Scandal Season 4 Ep. 17 Recap: “Put A Ring On It”

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After dealing with the salacious sexual politics of “It's Good To Be Kink,” this week's “Put A Ring On It,” tackled more traditional territory with a wedding. Then again, when the nuptials in question are the result of one partner getting caught hooking up with a guy at a bar called Down The John, things are anything but traditional.

Such is the pickle Cyrus finds himself in after his arranged engagement with call boy Michael is threatened after the latter is spotted straying from the “love of his life (notice the air quotes).” The ensuing fallout puts things into crisis mode, and causes Liv to suggest a wedding to Michael as the perfect PR fix to put out the fire.

The hour takes us through both of Cyrus' failed marriages. First up, there's Janet, a good Catholic girl whom he weds in part because of the then burgeoning AIDS crisis, and partly because he needs a wife by his side if he's going to climb the ladder from comptroller to congressman. Of course, things fall apart, as the night Fitz wins governor she, now worn out, lonely and bitter, asks for a divorce. Since we already know his union with James was, um, tumultuous—like, Cy nearly ordering the assassination of his own husband tumultuous—the flashbacks pick at the finer points. On his wedding day, Cyrus promises James he won't use or manipulate him or his status as a journalist for his own purposes, a promise he breaks before their honeymoon even begins. And well, we all know what happen once that door was opened.

Cyrus' legal arrangement with Michael, drawn up so he could save political face, doesn't even have the pretense of romance and genuine emotion. And the grand scheme that is their White House wedding is even more disingenuous. After the first plan of obliterating the cheating scandal via a love story goes bust due to the discovery of Michael's side piece Philip Reid, the narrative is cynically changed to depict Cyrus as a jilted lover and him as an amoral whore.

It's not a problem for Cyrus, who doesn't even flinch when Olivia reminds him they're throwing Michael to wolves to save his own skin. He pays even less attention to Michael's objections to inviting his homophobic parents, whose acts of loved included sending their son to camps to “cure” him of being gay. At the most uncomfortable double dinner date in the world, they reveal Elizabeth is paying them off to pretend to be supportive of the marriage, and while we haven't spent much time with Michael, Michael Del Negro does a good job of selling a lifetime of anguish in a short scene. It's enough to touch something in Cyrus' black heart, and one look across the room at Olivia lets her know the wedding is back on.

But lest you think things are about to get all Disney, think again; as Cyrus tells Michael before the ceremony, both of his previous marriages started with lies, so he won't go through the motions the third time around. He tells Michael they won't grow to love each other, but counts it as a good thing, because he won't have the chance to hurt or damage him the way he did Janet or James. Cyrus knows that he is, in his own words, “a filthy monster holding onto his last shred of humanity,”; the great loves of his life have been and likely always will be power and prestige. But that aforementioned shred of humanity does acknowledge Michael's goodness, and promises he's not in this alone.

It's been a while since the show focused on Cyrus or delved into his personal history, and while this is all very entertaining, I'm more than a little curious as to why Scandal is choosing to do it now, at this point in the season. “The Lawn Chair” was a bottle episode, but one that dealt with an extremely topical issue, so it's separation from the rest of the action is understandable. While “Put A Ring On It” does a pretty seamless job of tying Cyrus' marriage into say, Mellie's political ambitions—like say, the way Olivia masterfully pitches to Mellie that throwing her support behind the wedding as a way to define herself separately from Fitz—it really doesn't fit into other plot points like B6:13.

It also looks like the sexual healing Olivia experienced last week has reawakened her feelings for Fitz. As we learn, Vermont isn't just a fantasy the two throw around when reality and good sense conspire to convince them how destructive they are together; they actually were in The Green Mountain State once for Cyrus's second wedding. In the flashback—during which you also realize Liv really has simplified her coifs since that first fixed election--Fitz gives Olivia a ring (whose name translates to“Sweet Baby,” which if you recall, is an Olitz term dating back to season one) that belonged to his grandmother.

After another dream montage showing the highs and lows of their affair, she searches through her apartment and finds the ring, but leaves it off when she goes to see Fitz, instructing him to give Sally Langston, who has risen from the political dead as the host of a right wing talk show, some leverage/quid pro quo so she'll end her witch hunt and cash reward to expose Cyrus' sham wedding. Fitz signs off on putting Sally up for secretary of state, but Sally content, with her new role as talking head, is like chile please. But after Liv threatens to reveal her late, closeted husband was one of Michael's clients, she relents and cancels the interview with Philip Reid.

Later, as Cyrus and Michael go off into post-faux wedding bliss, Fitz sees Olivia with the ring he gave her back on her hand, and she gives a look that says “jam.” Aww hell.

Other Thoughts:

--Cyrus answers Michael's question that he wants to kill him by saying he wouldn't do it himself, as that's an amateur move. Yeah, that's your husband.

--Apparently, in Leo and Abby's world, church and state is code for separating their work life from their relationship, a rule Abby slips up and breaks when she spills some tea to Leo about the war room congregating to pull off the faux love story of the century. Oh Abby, you hypocritical secularist!

--Next week: Jake's gone cray cray.