Well that’s more like it—well, sort of. In my recap of “Inside The Bubble” I lamented Scandal has bit blah this season, it’s desire to ratchet down the crazy resulting in forgettable cases of the week for Olivia, promising but slow-burning plot lines and a general feeling of “Where is this all going?” “Like Father, Like Daughter,” remedied some of these issues, while creating some new frustrations.
First the good. Olivia finally got a case with some meat on its bones when Fitz’s daughter Karen, drunk, high and lying half-naked in a random bed after shaking her security detail, called in the OPA calvary to save her and the administration’s reputation. Ever the quick thinker, Liv gets Huck to work his black hack magic to shut down the cell phones of everyone at the party so she and Quinn can drag her out without leaving a thousand instant selfies and Twit-pics in their wake. But just as this potential life-defining scandal is as good as swept under the rug, Karen gets sent a video of her and two boys engaging in “Eiffel Towering,” (FYI: Urban dictionary has the precise positions. Movin’ on.), or for synonym’s sake, a threesome.
Cue the monologues and the hand-wringing. Liv is screaming at Cyrus—who was luxuriating in post-coital bliss with Michael. Fitz is screaming at Karen, and best of all, he and Mellie are screaming at each other. It’s been a minute since we got a good scorched-earth argument from these two, and they did not disappoint. Mellie rages about the presence of Ms. Pope (I love how she refers to the White House as her house—which, technically it is—even though she ain’t exactly paying the mortgage or the light bill, m’kay?) and tries to assert herself as mother and family fixer, while Fitz counters she’s abandoned both those roles since their son’s death, leaving him to deal with the trio of Smelly Mellie, Drunk Mellie and Screw Everything to Hell Mellie.
And much as I hate to cede any ground to Fitz, he has a point. Mellie hasn’t even made an effort to fix her hair (seriously girl, at least invest in a rubber band so you can vary the bedhead dustmop with a sloppy ponytail), let alone her family. Still, the fiasco does spur her to talk to Karen, leading to a nice exchange where she both sidesteps slut-shaming her and makes clear that as the daughter of the leader of the free world, she’s held to a different standard. An unfair, sexist double standard, but a standard nonetheless.
The story line also gives us the gift of a vintage Olivia Pope read. After locating Karen’s other sextape cast mate, she opens up a can of “I will DESTROY you” on the boy’s parents when they try to extort Fitz for $3 million, and hands them non-disclosure documents to sign so they can crawl back into the skeevy mist from whence they came. Not since her epic “5,4, 3, 2, 1” speech to Edison has Liv been in such rare form.
So yes, there were parts of “Like Father, Like Daughter” that were good. And yet, the episode’s course correction was not a total success. Karen’s sextape, of course, provides the perfect excuse to bring Olivia back to the White House and Fitz. The emo showdown takes place as I predicted, with lip quivering, whispered lines and making out, before Liv stops the party by confessing she went away with Jake. True to form Fitz turns sullen and freezes her out. This would be compelling, if we hadn’t seen them do this dance before. And if we didn’t know Jake knows Olivia is in love with Fitz. And Olivia knows she’s in love with Fitz, try as she might to “be normal” with Jake. Any good love triangle needs to carry with a feeling of uncertainty, a sense the person caught in the middle can go either way. But with this trio, that ship sailed long ago.
Besides, Jake’s obsessed with taking down Papa Pope and is completely checked out of whatever he and Liv have going on anyway. He threatens David Rosen into giving up the B6:13 files, likely killing what could have been a decent story and character arc, before confronting secret service agent Tom and promising to look out for him as he exposes Eli’s secrets. Unfortunately, Eli, called in by Fitz, beats him to the punch, badgering Tom (poor Tom) into fingering Jake as the mastermind behind Jerry Jr.’s murder. Which in the world of Scandal, means Jake’s in for a torture timeout.
Excuse me, but didn’t we see this already? Didn’t Olivia already spend one season yelling into phone receivers and scouring the bowels of D.C. to save Jake from whatever unspeakable horrors her father had in store for him? I suppose the stakes are higher this time since Fitz believes Jake killed his son (though he already hates his guts for accompany Liv on her island adventure), and his capture promises to further put the screws to Abby and Olivia’s bond. But I’m afraid this turn of events is a clue the season is shaping up to be the Redemption of Jake Ballard; meaning both we the audience and Jake may have to endure much screen time of drills, teeth pulling and a myriad of other indignities–please no face licking–at the hands of Papa Pope in attempt to humanize him again so both we and Olivia think he’s both booty call and boyfriend material.
Not sayin’ I’m right. I’m just hoping I’m wrong.
–Jake on being late: “Sorry. Car trouble.”
–Drunk/High Karen: “What are we doing?” Olivia: “Getting you into college.”
–Cyrus didn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but his read of Abby was on point as usual, zeroing in on her professional jealousy of Olivia while drawing her attention to the reality that hey, being Olivia Pope isn’t actually all that great.
–Quinn has/is clearly developed/developing a dissociative personality, choking out the boy who filmed his threesome with Karen behind the dumpster at his GettysBurger gig then walking into OPA’s offices praising the place’s “Four Score” deal later.
–”Controversy?” “I’m Coming Out?” The musical choices were aces this episode. Then again, musical selection has never been an issue for this show.