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‘Scandal’ Review: ‘Paris is Burning’ (And No One Cares)

SCANDAL - "Paris is Burning" - Olivia and Fitz face some very big consequences and Mellie brings in an old friend to make sure she gets her way. Meanwhile, Abby shows Olivia she is fully capable of handling working at the White House, on "Scandal," THURSDAY OCTOBER 8 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/John Fleenor)
KERRY WASHINGTON, TONY GOLDWYN
SCANDAL - "Paris is Burning" - Olivia and Fitz face some very big consequences and Mellie brings in an old friend to make sure she gets her way. Meanwhile, Abby shows Olivia she is fully capable of handling working at the White House, on "Scandal," THURSDAY OCTOBER 8 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/John Fleenor) KERRY WASHINGTON, TONY GOLDWYN

Last night’s Scandal was a whole lot of “What is going on?” for me during “Paris is Burning.” Now that everyone is learning of Olivia’s admission to being Fitz’s mistress, the ish is hitting the fan. Mellie, Fitz, Olivia, Abby, Elizabeth and the rest of White House staff are trying to figure out how to move forward, but apparently the only reaction of importance is Mellie’s since that’s the focus of the episode. There’s also OPA’s (with Jake popping up) reaction of disconnecting the phone lines and day drinking, which is what I lean toward, but I have poor coping skills and enjoy vodka when it’s a crappy day.

Anyway, the fallout from Olivia’s “Yes” response quickly deteriorates into Mellie’s demands, via Cyrus, to grant Fitz a divorce. Everyone, especially Abby, is under the gun to get the agreement nailed down. They need to get back to an interviewer who could ruin the plan by showing Fitz and Mellie lying through their respective teeth talking about how strong their marriage is as Olivia simultaneously admitted to being Fitz’s mistress. Cyrus works Mellie up to demand a ridiculously long list of expensive and petty requirements, all of which Fitz agrees to with Olivia’s prodding, and then turns around to reject the entire deal. Because butthurt and pride are strong in that one. BUT it does lead to the best scene of the entire episode: the face-off of Liv and Mellie in the closet.

When this show plays the quiet, restrained beats of a storyline, it shines. I’m dead serious. Mellie describing to Olivia what she’s about to step into as FLOTUS, what she has to suppress to do the job, what she’s going to give up to be in the role, speaks to every single red flag Olivia fears. Olivia wants Fitz, but sure as hell doesn’t want the job of FLOTUS, or dealing with the press, or planning the Christmas decorations of the White House. It’s very bizarre to me that the great crisis manager of Washington D.C. doesn’t have a plan for her life, and even more absurd that she’s reactive instead of proactive, but I guess life sneaks up on you when you fall in love.

As to the balcony goodbye scene between Fitz and Mellie, I honestly didn’t think it was necessary, but it ended up being kinda lovely. Fitz straight up says, “I’m sorry I put you through everything over the last 20 years. I don’t want this job, you do and you can do it well.” Ok. Let’s go with that. Either way, he’s apologizing for hurting Mellie (for the 15th time) and closing the door to their partnership, marriage, arrangement. Let’s move on, for real this time.

SCANDAL - "Paris is Burning" - Olivia and Fitz face some very big consequences and Mellie brings in an old friend to make sure she gets her way. Meanwhile, Abby shows Olivia she is fully capable of handling working at the White House, on "Scandal," THURSDAY OCTOBER 8 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/John Fleenor) JEFF PERRY, TONY GOLDWYN

Also, I think I’m one of two people who wasn’t surprised that Fitz didn’t take Cyrus back. Cyrus is the person who’s kept Fitz from choosing Olivia for the last 6.5 years. His plan of “stay the course” ain’t gonna fly because Fitz is done. I will say that this breakup hurt more than Fitz  letting go of Mellie. Bromance down. Especially when Cyrus pulls a Cyrus and riles Mellie up yet again right before she’s agreed to do the united front interview with Fitz. She, of course, screws everything up and walks out on Fitz and the interview and into a car with Cyrus. Pete and Repeat are about to start WWIII. In a related note, I’ve missed Jeff Perry in the White House.

