Culture

“Scandal” review: “Mama Said Knock You Out”

DYLAN MINNETTE, BELLAMY YOUNG, MADELINE CARROLL, TONY GOLDWYN

“Mama Said Knock You Out” wasn’t exactly a bad episode of Scandal, but it wasn’t a particularly good one either. In the weeks leading up to the show’s finale, it felt like things have stalled, but only because this is the calm before the storm.

“Mama Said Knock You Out” was mostly significant in that it revealed the frequently mentioned yet never seen Grant children for the first time. As son Jerry (Dylan Minnette) and daughter Karen (Madeline Carroll) get ready to do an interview with their parents, Olivia becomes increasingly worried about the domestic dynamics of the White House. Neither child is particularly fond of their father, but Karen is more sad for her mother than anything, who she feels should have left the President amidst the rumors of his unfaithfulness. But the tables are turned when Karen catches the First Lady with Governor Nichols, and starts to believe it was her mother’s infidelity that tore their family apart all along. Pope & Associates run into other complications when Adnan comes to them saying she will turn on Olivia’s mother, Maya, in exchange for immunity. But this partnership doesn’t last long, and Adnan steals important documents from their office after she knocks Harrison out following a quickie between the two of them. Still heartbroken over the death of his husband, Cyrus is back at work and functioning at higher standards than ever this week. That is, until he sees Jake Ballard and attacks him because he knows it must’ve been him who killed James. Before the episode ends, the Grants pull themselves together in time to do the interview, but not before Fitz learns about Mellie’s affair.

I have to give props to Governor Nichols right away for reminding Olivia about people in glass houses. Once again, her righteous indignation at Mellie and the Governor’s affair is intolerably hypocritical. Even worse was the President’s; at one point while he’s yelling at Mellie following his discovery of the affair, Fitz actually refers to her as “dried up.” He insists that it was her coldness that forced him into Olivia’s arms. But upon discovering that she and his choice for running mate have been sleeping together, he immediately jumps to the conclusion that she was just cold on him, not men in general. With all due respect, Mr. President, this little speech made you sound like an asshole. If your wife suddenly decides she’s not attracted to you, chances are there’s something else going on there. Moreover, even if she does decide as much, it doesn’t mean that you give up on your marriage. President Grant says he tried to fix things with the First Lady, but the show simply paints him as a horndog who rushed into Olivia’s arms as soon as Mellie couldn’t fulfill her wifely duties. And on top of all this, the President should realize that he is still a cheater. Even if his wife did stop loving him, he was the one who cheated first, and no matter what the reason, that makes him just as culpable as Mellie. The only minor excuse Fitz has for his behavior is that he doesn’t know the reason Mellie pulled away from him is because his father raped her. But even so, he still comes off like a monumental jerk in this episode.

“Mama Said Knock You Out” also found Olivia, for about the millionth time, distancing herself from the President by the end of the episode, even though it started with the two of them playing kiss-grabby together. After a secret conversation with her evil mother, Olivia becomes worried that she’s treated like “the help,” a feeling that Cyrus acknowledges but tells her to fight through when she asks him about it. This sends Olivia into a kind of power mode, where she insists to the President “This is my job” definitively and repeatedly. But I can’t help wondering, if Olivia knows this is her job, if she doesn’t want to be treated like the help one moment and the President’s mistress the next, why doesn’t she stand up for herself? We know Olivia Pope is a strong woman, so is President Grant really so irresistible she can’t fend off his advances long enough to just do the “job” she asserts is her main priority? Despite these conflicting messages, I will say the scene where Olivia hands the First Lady her baby before the family interview, and Mellie says, “Thank you, Olivia,” was pretty compelling. You can see the pain in Olivia’s eyes at that moment, and the question of whether she really is just “the help.” Because even in 2014, a black woman taking care of a white child is still a powerful and problematic image.

The only other notable thing that happened was Quinn licking Huck’s face. This was of course because, as she reminded him, he put his tongue on her face first. Long before he put his tongue in her mouth, that is. Oh, and he did the same thing again tonight, when the face-licking turned into making out. Either way, it’s all very gross. But not totally without entertainment value.

I believe there are only three more episodes left for Scandal this season, and while I enjoyed seeing the Grant kids, their storyline was ultimately a clear diversion. As the show’s focus shifts to the upcoming election, and whatever Maya is trying to do to the Grant campaign, it seems safe to expect things to only get crazier from here.