Friday, January 3, 2014

Crash and Burn - Scandal, Episode 5

On reflection I realize that there is an Ah! that comes in the final two minutes of each episode, right before we get zinged with a new problem.   In episode one, it’s when Sully announces he’s gay and it’s acknowledged that Olivia is “the best guy.”  In episode two, it’s when Quinn tells Amanda that the best person to have on your side is Olivia.  In episode three, it’s when Olivia gives Gideon an even better story than he could have imagined.  In episode four, it’s when Abbey votes yes saying, “over a cliff,” meaning she’d follow Olivia over a cliff, to the ends of the earth.  So, regardless of what has gone on during the show, Olivia is restored to her heroic self.

Now, let’s see what episode five has in store.

The last thing we saw was Amanda Tanner being abducted from Olivia’s apartment and that’s where we open with the team looking for answers.  Quinn announces that Amanda’s purse and phone are gone, so she must have ran away, simply freaked out about going on television and ran away.  Huck comes up with the truth, explaining in detail how she was gagged, drugged, carried away, all in less than 5 minutes, 6 tops.  And why does he know?  “’Cos that’s how I would do it.”  With each revelation, we are learning just how bad ass our quiet, brooding Huck really is.

Cut to the DA’s office and Olivia is asking for help.  Last episode, the DA needed Olivia’s help, the episode before Olivia needed the DA’s help and so the pattern continues.  The DA makes a joke about his secretary Alissa being fired for letting Olivia get by.  Olivia says, “Don’t fire her.  I snuck in when she went to the bathroom,” further emphasizing that Olivia is not only smart, she’s a nice person.

Quinn is hurrying over a country trail that could be the Hollywood Hills.  We have no idea what she’s doing, maybe a rendezvous with Gideon.  When she turns the bend Harrison is waiting for her.  They walk on and, as in previous episodes, we get a surprise; in this case a horrific surprise.  A plane has crashed with all 119 on board dead. 

At the White House, the president is giving his condolences to the family of the deceased, in particular Senator Sanchez.

Olivia arrives at ground zero operations where there is total chaos.  She is met by a Pilot’s Union representative, who has allowed the airline’s representative to speak first at the press conference.  As Olivia predicts, the airline announce that the plane has a perfect safety record; they will blame the pilot.

Striding along a White House corridor, Cyrus urges the president to push for the Dream Act, which had been spearheaded by Senator Sanchez. The president is reluctant.  Cyrus admonishes, “Never let a crisis go to waste, Mr. President.”

Over at Pope Associates, Gideon questions Quinn about Amanda’s disappearance.  Quinn denies that Amanda has disappeared.  Gideon informs her that Amanda’s father filed a Missing Persons Report.  Cut to Huck looking at security video on the computer and he IDs the man approaching Olivia’s apartment the night before.

Huck sits in a booth at an old-fashioned diner across from Charlie, the man Huck identified on the security tape.  The two banter and between teasing Huck about his new name, we learn that Huck used to be Black Ops and Charlie is now a mercenary.  Huck should join him… better money.  Charlie tells Huck to forget about Amanda; she is gone.  He leaves laughing and the scene ends on a dark brooding Huck.  Oh!

Back from commercial break, our team is being advised that they get to listen to the black box recording only once.  They may take notes, but they can’t take the notes from the room.  A montage follows with everyone scribbling like crazy, albeit Harrison who listens with his eyes closed.  Back at the office, Stephen and Abbey are debating what they heard.  Harrison is certain of what he heard.  At this point, it becomes clear that the pilot, who we somehow assumed was a man, is a woman. Her husband walks in.  Olivia says, “We need to change the narrative,” meaning we need to make it not be about pilot failure.   Following a montage, the husband says that his wife has been sober for over 20 years.  Abbey, “She’s an alcoholic.”  Sure enough, the ticker tape on TV shows that the pilot was an alcoholic.  Abbey goes to the hotel bar where the crew had stayed and a bartender confirms that the pilots and crew were all hammered.  Meanwhile, Stephen is trying to use his old womanizing charms to get a peek at the mechanical reports.

As the news coverage of the crash continues, the black box is leaked.  Olivia is dishing out orders, saying, “We need our own copy,” as Huck tries to get her attention.  He finally succeeds when he announces, “Amanda Tanner is dead.”  Olivia runs from the office; hammers on the Secret Service agents’ car door parked outside.  They roll down the window.  “Tell the president I know what he did to her.  I know!” Little Uh Oh!