A few thoughts on Abby and Olivia: I hate when they fight. Olivia was wrong to lie to Abby’s face, and Abby is wrong for blowing it way outta proportion (and should have known Olivia and Fitz are always together). Abby was right when she said Olivia didn’t think she could handle the scandal. For all the leeway she gives her associates, Olivia is a type A control freak. In this case, however, she can’t be (and will never be) in control of anything related to Fitz in public. That’s why when Olivia silently acknowledges and agrees with Abby going to the press room to pull the trigger on throwing her under the bus, there’s a definite shift in Olivia’s world. She’s never going to be the fixer in the background again, she’s always going to be “the other woman” who has daddy issues, a thing for older men, and who broke up the First Couple because that’s the narrative now.

For better or worse, Olivia has chosen Fitz. And the mirroring from when Fitz ran out the clock with Olivia in her apartment was beautiful. I just wonder if love is enough for Olivia. We all know it is for Fitz, because he’s naïve and sweet and hopelessly in love with Olivia (and I love him for it). But Olivia? She’s practical and realistic and coming forward to the press goes against everything she knows as a fixer. I don’t know if she can stand the spotlight to stay with Fitz. I hope she can, but I have trust issues with this show.

I should mention there was a scene with Jake going to visit Rowan. Because B613 (There, I mentioned it).

Please humor me with something that’s been bugging me for seasons, but was really highlighted last night. I get that deep down Mellie will always be hurt  (on some level) that Fitz doesn’t love her the way he loves Olivia. She saw herself and Fitz as a solid partnership in the quest for the White House. A quest she’s ALWAYS wanted, because let’s be real, Fitz is the dreamer and optimistic flyboy, and Mellie is the “do whatever it takes” to get what she wants. And she wants the White House one way or another. This doesn’t mean that she hasn’t faced heartbreak. She has survived a rape and the death of a child, two life-altering events that can break a person, and she’s continued to put one foot in front of the other to flourish into Senator Mellie Grant (And quite a bit of character development.) That said, I’ve thought about it long enough and want to address Mellie’s consistent use or implication of the word “whore” for Olivia.

It’s been going on for five seasons now, and it’s reached the exasperating, hypocritical level. Yes, Olivia has been sleeping with a married man for years, and a wife has every right to go after the mistress.

HOWEVER, in this instance, this wife has:

-Set up rendezvous for Fitz and Olivia to meet at the State Dinner so he can sleep better (see episode 1×03)

-Made it known to Olivia that she accepts their relationship by returning to her Fitz’s flag pin that he lost while looking at the Constitution with Olivia (see episode 2×08)

-Begged Olivia to come back to Fitz for his reelection campaign because he needs her (see episode 3×05)

-Told Fitz to go get Olivia back from kidnappers because Olivia isn’t just a cheap skirt since he truly loves her (see episode 4×11)

And here’s the KICKER…

Mellie Grant has been aware of this situation from the beginning because she was livid that Olivia “fell down on the job” and let Amanda Tanner get into Fitz’s pants while he was rebounding from being dumped by Olivia (see episode 1×07).

This is the SAME Mellie Grant who was caught on her knees servicing “Uncle Andrew” by her own daughter in the White House.  Let me be clear, I’m not slut-shaming. I don’t care who blows each other on this show; everyone has an equal opportunity for getting it in. But if I hear Mellie call Olivia a “whore” one more time and Olivia suddenly go mute and acquiesce to Mellie’s tantrum, I’m going to throw my bottle of vodka through the TV. By definition, Mellie fits the title of “whore” as well. As does Fitz, and Cyrus, and probably Lauren, we just don’t know about it yet. I’m sure there’s a deeper meaning in there somewhere that I’m missing because I’m slow, but I’m so done with this white woman calling Olivia a “whore” without her defending herself. It isn’t snappy or edgy, it’s just exhausting and enough already.

The fact that I have this much to say about a supporting character is telling. This was an episode about the fallout Fitz and Olivia face after going public and the one doing all the talking was Mellie Grant. I said last night and I’ll say it again: it seemed like the perfect set up for a spinoff show for Mellie. And that’s ok with me, maybe then Olivia Pope will find her words again. And maybe this time not with Jake on the phone.

About the author

Angela Romack

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.

  • sweettweeny

    As for Liv picking up men in bars, in that same episode, Lena Durham wrote a book about her sexual exploits with many men and no one seemed to bat an eye. What I heard was that a woman can do whatever she wants to do with her body and should not be slut shammed.

    The same was said about Karen Grant, when she slept with two boys at a party – people did not Karen to be slut shammed because it was her right to sleep with whomever she wanted to sleep with – and she didn’t want to press charges against the two boys because it was consensual.

