As the saying goes, you can pick your nose (and if you do, use hand sanitizer afterwards—it’s still flu season after all), but you can’t pick your family. The ties that bind often refers to warm and fuzzy feelings like love, happiness and security. But those who share a bloodline are often bound to one another in ways both positive and negative; through dysfunction, old hurts and unresolved conflicts. And “Mama Said Knock You Out,” while concerning itself with things like terror plots, consistently focused on the family.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about this first: Oh Mellie. Mellie, Mellie, Mellie. When it comes to adultery, you ain’t bout that life. Say what you want about Liv and Fitz, but on the whole—minus that whole making out in front an Oval Office window business a few episodes back—they’re a helluva lot more discreet than giving blow jobs behind unlocked doors in the middle of the day. I know it’s been eons since you got some, but that’s no excuse for sloppiness. And trying to pull a Don Draper on Karen when she clearly saw you “at work” with Uncle Andrew? Girl get it together!
But back to the lecture at hand. “Mama Said Knock You Out” gave us our first glimpse of the Fitz children. Up until now, Jerry and Karen have been mere figments, things their parents reference while flinging recriminations at one another. “Mama Said Knock You Out” doesn’t give much insight into their personalities beyond the basics—Jerry’s a cold fish, while Karen’s a sensitive theater kid—but for how the episode uses them, it’s all we really need to know.
Jerry and Karen are not of the cutthroat D.C. culture their parents and the adults who serve them operate in, and as such, don’t dwell in the gray, morally relative (well, more like bankrupt—we passed relative a long time ago) universe everyone does. It’s why Jerry runs an anti-Fitz website listing all of his father’s political foibles and Karen doesn’t think twice about revealing her mother’s affair. Fitz and Mellie are such a wall of secrets and long-simmering resentments, it’s startling to see their kids abandon their WASP roots so quickly.
This leads to Fitz and Mellie engaging in what may stand as one of their most devastating fights, because it comes so close to hitting at the core of what has laid waste to their marriage: Mellie’s rape. There’s Fitz, roaring about how he believed her when she said having a baby killed her sex drive—though considering the circumstances of her pregnancy, I’d bet there’s a lot of truth to that—how he berated himself for being a monster for cheating. He screams at her over and over again, asking what she gave up, and you see Mellie about to crack, about to blurt out a truth that could both devastate her husband and family yet start the process of healing them. But just as she’s on the verge of breaking Olivia walks in, and Mellie takes off to the next room. The two smooth things over enough to do an all-important TV interview, but until Mellie can bring herself to tell her husband just what she’s given up, these two will continue on the same miserable path they’ve been on.
Olivia has little in the way of family, but she is nevertheless tied to them, the woman she is a product of their influence, or lack thereof. Adnan Salif snipes Liv is just like Marie, wanting what she wants but on her own terms. Like Mama Pope, she’s also relentless in pursuing her desired goal, as seen when she and her crew pore over government documents, trying to find the source of B6:13′s funding so she can use it to bleed them dry, ignoring both Huck and her father’s warnings, even after the latter reveals Pope and Associates research efforts are being tracked.
Liv has even less of a relationship with Marie, but Mama Pope can still hit her where she lives in the penetrating way a parent can. She gets in a vicious dig about Liv’s “fixer” status, dismissing her as a mere political maid, cleaning up everyone’s messes. “You think you’re family. But you’re nothing but the help. And you don’t even know it.” The comment bothers her so much she brings it up to Cyrus, who despite still being in mourning, doesn’t sugarcoat it; yes she does clean up other’s messes, and yes it does suck. But it’s a necessary evil, one she has to do despite the pain it causes her.
“I am at work, this is my job,” she barks at Fitz, who’s trying to apologize for bellowing “I’m talking to MY WIFE” during he and Mellie’s heavyweight bout. The way Kerry Washington plays it, it comes off like she’s trying to convince both Fitz and herself. As she explains, her work is all she has right now, and if it means pushing her feelings aside so Fitz and Co. will do this damn interview, then so be it. But, just when you think Liv’s going home to pour up a goblet or three full of wine, Papa Pope calls and throws her bone, giving her some B6:13 info and playing the family card in a way that feels genuine. Is this the beginning of a Liv/Papa Pope crime-fighting partnership? Cue up the theme music now!
