Scandal Season 3 Ep. 14 Recap: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: By Kevin Clarkston

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A moment of silence for James Novak. Pour out the liquor. Or raise your martini glass if you can’t bear the thought of wasting alcohol. Still not ready? That’s understandable, as “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” while   filled with plenty of the political double-dealing, bed hopping and violence that are Scandal‘s trademarks, featured some major “get the tissues out” sequences.

Let’s tackle the biggie first. Rather than draw things out, “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” picks up right where last week’s “No Sun On The Horizon,” left off, with Jake gunning down Shelby Moss, Vanessa Chandler and James and cutting a deal with David Rosen to cover the whole thing up before the title sequence rolls. In my opinion, the decision not play out the who-got-shot scenario was a masterstroke. Instead, we watch as the weight of James husband’s death hits  Cyrus in increments; shell shocked at first, he quickly snaps into work mode upon learning Sally Langston (who now seems to be back on the right side of sane) is using the shooting to secure endorsements from gun advocates, coming up with the canny counterattack of Fitz using the tragedy to snag liberal support by calling for gun control. 

In bad taste? Perhaps, but it’s pure Cyrus, and we should expect nothing less. And if I may be so bold, neither would his now late husband. The great loves of Cyrus life are politics—or the power that comes from working in politics—and James. The two meshed constantly when James was alive, so why would things change after his death? However, underneath all the scheming, Cyrus is a man in deep pain, and what’s great about “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is how his stages of grief, from denial and anger to bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance, mirror flashbacks of he and James’ relationship.

That last stage produced a scene that will likely stand as one of the series most gut-wrenching. Facing a roomful of press to make an official statement on James’ murder, Cyrus thinks back to Fitz’s first state dinner, where he pulled James from the press area and onto the dance floor, embracing both their relationship and himself. But recalling that beautiful memory of the past also means facing the gargantuan loss of the present. It’s then Cyrus at last drops his mask, becoming so overcome with emotion he can hardly speak.

“Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’s” other tearjerking sequence came, shockingly, from Papa Pope. Reeling from from Jake’s admission of killing James, Olivia begs Eli to act like her father, asking what’s the point of upholding democracy if everyone’s a monster and everything is corrupt. Papa Pope goes on a long riff about the number of deaths he’s responsible for, and how hard it is to live with being Command, a.k.a. The Hand of God. But what turns things from tough to tender—well still tough, we are talking about Papa Pope after all–is his answer to her question.

“Everyone!  Everyone is worth saving,” he says. “Even the monsters, even the demons. Everyone is worth saving. In the face of darkness, you drag everyone into the light. That is the point. At least I’d like to think that’s the point of you.”  Aww. Olivia is distraught after he says this, almost breaking down right there on the park bench.  Later, it looked like Liv was heading for another Egyptian cotton sabbatical, staring off into space and appearing to be on the verge of imploding as Harrison, Abby and Huck laid one catastrophe after another on top of her.

But as we later see, their encounter galvanizes her. Realizing cutting off one head of B6:13 will just make another grow back, she opts for a stab in the heart, colluding with David Rosen on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to topple the entire organization once and for all. Speaking of David, how sweet was that scene between he and Abby where she forced to come clean about the whole cover up? “You are my heart. What happens to you happens to me,” she says. These two have the healthiest relationship on the show by a mile.

But back to the lecture at hand. Can Liv and David really bring down B6:13? My gut is telling me chile please. But even if it’s a fool’s dream, it’s got Olivia fired up and in full white hat mode, a welcome change in a season where she’s been bogged down in so much uncertainty, fear and depression.  Liv and Papa Pope’s exchange was excellent, spurring the former to action and giving the latter a much-needed dash of humanity.

However, I wonder if either of them would view Mama Pope as worthy of saving. She’s still working with Harrison’s nemesis/sometimes booty buddy Adnan Salif on some shady business related to terrorism, whom Adnan assumes would be Marie, being she blew up that plane back in the day. “That was personal,” Marie says, and disabuses her of any notion she’ll be terrorizing anyone or going to jail. Adnan realizes just how in over her head she is when Marie pulls out a gun and wets a guy’s chest when he gets smart about explaining why an associate named Ivan didn’t show up to a meeting. Panicked, she rushes off to meet Harrison and ask for help, but a suspicious car in the distance scares her off.

Whatever Marie and Adnan—and by extension, Harrison—are involved in, it’s almost guaranteed to affect everyone else. And now that Liv’s officially on the war path, their paths are bound

cross at some point. It’s just a matter of when.

Other Thoughts:

–Watching Mellie get her swerve on with Andrew Nichols was glorious, as was seeing her drunkenly (well, more like tipsy) debate the merits of gun control. Mellie spends so much of her on-screen time angry, hurt, or serving ice queen realness, it’s great witnessing her be so, dare I say, relaxed and uninhibited. It’s all destined to crash and burn of course. But for now, it’s all drinking and carpet love for these two. 

–Do we need to talk about Huck and Quinn? Fine. I’m not excited at the prospect of these two hooking up—there’s just no there there, in terms of chemistry for me. As teacher-student? Yes. As lovers? No. And Huck kissing her after she spat a loogie in his grill? Gross. Charlie’s going to be one too pleased though, so the idea of an assassin love triangle may be worth a few awkward scenes.

–“I don’t make bombs. I make money.” Who wants to bet Mama Pope’s words end up as a slowed down, screwed and chopped sample in a the next inescapable club rap tune six months from now?

–Tying Mama Pope to Adnan Salif is a good way to move her back into the proceedings. But damn, can’t Harrison at least be the star in his own plot line?

–“Indulge? Cyrus, I’m not a dessert.”

–“You really I’m gonna take fashion advice from a guy with a neck beard.” That’s right James, pull your boo out of his “look-at-me-I’m-so-butch-but-I”m-really-not” phase.

–Interesting choice by Shonda and Co. to have Cyrus admit his feelings for James and kiss him in Defiance, Ohio, site of the infamous election rigging. Not quite sure what link is attempting to be made, if any; but if I had to guess, I’d put my money on it being a subtle reminder of the fact Cyrus almost had James killed when he threatened to expose the truth about Defiance. As much as these two care about each other their love, like almost everything else on Scandal, is tarnished and intertwined with secrecy and lies.  

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