Culture

“Scandal” review: “We Do Not Touch The First Ladies”

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Last night’s Scandal was entitled “We Do Not Touch the First Ladies.” It refers in part to White House paintings, but as you might’ve been able to guess, there’s a more literal meaning to it as well.

I suppose I should start off by talking about how wrong I was last week when I predicted that Fitz and Olivia would keep their hands off each other for at least a little while, since the episode opens on them getting dressed together after presumably doing the deed (unless they were checking each other for ticks or something, which seems pretty unlikely). I will say that jumping right into their post-coital fight as opposed to focusing on the passion that preceded it it was a welcome stylistic choice. I feel fairly confident in declaring once again that I think Olivia and Fitz will keep their hands off each other over the next couple weeks, for real this time (after all, isn’t the anticipation part of the fun?), but apparently what do I know?

The main storyline of “We Do Not Touch the First Ladies” concerned a potential scandal (no pun intended; I simply couldn’t find another word to use here) involving the President’s new pick for VP, California Governor Andrew Nichols, and rumors that he secretly abused Oxycontin while still in office. Although the rumors about Oxy use in the Governor’s mansion turn out to be true, Olivia does some digging and discovers that it was First Lady Mellie Grant who purchased the drugs while the President was still Governor, and that Nichols, then Lt. Governor, is just covering for her. In flashbacks, we see Mellie, still reeling from the rape she suffered at the hands of her father-in-law, try to overdose when no one is around. The Lt. Governor sees this after everyone else has gone home (because apparently he’s the rare politician who likes to just hang out without any staff or anything), and saves her. From there, he falls in love with her, but Mellie never lets it get too far.

Olivia officially wins the biggest hypocrite award of the night for telling Mellie to cool it with Nichols (being Olivia, she already believes she has figured everything out,) but also saying that she understands how hard it must be for her, only days after she’s hopped out of the President’s bed. Rightfully, Mellie gets in her face and tells her, “We are NOT the same.” Far be it for me to hyperbolize, but you go girl! It’s ridiculous for Olivia to give anybody advice on fidelity, since she never seems to be able to resist sleeping with the President for more than a few weeks, but to give this advice to Mellie just seems cruel. And as it turns out, Olivia was wrong, since Mellie and Nichols had never even kissed (in all fairness to Olivia, I was wrong too, since I also predicted last week that there had been an actual affair going on between them, rather than just mere attraction). Unsurprisingly though, by the end of the episode, Mellie and Nichols do kiss. And good for them, I say!

But I did have a problem with the circumstances under which Nichols supposedly fell in love with Mellie in the first place. Since he literally rescued her from death, there’s a weird savior dynamic going on there. The show tells us that after Nichols found Mellie passed out on the floor and helped purge the pills from her system, the two of them stayed up all night talking. But the show chooses to focus on the gruesome circumstances of how Nichols and Mellie came together in the first place, rather than any scenes that depict them falling in love. Granted, it’s probably pretty difficult to fall in love with someone after spending just one night with them, but I would rather see a snippet of their conversation from said night rather than the dramatic events that preceded and followed it. Unfortunately, Scandal being so scandalous (okay, that one was totally intended), we got the latter.

The bigger issue, though, is that Mellie is simply too strong to need anyone to save her. It’s not believable that she would fall in love with someone just because they rescued her, or that she would need rescuing at all for that matter. Like I’ve said before, as far as I’m concerned the more screen time Mellie gets the better, so I’m all in favor of her new romance. But above all else, I’d rather see the writers stay true to the character, since she’s pretty much become my favorite on the whole show (and it’s nice to know that at least someone else feels this way).

“We Do Not Touch the First Ladies” also featured the return of frequent Scandal guest Gregg Henry as Hollis Doyle. Although Hollis meets with Sally Langston to consider backing her run for President, he’s able to tell within a matter of minutes that she’s gone crazy, and immediately switches back over to Team Grant. But when the President sees him at a fundraiser, he gets angry, and tells Cyrus he doesn’t want Hollis around after he helped rig the last presidential election. No offense, Mr. President, but while I get that you don’t like this guy, since you’ve already continues to surround yourself with everybody else who helped rig the election, what’s the harm of keeping Hollis around if he can write you a crazy big check? This is politics after all, and Washington’s first allegiance is almost always to money.

The only other development worth mentioning is Harrison’s renewed relationship with lover/enemy Adnan Sharif, played by the excellent Iranian-British actress Nazanin Boniadi. I forgot to mention her appearance last week with everything else that’s been going on with the show, although the Sharif storyline has slowly been creeping up for most of the season. I was initially interested to see what the deal was with this character because Scandal has never really done a story focused on Harrison. But once again, it appears I had the wrong idea going into this week’s episode. In fact, on this one, I was wrong twofold, since I assumed that a) Sharif’s part on the show would be tied to Harrison, which no longer seems to be the case since b) last night’s episode ended with Sharif talking about some kind of dastardly plot with Olivia’s mother, whom I assumed we wouldn’t see for a while. Oops. Irregardless, I’m excited that Boniadi is going to be on the show. Probably just as well-known for auditioning to be Tom Cruise’s next wife as she is for guest stints on How I Met Your Mother and Homeland, Boniadi is a definite talent, and worth watching out for.

Tune in next week to see what else I get wrong in my Scandal predictions. Will Hollis and Sally decide to run off together and live as secret lovers in Mexico? I would guess not, but who can say!