Culture

“Scandal” review: “No Sun on the Horizon”

TONY GOLDWYN, KATE BURTON

Considering just how convoluted Scandal usually is, “No Sun on the Horizon” is notable first and foremost for being an admirably streamlined episode in terms of story. The episode also deserves some praise for having a really cool title; “No Sun on the Horizon” may have been a slightly overdramatic choice, but this is Scandal, and overdramatic is what they’re good at.

The thrust of the episode is all centered on an upcoming Presidential debate, in which Vice President Sally Langston plans to confess that she murdered her husband to God and all of his followers. Understandably, her campaign manager Leo Bergen freaks out when he she tells him of her plans to cop to a murder on live TV. Bergen goes to Cyrus, who will also be brought down if the details of the murder emerge and it’s discovered that he helped Sally cover the whole thing up. Meanwhile, David Rosen, who learned about the murder from Cyrus’ husband James (who was initially leaking information from the White House under the name Publius), decides to approach Olivia for help on the whole matter. Olivia refuses to believe it’s true, until she goes to Cyrus herself, and he confirms it. Desperate for a way out of this situation, Olivia goes to Sally directly, but drops that idea when she sees just how batty Sally has really gone. She then goes to the President, and asks if he’ll throw the debate in the hope that Sally will pounce on him rather than giving up and sharing her sins with the world. Over at B-613, Jake Ballard, who was informed of the situation by Cyrus, begrudgingly decides to send an operative (that one guy who’s on the President’s Secret Service detail but who has apparently been a spy this whole time) to the debate, so that if Sally does start to confess, they can take her out, and hopefully prevent her doing too much damage to the White House and the Union in general. Luckily, Fitz takes Olivia’s advice (because of course he does) and throws the debate by casually bringing up his past indiscretions, making it impossible for a prideful Sally not to jump on his back and scold him on his moral improprieties, rather than revealing her own.

The episode is bookended by a speech from Jake Ballard, talking about what it is to give your life up for B-613. In the last scene, James meets up with David Wallace and two other women they’ve been co-consipring with in the effort to take down Sally and everyone who helped sweep her husband’s murder under the rug. But a few scenes earlier, Cyrus finds a bug in his office, and he realizes James was Publius and he’s known everything all along. After receiving a tearful apology from Cyrus, James tells David that he cannot go through with their plan. But it’s too late; just as they realize that neither of them called the other, Jake steps out of nowhere and shoots both women (sort of a mean-spirited choice on the show’s part), as well as one of the men. However, we don’t see which one.

I love crazy Sally and her crazy religious ranting, so I enjoyed getting a lot of that in this episode, even though I had a hard time believing that she just snapped back into being a political animal toward the end. I also had a hard time believing that Sally would confess what she had done to her pastor, whom Leo had brought in hoping that he would calm her down, and that Leo would then just let said pastor walk away with this information stored safely in his head. In fact, I find it hard to believe that someone like Leo, who seems to be a true Washington shark, would even stay with Sally through her trip to crazy town and back. Nevertheless, the imminent debate was a great thread to structure the episode around.

You want to know what else was great about this episode? The way Olivia laughed hysterically when she realized that the participants in the upcoming Presidential debate (including the President’s former rival, Governor Samuel Reston, in addition to himself and Vice President Langston) are all murderers. You have to give Scandal credit for knowing how ridiculous they are.

Also, I don’t understand James’ flip-flopping at all. This is the second time he’s been mortified by something his husband has done, only to stick by his side after some heartfelt chitchat. The looseness with which he walked to up to David Rosen and basically said, “Yeah, I’m not into this anymore” was jarring.

Speaking of jarring, the promo after the previous week’s Scandal promised some sort of big moment within the final 30 seconds of last night’s episode, so it’s fair to say that all loyal devotees of the show were ready for something big to happen. Although it certainly crossed my mind that Sally might get assassinated, that seemed more and more unlikely, as the characters continued to toss the idea around openly, and finally when the debate arrived in the second to last act. I’ve been wondering for a while if David Rosen was going to get killed off, and although the show doesn’t really need James either, my guess is that if only one of the men dies (and seriously, one of them has to or that is a serious copout) it’ll be David. With Cyrus’ as his husband, James has a more direct line to the White House, and therefore the show can do more with the character. But since David and Olivia are ostensibly on the same page at this point, even when they’re on different sides, there just doesn’t seem to be much more conflict they can squeeze out of him.

Was the big moment actually shocking? Abby told David earlier in the episode to be careful digging around, so even if I hadn’t suspected for some time that he might be on his way out, it wouldn’t have been too hard to see this one coming, especially after the teaser warned that something big was in store. I would personally be pretty surprised if it turns out to be James who gets axed rather than David, but either way, it was a decent twist that should take the story to some interesting places.

That being said, having Jake be the one who did the shooting was weird. In the moments leading up to it I thought the shooter might be Quinn (because who can even keep track with her this season), but having Jake be some ultra-baddie all of a sudden was unexpected, and not in a good way. Jake Ballard has consistently been as white bread, super-vanilla, boring as you can get, especially for a sexy spy, so for him to be giving dramatic speeches and shooting people all of a sudden (just because, what, he can’t take rejection?) felt out of character.

I will admit though, as boring as Jake is, I would’ve rather seen Olivia pursue a relationship with him as opposed to running back into the arms of the President. I can’t with these two anymore. After what feels like Olivia’s thousandth breathy speech of the episode, she kisses Fitz close to the end of “No Sun on the Horizon,” and I decided I had to bail on this relationship. I’m going to stop hoping the show will even pretend that these two can keep their hands off each other for a week. From now on, it’s better just to assume that no matter what, they’ll end up in each other’s arms at some point during any given episode.

Other stray observations: in addition to being boring, Jake became a boring creep last night when he plainly told Olivia, “”If you get drunk tonight, I am going to take advantage of you.” Even more creepy was that Olivia’s response to this was, “Take advantage of me, Jake.” By the way, Jake, that secret organization of yours? You could literally not pick a sillier name for its cover than Acme. And as long as we’re talking B-613, I want to shout out Rowan for shouting out Donald Rumsfeld with the whole unknown known reference. Yay politics!

I have to admit, not a bad night for Scandal. Not a great night either, but after “No Sun on the Horizon” I’m ready to say that at least a few of the balls this show has in the air are worth watching.