    Olivia picked up one man in a bar and it wasn’t even a one night stand – she had a relationship, albeit sexual, with Russell. Remember Olivia is a single woman and In the 6 years Fitz has been in the White House, Olivia has slept with Edison, Jake and Russell. There are some women who have slept with six guys within a 6 month period. So, the slut shamming of Mellie has no place on Scandal and I’m disturbed that Shonda even green lights this shyt.

  • gail

    Yes, I felt that too. Many were waylaid by the ” I choose you” but it almost felt tacked on. I’m glad Liv is trying to hang on though.

  • gail

    Very insightful– no evolution for Mellie or Cy. Cy is pretty soulless so he’s probably incapable of real change.

  • gail

    Really good points. She’s miserable w Fitz but won’t let go; she’s miserable in the WH yet has bargained her whole existence on staying there for another 10 yrs. Maybe she’s just a miserable human being –but the clincher for me is that she wants to hold Fitz as a lifelong hostage to the misery. Why seek happiness, or contentment, when so much misery is there for the taking? Huh?

  • gail

    I’m not sure it’s about race, it’s the good ol’ gospel about adultery being a cardinal sin– and even w that– there are still more viewers pulling for Liv than Mellie. Mellie seems to be becoming more and more delusional so her POV is hypocritical and full of inconsistencies. These writers want viewers to debate about who is right/ wrong and there’s a lot of grey areas. I would agree that there’s a portion of our society who may be analyzing this triangle through the lenses of race and strenuously pulling against Liv for that reason. After four yrs, the whore thing has become tired ( but the writers didn’t help when they had Liv picking up men in bars).

  • gail

    Good review. Fitz knows Cy will always try to break Olitz up as long as Fitz is president so he can no longer trust Cy. You are certainly not the only one who has trust issues with the Scandal writers: remember S3 & 4? I have been suffering from “scandal anxiety” since the puzzle pieces began to come together in Epi 1. We saw the parallels between Liv and the princess who ended up dead w the theme being ” fairy tales don’t always have happy endings”. Each week Liv has seemed confused, w Jake hanging around the edges, and as this writer said, Livs life has totally shifted. I personally believe Liv could be a sought after fixer again if she ends up married to Fitz but the question is whether she’s strong enough to wade through all the crap in the meantime. On any other show, I’d trust the writers to end w Olitz together but they’ve made some missteps over the last four seasons. Ugh–anxiety.

  • gail

    I feel the same way, Phyllis. It seemed disjointed, a disconnect between the middle, when Liv called Jake, and the “watch me choose you” ending. Relieved it’s not just me. The writers are insulting us by throwing Jake in each episode to scare us into thinking Liv is going back to him. I also didn’t quite understand why Options 2, throwing Liv under the bus, was the best option. I do, however, understand Livs shame and guilt– especially with her being such an accomplished woman. I hope this season is about her working through those feelings, forgiving herself and no longer allowing Mellie to use emotional blackmail against her. She met her soulmate under bad circumstances: work it out or live w half a heart.

  • carol

    Meant to say… Especially on the last paragraph!

  • gail

    Lmao– that’s exactly what it is, a hostage situation. How many yrs does a man have to tell you he’s in love w someone else? Mellie has set women back a thousand yrs with her pathetic behavior. My God– who does that?

  • Carol

    Loved it!!! Had to drop the mic! Especially the on the last paragraph!!

  • latonya

    Bravo to this recap it was right on!!! Tired of all the other recapped bashing fitz, Liv, and OLITZ. The commenters below me were even better. u guys wrote everything I was thinking of and said it so much better than I ever could. especially Phyllis steen point about Shonda having soft spot for joke, mellie,and papa nope. It’s noticeable that Scott and Bellamy are her pets. it shows in the writing for them and of course she hates fitz and Liv I can’t see what else it could be and why would the lead be so slut shamed if it wasn’t nothing but hate for Kerry/Liv?!?! But what I don’t understand is why joke/Scott is still regular when his character present would not be missed during any scene that he has been in. U can tell they are just mAking up stuff for him as they go. it’s just ridiculous how his character is being shoehorned into scenes and rather telling how bad Shonda is crushing on this guy.

  • Diane Harris Stark

    Actually really enjoyed this review, you’ve made several points I’d been wanting to voice for a while. Mellie has actually facilitated the relationship between Liv & Fitz when it suits her political purposes & the whore name calling is very tired. I want Liv to read her for this so much. A very Mellie centric episode. Loved the ending tho, even if Shonda is making drama for drama’s sake with the ” throwing Liv under the bus”. And really Abby, u stormed in there with SS & didn’t get the tape??? WTF?? & u wonder why Liv has doubts about you?? Just my 2cents.

