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Scandal: Happy Birthday, Mr. President

“Mr. President? Mr. President? Look at me! You may not die! Do you hear me? You may not die! Stay with me! Stay with me! You may not die!”

In its second flashback-heavy installment, Scandal reveals the first weeks of the Grant presidency and the circumstances around Olivia’s departure from the White House. Also, Shonda Rhimes attempts to force her audience into intensive therapy.

The show also used a slightly more sophisticated storytelling mechanism than we’ve seen before. The bit with the newscaster (Stephen Collins, a.k.a. the dad from 7th Heaven) was a very clever medium for delivering exposition. It was repetitive but news broadcasts are often so and someone constantly running in telling Olivia and Cyrus the latest update would have gotten old much more quickly.

The flashbacks this week were very good, although they can’t touch those of "The Trail". However, in that episode there wasn’t much plot going on. We just got to watch the lingering looks of love between our leads. This week, we had story to get to.

When the show first started, I assumed that Liv left the White House to get away from Fitz and put a stop to their affair, but the reality was more complicated. Olivia’s leaving turns out to have less to do with Fitz and is instead instigated by Hollis’s murder of Quinn’s boyfriend and his coworkers. Sure, Mellie’s ‘I know you’re sleeping with my husband but I’ll ignore it because it’s good for the country’ thing may have influenced Olivia, but I don’t think she would have left if it hadn’t been for Hollis.

I do have to complain about Bellamy Young in this episode. There was just not enough of her. In what we did see, she was brilliant. Mellie’s world is coming down around her, much more so than Olivia’s or even Fitz’s. She’s pregnant, her husband’s in a coma, she’s lost her position as First Lady, she has to move out of the White House, and her husband’s ex-mistress is a constant presence, telling her what to do. That’s a lot to be getting on with.

I wish they had spent more time in the present for this episode. The flashbacks were well-written and interesting, but I would have liked to see every character react to the enormity of the situation more. Why have a cast of such brilliant actors if we don’t get to see them act? We did get to see Olivia fall to pieces over Fitz’s sweatshirt and Cyrus destroy his office, but I still want more! They either should have skipped the flashbacks or made this episode a two-parter.

Sally Langston is now president, which shocks and frightens me. I won’t lie, I freaked out for a minute before I remembered that she is not actually president here in reality. I really, really didn’t see this coming. Where is the show going now!? What will happen when (dare I say ‘if’) Fitz wakes up? Will he retake the reins? This twist was much more creative than I usually give the show credit for. Kudos.

Now to what I really want to talk about: WHAT THE HUCK! (See what I did there?) As soon as the suspect was described as average height, average build, I knew it was him. Of course, it wasn’t him. It couldn’t be. Not our Huck. He may be a killer, but he wouldn’t shoot the President of the United States, right? I’m thinking it’s either one of three things.

1. They’ll do the whole ‘It wasn’t the guy we showed with the sniper rifle sniping the people we saw being sniped’ thing. Huck will turn out to have been attempting to take down the actual shooter. This will be the neatest and lamest way to get out of the Huck-as-sniper conundrum.

2. Hollis somehow got Huck to do it through blackmail. I really don’t think Huck could have been a plant, watching Olivia all this time and just waiting for an order. He cares about her too much. But, if Hollis had threatened Olivia or Becky or someone else Huck loved, I believe he would go to extremes to save them.

3. (My personal favorite). Huck was hypnotized! Yeah, I know, it’s a reach. My thinking is that the bright red sweatshirt was some sort of trigger. When’s the last time you saw Huck wearing bright colors? In addition, it doesn’t seem smart to wear something that noticeable when committing a crime. Huck would know this. Becky (the girl from AA) has to be some sort of plant. When Harrison asked where Huck was, Abby said on a date. He was supposed to be on a date with Becky when he was actually shooting the president? Don’t tell me that’s not suspicious. I’m not saying she programmed him in his sleep to shoot the president, but wouldn’t that be interesting?

Also, do we even know Fitz was the target? In the promo for next week, Huck tells Olivia that he’s a trained killer. He is a trained killer. Could he have missed? Press Secretary Britta Kagen (Gilmore Girls’s Keiko Agena) was killed; is it possible she was the main target and that Fitz was shot to draw attention away from her? Five shots were fired. The first two hit Fitz, the third got Britta, the fourth hit Hal the Secret Service Agent in the arm, and the fifth hit Fitz again. From what I could tell, Britta wasn’t all that close to Fitz. If Fitz had been the primary target, the shooter would have made sure he was down first.

Another screwball idea of mine (borrowed from conspiracy history): could there be a second shooter? Huck looked around for shell casings and found four. There were five shots. True, he kept looking, but if he was in a trance (see theory #3), he might have suddenly woken up and been trying to cover his tracks, not knowing how many times he pulled the trigger. I watched the video of the shooting around ten times and I think the last shot, the one that did the most damage, is coming from a different angle. Thoughts?

Bits and Pieces:

I didn’t notice it in "Grant: For the People", but in this episode at least, Goldwyn’s hair was much darker in flashbacks than it usually is. Score one for realism! Try looking up a picture of Obama from 2007 or Bush from 1999. It’s crazy.

The Grant children are, once again, conspicuously absent from this episode. They weren’t at the hospital where their father fights for his life (which is believable), nor were they at his inauguration (which is less believable). I’m beginning to think they were just invented for political points and don’t actually exist.

Now we know Cyrus was closeted until after Fitz took office. Every time I think I finally get a handle on his character, more is revealed and he perplexes me again. Oh well. At least he perplexes me in an interesting way.

Did anyone else keep waiting for Olivia to take Fitz’s hand and magically wake him up?


“Look around you. Look where we are. This can’t happen, not any more.”
“I think it can happen right there on that desk.”

“Have you read the whole Constitution or did you stop in rapture after the Second Amendment?”
Love this.

“I’m feeling a little, I don’t know, Sally Hemings/Thomas Jefferson about all this.”
Damn. My jaw dropped when she said this. Low blow, Liv. Low blow.

“See, it used to sound sexy when you called me “Mr. President.” Now it just sounds like I’m a gym teacher.”

“You think I don’t want to be a better man? You think that I don’t want to dedicate myself to my marriage? You don’t think I want to be honorable, to be the man that you voted for? I love you. I’m in love with you. You are the love of my life. My every feeling is controlled by the look on your face. I can’t breathe without you. I can’t sleep without you. I wait for you. I watch for you. I exist for you.”
Tony Goldwyn is so good.

“There are like six people in the last hundred years who have touched the Constitution. Be the seventh.”
“You be the seventh.”
“I’m the sixth. I touched it four seconds ago.”

four out of four flag pins


  1. OK -- that makes two HMoG moments in two episodes. Just when I think everything that could possibly shock me in this show has, the rug gets pulled out. I had to watch that last scene a gazillion times to make sure that it was really and truly Huck picking up those shell casings. NOOOOO!!

    Sally Langston as President scares me to pieces and right now, I'm trying to figure out who would make this happen and why. I mean, the voting machine thing is still out there -- is it to pin it all on her?

    After I read your review, I went back and watched the shooting again (and again). I'm not sure about the fifth shot coming from a different angle, but it certainly looks as though Britta was deliberately shot. She appears to be too far away from the President for it to have been accidental.

    Great review! Can't wait to see which of your theories turns out to be the right one.

  2. OH MY GOD! This was was one of the BEST and most gripping hours of television I've ever seen. I seriously have no words and have no idea how you could write your review as I don't know how I'm going to start mine. I am SO impressed with this show. It's seriously one of the most incredible on television. Brilliant.


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