Scandal “The Candidate” Review (Season 5, Episode 11)

In 1896, the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote a poem titled “We Wear the Mask,” the first few lines of which are ‘We wear the mask that grins and lies. It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes. This debt we pay to human guile. With torn and bleeding hearts we smile.’ The poem is a commentary on the Black experience in America and goes on to describe how so much suffering remains hidden behind the masks Black people must wear for society’s sake. Although this episode was not a commentary on American race relations, that poem came to mind while I was watching this week’s Scandal because the episode was primarily about the masks we wear, the pain those masks hide, and the lies those masks tell.

Over a shared bottle of Mellie’s hooch, Olivia and Mellie took off their masks and cleared some of the air between them. In last week’s episode, Mellie went to Olivia for help writing her memoir. Mellie is, as always, thinking of the Oval and the first draft of her book reflected those ambitions. Olivia promptly told her it wasn’t good enough, and Mellie spent this episode trying to figure out a diplomatic way to say she was glad Fitz took a mistress. Mellie finally just told Olivia the plain truth. She stayed with Fitz because it worked. With Olivia around to keep Fitz occupied, Mellie felt like she was free to breathe and be a person again instead of just Fitz’s wife. She was free to figure out her own path to the Oval. She was just free. None of what Mellie said was actually a startling revelation. In one of her many rants, she told Fitz pretty much everything she told Olivia in this episode. Although this didn’t cover any new ground, I think it’s the first time she’s admitted all of this to Olivia. In turn, Olivia admitted that she was glad Mellie was around too because she always saw Mellie as her out. As long as she was just the other woman, she didn’t have to go both feet into a relationship. Once again, this is not news. However, I do think Olivia acknowledging that she took all of Mellie’s abuse because she (Olivia) was the one in the wrong wasn’t something Mellie expected. Even though it wasn’t actually an apology, it was about as close as Mellie is going to get from Olivia. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all is forgiven between Mellie and Olivia, but I do believe that they have a new respect for each other. Also, watching them get drunk together was moderately entertaining.

While Olivia and Mellie were hashing things out, Cyrus finally accepted the fact that he and Fitz are done. Let’s be clear: Cyrus is a monster. That being said, I actually felt bad for him because most of the monstrous things he’s done have been to either protect or help Fitz. I’m not excusing his actions, but nine times out of ten he did feel like he was doing what he had to do for the greater good. Whatever monstrous things he’s done, though, Cyrus has always been an excellent chief of staff and has given Fitz good advice. When Fitz lets him do his job, that is. Fitz only brought Cyrus back into the White House to keep Cyrus from being called to testify before the impeachment committee. But ever since he brought Cyrus back, he hasn’t been letting him do his job. He doesn’t listen to anything Cyrus has to say. He’s constantly cutting Cyrus’ legs out from under him, and he’s just generally dismissive of any point Cyrus tries to raise. It’s been slowly wearing away at Cyrus, and it seems like he’s finally accepted that it’s time for him to move on. This could be good news for whoever that Pennsylvania governor is that Cyrus has his eye on, but Fitz has made a big mistake pushing Cyrus away. Aside from being an excellent chief of staff, Cyrus is (or rather was) his friend. He and Cyrus have gone through too much for Fitz to cast Cyrus aside the way he has. You need to be very careful which bridges you burn.

I’m very disappointed with David right now. He’s allowing himself to led around by his little brain, and I fear it’s going to cause a lot of heartbreak and humiliation for Susan Ross. Which, quite frankly, I’m going to be upset about because she’s the only character I actually like right now. She’s a down-to-earth, honest, genuinely good person. She hasn’t been corrupted by DC’s machinations yet, and she is much more aware than people give her credit for. I’m sure no one thought she completely understood what Mellie was doing when she chose Susan for VP, but she did. Not only that, she called Mellie out for being a coward who wanted an easy ride onto the Republican ticket instead of having to fight for it. I’m just disgusted with the fact that David is manipulating Susan into doing something he knows she doesn’t want to do. I’m not surprised Elizabeth is only concerned about herself, but I thought David was better than that. Apparently, I was mistaken. I have no doubt Susan is going to find out about David and Elizabeth (which, still, ewww) sooner or later, and she’s going to be heartbroken. Even moreso now that David showed interest in her. I mean, he took her out on a date and kissed her and everything. When Susan finds out, I hope she doesn’t let what David and Elizabeth have done turn her into the same kind of horrible people they are because that would be a shame.

I just have to shake my head at Fitz. Does he ever think with anything other than his little brain? I’m beginning to think the answer is no. I don’t understand how he can’t see that that reporter lady is totally not on the up and up. She wants to write a good story. Sure. But she wants to write a story that’s going to sell papers. No one is interested in anything Fitz has to say unless it’s about his sex life. This is going to go very badly and it’s not going to do anything to rehabilitate Fitz’s image in the wake of the Olivia disaster. Cyrus was trying to protect him from what will no doubt be another public embarrassment, but Fitz refuses to listen. I don’t know how much more obvious that reporter chick could’ve been. Oh well. This is yet another thing that’s about to blow up in Fitz’s face.

Overall, this episode was ok. It seems Marcus is kind of tired of everyone keeping him at arm’s length. I get that Huck feels the need to protect Marcus from them, but the fact of the matter is, Marcus is an adult. He made the choice to join Pope and Associates even after knowing what it is they do. Either they’re going to accept him into the fold or they need to kick him out, but keeping him on the outside is just rude. Oh, and seriously, what’s up with Jake and Olivia? It’s kind of starting to weird me out. As far as Olivia and Mellie’s scenes together, it’s not often that the wife and the other woman get a chance to sit down and talk it out, but that’s what Olivia and Mellie got. Kerry Washington and Bellamy Young both did a wonderful job conveying their inner conflict and fears. I would be remiss if I didn’t give Jeff Perry props for outstanding work as well. All of his scenes were wonderfully done, but the look Cyrus gave Fitz before he walked out of the Oval the last time was heartbreaking. Perry did a superb job conveying Cyrus’s disappointment and heartbreak without saying a word. Very nicely done. But then again, the acting has never been the problem on Scandal.