  • Lee

    It’s got to the point now where Mellie’s incessant whining actually makes me feel physically ill. Her clinging to Fitz isn’t a marriage at this point, it’s a hostage situation. He’s served the divorce papers and she needs to sign them. So she married and had children, like hundreds of millions of women. For that ‘sacrifice’ he’s made her senator and promised to support her as president. How much does she hate her kids that that isn’t enough? what does she want, blood?
    If Abby had any brains she’d be finding the evidence of Mellie’s affair instead of complaining about Olivia not trusting her in a way she has proven she doesn’t deserve and merrily maligning her ‘friend’ in front of the whole world. Olivia would NEVER have done that to Abby.
    And isn’t it time Cyrus retired for good?

  • Phyllis Steen

    Finally, my impressions on the rest of the show.

    Olivia gave a big speech last episode about how shame was holding her back in her relationship with Fitz, culminating in her looking the media in the eye and confirming that she is his lover. Then spent this entire episode acting like she was more ashamed than ever. What was the point of that scene in the hotel then? To just have a cheap Olake knockoff of Olitz’s “one minute” on the couch? After watching Olivia act like an embarrassed hooker begging her john’s wife for forgiveness and telling her lover’s rival for her affections that she made a mistake owning her relationship with her lover, the “watch me earn you” redux fell flat.

    Abby, Abby, Abby, what more can I say? She is about to burn all of her bridges. From the looks of next week’s preview, Fitz is going to fire her. Last season she was told she wasn’t a Gladiator anymore, and if Olivia finds out she knew that Liz outed her and hid it for her own gain, Olivia will be done with her. And she needs to keep an eye on Liz (so does everyone else) because Liz is carrying around a drawer full of knives to stick in people’s backs.

    (Then again, Olivia still doesn’t know that Fitz outed her name the first time, that Jake made a sex tape of them to give to her dad, Mellie doesn’t know who her son’s murderer is or that it’s the same guy who blackmailed her, because major details like that don’t matter in Shondaland)

    Cyrus will never change. I’m glad Fitz didn’t fall for his little fake-sentimental speech. You know, I’m glad Fitz respects what Olivia wants, but in this episode I wished he would have stood up to her when she was giving away his family’s ranch to Mellie, among other things. All I could do was shake my head while watching Fitz lower himself by apologizing to Mellie for her own bad choices and offering her everything but the shirt off his back, only for her to ultimately throw it all in his face out of spite.

    When Jake was visiting Papa Pope, I was hoping someone blew up the jail. Jake is waiting for his chance to come between Olivia and Fitz while acting like a concerned friend to Olivia. Does anyone really think he won’t try to “save” Olivia from her relationship with Fitz after she told him she thought she made a mistake? And Papa Pope doesn’t seem to love Olivia at all. Her only value to him is as some kind of prostitute he can pimp out for his own agenda. Otherwise, she can die for all he cares and he said as much when she was kidnapped and in danger of being killed. Worse of all, Jake and Papa Pope’s conversation shows that the hated B613 storyline is on the fast lane back to the show.

    Jake, Mellie, and Papa Pope are the three characters who drive the Olivia Pope is a whore narrative the most, and are coincidentally Shonda Rhimes’ three favorite characters. She strongly identifies with Mellie, Papa Pope speaks for her as a black person, and she’s so obsessed with Scott Foley that she refuses to stop forcing his presence where it isn’t needed. We can conclude what she thinks of Olivia Pope.

  • Phyllis Steen

    As a black woman, it grates to see women and black people glorifying Mellie for the way she treats Olivia and cheering for “Mellivia” when their relationship reeks completely of plantation mistress and meek cowering slave. The pure, virtuous white woman putting the slutty [n-word] in her place. That’s basically what Mellie called Olivia in this, “the girl who can’t shut her legs”. There is a long history of racist white people referring to black adults as “boy”/”girl” and Shonda Rhimes knows it. She knew exactly what she was doing when she had Mellie say that and she should be ashamed to look at her black face in the mirror.

