Scandal Season 4 Ep. 16 Recap: “It's Good To Be Kink”

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“Disgusting!” You can't say Abby's not succinct. The object of her missive is boyfriend Leo Bergen, now known to her—and soon to the world if she doesn't stop it—as the Dust Buster, a pseudonym bestowed upon him by Susan Thomas (Lena Dunham), a 20-something chemistry grad and author about to publish a manuscript detailing her sexual escapades with a multitude of D.C. power players.

But let's play catch up first. “It's Good To Be Kink”revolves around Sue's book and the anticipated fallout, but what raises the episode rise above a Scandal spin on Fifty Shades of Grey is the way it manages to both wring humor out of its salacious premise and transcend it, using it as a jump off to cover topics like gender politics, sexuality and women in positions of power.

As was hinted at by her word of choice, Abby has discovered Leo is one of the men immortalized in Sue's tome (a list that includes dudes given such exotic aliases as Agent Orange, Thruster and The Doctor), and goes to Olivia to ask her to put the kibosh on the book.

Olivia goes to Sue's place and unleashes her standard “I will destroy your miserable little life if you don't do what I say because I'm Olivia Pope and I eat basic bitches for breakfast,” speech, and Susan seems like she'll roll over and keep quiet. Of course, you don't have Lena Dunham as a guest star for her to only appear in one scene, so it's not a total surprise when she shows up at OPA's offices. What is surprising—and if I may add, fist pumping (sorry Liv)--is the way she flips Olivia's threats of destruction into examples of how she's lost her essential Popeness. Pouncing on the insinuation she'll be called a whore, Sue criticizes Olivia for wagging her finger at her for airing powerful men's dirty laundry, ignoring the fact Sue's dalliances with these men are not just their stories, but her tales to tell as well.

More than the thrill of telling off a woman who she deemed was once so badass other women got a contact high from being in her vicinity, Sue wants money. And we're talking millions. As she says, “Olivia Pope don't come cheap,” and if whoever is trying to crush her publication glory can retain Liv's services, they damn sure can shell out $3 million in hush money. Most all of the guys are ready pony up, until David Rosen (David Rosen), named The Doctor in Sue's book, pulls rank and says neither he nor other lawmakers will participate in extortion.

The episode also highlights how sex-related scandal affects the perception of men and women in vastly different ways. When Leo mocks Abby for preemptively writing her resignation letter (being that she was personally involved with two men the book, which would--unfairly--call into question her personal choices), he dismisses her concern, saying at worst she'll have to endure a few jokes but will ride it out. In reality, he's talking about what would happen to him if he were in her position. In one of the hour's strongest scenes, Abby reminds him they live in a world and political climate where her weight, clothes, makeup or lack thereof are deemed equally important as evaluating her job performance, where every article written about her trumpets the fact Leo is her boyfriend as proof she can land a man, while she's barely a blip in pieces written about him. “What affects you, affects me,” she says.

But back to Sue. “It's Good To Be Kink,” weaves her one-off story into the ongoing plots, like the B6:13 expose, pretty seamlessly. After it's revealed David's the good doctor, he knows his days as attorney general are numbered, which would mean no full immunity for Huck once he testifies to his many dastardly deeds. And well, you know what happens when Huck starts to angry whisper.

At first, it looks like Huck won't have to unleash the beast to ensure Sue's silence. Picking up on her quip her story was “all she had left,” OPA dig and find Susan was fired from her previous job after reporting sexual harassment by her boss, who pushed for sex after learning of her reputation. Olivia gets a legal case going and secures several job interviews for Susan, and all appears handled. However, after Quinn and Huck rescue her from a knife-wielding lawmaker nearly exposed in her book, Huck, utterly convinced she'll talk, slits her throat.

Later, treating David's “not guilty but guilty” speech like white noise, Huck signs his immunity papers and says he's going home. Hmmm, on one hand I want to feel happy for him, as Huck is clearly a broken man. And his logic's not completely off—it's been 50 years since JFK was killed and there are still having women come forward claiming to have had affairs with him. But I don't know, something about him compartmentalizing slitting someone's throat so he can go home to play happy family man doesn't sit right with me.

Susan blunt attitude towards her sexuality also rubs off on Olivia. Speaking of Liv, I guess my call that she was finding her way back last week was premature. True, she's getting out a little more, as in coming into the office. But her nights consist of poring up glass after glass of wine, the gun she keeps on her at all times sitting beside the bottle. However, getting a mouthful from Susan and reading some of her manuscript seems to inspire her on a quest to get some. She flirts with a handsome stranger (Brian White) at a bar, and is on her way to some good sex, but a resting her hands on the counter of the ladies' room makes her flashback to her time at the torture camp. Scared and shaken out of her wits, she runs off.

Save for her inner circle, no one really seems to grasp just how bad a shape Olivia's in. Or worse, like Cyrus, they really don't seem to care. He acts like a real asshole when Abby submits her resignation letter and fills him in on Susan's book, coldly telling her he'll add it to the list of things he has to get done. Later he meets up with Olivia, filling her in own the latest White House dish (Mellie's senate run, Jake and Fitz becoming BFFs, Ethan's continued uselessness) only in an effort to woo her back, even though Liv says she's moving forward. He appears to have a change of heart about Abby, bringing a suitcase with $3 million dollars in it, presumably so Olivia she can pay off Susan. However when she says it's been taken care of, his true motivation come to light: he wants to know who the men are so he can have dirt on them for down the road.

“This town,” Olivia says, shaking her head and walking away. Later, after learning of Sue's untimely demise, and be sorta lectured by Quinn she has to let sleeping dogs lie since Abby was their client (and essentially got what she wanted) she gets done up and heads out to same bar. There, she meets the same stranger, but this time she takes him home, ordering him to take his clothes off as she sashays to the bedroom, clutching two wine glasses in her hand, flashing a wide, sexy smile as the door closes. Now our girl is finding her way back.

Next week: a gay Republican wedding!

Other Thoughts:

--Lena's Dunham wig was horrendous. That is all.

--Huck on Susan typing up her manuscript on a typewriter “That's old school. Respect.”

--Tens across the board for musical choices this episode, though given the subject matter it'd be hard to screw up.