And to the concluding episode of Scandal’s season one with new Aristotleian insight!
We open with Quinn entering Gideon’s apartment, glee-filled with the friendliness of the neighborhood bagel shop’s staff. Upon seeing Gideon bleeding on the floor, she runs to his aid and… does the wrong thing! The scissors, which had been stemming the blood flow from his carteroid, now removed allow the blood to run free. Quinn, who assures him that everything will be okay, clearly didn’t learn not to make false promises. We have two tragedies her – Gideon’s death and Quinn’s loss. Did they both bring it upon themselves by their actions? Yes.
Cut to the White House and Morris, the security checkpoint guard, jovially tells Billy that he was signed in two hours ago. Billy, in a trance, makes it to his desk, turns with shaking hands to type on his computer.
Back at Gideon’s, Quinn standing frozen with a phone in her bloody hand thanks Olivia (dressed all in white) for coming. Maybe she should have called the police, but… Olivia assures Quinn that calling her was the right thing to do and they can’t call the police. Why not? “Because if we call the police, they’ll find out who you really are.” Surprise!
At the White House, Cyrus walks in on Fitz, “James wants to adopt an Ethiopian baby,” and proceeds to deliver one of his brilliant signature speeches outlining why a baby changes everything and, until last night, the whole discussion was off the table. However, since he had gone looking for the President of the United States and the President was nowhere to be found, was in fact at his girlfriends… Fitz responds, “Here it comes, Cyrus the Holy.”
Cyrus proceeds to compare Fitz’s relationship with Olivia to a high-school romance, his behavior to that of an adolescent teen. Fitz orders Cyrus out of his office. When he doesn’t leave, Fitz heads toward the door and Cyrus unleashes true venom asking, “Do you know what I gave up to put you in office… the ends that I’ve gone to? Fitz says, “I am so sick of you saying you put me in the White House. I got myself elected.” This sentence lays the groundwork for next season’s through-line that, if the truth were exposed, would threaten the presidency; and replaces the Amanda Tanner through-line. When Cyrus calls Fitz “a fly-boy with a good hairline and a pushy dad,” we also get insight into Fitz’s backstory. Fitz doesn’t let it end there; he puts the blame on Cyrus for introducing him to Olivia. Hence, we see that Cyrus’ misfortune is his own fault.
An aide interrupts their argument with news about a Cult standoff in Georgia, which sounds exactly like the Waco cult compound shoot-out. Here’s another example of an indelible real-life situation that wrenches the gut of anyone who lived through 50 days of media coverage that ended in the deaths of 76 people.
At Gideon’s, the team is assembled and debating calling the police. This is the first time we see them at odds with Olivia, on the verge of mutiny. Olivia confesses that Quinn isn’t Quinn Perkins. “Who is she?” “She’s our client. We clean it.” Fast forward and the scene is clean; they’re leaving when Olivia asks Huck if they’re ready, which makes it clear that it’s Huck who she relies on first and foremost. Again, this is laying the groundwork for future episodes. Huck says, “we’re good.” And they’re all headed for the door when Quinn asks, “What’s happening?” “We can’t just leave him.” Stephen gets mad, “You know what we just did for you?” emphasizing the theme of the show, “Sometimes you must sacrifice yourself and your beliefs in order to do what’s best for your – country/family/team.” Olivia takes pity and makes and anonymous call to the police.
Huck asks who has Gideon’s cell phone. They have eight minutes before the police will arrive – intensifying the magnitude of the situation and panic. Oh!
It turns out to be in Gideon’s pocket. While none of the men are willing to reach into the dead man’s jeans, Abbey doesn’t hesitate. Again, more insight into what Abbey will and won’t do.
At the White House, Billy delivers an envelope to Sally.
At Pope Associates, the team is assembled. Olivia, “Gideon Wallace, what do we know?” That he figured out who sent Amanda Tanner to sleep with the president. Going over Gideon’s phone logs, the trail leads to the White House switchboard. Huck needs three hours to go through everything on Gideon’s computer – another time bomb starts ticking.