At the White House, the president is rallying votes for the Dream Act when a member of the Secret Service whispers in his ear. 

Olivia walks in to find Quinn with Amanda’s father, Hank.  He is worried about his daughter with whom he’s been talking on the phone every day since she was released from the hospital.  Amanda had told him that she was working with Olivia following her departure from the White House.  Olivia does nothing to dissuade him of this lie.  Hank is such a nice man that Quinn tells him not to worry, everything will be alright.  Olivia whisks Quinn away to assist with making tea for Mr. Tanner.  She reprimands Quinn, “We don’t make promises we can’t keep.  Amanda is dead.” 

The president calls Olivia, “Why are you threatening my agents?”  Akin to the president telling Olivia that he loves her, he insists, “You know me.  Trust your gut.  Your gut’s never wrong.”  Olivia replies, “I don’t have a gut any more.”  “You know me.”  Olivia says, “You let Cyrus off his leash.”

Furthering the investigation, Abbey knocks on the door of a flight attendant who was supposed to be on the flight but had called in sick.  She was seriously hung-over; the celebration had been for her birthday and the only reason that the pilot was in the bar with the rest of the crew.  The pilot did not drink, ever.

Olivia pleads with the DA to search for Amanda, though she can’t give any details of what she knows.  He accuses her of obstructing justice.

Olivia joins the deceased’s Husband at the crash site, which is littered with yellow and red flags.  He explains that the yellow flags represent mechanical parts, red flags body parts.  The red flags outnumber the yellow flags.  The clever writers of this show have presented us with an image so indelible that it will remain with us when, in future episodes, Olivia’s background is revealed.  As referenced before, this is subtle yet effective audience suturing, that is to say it causes an audience to not only sympathize, but empathize with a character.  The effect is further enhanced when the Husband explains that his family has always had open caskets.  What is he to put in his wife’s casket?

At a press conference, Olivia states in the strongest terms possible that the pilot had not been drinking.  She emphasizes the pilot’s character, her family life, children, etc.  Back at the office, Olivia appears devastated.  Huck asks her, “You want the body?”  “I’ll take care of it.”  In response to Olivia’s unspoken words, “I got this.  I’m good to go.  No problem.” CU Olivia.  Huck leaves.  Ouch!  By Huck leaving, this Ouch! is forcing Olivia to face her fear, that being the truth of who/what Huck is, and moreover who/what she is that she will push Huck to such extremes to satisfy her own needs, even though the needs are in the interest of the client.

At the White House, Cyrus announces that they are two votes away from passing the Dream Act.  The president tells him that Amanda Tanner is dead.  It’s a sad day.  Cyrus gives another fabulous speech, exhorting that it’s a sad day when 119 people fall out of the sky to their deaths, the loss of a great senator, four marines in Afghanistan, Sudan, et al Amanda Tanner dead?  “It’s a good thing.”

Cut to the president walking along a corridor with his wife.  He says, “We’re political animals, not animals.  Sometimes we are too willing to go to extremes.”  Mellie calls over the president’s personal security guards, Tom and Hal.  “You’d take a bullet for the president, wouldn’t you.”  They each respond yes.  “That’s all.  Thank you.”  She turns to her husband and tells him, “There isn’t anyone in the building not willing to go to extremes for you.”  This is great subtext because it obviously includes that she will go to extremes for her husband and it foreshadows a lot to come, as well as the potential of someone taking a bullet for the president.  It also reiterates the tremendous depths of these characters who we are only just beginning to know.

At Pope Associates, Stephen walks in, “I got it,” throwing into question whether he is back to his womanizing ways in order to get what he wants.  The team quickly identify that one of the mechanical reports has been forged.  Meanwhile, Huck grabs a toolkit from a storage locker, as Stephen talks to a Mechanical Inspector, and Harrison listens to the Black Box recording.  Huck admires a goldfish swimming in a bowl as he waits for Charlie to come home.  The Inspector seems to recall that there was something wrong with a plane, just as Harrison says, “There’s something wrong with the plane.” Charlie is naked, bound and gagged on a sheet of plastic.  Huck says, “Okay, Charlie?”  Oh No!   There’s no way we’re leaving during this commercial!     

