TLF Scandal Chat: Season 3, Episode 7


Were you traumatised by last week’s Scandal? You are not alone. Viv, Keidra, and Laura talk it out. And I’m including the trigger warning(sexual assault) that ABC didn’t give us in the first place.

KC: So I’m gonna start this out because I’ve been in my feelings about this episode for hours. I have been #teammellie from jump, and I never thought she needed a super tragic backstory to make her sympathetic; I thought the reasons for sympathy were pretty clear. The married Scandal chatters have previously mentioned their Mellie sympathy stemming from her perspective of the scorned wife, but I can say as a single lady, Mellie evokes a lot of sympathy from me as well. Her story symbolizes EVERYTHING I fear about a marriage going wrong: this woman who gives up everything: her identity, her ambition, her heart to this man who once cared for her and then just walks away. Her story terrifies me. (Bellamy Young killed it this entire episode and she is surely getting an Emmy nod this year)

VO: Hell, as an old married woman, I feel like Mellie is the worst case scenario for marriage. You’re in this partnership, this person you love and you helped with one way or another and all that hard work you did? Someone else is gonna snatch that up? Oh. Hell. No. I feel like this episode illustrated the loss of identity that can happen when you get too invested in someone else and making all their dreams come true.

But also, for me this illustrates how Fitz is the worst /Jean Ralphio. Mellie’s given up so much for him and sublimated so many of her ambitions and we haven’t seen him do the same for her. He might have pre-election/political life, but that doesn’t count because we haven’t seen it. Marriage is about making sacrifices for each other — not one person giving everything up for the other.

Mellie’s whole speech about losing a piece of herself I think sums up a lot of fears about marriage. It also didn’t help that Cyrus (bewigged and bearded — was his wife the beard? Not subtle symbols there), also gave her the speech that if she wanted her husband to make it to the big time, she had to get used to the idea of putting him first.

LN: Cyrus took Mellie aside and told her this was her new reason for existing, and Mellie believed him. And the two of them made that decision without involving Fitz. The first of many times that Fitz is the little boy who must be protected, who doesn’t know what happens behind the scenes. Which, given how well he handled the election rigging (alcoholism with a side of murder), is fair. It makes me hate all the “why didn’t I wait for you” sonnets to Olivia in retrospect. Mellie really was the full package, and they worked once. Fitz doesn’t realize that Mellie’s sacrifices stem from love. He just sees the armor. What strange person named this episode “Everything’s Coming Up Mellie”?

KC: Which brings me to the rape scene. I … wish they hadn’t gone there. I feel like Mellie’s story was sympathetic enough, as I mentioned before, but I also feel like pop culture in general and Shonda Rhimes in particular likes to use rape as a go-to backstory to elicit sympathy for so-called “hardened women” (I’m thinking of Charlotte from Private Practice right now) I think it was very well acted, and it was very difficult to watch. but I am so tired of sexual assault as plot device and I wish writers would stop using rape as a poor substitute for character development.

I also think some kind of trigger warning would have been a good choice. I am not sure why this wasn’t done here. I feel for everyone who was triggered by that harrowing scene.

VO: Mellie didn’t need that. I feel like the whole “rape them to make them sympathetic” is a lazy ass storytelling trope to be honest. Mellie is a character many women identify with for the reasons K. listed above. And it’s such a soap opera trope to make a woman less bitchy (if someone can name the soaps that did that, I’d love it).

That being said, I’ve seen people react and say that it wasn’t really rape given that Mellie was willing to be seen in the same room with Big Jerry, etc. Mellie seems like the type of person to compartmentalize it for the good of the team, and above all else, she had a prize in mind, if that makes sense. Sexual assault victims have had to do it — witness the recent discussions regarding sexual assault in the military in which victims have had to work with and report to their rapists. Also, I weirdly like the implied threat she had with Big Jerry, turning it into a weapon in her own way. Not everyone can do it, but she did and it’s something impressive to me.

LN: That was rough. And Fitz was not strong enough to handle it. (We all know Fitz would have made the rape about his relationship with Big Jerry.) Mellie could have taken an easy out that night and stopped the political train. Instead, she takes advantage of a terrible situation and restarts the campaign. Part of me wonders how much of her decision was informed by the conversation before the rape – that Fitz shot down a passenger plane, and never told her. Maybe weirdly she saw this as a chance to keep an equally devastating secret for the good of their future. Or it fueled her feelings that Fitz deserved the governorship.

VO: I suspect that night/day was the start in the wedge in their marriage. If you can’t talk to your spouse about something like this, that starts fucking shit up. Communication is hard man, but if you want a partner who you trust to go to the wall for you, you don’t keep secrets. Mellie’s speech in the Oval Office, especially juxtaposition with it coming after the rape rings so many things for me. She never told Fitz because she felt like she had to be strong for him and not tear the team apart.