Back at the White House, Billy makes his way to the podium, as Sally, sitting across from the president in the cult standoff briefing room, opens the envelope, responds “Holy Cripe.” It gets the president’s attention. This is important because it will vindicate Sally when Billy, following his resignation on television, proceeds to go on every talk show in the nation saying that he was going to marry his pregnant girlfriend when he discovered that the president had taken sexual advantage of her. He has explicit audio tape to prove it. As Cyrus threatens to have a heart attack running through White House corridors to get to the briefing room, Mellie, leading a tour, is stopped in her tracks when a reporter asks on TV, “How did you find the president’s sex tape.”
At Pope Associates, the team watches Billy’s shocking charges against POTUS on TV. Little Uh Oh!
Back from commercials: Mellie, “You are letting Billy Chambers run rough shod over everything we have spent the last 15 years on.” Fitz refuses to lie. “Why not?” Because I’m not you, Mellie.” Mellie walks out.
Olivia walks past the flurry of media reporting from the White House garden. Morris greets her, “About time they brought you in.”
Cyrus tells Olivia that, before bringing her on board, the Vegas odds of Grant winning the presidency were 70:1. “Do you think we can do it again?” Olivia, “Or we go down trying.”
Now we get to see Olivia as she must have been in role at the White House – full spin ahead. The president clears the room, asks for Cyrus and Olivia to remain. “I never thought it would be one of our own trying to sink us.” Another portend of things to come next season! Olivia sends him to Georgia to do his job, “act presidential.” An internal flash poll shows approval ratings down, with majority saying president should resign. Sally, riding her moral high horse, refuses to help.
The team is arguing again when the DA shows up, “wouldn’t be about that crime scene you cleaned up?” He takes Quinn into custody, Harrison immediately hired on site as her lawyer for one dollar. Quinn, “No fingerprints, right?” Ouch!
Olivia walks into a washroom where Billy is washing his hands. “You’re a murderer, Billy.” “I’m not proud of that.” Olivia then shows up at the DA’s office and tells the whole story. DA, “I believe you, oddly enough.” Olivia, “Then help me. Put on your white hat and go after Billy Chambers with whatever you can make stick. Get some justice for Amanda Taylor and Gideon Wallace.” The DA responds, “No. I am the law and the law is me. I might bend it from time to time but I don’t break it for you or anyone else. Get out of my office before I have you arrested for tampering with a criminal scene.” The Big Uh Ohhh!
Stellar directing as, in the next scene, the president walks in to frame against the backdrop of the American flag. “What do we do? What’s next?” Cyrus suggests there’s a solution they’re not seeing. “There is. I could resign.” Olivia offers that she can say the sex tape is her. That way he’s not tied to a girl’s suicide, not perfect but takes care of the impeachment problem. Cyrus, “So now we have a slutty president problem?” Fitz, referencing the Clinton scandal says, “Put the country out of its misery. End it now.” Cyrus, “Then what?” Fitz, “We get to be regular people.” Cyrus storms out, “You can’t be a regular person. We can’t. I can’t adopt a baby!”
Olivia, “I’m sorry.” Fitz, “I’m not.” They kiss and when Olivia looks to the cameras above, Fitz says, “I don’t care.” Oh No!
Back from commercials: Olivia walks the White House corridors, a secret smile on her lips as she touches them in memory of their kiss. She finds Cyrus sitting quietly, admiring a painting of Alexander Hamilton, a brilliant political thinker, he wasn’t president, Washington was, but could Hamilton pick a winner. “He knew what the country needed when they needed it. Fitz was born to be a leader, anything less would diminish him and deprive this country. Some men are not meant to be happy. They are meant to be great.”
Olivia stands in her office; her team looks on. Stephen, “I got this.” He closes the door behind him. “I’ve been screwing around and don’t want to lie any more. You told me if I tried and failed it was on me. You were wrong. I cheated. It’s on me and it’s on you, too. You can’t do this. You can’t have him.” This harkens back to the speech Olivia gave to Travis’ mother. She knows what is right. And here we have the denouement, the undoing of everything we set up in the complication. Here we also have our heroine undone by her own error in judgment and suffering one of Aristotle’s undeserved misfortunes, “having good things happen, but being unable to enjoy them.” Olivia, “Normal is overrated.”
