|Photo Credit: ABC|
Scandal's fourth season has been one marked by a conscious effort to step back from the all out craziness of the previous one, restructuring the show to include both the case-of-the-week style plots of the early seasons as well as an overarching plot driving the action. In the past this was the voting-rigging cover-up of Defiance, and this year it was B6:13, which has inhabited the show's plot lines for more than a minute. This extended stay—which this season has culminated in a long, drawn out a showdown between Olivia and Eli—has led to a general feeling the show as spinning its wheels, saving the big blowout until now. And while this strategy has produced some gripping, emotionally resonant hours (“The Lawn Chair” and “Run”), some entertaining ones (“It's Good To Be Kink”) and a combination of both (“Put A Ring On It”), and provided some rich material for the cast—Olivia's ongoing battle with PTSD comes to mind—at times it felt like we were twiddling our thumbs, getting just enough B6:13 crumbs to keep us on the hook until the finale.
Going into “You Can't Take Command,” Shonda and Co. had quite the dilemma to sort out: how to definitively wrap up the B6:13 arc (assuming that it is definitively wrapped up) but whilst maintain thematic integrity. Killing Eli wouldn't be an option: her shooting a blank and making a deal with Russian spies aside, Olivia doesn't want her father dead, despite he hatred of him. Allowing B6:13 and Command to live on would have been an irritating, anti-climatic letdown, as the whole season (some would say the past two seasons) has been building to this point. Joe Morton's a great actor, and Eli Pope's a great character, but no character, however heroic or villainous, can or should be utterly untouchable, and time was running out on the believability of Rowan always living to fight another day.
And piggybacking off that second sentiment, allowing Eli to crush his daughter and have everyone fall back into the duplicitous status quo would have been, to it bluntly, fucking depressing. It's one thing for Scandal to operate in a world marked in shades of gray, but quite another for things to go completely black. Fortunately, “You Can't Take Command,” found a way to have Olivia trounce her father in a believable way, while using their showdown to set off some last-minute twists (Fitz giving Mellie the boot) and create some new adversaries (like Elizabeth vs. the newly unemployed Cyrus—though they weren't exactly BFFs before) for next season.
The episode picks up where last week's “A Few Good Women” left off, with an unsuspecting Mellie meeting with Eli, who puts on an “aw shucks” veneer of a wealthy man who wants to support her senate run. Eli can only pretend to be human for so long though, and quickly drops the act after pulling out a folder containing photos of her and Andrew Nichols and information on Operation Remington. Eli wears Mellie down with his request/threat to ask him what he needs, and what he needs is a some names. Said names turn out to be the jurors and court stenographer (who knits David Rosen horrible scarves by the way) Jake testifies to in court, who are subsequently slaughtered.
Mellie tells Cyrus, who takes to berating her before she says the words Operation Remington; Cyrus springs into action, or at least it looks that way at first, by going to see Eli. Eli calmly reminds him those jurors and trial would've exposed B6:13, the secrets of the administration, and so on, and his murderous act counts as a favor, one he wants returned.
This latest stunt sends Olivia into a tailspin, and, after raging to Jake about always being her father's whipping girl, goes off to the sea witch, I mean Maya, for advice (seriously, did anyone else catch Ariel/Ursula vibes in their scenes together?).
“They did a number on you. You got that 'I've been in the hole look 'all over your face.” Maya, you ain't said nuthin' but a word. Like most of she and Mama Pope's mother-daughter talks, this one goes left in a nanosecond, as Maya reams her out for being self-involved and deluding herself into an uppity fantasy world where she wields power and stomps around putting out fires she created for herself. Olivia turns to leave, but Maya offers this nugget of real advice: Command has plenty of enemies who want him dead, but it's all for naught because no one knows who Command is. Translation: expose that ass.
Olivia goes straight to the top, carrying the B6:13 files David Rosen dropped in her office to the head of the CIA, listing off all the atrocities and cover ups B6:13 was responsible for. She looks believably rattled, and is all ready to haul Eli in, until Cyrus starts spewing metaphors about not poking a lion, and she has Jake and Olivia arrested.
One by one, Papa Pope's poisonous influence spreads, as each character's weak spot—or to quote Cyrus, pressure point—is applied so they bend to Command's will. For David Rosen, it's the threat to Abby's safety that makes him flip and push Olivia and Jake to sign affidavits recanting their statements; For Jake, it's the threat his mother will be without financial support since his assets would be seized if he doesn't sign; for Olivia, it's Jake's reputation being destroyed if she doesn't sign on the dotted line. Maya flips (unsurprisingly), saying “well I need a pen baby” when Cyrus offers her freedom for her silence.