But Scandal is not a show on how to have a functional relationship.

Also, Big Jerry is a horrible, toxic creature and it’s a good thing he’s dead. It’s nice to see that “I don’t beat them” is like this medal for parenting. Or even the whole “You owe me” speech.

KC: Quinn and Charlie. I called that awhile ago. I dunno. They kind of make me ill when they make out, yet, i kind of like them as a twisted couple and to see Quinn get sucked into the shadowy world of B613 is actually intriguing to me.. Is she a Huck or a Charlie? I honestly think it could go either way.

VO: I think that Quinn right now could get sucked into B613. I just don’t like how it went — it’s like this weird whiplash thing. I don’t know if its that the actress can’t pull it off to the actors or what, but I find the slide from audience surrogate to Miss Murder a bit too jarring.

It makes sense that she’d go to Charlie, as I said before. But the pairing of those two makes my sex drive shrivel up and die. I think this show likes creating the more unappealing couples possible. But I always thought Charlie just got off on murder, not other people.

I think the problem is that Quinn seems like she hasn’t learned anything from working with OPA about people and dealing with things. She hasn’t learned from watching Huck and who he’s become. So this whole thing is me going “YOU IDIOT.”

LN: Quinn seems to think the spy stuff is all adrenaline and secret make-outs. For someone who’s seen multiple dead bodies and been on trial for murder, she has no sense of self-preservation whatsoever.

KC: Olivia’s dismissal of Fitz was a long time in coming. Her response to Fitz’ declaration of love: “So what?” was cold, but I loved it, and it was like a callback to Fitz pretty much saying the same thing last season when he found out about Defiance. She will fold once she finds out her mama is alive, but it’s nice to see Fitz get rejected for a change.

VO: The “So what?” makes sense to me though. Oliva can’t trust him (for now) and I think with her, if she doesn’t have someone she feels she can completely trust, that love is pretty much dead.

I called Mama Pope being alive and I am also calling that she has been deep deep deep in the intrigue game. You know why? Because I used to watch Alias. I know how this game goes down. Only this time, I think Mama Pope will play the role of Jack Bristow and Rowan is Irina Derevko (If you don’t get what this means, don’t worry about it.) I do think it was kind of wrong for Liv to be all “hey Gladiators do you want to investigate the death of my mom? OK. By the way THE PRESIDENT KILLED MY MOM!” She should have mentioned that first.

VO: Dude, I’ve watched enough soap operas to know that the MINUTE you start mentioning dead people, they start coming back from the grave. That’s just how it goes. She’s totally got intrigue game. I’m curious to see why she was pulled off the plane, but I wonder if it was some weird romantic gesture by Rowan — “Hey baby! I could’ve had you killed, but instead, you get to be in maximum security solitary!”

LN: Of course she’s alive, I read comic books. Honestly, I’d be much more intrigued if she was actually dead. I think it was supposed to a major shocker of the episode, but I was more surprised when James lost his job (and that Daniel Douglass has no interest in ladylike hookers.) That pink bow tie, yall.

KC: In general, I feel like this episode was solid. The rape scene was problematic for SURE but I feel like this is a bigger issue of a misogynistic pop-culture trope that needs to die; the episode itself was one of the best of the season.

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Comments (2)

I dunno… Mellie’s rape scene didn’t feel gratuitous to me. It’s probably a scenario that happens a lot more among powerful women than we realize (although being raped by your father-in-law is obviously extreme). And knowing that, that scene with Fitz in the Oval Office, when she emphasizes the word “sacrifice” in telling him what she surrender of herself to help him become president (I wish I could quote it directly because it was eloquent as HELL), that took the Tao of Mellie(tm) to a much higher level. LOTS of women give up their careers for family and/or to prop up their men. But to survive RAPE?!! Damn. And I guess because I’ve ALWAYS sympathized with Mellie on some level, even in her bitchiness, that storyline just took it home for me.

Granted, I haven’t watched “Scandal” in a year (except for this season’s premiere), so maybe I would have a different perspective if I was tuned in every week.

In conclusion:

Bellamy Young. Emmy. 2014. DONE!!!

There have been numerous rape scenes in Scandal. Usually framed as “ambivalent.” But, actually Kerry Washington’s character has been raped at least once by the president character. I think we might have to acknowledge the fact that what is demarcated as “rape culture” is all to normalized and a key part of the relationships of cementing power in the Republic. Remember all the references to Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. Even having to say “we aren’t those people” signifies how sexual violence is not ancillary it is the stuff of the making of american politics.

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