She’s back in charge, dishing out orders. Huck offers to kill Billy, “It’s no problem.” She says no. Olivia makes him promise specifically, “Say the words!”
Mellie is preparing to move to Santa Barbara when Olivia arrives. Mellie then comes into her own, “You let that girl get into his pants!” They were a team and Mellie did her job, “Why couldn’t you do yours?”
Huck ambushes a defeated, sad-looking Charlie at the park, tells him he has to kill Billy. He’ll need a suicide note. It will be good for Charlie’s confidence.
At the DA’s office, Quinn is being asked why she called Olivia and not the police.
Back at the White House, Mellie and Olivia have a media plan. The woman on the sex tape was Mellie. Mellie will announce she’s pregnant, which means they need to start right away. Mellie, “Like I always say, if you have a problem, get Olivia Pope on it. Look a little happier. We saved your presidency.”
And this little speech brings up the subject of bookmarks, meaning that the final episode is a mirror image of the opening episode, with the characters diametrically opposite where they began. For example, in the Pilot, Fitz cared about what the cameras saw when they kissed; Mellie, though uttering the same words, has the upperhand; Fitz’s presidency, at risk, is now saved. Mellie leaves. Fit goes from “You know me,” to “Who are you right now?” Olivia, “The woman who got you elected. Now go be the man I voted for.” The Twist-a-Roo!
It’s the 20/20 interview and Olivia is giving Fitz advice, “Keep your eyes on Mellie during the interview.” Fitz, “I know how to fake it with my wife. You taught me well.”
The Pilot opened with the president asking Olivia, at Camp David, to help him; the season finishes with Olivia walking through the security checkpoint handing in her pass. Morris, watching TV, “You did it again. When you walk through those gates, the press starts to fall in line, she secret service gets extra secret, and the problems, they just kinda’ disappear, and when you go back out everyone is breathing a little easier.”
Sally compliments the president on the TV interview, ‘You and the first lady looked very polished.” He tells her that it’s not enough, Sally needs to condemn Billy and tell the nation that she supports the president. Sally tells him that the president has gravely misjudged her and she will not forego the career that she’s built on her strong conservative Christian values. Fitz then informs her that her 14-year-old daughter had an abortion. He quotes the bible about throwing stones… Cut to: Sally on TV announcing that Billy Chambers was a huge disappointment.
Billy walks into his building apartment where the doorman is watching television. “What’s all the press today.” Billy catches Sally as she says, “Billy Chambers is sick in the head. I hope he gets the help he needs.” Billy gets into the elevator. As the doors close, Charlie catches up, steps in.
Cyrus is working in his garden when James asks why, now that the war is over, is a colleague at their door on a Sunday. “I want a baby, a fat drooling, smooshy baby.” Of course, we think it’s Olivia. It’s not. Charlie appears, “I need to leave town. You need to wire the rest of the money for the girl.” Wow. It was Cyrus after all.
And so here is where we have the issue of our morale premise as laid out by Egri and Williams: vice does NOT lead to defeat. Vice, in fact, leads to success; or at least for those who utilize it for a higher purpose. And therein may lie the rub. Aristotle points out, “happiness is what every human being wants and it follows that the hero’s pursuit of happiness is of keen interest to an audience. The pursuit of happiness is so important that Aristotle describes it as our moral obligation. The ancient Greeks believed that it was every human being’s moral obligation to pursue his or her own happiness, first and foremost, but to do so ethically. This is virtue.” [Tierno, 2002, p. 76] By sacrificing his own morals, is Cyrus not virtuous in his defense of what’s best for the president, for the country?
The DA arrives at Pope Associates with Quinn in tow. It’s a good thing he ran her fingerprints himself, otherwise a half dozen US agencies would be looking for her. “I’m breaking the law here. I don’t break the law.” Olivia to Quinn, “Do you want to tell them who you are, or should I?”
And so we start the season with Quinn and we end with Quinn. Who’s tuning in next season?