TV REVIEW: It’s a Miserable Life in Scandal’s “The Fluffer”
By Chelsea Hensley
Is walking away an option for Olivia Pope?
The obvious answer is no because there wouldn’t be a show without Olivia and her being buried neck deep in the mess that is her career and personal life. It’s also her job, and since we keep hearing things about being Gladiators, one can assume it’s a job she mostly enjoys. That’s why she and Fitz going on and on about Vermont and jam (please retire these two words, Scandal) never made sense. So Olivia would give up her successful career, move to Vermont and dedicate her life to fruit preserves? That seems unlikely, but it’s not as if Olivia doesn’t have valid reasons to want to kiss her life goodbye.
Reason number one: Fitz. Never has a character been so frustrating and as flat with the only consistent part of his character being his incompetency. As Leo pointed out, Fitz’s sexual dalliances (back in the spotlight as Jeannine Locke announced her memoir) aren’t even accompanied by any solid political manoeuvres. He’s just a walking, talking sex scandal who “needs” his VP candidate to stop sleeping with his wife while he continues his affair with Olivia. Regular readers of these reviews will know that I find Fitz abhorrent on a good day, but it’s hard to tell at times if he’s a bad person or a bad character. A man who began as well-meaning but semi-deluded and forced to contend with people more ambitious and more cutthroat than him has morphed into someone petty and childish who can’t stand to take responsibility for his actions. When faced with the rightful anger or disappointment of others, he starts yelling, and for a guy who yells so often he doesn’t say much, and his aversion to his indoor voice is where Fitz’s characterization begins and ends.
The only reason we weren’t treated to any angsty Fitz/Olivia makeouts in the Oval Office this week is because Olivia was so disillusioned by Fitz’s treatment of her and his jealousy over Andrew and Mellie that she sent Abby as her proxy. When she was forced to return, she railed at Fitz for treating her like a “fluffer”, there to fulfill whatever role he needs filling which is often to make him feel better (usually through sex). It’s a succinct observation from the show, even if Fitz wrote it off as Olivia’s own jealousy talking. Not since season one has Olivia and Fitz’s love affair been anything more than a toxic exercise in mutual destruction, and though Olivia’s had her moments of recognizing the impossibility of their romance, “The Fluffer” was her first time seeing how unbalanced it is as Fitz blatantly put his hypocrisy on display.
Despite her personal feelings, Olivia pressed Andrew to break things off with Mellie or be kicked off the ticket, and even though he claimed to love Mellie, he obliged. Power versus love is written all over Olivia and Fitz, and now Mellie and Andrew, with neither man being willing to step back from getting and retaining power for the sake of the women they claim to love. Like Olivia, Andrew choosing Mellie would have restored my faith in humanity (and Scandal) but on this show, if you put power up against anything, power always comes out the winner.
After Andrew broke things off with Mellie, she responded by (quite amazingly) slapping Fitz in front of Cyrus and various aides with a heart-wrenching “You take everything from me!” Though Mellie gets a lot of criticism for her own thirst for power, she’s one of the least empowered characters in the show. Fitz may not be able to stand up against Cyrus and Olivia when it comes to political manoeuvring, but he’s the President, and what he says goes. So Mellie can be easily broken down by Fitz’s mumbled request to his mistress and denied her chance at love because Fitz can only stomach being a cheater not being cheated on.
Reason number two why Olivia should start over somewhere: B613. Olivia’s life is saturated in the group’s activities. Huck’s a former agent, Quinn’s a current one, Cyrus has an operative on his speed dial, Jake is Command, and Rowan used to hold the position himself. B613 is everywhere, and destroying it still won’t erase it’s effects. With Rowan’s help, OPA found its way to B613’s funds, and Olivia had to put herself back in Jake’s orbit to access them. Her initial hesitation was snuffed out by Huck’s reminder that they sometimes have to do things they don’t want to do to accomplish bigger goals. For Olivia that something was sleeping with Jake. Just because Olivia’s focused on moving toward the light doesn’t mean she can get there by completely abandoning the dark. Olivia and Jake have been a complicated romantic venture for the show, especially since Olivia has the tendency to use Jake to cure whatever ails her (he’s her fluffer), but this was the first time Olivia made the conscious and deliberate choice to take advantage of Jake’s affection in order to destroy B613.
Finally, reason number three Olivia should find her way to an airport and a nonstop flight to anywhere else: her parents. The Popes are undeniably fun to watch, and their family dinner in this episode was one of the best scenes, but Olivia watching her parents grip knives and threaten to stab each other is only one example of how beyond dysfunctional this family is. Though Olivia and Rowan seemed to be progressing, Huck warned her that Rowan was using her, and with B613 destroyed and a bomb ready to kill Fitz, Huck may have been right (Rowan promised not to touch a hair on Fitz’s head but didn’t say anything about not letting someone else do it). Meanwhile Maya’s multiple declarations that she loves her daughter are accompanied by subtle threats about Olivia needing to change careers because this one is “too dangerous.”
There’s very little in Olivia’s life that appears like it’s worth sticking around for. Though she seemed content to stay, there’s still very little reason she should other than because she’s a Gladiator and running isn’t what they do. It’s not that Olivia really wants to be there, but that she has an obligation to herself to stick around, but there’s very little to be optimistic about when Olivia decides to continue fighting the good fight. She’s a miserable character. She doesn’t laugh, she rarely smiles, and she’s almost constantly on the verge of tears. This is what made her celebration with the team (however short) so nice. For a moment, there was something to be happy about. For such a flashy show, Scandal‘s pretty dim. But if interesting stories are all about essentially torturing your characters in the name of creating conflict, I suppose Scandal is succeeding, but it also may be doing too good a job by making each week another example of how sad and unfulfilling a life its main character is currently living.
Abby shouldn’t wear white. It washes her out.
Sebastian Roché turned up very quietly to flirt with Maya and give her a bomb.
Of course Clare (Kelly McCreary) only returned to die. Color me disappointed.
The physical violence being thrown at Olivia by people who claim to care about her (first Huck, and now Jake) is becoming uncomfortable. Huck’s PTSD and traumatic past in relation to Rowan provided some context to his attack on Olivia early in the season, but even the aftermath of that was handled poorly with both of them apparently forgetting that event ever took place. On top of Jake’s threat to kill Olivia a couple episodes back, it’s now impossible to find anything redeemable in their relationship.
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