As promised, Thursday’s “Scandal” ended with an “OMG moment,” or what used to be known simply as a “cliffhanger.” Jake sets up a meeting between James, David, Vanessa Chandler and that NSA lady -- whatever her name was -- that turns out to be a trap. (Note to everyone on “Scandal”: Don’t take meetings set up via text message. Ever.) As David and James stand there debating whether to go public with the truth about Daniel Douglas, Jake appears out of nowhere and fires his gun three times at point blank range, instantly killing Vanessa and the NSA lady instantly. As for that third bullet, we’re left wondering whether it was aimed at David, James or -- this being “Scandal” and all -- perhaps some other person whose presence we’re not yet aware of.
The most shocking aspect of this plot twist isn’t the wanton killing, but who’s doing it: Seeing Jake in full B613 homicidal robot mode is deeply unsettling. Yes, we’ve known for a while that seemingly mild-mannered Jake has a more ruthless side. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be sitting in Papa Pope’s office right now. But as someone who came of age in the ‘90s, I have to say that seeing Noel from “Felicity” take out two innocent women in cold blood was pretty traumatizing.
(Also unsettling: that mysterious confessional that bookends the episode, where Jake discusses his sordid family history and how he came to be a “hunk of clay” ready to be molded by B613.)
Making Jake’s calm and collected rampage even more chilling is the fact that, leading up to the very last moments of this episode, he was trying to “stand in the sun.” This sunlight metaphor is invoked multiple times Thursday night by characters who try, and ultimately fail, to absolve their past sins by treading a more righteous path. After learning the truth about Daniel’s death and coming to the realization that all three presidential candidates are killers -- they are “literally Murderers’ Row,” as she puts it -- Olivia resists helping Cyrus with the coverup, even if it will destroy Fitz by association. She wants to “walk into the light and feel the sun on my face,” or, to mix metaphors, wear that white hat again.
Similarly, Sally wants to get right with God and come clean about Daniel’s death. And then there’s Jake, whose goals are slightly less clear but seem to involve becoming Olivia’s real boyfriend. “Scandal,” for all its absurdity, is one of the most cynical shows on television, and the aptly titled “No Sun on the Horizon” might be the most pessimistic episode we’ve seen to date. Its message is summed up by Olivia when she tells Fitz, “There is no clean.”
So why does Olivia make this about-face? As usual, the answer lies in her devotion to Fitz, which has always seemed inexplicable (at least to me) and has only grown more so. At Cyrus’ request, she urges Sally not to confess in the debate, but Sally explains that she must in order to rectify her relationship with the man upstairs. “Without the sun of his love, I am worse than dead,” she says, suggesting that Olivia can’t possibly understand because she’s not religious. Cut to Fitz, sitting in the Oval Office, swigging Scotch and looking bored by his debate notes when Olivia calls.
The editing here is no accident: To complete the analogy, Jesus is to Sally as Fitz is to Olivia. It’s a troubling parallel for many reasons, not the least of which is the very obvious point that Fitz is about as un-Christ-like as one can possibly be, and that a supposedly strong, independent woman should not be in the business of worshiping her married boyfriend. (Also, not to sound like a broken record here, but the writers on this show have never, ever made the case that Fitz is a competent, let alone inspirational, leader. If we saw him performing his job with skill just once, it might be easier to believe that Olivia’s unblinking devotion to him is anything other than lust-based.)
So Olivia decides to get involved in the Daniel Douglas coverup after all, encouraging Fitz to throw the debate in order to give Sally the “win” she needs to get over her guilt. It’s a typically elaborate “Scandal” psychological ruse, and it seems to work. At the start of the episode, Sally is coming unglued in debate prep, unleashing on a Fitz stand-in a delightfully insane, fire-and-brimstone tirade about his moral depravity. “Time for the slaughter, piggy piggy! Time for the slaughter, you filthy cloven beast! I see the signs of the devil branded into your flesh!” she rants. “Time to make the bacon! … Yum, yum, crispy piggy! Yum! Yum!” (Hungry, anyone?)
Given just how unhinged Sally is, it’s remarkable that she makes it to the end of the episode without publicly flagellating herself or, worse, ending up at the wrong end of an assassin’s bullet. Per orders from Jake, Secret Service agent/B613 operative Tom has his rifle trained on Sally, ready to pull the trigger if it looks like she’s about to confess. The rationale, as explained by Cyrus, is that for Sally to reveal her sins to the nation -- and to implicate the first lady and the White House chief of staff in the process -- would irrevocably destroy the public’s faith in the republic. It actually makes sense, but then you have to wonder why no one on “Scandal” seems as bothered by things like murder as the average American seems to.
But I digress. Just when it looks like Sally is about to choke, Fitz gives her an opening by mentioning his "personal failings." It’s unclear, at least to me, whether he throws the debate intentionally or unwittingly. But in any case it’s glorious to see Sally put him in his place, even if she wisely chooses to drop the pork references. Just like that, our gal is back in the game. Whatever the case may be, I'm glad Sally and her crazy speeches will live to see another day.
Might I suggest a campaign motto? Time to make the bacon. Vote Sally Langston 2014!
In other news:
--This week we learn that a paper company called Acme Limited is the front for B613 and honestly, it’s pretty goofy. First of all, as anyone who’s watched “Road Runner” cartoons knows, no one should trust companies called Acme. They should have at least called it Dunder-Mifflin.
--After a disastrous tenure as office receptionist, Quinn manipulates Jake into officially designating her a B613 agent. The Quinn-going-rogue story line is never going to end, is it?
--Cyrus discovers James is Publius -- and forgives him! Those two crazy kids really are meant to be together, aren't they?