‘Scandal’ Review: ‘Everything’s Coming Up Mellie’

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Pictured: President Grant (Tony Goldwyn) and Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young); Credit: ABC/Eric McCandless)

I think I can safely say Scandal’s seventh episode, “Everything’s Coming Up Mellie” is the most talked about episode at the water-cooler of the season so far.  The episode, which delved more into First Lady Mellie Grant’s history, has stirred up a lot of vocal reactions from viewers.

In “Everything’s Coming up Mellie,” Mellie is still trying to recover from the public backlash of the last year so she decides to do a hard-hitting news interview. Meanwhile, as Cyrus continues to plot against Sally Langston, we learn how Fitz, Mellie and Cyrus became a team. Back at OPA, Huck continues to push Quinn away, but Quinn’s bloodlust could get her into some dangerous situations,

As usual, Shonda Rhimes dropped several bombs including Quinn’s stumbling into B613 membership via Charlie, Olivia using her gladiators to investigate her mother’s “death,” and Eli going to visit Omar Dresden who turns out to be…wait for it, none other than Maya Edwards.

I realize it’s unbecoming to gloat, but I’m going to anyway.  I told you all that the story of Fitz shooting down the plane carrying Olivia’s mother unfolded entirely too easily.  There are about 47 more layers that need to be revealed before it’s all out there for us to see.  Olivia learns about the ties to Jerry Grant, Fitz’s father, covering up his son’s involvement in the plane crash. Quinn continues to be dumb and is set up by Charlie to kill the one witness OPA had to investigate Maya’s death.  Most importantly, Fitz learns Rowan (or Elijah as we learn) is actually Olivia’s father.  All of this adds up to this storyline being far from over.  Also, Sally husband seems to be on the whorey side and not for women, so I’m really looking forward to that crashing and burning at Sally’s feet.

Photo courtesy ABC

Photo courtesy ABC

Now, onto what has everyone talking about — Mellie’s backstory.  We get to see a young, sweet, in love Fitz and Mellie before he runs for governor who are trying to conceive a baby.  I have to say, even I liked their fresh innocent naivety to politics and Fitz’s father, Jerry Grant.  They were just starting out and full of potential as a united front, very JFK and Jackie, except California not Massachusetts.  Jerry wants Fitz to use his military service as a platform in the gubernatorial race, Fitz wholeheartedly disagrees with this idea and so the gloves come off between these two men.  Mellie witnessing how vile Jerry is to his son starts to open her eyes to the family into which she’s married.

I’m not saying that Mellie just fell off the turnip truck, quite the contrary, she’s an up and coming attorney who graduated first from Harvard.  She has the potential to be more than capable during a bid for the White House down the road.  She is, however, new to the back alley dealings that happen in politics and especially those involving her father-in-law.  She’s instantly made aware of how appalling Jerry is when he drunkenly reveals that Fitz was the one to shoot down the commercial jet liner on Iceland killing all those innocent passengers. I knew there had to be a reason Fitz would follow these orders, and the revelation that the plane was carrying a dirty bomb intended for London is a valid threat to the world.  Mellie is reeling from learning Fitz wasn’t in Iraq like she thought when Jerry turns on her.

There are not enough adjectives to describe how heinous Jerry is.  His demands of Fitz to run for office while simultaneously belittling, provoking, and just being heartless to his own flesh and blood put him on par with Eli Pope’s machinations of his his daughter (Frankly, the fathers on this show are awful people who deserve to rot in hell). What makes Jerry worse than Eli is his rape of Mellie, his own daughter-in-law.  I sat in open-mouthed shock watching this man brutalize Mellie because he wanted to and he could on his couch.  This is where original Mellie died and current Mellie came to be.

Photo courtesy ABC

Photo courtesy ABC

She takes the pain, humiliation, and shame of being a sexual assault victim all on her shoulders and doesn’t tell Fitz.  She internalizes everything and takes control as a way to cope.  She politely blackmails Jerry into being more supportive of Fitz and by doing so launches Fitz’s political career.    Remember when I said she and Fitz were trying to get pregnant? The most disturbing aspect of Mellie’s rape is her later revelation to an ecstatic Fitz that she’s pregnant, but we now know there’s the potential for her baby to be her husband’s brother.  Right about here is when I whispered “Ohhhhh shit, that baby is a Grant but not her husband’s.”

Flash forward to First Lady Mellie Grant trying to gain ground with the American public after the PR disaster of outing Fitz’s affair.  The White House is everything for which she has worked.  She’s survived a rape, given up her career, had children, and stolen an election to get Fitz and subsequently herself to the apex of power.  Machiavelli should be proud, Mellie lives by “the ends justify the means.”  Look at her acceptance of Olivia to the team; she knows that’s who Fitz needs to be at his best.  She may resent it and be jealous of their love, but she knows that’s who he needs, so consequently she needs Olivia. Present day Mellie is holding onto the White House by her fingernails and needs a friend in Fitz to help her.  She recognizes that they are not in love, but they were once and he steps up to aid her during that awkward interview.

On a certain level, it really is love because these two have shared twenty years of history as a couple.  Is it an “I’m in love with you with my whole heart and soul” love? Nope.  The butterfly effect of the rape changed Mellie, which changed her relationship with Fitz, which changed Fitz, which brought Olivia into his orbit.  It begs the question, if the rape hadn’t happened would Fitz and Mellie have stayed to blissfully happy? I don’t know. I tend to think that Mellie has a steel spine and would have made her own path but that’s not how their story unfolded and they can never go back to being the naïve couple in California.  Fitz has now fallen in love with Olivia and he’s ready to give up everything for which Mellie has worked…because let’s face it; Fitz has never once been in control of his political career.  I get Mellie’s underlying rage more now. She’s not about to lose everything because Fitz has feelings and in her own way she loves him.

