Scandal Season 3 Ep. 10 ‘A Door Marked Exit’: By Kevin Clarkston

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“The devil came in, the devil came in.” Sally Langston, her face still grotesquely covered in her now deceased husband Daniel’s blood, mutters this to Cyrus as he walks into her office/the crime scene. In “A Door Marked Exit” pretty much all of Scandal’s major players come face to face with the devils in their lives, and more often than not, choose to lay down with them, in some cases both literally and figuratively.

Most if not all of “A Door Marked Exit” took place in what felt like two separate worlds, one where Cyrus—and by extension Mellie—played Sin Eater to Sally’s misdeed and another where Pope and Associates dealt with the fallout from learning the truth about Maya/Marie Wallace.

Let’s deal with Sally first. The vice president played the whole “oh, you didn’t know my husband was a closet queen” angle pretty well when Cyrus plopped pictures of her husband doing the do with James last week. But it was all an act, as the episode opens with her berating Daniel for destroying her life’s work. If you thought Fitz and Mellie’s waspy, booze-fueled shade fests were bad, they got nothin’ on Daniel and Sally, as they let rip the kind of low-blows (Sally knew Daniel was gay but married him because no one else would have her shrill, uppity behind; Daniel is an idiot incapable of being nothing more than smiley political eye candy. Unless you count the daughter he gave her—the one who, in Sally’s words, “can’t keep her knees together) you can only dish out when you’ve been in a relationship with someone for decades. Kate Burton often plays Sally with such composed restraint, that it was thrilling and terrifying (the whole stabbing thing) to see her go off.

Sally spends most of the episode shell-shocked, and she’s not the only one. The whole incident has brought Cyrus to the realization that all his blackmailing and threats do have dark, and some may say, evil consequences. But on Scandal, moments of clarity rarely, if ever, translate into behavior modification. So Cyrus puts his horns back on and calls in the calvary to make Daniel’s death look like a tragic heart attack. And whatever guilt remains is washed away by Mellie basically saying “I’m evil, you’re evil. We know this. So stop slurping the bourbon and get it together sis.” Later, Cyrus walks in to find James watching a report about Daniel’s death, and in a small, tragic moment (and great bit of acting by Jeff Perry), you actually see him mentally decide not to tell the truth, opting instead to be the belittling, asshole Cyrus we all know and love/loathe. However, James doesn’t buy it, and goes to David Rosen with his suspicions. But Rosen, memories of grading papers with penis drawings for answers still fresh in his mind, shuts him down.

Despite her hatred of her husband, Sally’s in no rush to run for president, despite her campaign manager Leo Bergen’s protesting  And Mellie’s chilling warning, buried beneath sweet, Southern-fried sympathies, makes me think it’ll stay that way, at least for time being. Though the tape the NSA girl played for David, which contained Sally’s admission she’d “sinned,” may shake things up a bit, to say the least.

At the other corner of D.C., Liv and her peeps are playing catch up after Mama Pope ran game on all involved and boarded a flight to Hong Kong. That means figuring out Quinn’s whereabouts and hoping she hasn’t followed through on killing Papa Pope ,which turns into figuring out where the hell Papa Pope disappeared to once Quinn goes off the grid. It also means reading up on Marie’s past, which includes selling any and all CIA information to the highest bidder, before she pulled off her deadliest deception: convincing her husband she’d planted a bomb on the plane he caught her trying to escape on, which led to him calling in Fitz to shoot it down. Only there was no bomb, meaning hundreds of people died for nothing. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Operation Remington.

For me, this conspiracy arc didn’t carry nearly the same weight and dramatic pay-off as last year’s Defiance election rigging. The latter did a great job of interweaving a tension-packed plot with moments that offered insight as to who these people are and why they do the often despicable things they do. What makes this show compelling is the emotional reactions the characters have to revelations like the existence of B6:13 or Operation Remington, not so much the revelations themselves.

“She fooled you, like she fooled me, didn’t she?” Olivia asks, her words tingling with rage and pain. Eli answers her wordlessly, letting his steely guard drop despite himself. He is not the monster. But as Jake pointed out, he is not a saint either. He’s still the man who tortured Huck to the point he forgot he ever had a family, who made him kill on command without batting an eye. And he still won’t tell his own daughter the whole truth about her past. But compared to Marie, he’s the lesser of two evils, so she’s sticking with him. Fitz eventually lets Eli go, but its a hollow victory, as his brilliant, on point rant about Fitz’s privileged rich boy ennui gets him demoted from Command, with Jake taking his place. And not for nothing, Eli should take a closer look at his own handiwork, formidable though she may be, before he reads someone for filth over their daddy issues.

In the end, everyone makes a self-serving choice. James promises to stay with Cyrus (but not necessarily love him) in exchange for a press secretary gig. Sally abandons her presidential ambitions, staying close to the Grant administration to keep her secret safe. Quinn goes back to Charlie—though only after Huck makes it clear she’s not welcome at Pope and Associates, at least not in his presence. Fitz promotes Jake to Command, both to spite Eli and most likely to take him out of Olivia’s orbit. And Olivia sides with her father over her mother. As for Mellie, she’s probably sitting back, drinking hooch and watching everyone scramble, thinking “amateurs.” As we’ve seen, compromise and hard choices are nothing new for her. 

“Better the devil you know” the saying goes. But as Maya/Marie’s sweet-but-vaguely threatening “don’t worry sweetheart. I’ll see you real soon” send off to Liv illustrates, the devil you don’t know is always out there lurking, looking for someone or something to devour.

See ya’ll in February!

Other Thoughts:

–Mama Pope certainly got her hair, makeup and clothing game together quick. Like mother like daughter. Or maybe it’s the opposite?

–It’s hard hear to Papa Pope’s “boy” rant against Fitz and not think Shonda Rimes didn’t intend for it to have some racial overtones, especially in light of Eli’s Porgy & Bess “Summertime” reference. Fitz has had everything given to him, even when he didn’t ask to have it handed to him (Defiance), while Eli, twisted as his philosophy is, has undoubtedly fought for every bit of success he’s had. His point about Olivia being “a door marked  exit,” for Fitz hits both ways though, if Liv’s Vermont/jam making fantasies are any indication. She hasn’t been much more willing to be her father’s daughter than Fitz has to be his father’s disappointing boy.

–Leo Bergen doesn’t even flinch when he figures out Daniel’s true cause of death; he’s actually upset she didn’t come to him. I hope Sally does change her mind and run when the show begins again, just to see what depths Leo and Cyrus will sink to to win. The tirades alone will be worth it.

–So now that Quinn’s with Charlie, will she still try to go back to Pope and Associates? Liv still cares about her, but then again, she’s unaware of her betrayal. Even if she doesn’t, with Jake being Command, I can’t see her disappearing from the scene entirely.

–Harrison’s Adnan Salif plot continues to twist in the wind. Even Abby and David have got more going on than this dude. Get him a girlfriend (or boyfriend:) at least.

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