Maybe Eli’s change of heart stems from coming face to face with the result of all work and no family, otherwise known as Jake Ballard. Learning about his sad background a few episodes back gave a clue to what could happen to him as Command. But the chill coming off the Jake in the Oval Office was so cold I wanted to reach into the screen and feel his chest for a heartbeat. Perhaps offering to help his daughter was act of fatherly love and self-preservation; Eli’s far from well-adjusted, but some part of him must have looked at the android in front of him and thought ‘I don’t wanna turn into that dude.”
As for Mama Pope, she’s still big balling and shot calling the terrorist plot involving Dmitri and Ivan, who have been on the government’s radar for a few years. Dmitri doesn’t show up to a meeting—he’s too busy being tortured by Quinn and Charlie to come to the phone—which causes his boss Ivan, and Adnan Salif, to panick.
Adnan pops up at Pope and Associates office, demanding immunity in exchange for spilling all the tea on she and Mama Pope’s plans. She appears to be joining up with Pope and Associates (in more ways than one when she seduces Harrison) but when she sinks a syringe into Harrison’s back, it becomes clear her lost little lamb routine was a long con.
Cut to Adnan bringing a jump drive with Fitz’s schedule and secret service detail plans to Marie and the terrorists (which sounds like an awful band name). This plot twist gets another knot when it’s revealed Marie and Adnan are being watched by Jake and B6:13, who are letting the situation play out for the time being. Jake is a pretty formidable foe, but Marie’s made it clear she ain’t nothing to play with, so I’m looking forward to these two squaring off some point.
Sickeningly, Huck is still obsessed with getting Quinn back into the fold, despite the loogie-infested kiss they shared last week. And as I predicted, it’s causing mad friction between Quinn and Charlie, who’s badgering her like a prosecutor over the who, what, when, where and why of Huck’s visit—and she hasn’t even told him about the kiss. Huck tries to rescue Quinn again, and she rejects him, but not before licking his face(Ick!) to remind him of their molar-pulling past. Things get more complicated when she comes home to find Charlie moving into her place. He claims its to keep her safe from Huck, but it reeks of insecurity. If the idea of both of these pairs—and seeing them in action–didn’t make my skin crawl I might feel something other than revulsion. But hey, that’s better than indifference.
Sticking with the family theme, Quinn is obviously all Charlie has, and he wants to hold onto her, as does Huck, for the same reason. None of this healthy for any of them, but hey, since when is healthiness a prerequisite for hooking up on this show?
—According to Abby’s research, the fictional government is spending big bucks on penis pumps—like millions. $20 million on penis pumps? That’s a whole lotta wood.
—“No but thank you that’s sweet,” Quinn tells Charlie when he asks her if she wants him to kill Huck, before kissing him. Eww.
—Andrew Nichols. “Glass houses Olivia.” Burn, though Liv was correct. Of course logic and reason are all mumbo jumbo when you’re caught up in the sex haze.
—Mellie to Karen: “You’re being dramatic.” Uh, yea, that’s why she’s a theater major.
—“This is not a game Mr. President. And you’re not getting your ball back.” Jake’s become quite the cold-ass bastard hasn’t he?
—Heartbreak Moment: The shot of the door closing on Olivia as Fitz and Mellie go to talk to the kids. As dysfunctional as the Fitz clan is, at the end of the day, they have each other, for better or worse.
—New Rule: Cyrus must go into beast mode every week. Yes, Jake has military training and would do an instant death pressure point move. But you know Cyrus was gonna at least break a bone or take an eye out.
—Speaking of Cyrus, it sadly ironic he’s playing with and paying attention to Emma now, given the reason is because she’s the only link to James he has left.