Scandal “It’s Hard Out Here for a General” Review (Season 5, Episode 10)

It seems I’m having many opportunities to quote Dr. Maya Angelou this week, and something she said perfectly describes my feelings about this week’s Scandal. Dr. Angelou said that when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. It seems like that should be such an easy thing to do, but so often we refuse to see what people have shown us about themselves. We see what we want them to be. That’s also how I feel about Olivia Pope right now.

When I sat down to write about this week’s Scandal, I stared at a blank screen for a long while trying to figure out a diplomatic way to say what I want to say. The longer I sat and stared at my cursor blinking, the more convinced I became that there is no nice way to say it. I do not like Olivia Pope. There. I said it. I do not like Olivia Pope. Well, perhaps a better way to say it is I don’t like this version of Olivia Pope. There were a number of problems with the first half of the season, but none more so than the fact that Olivia Pope seems to have disappeared. Yes, Kerry Washington was on screen acting her heart out, but the Olivia Pope I tuned in to watch every week during the first few seasons was conspicuously missing. In her place was a woman I didn’t recognize and didn’t like very much at all. She destroyed lives. She did what was conveninent for her instead of what was right. Then, after figuratively burning the White House down, she walked away from all the destruction she caused with a twitch of her hips and a flip of her hair. That is not the Olivia Pope I liked and respected. I had hoped the powers that be would take some time during the break to re-evaluate the direction they took Olivia’s character, but sadly, it appears they did not. This episode picks up six months after Olivia turned Fitz, the White House, and the country inside out, and it opens with Olivia enjoying dinner with Eli. It was then I knew that this episode wasn’t going to do anything to rehabilitate Olivia’s character, and unfortunately, I was correct.

Olivia getting Eli releasd from prison just so she could avoid having to marry Fitz was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. It would be one thing if Olivia didn’t know what kind of monster Eli is. It would be one thing if she didn’t know that his whole goal in life is to acquire power. It would be one thing if she didn’t know that he’s manipulative and emotionally abusive. But the fact that Olivia knows all of this and she STILL got him out of prison makes her completely complicit in everything that happened in this week’s episode. Jake (who we will talk about later) would not, and in all likelihood did not, come up with that plan on his own. Eli needs to rebuild his empire, and what better way to do that than to have one of his boys placed as head over the NSA. Now, Jake has all kinds of unfettered access to all kinds of information that Eli will no doubt use to his advantage. Olivia calmly sitting at a restaurant having dinner with a mass murderer was really just too much. It’s not like Eli loves Olivia. He uses her just like he uses everyone else. Olivia probably wants him to love her, but he doesn’t even know the meaning of the word. Olivia pretending that she and Eli have an even remotely normal father/daughter relationship is ludicrus. Then, I literally laughed out loud when Olivia showed up at Eli’s house all indignant when she realized what Eli and Jake had done. Why was she acting so surprised and outraged? How many times is Eli going to have to show Olivia that he’s a cold, heartless, power-hungry lunatic? Why is she pretending that he’s anything else? It seems she keeps Eli around just so she can tell herself that there’s someone out there worse than her, but you know what? I don’t think so. Eli and Olivia are the same kind of monster. Olivia usually just does a better job of hiding hers.

Now let’s talk about Jake. His guy got out when his wife got killed, and it doesn’t look like Jake’s been able to put him back in the cage. Jake went back to Eli because it was the only thing he knew to do, but it wasn’t a good idea to go to Eli when he (Jake) didn’t have his guy under control. I’m not excusing any of what Jake did in this episode. He’s fallen back into being the man that Eli made him into, but he’s not completely without choice in this situation. I don’t know what he did to cage his guy in the first place, but whatever it was, he apparently hasn’t even tried it again. He’s comfortable with whatever plan Eli has cooked up, and he’s basking in the praise Eli is currently showering on him. It was actually a little disturbing. It’s not so much that I’m surprised about Jake being a murderer. Look what he did to James for goodness sake. But it seemed that, for the most part anyway, Jake was behaving like the man he thought Eli wanted him to be because he was so desperate to gain Eli’s approval instead of the decent guy we’ve seen over the last season or so.

That aside, this episode seems like it was designed to do two things: 1) show us that Olivia is completely out of the loop and 2) establish new alliances. To the first point, when Olivia was with Fitz in the White House, she had more power than she’s ever had before. Having that power came at a very steep price, and unfortunately for Olivia, it’s a price she’s still paying. One of the reasons Olivia claimed she didn’t want to take her and Fitz’s relationship public is that she didn’t want to compromise the business she built. Considering the nature of Olivia’s business, it’s perfectly reasonable that she didn’t want people hiring her just because they thought she could go talk to the President and get their issue resolved. She wanted people to hire her because she’s good at her job. I respect that. However, as the general’s attitude toward Olivia shows, that’s all Olivia is now. The person people call when they want to plead their case to the President of the United States. Once the general realized she’d been hacked, she hired Olivia because she figured Olivia still has the President’s ear and if worst comes, Olivia would be able to at least get her a sit-down with Fitz. When it became clear to the general that Olivia is just as out of the loop as she, the general was pretty much done with Olivia. Olivia kept her game face on, but it was pretty clear she took that hit pretty hard. In addition to being unable to get Fitz on the phone, Olivia is no longer privy to the secret inner goings on at the White House. That’s a hard pill to swallow for someone who prides herself on always being in the know. All of that has to raise questions for Olivia about whether she’s ever going to be able to be taken seriously again and whether she’s going to be able to rebuild her business. Or is she just going to forever be known as a homewrecker?

There were some pretty strange bedfellows in this episode. Mellie came to Olivia for help with her book. Jake is back under Eli’s tutelage and they’re executing their current world domination scheme. Abbie is apparently Fitz’s new work wife and she’s not at all pleased about it. I’m not sure how long any of these current alliances will last, but it could be fun to watch them crash and burn.

This episode didn’t do anything to rehabilitate Olivia’s character, nor did it do anything to restore my faith in the show. Olivia is still unlikeable. She literally destroyed Fitz’s life and walked away, and now she’s got the audacity to say that she needs to stop being a coward and call him. Really?! How about just leave that man alone. I go back and forth about Fitz, but I actually felt sorry for him and was glad that he didn’t take Olivia’s call. For the entirety of their relationship, Olivia dictated everything and she changed her mind so often there was no way for Fitz to keep up. The implosion of their relationship is mostly on her. The worst thing about it is, Olivia knew what she was doing to him when she left, but she did it anyway. Because it was easier for her. Olivia has treated Fitz worse than anyone should ever be treated, and he shouldn’t subject himself that kind of abuse any longer. I don’t know how much longer Fitz will be able to hold out, but do sincerely hope he’s done with Olivia. On a different note, what the heck was with Olivia and Jake. I get the whole concept of friends with benefits, but that’s not exactly what that is. There were obviously benefits, but certainly no friendship. Jake and Olivia’s lovemaking was passionate in the past, but this time it was rough and impersonal. I mean, Olivia wouldn’t even let Jake have any water after their rigorous workout session. Have they just decided to be stress relievers for each other? Just sex maybe. It didn’t seem that way though because Jake was attempting to show intimacy that Olivia quickly rebuffed. Why would he put himself through that? Are they punishing each other? I don’t get it. I wish there was more to like about this episode, but honestly, I’ve got nothing. I hope the rest of this season will do better, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.