Scandal Season 4 Ep. 19 Recap: “I'm Just A Bill”

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“This is what I do. You call me. I save your life. Now you know what I'm about.” “It's always the right time to do the right thing.” Olivia says these two things to Marcus Walker, the neighborhood activist turned mayoral candidate who told her her black card wouldn't be validated when she came to deal with the racially-motivated shooting of Brandon Parker back in “The Lawn Chair.”

The first quote comes while Olivia and her crew are in the midst of handling Marcus' problem—said problem being he hid in the closet while a trio of masked men murdered the mayor's wife. And why was he in the closet at the mayor's house? Because he was having an affair with her. Mmmhmm, yeah. The scene gives Olivia a chance to get a small dig at Marcus for his initial impression of her, but her words also have an extra layer of tension to them. If you recall, Eli paid a visit to Olivia's apartment, asking/threatening her to make the B6:13 investigation go away, and, hitting her where she lives by saying he knows that in the end, her loyalty isn't to her friends or associates, but to the republic, and she will analyze all outcomes and make a decision based on that fact.

What Kerry Washington does so well is put a big question mark on what that decision will be until the very end of the hour. She accomplishes this in subtle ways, like her wavering “Sure” during a meeting with David Rosen about the B6:13 case, or the way her whole body tenses up at the mention of Operation Remington. Olivia's internal battle—between doing what is right and doing what is easy or will further your own personal ambition—spreads over “I'm Just A Bill,” and comes up in the episode's other story lines.

Brandon Parker's death comes back into the proceedings via a bill in his name designed to keep checks on police department practices. The administration gets the votes the usual Scandal way, through blackmail, double-dealing and general chicanery, but after a female politician gets pregnant, the deciding vote comes down to Susan Ross. However, Ross is no pushover, and as we can tell from David Rosen squeamish faces, is bewilderingly intelligent, as she tears apart the bill, pointing out its uselessness line by line. What is she thinking? There's no time actually read the legislation you need to pass to maintain political power!

One by one, Cyrus, Mellie and eventually Fitz try not to, as Cyrus callously put it, “feed the pigeon,” convince her to squash her very valid concerns and simply vote yes for the bill. What they don't realize—well, eventually Fitz does—is Susan is not motivated by a desire to put her feet up in the Oval Office, but to enact policies that actually work and effect people's lives. Once she stands up to Fitz, he rolls up his sleeves and works to make the bill worth something, and placates an exasperated Cyrus by making Mellie's senate run announcement the main story.

Marcus' arc is the most transparent exploration of the “what's right vs. what's easy” dilemma. As Olivia begins to work her fixer mojo, cleaning up the aforementioned crime scene of al evidence and reading corrupt cops—who are not fans of Marcus post-Brandon—for filth when they try to take him in with no cause, Marcus really starts to get what Olivia, and subsequently he, will be about if he continues to go down this road.

“Your career or justice. You can't have both,” she tells him. Marcus takes door number two, spilling the tea about his affair and the mayor's role in his wife's murder—turns out he had a connected hitman do the job and tried to frame Marcus via threatening e-mails—before exiting stage left.

We've watched Olivia attempt have her own version of both for four seasons now, with often devastating results. When Russell wants to end things after his being unknowingly sedated by Papa Pope (which Olivia masterfully tries to play off as them drinking too much a ruse that Russell sees through), she is equal parts vulnerable potential girlfriend and sex kitten.

“My life is very complicated,” Olivia tells him, delivering the understatement of the century. But as she explains, turning on the charm, when she's Alex, the fake name she gave him the night they met, things are simple. And she needs things to be simple. As much as I'm in favor of Liv getting some, the role playing is just another way of compartmentalizing her life and avoiding her inner demons and traumas.

It's what's bubbling just beneath the surface in her speech to Marcus after he tells the truth, and resigns himself to believing his political career is now dead in the water. But, as she explains, being “done” is not deciding to do the right thing, no matter how much it may hurt; being done is taking the easy way out, choosing to lie and compromise your integrity and then rationalizing the reasons why until you become someone you don't recognize.

No doubt Olivia sees her declaration to Eli that she'll see the B6:13 case through—and won't take him on as a client—as a giant step in reclaiming her identity. And it is, as she's willing to sacrifice both Fitz, the man she's spent so energy and put out so many fires for, and her own reputation in order to have the republic function as it should, in the name of justice. Shocking to her (but not that shocking when you really think about it) is Eli's reaction. He does not wring his hands or launch into some diatribe about family and betrayal; instead he expresses admiration his daughter is finally standing in her own truth, even that truth involves destroying him and everything he's dedicated his life to building.

He's also thrilled—and to me this is what truly excites him—Olivia has finally become a worthy adversary, one not motivated by devotion to a person but to uphold an ideal. As Eli says, they are two sides of the same coin. Olivia only shows her naivete when she asks that Papa Pope spill no blood. Or maybe she's not being naïve, but speaking as a daughter and not all-powerful D.C. fixer.

Either way, it's a foolish request. Because make no mistake. There will be blood.

Other Thoughts:

--The blood already starts coming when Jake gets attacked by a masked intruder at OPA's offices, later revealed to be Russell, who's working for Eli. Damn, Papa Pope has a long end game. And dammit I bet Olivia is wishing she had Edison's number

--I really have to commend the show for not treating Olivia's PTSD like a headache she can sleep off. When Jake brings up Operation Remington, also known as the B6:13 mission involving Fitz shooting down a plane full of civilians—which for years Olivia included her mother Maya—the way Olivia's hand shakes as she walks down the hall as if she's in a cloud, her mind flashing back to memories of her torture camp, is crushing.

--LOL Moment: The resigned look of “girl go on,” on Olivia's face as she watches Mellie announce her senate run.

--”Why is his name Mickey? Oh, Oh, Oh. 

--If you didn't know the title of the episode was based on a classic School House Rock song, shame on you. And watch it HERE.