We come back to the White House and the president is on the phone.  High fives.  He has the tying vote for the Dream Act.  All he needs now is the VP’s vote to break the tie.  Since, the VP, as we will learn is a die-hard Christian member of the Tea Party, there’s no way she’s going to be letting illegal brown people enjoy the privileges of America.   Fitz walks out, “This has gone far enough.”  So, again we can see that within each episode Fitzgerald Grant III, President of the United States of America, though he may be manipulated by his confidante and right hand man, maybe even his wife, shows that he has the fortitude to do the right thing.

“This has gone far enough” cuts  to a scene that is only just beginning as Huck toys with an everyday electrical drill, while explaining to the bound and gagged Charlie that the agency took stuff from him, more than his name, and his ability to every contact his family again.  (Wow… Huck has a family?)  He likens himself to a junkie, because he knows what he does is bad, but once he gets going, just like a junkie, it is so, so pleasurable.  He’s been clean and sober for a while now, but he’s sure he’ll enjoy it after the initial guilt wears off.  In my opinion, this is possibly one of the scariest scenes you’ve ever seen on broadcast television.  It’s way darker than Dexter who does everything with clean scalpel precision.   Think about it when you go to drill a hole in the wall to hang your next piece of artwork. 

While Huck is conducting his own handiwork, the president is threatening Madam Vice President with political assassination in the smoothest possible way.  He gets her vote and she’s leaving just as Cyrus arrives to tell the president that they’ve received a blackmail letter.  Fitz, “What’s the demand?” 

Charlie screams through his duct-taped mouth.   Huck likes on the floor next to him.  Brilliant directing.  We can see that Huck is at one with Charlie’s pain, as he recalls, “they put me in a hole.”  Not a metaphorical hole, but a bottomless, dark pit. (More foreshadowing of what’s to come.)  Huck explains he was homeless when Olivia found him.  He owes her and he won’t stop until Charlie tells him where Amanda Tanner is.  Huck pulls out a nine-blade scalpel.

At the DA’s office, Olivia walks in, tells him where he can find Amanda’s body.  The DA shows concern for Olivia (deepening of friendship) who, with quivering lips is “not okay.”

Cyrus and Fitz are playing Nixon’s resignation speech on the computer. At the 14th Street Bridge, Olivia, Quinn, Huck and the DA look on as divers pull up Amanda’s blue, bloated body.  What makes this the Twist-a-Roo! is the V.O. of Nixon’s resignation speech.  Ironic, poignant.

A meeting with the Airline CEO reveals that the man is self-made, came from nothing, and is a good, honest man.  Harrison, at the airline offices, meets with the woman who processes the mechanical reports.  She’s a Latina, severely overworked doing the job of two people.  She forged the report.

At a press conference, the CEO takes full responsibility and apologizes to the pilot’s family. This is the Ah! moment; Olivia, once again, saved the day.

At the morgue, Hank ID’s his daughter, Amanda, as the team watches through the glass.  Huck assures them that she didn’t suffer.  Quinn, “How do you know?”  “Because I know how to make people suffer.”  Olivia thanks Huck.  Both their faces are deeply pained. 

At the White House, the president is asking Hal and Tom what would have to be done if he wanted to leave for a while.  The revelation of how the president is so securely guarded is mind-boggling.  It requires a cavalcade, ambulance, sharp shooters….  The president makes reference to previous presidents, “41 never left?  43 never went out for a drink?  42, Bill Clinton never left?  Kennedy never left?”  He states his stock phrase, “I am the most powerful man on the planet.”  They negotiate down to an ambulance, sharp shooter and two agents.  As Fitz walks out, the SS guys comment, “Just like 43.”  Ah, levity after all this tension.

The DA tells Olivia that the cops and the coroner want to rule it a suicide.  He iterates that he gets the bad guys and he really does consider Olivia a friend.  Olivia, “The white hat looks good on you.”

Stephen is at the morgue.  He wants the autopsy report, despite it being ruled a suicide.

Quinn is at Gideon’s apartment in tears.

Olivia is at home.  The phone rings as there’s a knock on the door.  Stephen tells her that Amanda Tanner was not carrying the president’s baby.  Olivia opens the door.  Fitz says, “Hi.”  Olivia says, “Hi.”

Sigh... our lovers are reunited. You may ask what’s the new problem at the end of this week's episode, but as we will see in the next episode we pick up exactly where we leave off.

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