Scandal is supposed to be all about Olivia Pope, and most weeks, it is: her difficulty with men, with women, with herself, with a glass of wine. She’s the show’s protagonist, the superhero. To show an episode without her would be like watching an episode of Batman without, well, Batman.
But when we talk about last night’s winter finale—the last new episode to air until Feb. 27—Olivia is a mere footnote. The scenes with her weren’t as exciting as the scenes without her. Though the episode was titled “A Door Marked Exit,” it could have easily been called “Church,” because that’s where the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, and her team of writers took us last night. Had there been an offering during the episode, the collection plates would have gotten all of my money, and I would have asked my mother to float me some more to put in.
Whereas this whole season has been about shock and awe with gruesome violence (my teeth still hurt after seeing what Huck did to Quinn in the previous episode) and disturbing criminal behavior (who can hate Mellie after seeing that she was raped by Fitz’s dad?), last night’s episode was all about the dialogue. People were getting read all up and through this episode. Here were the three best books.
When a Woman’s Fed Up, by Sally Langston
The episode begins with a flashback of Vice President Sally Langston berating her husband, Daniel Douglas. If you recall in the last episode, Sally was shown calling Cyrus for help because she killed Daniel with a letter opener, after she found out he slept with Cyrus’ husband, James. Here is where we see the argument that drove her to the breaking point. Here is an excerpt:
“You screwed his husband. That was poison fruit! You have released a snake into our garden! You have spat in the face of my hard work. You have summoned my soul with your perversion, your sickness … You are the burden I carry on my back as I make my way to salvation. You are my cross to bear. You are my original sin. You are pretty and stupid and you can’t make a living to save your life. What you have given me is our daughter, who can’t keep her knees together. I cannot wait until you meet your maker, I cannot wait until you are judged for your lies.”
Sally swears she is Martin, Malcolm and Jesse. She doesn’t want the presidency; she wants a pulpit.
Boy: The Unauthorized Biography of President Fitzgerald Grant III, by Rowan “Eli” Pope
Fitz finally gets the best of Papa Pope, kidnapping him and hiding him in the dungeons of the Pentagon. Finally, these two men are going to talk man to man. At first, it seems like Fitz will be winning this debate. The man tells Pope, “I’m screwing your daughter.”
Let me repeat that because I don’t think you all understand: Fitz tells Papa Pope, “I’m screwing your daughter.” Then he proceeds to say she is “talented” and how she “tastes.” To be clear, Fitz isn’t talking about Olivia’s cooking.
What is Papa Pope’s response? Unfortunately, it’s not the fade, but that’s only because he’s handcuffed. Instead he dresses Fitz down with a verbal onslaught so vitriolic, I actually winced. Here are Papa Pope’s five best comebacks to Fitz’s low blow.
“Boy” x 6. Fitz, the president of the United States, was called a “boy” by Papa Pope six times.
“I was the first in my family to go to college.” Translation, Papa Pope started from the bottom. Now he’s here, so bring it, because as a black man in the United States, he wasn’t born into a legacy of scholastic achievement; he had to earn it.
“You can talk about what a great lay she is to try and get a response out of me all you want, but I’m actually, quite literally, above your pay grade.” WELP! A quick Google search on how much the president makes reveals that Fitz is banking a cool $400K annually for sitting in the Oval Office, but to Papa Pope, that’s chump change. He doesn’t say how much he makes, but it doesn’t matter. Let them go to a strip club together, and Fitz doesn’t want it with Papa Pope.
“She is always going to be the formidable Olivia Pope.” Today, a nation of women may be dancing to Beyoncé, but they’re calling themselves formidable. Go on ladies, with your formidable selves.
“You disappoint me as a suitor for my daughter’s hand.” This was where I stood up and got my Kenny Smith on.
Apology, by Cyrus Beene
Last week, James told Cyrus he wanted a divorce, and for the first time. Of course we all expected Cyrus to be like, “Fine then, be out!” But to our surprise, we learn in this week’s episode that Cyrus, the self-proclaimed “devil” with "666" tattooed on his forehead, has a heart. He tries to stop James from leaving and in doing so, he pulls out every emotional, baby-please-don’t-leave-me cliché in the book. His apology and attempt to keep James from leaving him sound like a bunch of Jagged Edge songs cobbled together—to the point where I want us to all play a game:
Below are three lines. One of them is a Jagged Edge lyric, and the others are from Cyrus’ apology. Can you guess which are which?
A. “Do you wanna not love me anymore, because I still love you.”
B. “They don’t know the things we share unless they’re here, babe, but since they’re not, how they say I’m not true?”
C. “I’m standing here afraid, and in my underwear, and without my soul, asking you what happens now.”
Answer: B, Jagged Edge, from the song “Promise”; A and C from Cyrus Beene last night.
Other notable events from last night that we’re going to be on the lookout for when the show comes back next year include Papa Pope’s little tirade costing him his job, and the fact that now Jake is running B613. Huck told Quinn, “Good day,” and now she’s officially back in Charlie’s arms. Could she make a full turn into a villain? And Mama Pope never made it to Hong Kong; she’s just hanging out in front of the White House.
Until the new season, let us pray for the strength to make it without getting the shakes. Godspeed to us all.
Jozen Cummings is the author and creator of the popular relationship blog Until I Get Married, which is currently in development for a television series with Warner Bros. He also hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC about Empire called Empire Afterparty, is a contributor at VerySmartBrothas.com and works at Twitter as an editorial curator. Follow him on Twitter.