The Past Is Prologue on Scandal’s “More Cattle, Less Bull”
By Chelsea Hensley
Last night’s “More Cattle, Less Bull” was a return to the basics for Scandal.
Olivia Pope and Associates finds a new client and a new problem to fix with presidential contender Josie Marcus (Lisa Kudrow) and a teenage pregnancy coming back to bite her. Josie’s not the only one preparing for political battle. Everyone is. Former presidential nominee Governor Reston (Tom Amandes) has Josie in his crosshairs and Sally Langston (Kate Burton) prepares to make waves in the Republican party as the past comes back as both fantasy and nightmare for all our characters and sets a compelling stage for the future.
It took four episodes, sending the team to Montana and a White House Correspondents’ Dinner to see a happier Olivia Pope. Back in the game and representing a decent client, Olivia threw herself into handling Josie’s scandal. Not even her Sunday night dinner with Rowan could get her down, and as promised Olivia went through the remainder of the episode as if the event had never taken place. Instead of dwelling on Rowan, her smile only gets bigger as she and Fitz finally speak, returning to the old days when the two of them conversed and laughed easily about political strategy.
Meanwhile Fitz is taken back to a less glowing portion of his life called Operation: Remington. No one’s ever been happy to see Rowan, and Fitz is no different. With their past connection of Remington hanging overhead, there’s no love lost between these two. To Rowan, Fitz is President in name only. The one with the real power is Rowan who makes that clear when Fitz attempts to exercise his presidential power and get Rowan under control. His stern talking to with Rowan falls flat, and Cyrus has to reiterate that Fitz is way out of his league, so far out of it that he may find himself the victim of a second assassination attempt if he doesn’t stop questioning Rowan’s authority.
While Fitz is trying to handle his past, Mellie and Cyrus are planning for his future. Their first choice for campaign manager, Leo Bergen (Paul Adelstein), refuses the job because he believes Fitz is a definite loser. His criticisms are a throwback to those Olivia had when she first joined Fitz’s campaign, specifically his marriage problem. If anything, the iciness of Fitz and Mellie’s relationship has only gotten worse, and it’s more apparent to everyone now that Fitz’s indiscretions have been made public. With that troubling component, how can Fitz expect to beat out Reston, Josie Marcus or even Sally, with plans to run as an Independent?
Leo says Fitz’s heart isn’t in the presidential race, and it’s not. His head is other places, doing other things, not thinking about the rough road ahead. When Fitz is faced with Josie’s stunning statement about her teen pregnancy, he doesn’t react except to compliment Olivia and stare in amazement at his television even as a real threat to his presidential ambitions is solidified right in front of him. And Fitz’s political future is already on rocky ground with the leak of the affair, which Fitz orchestrated himself. Now he’s joke around the country and doing real damage to his presidential ambitions. No matter how many times Fitz says he wants to be president, he doesn’t act like it. Mellie and Cyrus (even poor, stressed out Ethan) put more work into maintaining Fitz’s presidency than Fitz does. In fact he spends more time destroying it, blinded by his ardent pursuit of Olivia who holds the key to getting Fitz’s head back in the game.
Out of options Mellie begs Olivia to come back and remake the magic of the first campaign (minus the voter fraud). It was right after Fitz entered the White House when Mellie first agreed to look the other way on Fitz and Olivia’s affair for the sake of the presidency, and she makes a similar speech to Olivia this time. Even though Mellie despises Olivia and Fitz for their affair, one that will surely get restarted once they’re back on the same team, she still pushes for Olivia to rejoin Team Grant. Though this was nothing new for Mellie, when is enough going to be enough? Is Mellie ever going to get so tired of Fitz disrespecting her that even the promise of political capital won’t be enough to make her stay and fight for him?
Despite Mellie’s obvious emotional distress at having to turn to Olivia for help, Olivia’s more than ready to accept the position and get back into close quarters with Fitz, but that’s surely going to change with the information the episode leaves us with.
Olivia’s mother, Maya Lewis, has only been mentioned about four times and now she – and her death – are going to set the stage for the rest of the season and perhaps the rest of the show’s run. If Fitz was the one to shoot down Flight 747, which Maya was on, there’s nothing that could throw ice on Olivia and Fitz’s relationship any faster than that. Maya’s the woman Olivia credits with imbuing her with her bravery and outspokenness, the woman who warned Olivia that her father would destroy her, a woman who was obviously a more positive figure in her daughter’s life.
Maya’s murder could be the element that changes Scandal and everything we’ve come to know about it. This could push Olivia away from Fitz and the White House forever or even set her on the path of getting some kind of vindication for her mother’s death. If Rowan was involved with the downing of the flight, will Olivia change her mind about taking him on? She’s been hands off thus far, leaving all the sleuthing to Jake and Huck, but will she join in if it means avenging Maya?
Next week’s episode “Icarus” should answer a few of these questions.
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