Babies ruin legacies. Ain’t nobody got time for that…
Shonda Rhimes has done it again. Three network series and the queen of television is not showing any signs of slowing down. Scandal gets intense in this installment! Not only has she reinvented her newest hit series, but she‘s wrapped up the show’s first major arc in phenomenal fashion. “Nobody Likes Babies” was originally written as the season two finale before the season got picked up for nine more episodes, and it is not hard to tell as this may be the best episode the series has given us yet. Revealing, thought-provoking, heart-pounding and heartbreaking. You know, all of what Shonda does best and more! Is love enough? Alliances are brutally tested, some are destroyed and others renewed in this stunning game-changer…
Opening right where we left off last episode, Huck interludes in the near assassination of Hollis Doyle just in time. Hollis Doyle agrees not to take that was offered to him by David Rosen as long as Hollis keeps his mouth shut about the entire fuster-cluck. With no new leads concerning the true individual who attempted to assassinate President Grant, Olivia and her associates scramble up as much information as possible to come to the inevitable conclusion, finally uncovering Verna as the culprit. In Olivia’s entire interrogation with Verna, who is lying very near death in a hospital bed, the dynamic switches. Olivia unravels the truth while sizing up her suspect and receives some concerning answers to why the Supreme Court Justice would attempt to kill Fitz: Legacy. Verna is interested in preserving legacy, be it hers or the country’s.
With her conscience eating at Verna, the only way to sustain America’s legacy and cover up the decade’s biggest lie would be to destroy the one responsible for the DC5’s fanaticism, who unfortunately happened to be the current President of the United States and the love of Olivia’s life. Destroy the thing that elated the conspiracy and frame an oily snake in the grass (Hollis Doyle), and the problem would be solved. A clear conscience. To a political marvel like Verna, confessing would have only made things worse. Verna is also protecting everyone else’s legacy in her own right. Verna and the rest of the DC5 totally sold their souls for Fitz in order to give America what they genuinely thought would be best for them. Verna is near her last breaths and she had less than a year to continue her legacy by setting this conspiracy within a conspiracy up. And it almost fell into place flawlessly. Verna is not really getting away with murder here, as karma certainly struck back concerning her health, but the actual cold lengths she was willing to go to in order to sustain an America legacy built on lies and blood…it’s dangerously remarkable. And then she has the nerve to call David Rosen in to confess. Unfortunately, someone else gets there before that confession can happen…
Bobblehead lives, and it is the Gladiator’s ticket to fixing this national crisis. The bobblehead figure that Olivia utilized in order to spy on David and Abby earlier in the season makes a valiant return which the associates use in order to find out what David Rosen really knows about the election rigging case. While listening to literally dozens of CD’s of David’s discoveries and his subsequent sexcapades with Abby, the group finds the key to derailing David from his ambitious investigation: a memory card given to him by James from the Cytron voting machines that helped the DC5 rig the election. Abby agrees to receive the memory card; however, as she sits listening to all the loving, wonderful times she and David had together, including a snippet of David pronouncing his love for her, Abby’s gut continues to tell her something is wrong and she finally confronts Olivia. Abby asks the question of the century and Olivia finally confesses sending Abby out of the office, an emotional wreck, distraught that her idol has betrayed her.
Before Abby can leave Harrison reminds Abby this is no time for feelings. This is no time to be a baby and whine about your emotions. Gladiators do not have emotions and they don’t let their petty human conditions dictate their lives. Not when Olivia Pope is at the helm of this ship. Harrison counters Abby’s accusations and blame with a swift lashing that reminds Abby of what she and the rest of the signed up for. Everyone in that office owes Olivia Pope their life in one way or another. Olivia is their savior, and the questioning and pondering--the concerns of justice and rightful law is not up for them to decide. Gladiators--they exist outside of the law! This clearly resonates with Abby when she plays a good game with David in order to remain true to the one who gave her back her life. Abby essentially graduates into an honorary gladiator when she sacrifices a love that could have been ideal and very real for her in order to save the woman who saved her. It’s almost incomprehensible, it’s heartbreaking and for once, viewers genuinely feel bad for Abby, who has truly proven herself as a “ride or die” solider and a family member of Pope & Associates. Abby has a lot in common with Olivia. Both have done reprehensible things simply because they fell in love with the loves of their lives under the wrong circumstances and both have sacrificed greatly in order to do the right thing. It’s always heartbreaking, but necessary.
