope’s speech about Olivia being The Help, and Liv remembers it too. Though in this episode she goes so far as to reference herself as The Fluffer. Either way, she feels used by Fitz … and yes, it feels like we’ve been here before.

Which is why it’s so great when Jake drunk-dials and drunk-stalks Olivia! Is it weird to find that adorable? Well, some people on Team Jake might have found that scene adorable. Jake, the tortured Command, begging Olivia to save him! How she can refuse that man … some of us will never know. But she does, and then she shows up at his house and makes sweet love to him down by the fire, except it’s not love, it’s an Olivia Pope & Associates move. We’ve seen Liv do some pretty bad things, but using Jake like this? Sleeping with him then slipping out of his warm embrace so she can put that fancy tracker thing on his phone? You’ve gone too far this time, Olivia Pope. Sure, she needs to find out where he’s hiding all of B613’s money, but so what? You don’t do that to Jake. Anyway, it all comes back to bite her/kill the man she really loves in the end. Because—wait for it—B613 is actually trying to keep the President safe from the bomb-toting Maya Popes of the world. And once you shut them down (which was, by the way, kind of a thrilling moment even if it was somewhat unbelievable that Huck accomplished this with one teeny, tiny mouse-click), you’re breaking a system that is a necessary evil.

Stray Observations:
—Andrew & Mellie over?! Nooooo! Olivia tells Andrew that he has to choose between Mellie or the Vice Presidency, but we don’t see Fitz making any of those tough choices! Boo! And seriously, what does it mean when a man tells his girlfriend that he needs her help keeping another man away from his wife? It means #Scandal.
—Reston’s out of the race. One video of him threatening his wife and it’s over.
—One especially cool scene showed Huck and Harrison drinking together. A small moment, but given their line of work, it felt very realistic. Another cool scene showed Olivia in the same room with both parents. It’s the first time we see them all together, and it’s positively frightful. Most importantly, we definitely get the answer to the question we’ve all been mentally asking ourselves about Eli and Maya: it’s Mama Pope. She is absolutely the more bad-ass of the two. All day.

Favorite Quote of the Episode: “Given the choice between power and love, men like you will always, always choose power.” (Olivia to Andrew)

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.