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Scandal Review: “The State of the Union”

(Episode 4.02)

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<i>Scandal</i> Review: &#8220;The State of the Union&#8221;

Shonda Rhimes and the Scandal writers have no intention of veiling their political leanings this season (not that they really have in the past). Last week it was all about equal pay for women (imagine that!), and they even took on the justice system’s treatment of rape victims. This week, gun control was the big issue, and the fictional Red Hawk school shooting was meant to remind us of the very real tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, back in 2012. Rhimes has a huge audience, and I’m curious to know how those supporters of the 2nd Amendment felt about “The State of the Union.”

Regardless of your political leanings, it’s nice to see that things are almost back to normal on Scandal. At least half of the Gladiators are back to gladiating (Harrison is still gone, but maybe not dead, and Abby is still at the White House), and OPA has a new case. I really loved James and Lisa—the hero and the angel—who are the perfect couple, which always means that behind closed doors they resent the bejeezus out of each other. Liv has to get them to DC for the Sate of the Union address, in which Fitz will take on gun control. And since they experienced guns at their worst, they are the face of that fight. But they’ve been really busy fighting each other, so Cyrus employs (okay, blackmails and forces) Olivia to get them to the White House on time. I took issue with the whole “Gladiators in the real world” thing that was going on in the season premiere, so this scenario made me happy. I never, ever want to see Huck at day job again. Ever. I like him much more getting drunk with James, and ignoring Quinn, and telling her to mind her own business because—damn—she can be annoying.

Meanwhile, Abby starts out the episode failing at her Fauxlivia Pope-hood. Because she’s Sassy Abby! Sassy Abby can’t stand in front of a group of reporters and seriously answer the douchiest set of questions in the world, which basically boil down to, “Why is a grieving mother walking around, looking like a grieving mother?” Those Mental Mellie headlines really ground my gears! (Shouts-out to Peter Griffin.) I like my Mellie in her bathrobe and Uggs, chips, and fried chicken in tow. Back off, world! Of course, Olivia has to get involved and do Abby’s job. But Abby brilliantly shuts her down: “Huck and Quinn were incesting all over the office for God-knows-how-long, and you had no idea!” BOOM. The look on Liv’s face as she glanced around that office roundtable. Yes, Liv. They did it there too. And nobody even hosed the area down afterwards. Deal with it.

So Huck and Quinn get aligned with the Worst Couple Ever AKA locked in a hotel room, on babysitter duty. Of course, their own relationship issues come up, and just as they’re about to have angry sex in the bathroom, Lisa stabs James in the leg. No worries, though! The DC Fixer knows just what they need— a good ol’ fashioned divorce, and a fancy divorce lawyer/publicist who can help them pull it off, whilst still maintaining their angel/hero images.

Everyone makes it to the State of the Union address in one piece (más o menos), including Mellie. And this was where Abby earned her stripes. She reminds Mellie that, although she lost a child, she is not unique. Losing a child is a tragedy, but it also makes you—in a way—just like all of the other parents who lose their children every year. Abby tells the First Lady of Uggs and Chips that she can isolate herself in response to this loss (usually a bad idea), or use it as one more way to bridge the gap between herself and the American public. Abby also makes it a class issue (I dig this), reminding Mellie that walking around and doing nothing may feel natural, but that this form of grieving is a luxury and—in some ways—a slap in the face to the working class of America, many of whom couldn’t take off more than a few days after such a loss. AKA, get yo’ ass up and put on a cocktail dress (oh, and she also hit her with the Jackie O reference—niiice).

Mellie obliged, but I also like that she broke down after the speech, and tore that whole dress/façade off. Sure, the moment was a bit melodramatic (reminiscent of Sandra Oh’s Grey’s Anatomy, post-non-wedding meltdown), but it served to draw attention to the fact that anyone forced to do anything after the death of a child is pretty much dressing up. It’s a costume, and Mellie has been donning costumes and phony smiles for so long, the pearls around her neck are beginning to suffocate her. One can only play Mrs. Dalloway for so long, am I right?

This week’s Scandal is how I Iikey my Scandals. Politics, emotions, and Liv showing up for the booty call to end all booty calls. Kerry Washington needs to put that post-baby body away before she inspires me to actually start working out sometime this month. Also, those boots!

Stray Observations:

Okay, we got our Olitz moment this week. But I don’t wanna talk about that! #TeamJake

Loved Cyrus’ speech about the inherent flaw in comparing the loss of a child with the loss of any other loved one. We parents get snooty sometimes, and I like that he knocked us/Mellie down a peg.

Speaking of Cyrus, aghhh that guy in the bar! I knew that was a set-up. But at least we got some Donna Summer out of it.

I nearly died when Lisa cut off James’ incessant whining about the POW camp: “The talibwaaahn?”

I’ve always liked David Rosen, but somewhere along the way his storyline got a teensy bit boring. I’m happy he finally started to play a little dirty, but let’s hope the writers give him more to work with this season.

Guillermo Diaz is awesome. (But we’ve always known that.) It’s actually quite hard to act drunk, and he really pulls it off in that hotel scene.

“You’re always gonna be the guy who pulled my teeth out.” Ladies. These are called “warning signs.”

Favorite Quote of the Episode: The First Lady Would like her chips.

Shannon M. Houston is Assistant TV Editor at Paste, and a New York-based freelance writer with probably more babies than you. You can follow her on Twitter.

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