Eli calls Olivia to gloat, gleefully responding to her retort he'll get his by informing her she did in fact kill Command; as we watch a montage of the remaining B6:13 agents being killed, the files being blown to bits (what does no one have a jump drive?) and Maya signing her freedom papers, he points that now for all intents and purposes, he is Eli Pope, mild-mannered paleontologist.
But oh snap, Olivia has an ace in the hole she didn't even know she had. Quinn mentions the $2 billion Huck took back when Olivia was on the black market auction block, but Huck dismisses her, saying it's been run through so many accounts it could belong to anyone. Including Eli Pope, mild-mannered paleontologist. Olivia pins the money on him, putting him behind bars for embezzling from the Smithsonian. Turns out Papa Pope was right; Command was/is untouchable, but Eli, mortal man, very much is, and the sight of Liv sashaying away as Eli screams her name—the say way Maya screamed his as he left her to rot in a jail cell—will be the gloop heard 'round the world.
Papa Pope wasn't only unrepentant tyrant to get his comeuppance this week. Elizabeth has spent much of this season under Cyrus' heel, but through some black belt-level scheming, pushes him out of the administration. She pushes Mellie to come clean with her about the dead jurors, appearing genuinely concerned, but if you look hard enough, something in Portia de Rosci's delivery, and her facial expressions makes her real intentions clear. Liz spills the Rowan tea to Fitz as Mellie gives her victory speech, and Fitz later confronts her on it, telling her to get out his house--the White House (just let that sink in)--and fires Cyrus. And who's his new Chief of Staff? Elizabeth! I knew home girl was playing a long game! Cyrus, knowing he just got got, has the look that says “well played” on his face as he hands over his access cards. You know this isn't over, not by a long shot.
After her triumph, Olivia comes home with Jake, expecting him to come inside. However, Jake tells his mission is complete. Command is gone, B6:13 is dismantled, and Olivia is safe, as he promised Eli and Fitz she would be. He's in love with her, but encourages her to go after the man she really wants—Fitz. Now that Mellie's moving out, the salacious element of her going to the White House is out of the equation. No more hiding, no more secrecy; they're free to make out in on the White House balcony in front any and everybody.
At least for now. Fitz can't exactly tell the American public “I'm divorcing my wife, the First Lady, because she was indirectly responsible for the deaths of more than a dozen jurors,” and neither can Mellie. And bringing the other woman and marrying, or even dating her, won't exactly be a cake walk, because like Mellie's senate run, it's never happened to a sitting president. And speaking of being out in the open, now that there isn't a salacious element to their relationship, what will it look like? Will it survive in the cold light of day? Best believe, there will still be secrets, mutually agreed upon half-truths, spin and political double-dealing.
This is still is Scandal. And it's still thrilling to watch. See ya' next year.
--Fitz gives a touching speech on election night, calling Mellie his best friend and giving her props for resuscitating their marriage. Dayum, you'd never guess those words would come out of his mouth back with he was labeling her drunken personalities, and Mellie switches between smiling and grimacing at his words.
--Speaking of Fitz, while his kicking Mellie out definitely opens up some new possibilities plot-wise, I'm not totally sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, I get his feelings of betrayal and disgust, especially when they've been so open about pretty much everything this season, but what about the fact Mellie was still in the dark about Operation Remington and Eli's true identity? Or the fact Fitz has worked to keep Operation Remington under wraps lo these many years? Fitz appears to be looking for total transparency in his administration now; the only problem is Mellie and Cyrus didn't get the memo.
--Quinn figures out Huck was the trigger man who wiped out all the jurors, and pulls a gun on him, threatening to blow him away after calling him sick. First off, take a look in the mirror girl, but point well taken. Huck's reasons for following Eli's orders aren't said, and honestly, does it even matter at this point, with Eli in jail? I get Huck has demons, but four seasons in, his “I wanna be a family guy but I love killing people” arc is wearing pretty thin. To quote Maya Pope (imagine my voice dropping to a sinister register) “Huck you need to move on.”
--“Cyrus to Abby: I can't have a soul. If I had one, I would never accomplish a thing.” Couldn't this almost qualify as Scandal's mission statement at this point, white hat individuals David Rosen and Susan Ross notwithstanding?