Thursday, November 12, 2015

REVIEW: 'Scandal' - Olivia Reveals the Truth to Fitz and He Gives Her Exactly What She Wanted in 'Rasputin'

ABC's Scandal - Episode 5.08 "Rasputin"

In the midst of Fitz negotiating a historic peace deal, Olivia must rely on her instincts when a guest of the White House discloses powerful intel. Jake uses Huck's help to get closer to his target. Cyrus takes matters into his own hands when he realizes he's been shut out of the inner circle.

There was a time on Scandal when Olivia desperately wanted to wear the white hat or stand in the sun. She wanted to either escape the darkness that encapsulated her life or use it in order to expose the truth and serve justice in horrifying cases. And yet, she has always done dark things as well. This is a woman who rigged an election just to get her lover elected President. She has resisted falling into that darkness. She could always stand opposed to her father. That's what made her feel like she was in the right. He did these monstrous things that would terrify any sane person. That's what kept her human. But now, Olivia has embraced more power this season. She recognizes just how much influence she has in determining the future of the world. And she has taken ahold of it. She can command the most powerful office in the world without dealing with any of the responsibility. It turns out that this is wanted she has always wanted. It was never the white hat or standing in the sun or a house in Vermont. It was silently controlling the world.

Olivia did a very bad thing in order to have all of this power right now. She let Rowan out of prison. It was a decision she was personally motivated in doing. She wanted to manipulate the system so that she could be on top by Fitz's side. Everyone else is in fear over what Rowan will possibly do now that he is out. Fitz has tasked Jake with finding the former leader of B6-13. Jake sees what Olivia has become much more clearly than anyone else. Everyone else still sees a woman who aspires to all the same goals she used to. But Olivia hurt Jake in such a severe way with the death of his wife. He holds Rowan responsible for that action because Elise was working for the people who enacted the Lazarus One protocol. Jake sees life unlike anyone else. That does make him a little crazy and a little dangerous. He has a mission and will do anything to carry it out.

But even though Jake knows the truth about Olivia, he doesn't expose her in front of the President. It isn't Mellie either even though she threatens Olivia because she hasn't followed through on her promise to make her the next President. It's Cyrus who inadvertently uncovers what Olivia has really done. Cyrus wanted some control when it came to the Rowan investigation. He wanted to do his part in making sure this madman was captured again. He got David personally angry enough to lead the investigation for him. And yet, he never expected the trail to lead back to Olivia. He believed that she hated Rowan and what he had done just as much as the entire administration and the gladiators at OPA. It's shocking but he still has a plan to deal with it.

However, Cyrus isn't able to tell Fitz his plan on how to deal with Olivia because the President has already visited her. This episode highlights just how manipulative Olivia is capable of being right now. When a foreign translator wants asylum in exchange for delivering critical intel on a nuclear facility the United States doesn't go about, Olivia blows up at him when the information doesn't pan out. That action forces this man to the brink of death. Olivia does show up to save this man's life. She doesn't have an innocent man's blood on her hands - it's just all over her outfit. But she still made that happen. She is the one able to get these peace talks with a Middle Eastern country to conclude with the two Presidents signing a peace treaty. She's the one who exposes the deceit this other country is trying to pull on the United States. But she still has to sit in a holding cell and plead with Fitz over why she did what she did.

The episode teased that confrontation between Olivia and Fitz at the start of the hour. The action is tense as the episode builds to that moment. Olivia knows she has to tell Fitz the truth because the walls are slowly caving in on her. She is running out of time. She can't do so before being arrested. She is in that cell. She is handcuffed to that desk where her mother and her father have been before her. That's when Fitz learns the truth. He doesn't want to believe it at first. But Olivia breaks the news to him. It's a scene completely without dialogue. The sound design of the show this season has been amazing. This scene is the complete opposite of the norm so far. Usually the show features an impressive scene between two actors that is completely void of music. Here, the audience is asked to fill in the blanks. It's a different way to handle the sequence. The audience has to trust that Olivia did enough to get Fitz onto her side.

In the end, it turns out that she did. When Cyrus enters the Oval Office to discuss strategy, Fitz is already delivering orders to have Olivia brought directly to the White House residence. He wants all the charges against her dropped. He fully believes that her gut is right about Rowan. He is being hunted down and is afraid for his life. Fitz alters Jake's mission to capture and not kill. This truly is the best outcome Olivia could have wanted. Fitz has so much love and trust in Olivia that he would side with her despite his very personal feelings to the killer of his son. That's a powerful bond that Olivia has created. And yet, Fitz isn't completely powerless either. Not only does he bring Olivia to the White House to stay, he also brings all of her belongings. She has officially moved in with him. It wasn't her choice. This is something he has done for her. He's keeping her close just in case the action intensifies with Rowan. This is what the two of them always wanted. They are living in the White House together bringing change to the world. And yet, that's a goal Olivia no longer wants. She sees this happening as a thing that traps her. She no longer has the freedom she desperately loves. She will have a protective detail on her at all times. It will be much more difficult for her to leave the White House and go to the firm. She is free but she's also living the life that is no longer appealing to her. When she looks up and spots the white hat staring at her from the shelf, it's a reminder of her past and a woman who just doesn't exist anymore. What a chilling final image.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Rasputin" was written by Paul William Davies and directed by John Terlesky.
  • David and Liz as a couple still feels primarily like a distraction. Something to fill the time. It's a pairing the show is simply experimenting with because it's in its fifth season and it needs to try something new. 
  • Susan's flirtatious relationship with David is very amusing though. Sure, she's much better when she's at the center of the action helping Fitz delay the peace talks for a little bit. But her dynamic with David also gives her a personal element in the narrative.
  • Mellie has lost all of her leverage against Olivia. It's strange that David's investigation didn't unveil that it was her signature that got Rowan released from prison. That's a reveal still to come. But Mellie really needs her own story right now too.
  • Quinn complains that Marcus doesn't talk fast enough when delivering the important information to Olivia about the asylum case. As the show has discovered this season though, great things can happen when the narrative just slows down for a moment.
  • It's very admirable of Huck to not want to continue down the path back to darkness. He has done his best to avoid becoming the monster he used to be again. He does a favor for Jake to help locate Rowan's location. But he wants that to be it. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like he was able to stick to that because he later kidnapped Rowan before Jake got to the location.
  • That goodbye scene between Rowan and Olivia was brutal and fantastic. It was tense as Tom escorted Olivia to Rowan. But then, Joe Morton absolutely killed the delivery of his speech to Olivia that ended with the line that he is so proud of the woman she has become. Again, just very chilling stuff.