Amongst all of this, Quinn still has her own reasons for wanting Hollis Doyle dead. Quinn’s former life was taken away from her and she was no more than a bystander. It’s unfair. Her need to have Hollis Doyle killed is understandable, but just like Harrison explains to Abby earlier in the episode, she cannot let her feelings get in the way of her the new life Olivia Pope has given her. Quinn cannot be a gladiator in a suit and Lindsay Dwyer at the same time. It just doesn’t work out that way. So when Quinn comes to Huck asking him to assassinate Hollis Doyle, Huck responds by essentially asking who she is now. Is she willing to let her emotions rule her and be a baby under the pressure of life’s unfair conventions, or will she put on her suit and solve problems beside the one and only Olivia Pope? For not it seems Quinn has made a decision to leave revenge behind and graduate into honorary gladiator. I love the fact that Huck is becoming sort of a pseudo-big brother to Quinn, being the voice of reason and calming her down in moments of poor judgment and personal crisis.
David is not done from there. His next move is getting James to appear in court to testify against his own husband, Cyrus. The thing is, James’s situation has greatly altered. He has a child and is in the middle of an adoption. And he has a kid because of a political move done by Cyrus. Much like Mellie, Cyrus never wanted babies, which is why these two pragmatic political monsters see eye-to-eye so much. Babies are giant, slobbering roadblocks in one’s political career. Sure they can be utilized for approval ratings and such, but ultimately eat up one’s time and energy. However, under certain situations, both Mellie and Cyrus are forced to endure the horrific beauty of juggling parenthood and political achievement.
Had James been subpoenaed to testify in a federal case before he and Cyrus received a child, the circumstances of this crisis would be very different. However, under this intense pressure of parenthood and the slow unraveling of a national conspiracy, James finally confronts Cyrus on the national election rigging. It’s a powerful scene between the two men that might be one of the most memorable moments of the entire episode. The two literally and figuratively strip down and remove all barriers in order to assess a very drastic situation that could end both of their lives and legacies. And in doing so Cyrus reveals his true self, his flaws, and his ambitions--ambitions that will never become a reality. Cyrus was always built for the presidency; however, this nation’s legacy was never ready for Cyrus…
Nobody has ever asked Cyrus what it is like to be him. Everyone sees him as a political animal and the monstrous Chief of Staff that occasionally advises President Grant. He’s no one special in the public eye; however, the White House would probably be in shambles if Cyrus were absent. It’s not like Fitz has the most idealistic political prowess. At least not compared to Cyrus. There are no doubt countless times where we as viewers could insist that Cyrus would make a better president than the conflicted and often distracted Fitz. Not to tear down Fitz, but it is true. It’s odd that no one has really attempted to delve deeper into who Cyrus really is to discover that his ambitions--his monstrous political powers and even his most diabolical moments all root from the dream that he could never fulfill. And that is a true sadness. Because of conventions out of his control--his sexual orientation, his physical appearance, his height--things that are actual roadblocks in the political world, Cyrus is looked upon as no more than second rate. A politically ferocious second rate, but second rate no less. Jeff Perry deserves some awards for his performance in this episode! We’ve always seen Cyrus as this heated, pragmatic bulldog and this is the first time we see him vulnerable and crushed as James dismisses the man he loves.
This is a move that nearly pushes Cyrus too far and breaks him. Cyrus crosses a major line when he hires Charlie to take out his own husband. It’s an unnerving scene as we wait to see whether Cyrus has really turned into a monster or not. Thankfully, love happens to be enough when Cyrus orders Charlie not to go through with the hit just as James walks in to testify about the election rigging. However, in another odd turn of events, James commits prudery on the stand and under oath to save not only his husband, but Olivia as well. Love is enough. But maybe not enough for everyone. Edison makes a return and Olivia gives back his grandmother’s ring for the second time in a row. Harsh.