Photo courtesy ABC

Photo courtesy ABC

Here’s what I don’t understand, the continued disconnect between Fitz and Mellie over the years.  This episode explains who Mellie is, but I feel like there was a beat missed or at the every least we haven’t seen how this played into the evolution of Fitz and Mellie.  People face trauma, death, and everything else that life throws at them, some couples make it, and some don’t.  I need to see how this fundamentally changes Fitz and Mellie’s relationship over the years for it to be more than just a shocking plot device.   Fitz never learned about the rape, so I can’t blame him for never taking action.  I also can’t blame him for falling out of love with the current Mellie, she’s not the person with whom he fell in love.  I definitely see more shades gray in the Fitz/Mellie/Olivia triangle; it’s not the cut dry story of a man cheating on his shrew of a wife with the love of his life anymore and maybe that was Shonda Rhimes’ whole purpose.

I’m going to add one last thought before I wrap up this longer-than-normal recap.  After watching this episode, I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Bellamy Young.  Her nuanced acting showed how Mellie became who she is today.  She was spectacular.  My question is, “Was this particular storyline needed for the character?”  Before learning all of this, fans either loved Mellie or loved to hate her when was up to no good.  She’s is a badass who uses her brain, beauty, and everything else in her arsenal to get what she wants. What’s wrong with having a female character who is a HBIC because she’s just HBIC and not a survivor of a vicious assault who is changed forever?  During a conversation with a friend about this episode, she made the brilliant comment “Men don’t get raped into becoming Robber Barons on TV.” She’s right, they don’t.  I wish we had kept Robber Baron Mellie without her having to survive a sexual assault to get there.

About The Author

Angela Romack is writes what you’re thinking about when it comes to your favorite TV shows. If you don’t agree, that's fine. She's okay with being right. Follow her on Twitter at @AngelaMRomack.

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  • Emily

    Thank you for this well-written recap. I think you captured the essence of what Shonda Rhimes was trying to say in this story with Mellie. I too, have read reactions from many Scandal fans regarding Mellie’s rape. It was indeed, terrible and ugly to watch. However, I have found many scenes on Scandal terrible and ugly to watch. There are quite often scenes of gruesome torture and violent death. I find myself either fast-forwarding or closing my eyes during these scenes, which occur frequently. We did see Huck’s story in full detail, and that was disturbing. Although rape is considered especially and particularly heinous, I did not find the scene any “worse” than the other scenes we have been asked to witness. I don’t think there is any particular exploitation in choosing rape as the vehicle for Mellie’s “defining moment.” Unfortunately, rape and other sexual assault/harassment occur far too often in real life. Rich, powerful, and married women are not exempt. Shonda meant to portray a culture of abuse in Fitz’ family, and this rape was only one shining, ugly example. In addition, I think we are to understand that Mellie is of a certain background. She was raised to be gentrified, educated, and powerful yet in a traditional female role. She was raised to cover her pain with smiles and charm and fight back in underhanded, non-direct ways. She represents a very specific culture, herself. That’s just my two cents. Thanks again for your thoughts.

  • Laurence

    There is so much to this rape scene than just explaining why mellie is so cold in the present day. First of all, the eager-for-power-Mellie was already there in the flashbacks, when she knows that Cyrus Beane is coming but Fitz doesn’t, when she says “this is the first step to Presidency” when she runs after Cyrus and is ready to give up a career for the Presidency : this is Mellie being ambitious. When she decides to “use” the sexual assault I wouldn’t say it is the new Mellie emerging but actually the reflex of the old one thinking ” I am tough enough, I can overcome that, this is no big deal”. she was already a Harvard graduate, she was already Mellie. The thing that it explains is how she became so sad, so profoundly sad, because Mellie is a sad character and it explains why she can’t accept to let Fitz go because she is in love with him without being able to express those feelings due to the secrets she keeps, due to the resentments, the distance , the guiltiness, the denial of one’s self they caused. And well, one could from that actually understands why they grew apart. There is this secret between them and the sacrifices that Fitz can’t even begin to understand or see which is why he is not able to understand nor see the person he is married with.

    Plus there is a parallel not often made but in the episode when we meet Big Jerry, Fitz almost crosses the limit in the elevator with Olivia and this is one of the moments, though the many ressemblances between Jerry and Fitz (as for Eli Pope and Olivia the drinks to begin with), he doesn’t go assault Olivia. And in another episode when Mellie thinks Olivia was almost assaulted she apologizes for Fitz and asks Olivia to stay.

    Also this distance Mellie has with babies that one not always understood can also be linked to the assault.

    Mellie is not only the product of an assault, she is Mellie Grant although it changed her profoundly but not so obviously as everybody seems to think, she just became a really sad person unable to express this sadness because she chose once to hide a deep pain. It explains also why she can’t let Fitz go.
    At last, it also shows the difference between Fitz and Olivia and Mellie and Fitz, Mellie has too often protected Fitz when Olivia is the one looking for a shelter, when Mellie learns about the airplane shooting she doesn’t run away, it is the only time we actually saw Mellie asking something from Fitz. I thought it was a great episode and I think we will hear more about this assault,

    Sorry for my english, I am french.