    Mellie also insists on behaving like Olivia’s only value to anyone is the hole between her legs, while simultaneously expecting Olivia to do everything. She has never once acknowledged Olivia bailing out her, her husband, her child, or anyone else when they have gotten themselves into some big mess that threatens to ruin them. And Olivia has been bailing those people out going all the way back to the campaign trail. If not for Olivia, Mellie would have never set foot in the White House. She would be known as the cheating wife who wrecked her husband’s campaign for president by having her toes sucked by one Paul Mosley. Remember how Olivia covered that up? And Olivia is never, ever allowed to defend herself to Mellie. (A weak “Please don’t call me a whore while I come up with a plan to preserve your marriage” isn’t a defense.)

    It’s painful to watch Olivia purposely putting herself on display as some nympho Jezebel sleeping her way to the top just to assuage Mellie’s bruised ego, while Mellie is held up as a saint who is entitled to judge everyone else’s sexual history, instead of the giant hypocrite she is. If Olivia deserves to be slut-shamed by Mellie for having an affair with her husband, then what’s the excuse for Mellie slut-shaming other people? In this episode, she referred to Cyrus’ husband as “that whore you [live with? married?]”. If that’s justified because Michael was a prostitute, then what’s the excuse for her slut-shaming Jeannine Locke? Mellie called a woman SHE FRAMED for having an affair with Fitz a slut, and had to be reminded that the woman never actually touched her husband. Where is the condemnation of Mellie being such a slut-shaming harpy? Where are all the “feminists” who cried when Mellie complained that she’d be slut-shamed if her affair came out? The ones who threw such fits when Kristin Stewart was called names for cheating on her boyfriend with her married boss? When are those people going to stand up for Olivia? Clearly they only care about white women being slut-shamed.

    Is constantly putting down Olivia in comparison to Mellie Shonda Rhimes’ effort at placating white viewers who refuse to identify with a black lead?

  • Phyllis Steen

    Mellie needs to kill herself. And I mean that literally, because she seems to have zero happiness in her life and the more people try to make her happy, the more miserable she is. She’s unhappy being Fitz’s First Lady, and even unhappier when he wants a divorce. She makes outrageous and degrading demands in order agree to the divorce, then when she gets everything she still refuses because it’s still not enough for her. I assume she’s still “sacrificing her happiness” to become POTUS. Then when she finds out that being president is more than running roughshod over everyone and being dictator of the world, and she has to actually do work and take responsibility when things go wrong, it will be all Fitz’s fault for not telling her how hard it is to be president, that he somehow tricked her into it. This episode proved that no matter how much Mellie gets, she’ll never be happy, so she might as well go ahead and off herself and save herself the misery.

    I think Mellie actually loves being miserable. She’s addicted to feeling and being treated like a victim. That’s the only reason why she would continue to fight so hard to hold on to a life that is so bad she has to chug bottles of moonshine each day just to endure, right? She also seems to be convinced that everything in her life was done to her. Someone who has never watched any other episodes would conclude that she was sold to Fitz like a child bride, forced to give up her career, forced to have children, forced to work with her rapist and keep quiet about her rape, then forced to be around him on the campaign trail, forced to help fix Fitz’s election, dragged kicking and screaming to the White House, and forced to stay married to Fitz when she wanted out. According to the show, everyone has treated Mellie badly, and she’s never done anything to anyone.

    All that said, I have a hard time believing that Mellie wasn’t just putting on a big melodramatic show to win Olivia’s sympathy and put doubts about being with Fitz in her mind. If being the First Lady married to Fitz is such a horrible position, why has she gone to major extremes multiple times to protect it? If it’s so horrible, why not wish it on her husband’s mistress? It would be payback for having an affair with him, and she would be free, right?

  • Jay

    You know what I found very telling? In the Mellie/Cyrus scene she said “everybody’s changing” which implies that Mellie has not changed. How sad is it that with all that she has been thru there has really been no real growth with this character. Mellie came out of the fire (Scandal literally gave us a scene of Mellie washing it all away in s4) only to come out of the ashes that was her life still the same person. The only difference was she stop talking and actually started making moves but overall Mellie and Cyrus are still the same ppl while everyone else is at least trying to grow even if they stumble a bit. But of course no other recappers bother to speak on that. They instead believe the hype of Mel so called greatness and that “Mel is woman hear her roar” *rollingeyes*. Anyway, loved your recap. It’s always a pleasure to hear what folks who actually “get it” have to say.

  • hi

    Great review. I was sick to death of hearing Mellie’s woe is me when she knew she signed for that life, so she should be about it. I do not understand why in the world Olivia would burn herself at the stake for protecting Fitz’s presidency especially when he would give it up to be with her. Sigh, it was just so disappointing on some levels.