Happy Days: Scandal ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ Review
By Chelsea Hensley
Last night’s episode of Scandal gave us the context we’ve been waiting for in Olivia’s relationship with her father, flashing back to five years to Olivia With Bangs, pre-Fitz and pre-OPA. Olivia with Bangs smiled and laughed and was less experienced with Washington’s shades of grey. This Olivia, the one who’s mostly content if not one-hundred percent happy with her life, is the one I’d like to see in the present. This was the Olivia we almost had in the finale, right before everything hit the fan, and this episode made it clear we’ll probably never have that Olivia again as OPA went up against the White House on Jeannine’s behalf, with opposition from Cyrus, Mellie and of course, Rowan.
Five years ago Olivia’s father was trying to make up for his poor parenting with weekly dinners and the promise of paying off Olivia’s law school loans. This Rowan was a lot different from the one we met last week. He was charming and funny, amusing in his passionate rambling about mammoths and his work at the Smithsonian. Still there, however was his desire to control Olivia and bend her to his will which kicked into overdrive when she confronted him about B613.
Rowan’s whole demeanor changed when Olivia was no longer his slightly rebellious but ultimately compliant daughter. When she demanded solid answers, Rowan shut her down and laid out exactly how he’d like her to behave going forward which involved Olivia remaining silent and no longer questioning him about things he “knew” she couldn’t handle. But Rowan underestimated Olivia’s own determination and her White Hat. Her desire to help, her sense of justice, overrides all horror and all fear.
Olivia and Rowan may have been, at least five years ago, the antithesis to one another. Rowan is a man who condones torture and murder if it’ll get the job done, but Olivia helps people out of situations just like the ones Rowan would seek to put them in. She’s idealistic and sure she can get her way with her father by dangling new fiancé Edison and his position on the Intel Committee in front of him to secure Huck’s freedom. It was this expectation that made Rowan assert his authority and punish Olivia for stepping out of line. Even though he returned Huck, he took something else from her, and it was Edison.
Rowan knows exactly how to hurt Olivia, and it’s through the people she cares for. Even if he won’t allow any direct harm to come to his daughter, he has no problem endangering her emotionally. His appearance at her office, friendly and chatting amiably with Harrison and Quinn, was a clear threat. It was a warning that he can get close to those people, all of whom Olivia’s taken it upon herself to care for and protect, and not only can he get to them, but he can get to them through her. It’ll be Olivia’s fault if something happens to any of them because she’ll have been the one to provoke it. Rowan can walk into her office and introduce himself to her friends, and there’s nothing Olivia can do about it because he has all the power in their relationship.
And it was because of this power imbalance that Olivia’s attempts at saving Jake and helping Jeannine didn’t go the way she wanted. She tried to have both, and there was no way Rowan was going to let her. And there was no way Olivia was going to sacrifice either one of them. If Olivia chose Jake over Jeannine she’d be throwing Jeannine under the bus all over again, but if she chose Jeannine then Jake died. It was ultimately Fitz who made the decision when he admitted to an affair with Jeannine to free Jake. And just like that Rowan gave Olivia what she wanted: Jake. But again, Olivia lost something, and it was Huck.
Huck turning violent against Olivia was uncomfortable to watch. Huck’s trauma has been made painfully apparent throughout Scandal’s run, but the one person who’s always been safe from his violent urges is Olivia. It’s hard to say if they can recover from what this episode did to their relationship with Huck now knowing Olivia’s father is the shadowy “Command” and Olivia being physically attacked by the one person in her circle with whom she’s had the most honest relationship.
Was all of Olivia’s happiness – and all chances of it – shattered during this time when she learned the truth about her father? At first Olivia had a tense relationship with a father who shut her out after her mother’s death. Those circumstances, though certainly not typical, aren’t nearly as extreme as a daughter learning her father heads up an intelligence organization that kills and tortures people and threatens the life of her fiancé when she doesn’t do as she’s told.
If Olivia had married Edison, maybe she wouldn’t have gotten involved with Fitz, and all roads really do lead to Fitz. Like Olivia said, the reason neither she nor Fitz are happy together right now is because he wanted to be president, and Olivia wanted that for him. The things Olivia’s experienced, and the things she’s done, are wearing on her. As she told Jeannine, she can’t look at herself anymore without hating what she sees, without feeling the loss of the bits and pieces she’s sold away with all the lies and deceits.
Can Olivia ever be happy again? Every time she tries for some happiness, tries to wear the White Hat and be a person she can be proud of, something comes along to send her off track. And with Olivia now roped back into Sunday night dinners with her father, that obstruction is going to be, at least for a little while, him.
Next week, Olivia and others are taken hostage by a woman with a bomb, and Jake’s trustworthiness after his reprogramming is up in the air.
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