This scene between Olivia and Edison is so pivotal for a number of reasons. This is the moment when Edison finally realizes that he and Olivia do not have a meeting of the minds. These two people are not on the same level in terms of what they want from love. Edison wants simple and nice, while Olivia admits that she wants a love that is "painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love." The kind of love that she has grappled with for the past two years with President Fitzgerald Grant. A love that has caused a national election rigging conspiracy, followed by multiple murders, devastating revelations and countless political manipulations. That’s a passionate, dangerous, foreboding kind of love that Senator Edison Davis is not capable of. Everyone loves in their own way. In the beginning of the episode Fitz comes to Olivia and asks her face-to-face to wait for him, as he still intends to go through with his divorce from Mellie, which serves as a catalyst for Olivia coming to the conclusion that a painful and extraordinary love is ideal for her. It’s messy and occasionally destructive for all of those involved, but Olivia decides that through all the hell, love is enough for her. Just not with Edison in the mix. Olivia has finally decided on Fitz; however, that realization comes too little, too late…
Verna’s reveals the devastating truth of the election rigging to Fitz. The worst part is that it doesn’t take Fitz long to come to the realization that those who claim to love him and believe in him have betrayed him. Fitz may be clueless, but he is not some stupid baby. Verna tells Fitz the whole troubling truth and it destroys his world. It’s easy for Fitz to believe Mellie, Hollis and Cyrus would betray him, but when he realizes the love of his life, Olivia is a part of it, he breaks. If Olivia is not the woman he’s always thought she was, then maybe in retrospect, he is not the man he thought he was. This revelation puts him Fitz back where he was two years ago, a conflicted, lost man still in his father’s shadow. Even Verna admits that she has done what she’s done to do right be Fitz’s father, Jerry and as I predicted in episode eleven, Verna and Jerry have some sort of history together. Why else would she bring up Jerry in this situation besides just hurting Fitz even more. Verna has always been aware of Olivia and Fitz’s relationship, so she’s always been playing Olivia all of this time. Verna is the big bad snake in all of this. Power has corrupted her and she’s become so narcissistic that she feels as though her legacy extends to the entire presidency and the nation for that matter. She might not be a total monster, but she is no innocent bystander. She’s been horribly corrupted and power is that corrupter.
Fitz’s corrupter on the other hand is betrayal. It corrupts him so deep that he actually takes Verna’s life and in the same case secures his continued presidency. It’s a shocking moment that signifies Fitz’s fall into darkness. There might be some debate over whether murder levels out the rigging a national election, but this is a depth we viewing gladiators may not have thought was possible for the President of the United States who is now a murderer. And maybe even worse, he has denounced his love and affections for Olivia Pope. Just when it seems like Olitz is getting together something like this happens and Fitz labels Olivia as no more than a mistress. It’s painful, depressing, heartbreaking and even a bit disturbing to see this great man fall into a trap like this and turn his back on his great love in order to go back to Mellie. Fitz goes back to simple and convenient. He chooses the easy love.
Fitz may not trust Mellie, but he feels that he certainly cannot trust Olivia anymore after a betrayal this heartwrenching. Olivia is left at Verna’s funeral alone looking up for some semblance of salvation. The love of her life is gone and Olivia is lost…again. But that’s how it goes for a Gladiator isn’t it. No time for love and emotions when there are problems to be solved. No babies. Scandal knocks it out of the park with this one! The series’ first major arc has been an amazing thrill ride with so many surprising twists and turns viewers might still be suffering from whiplash. Thank God we don’t have to wait a full year to see the next episode. With so many game-changing developments added to the series, the next few episodes should breathe new, scandalous life into this superbly written and acted series. “Nobody Likes Babies” gets 5 out of 5 stars!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2013