Breaking Down 'Scandal's Moments of Awesome and Moments of Awful

Trigger Warning: Discussion of depiction of sexual assault. Let’s be honest: most of the people on Scandal are not very good people. Fitz, Mellie, Cyrus, and let's not even get started on Rowan. Even the unsurpassable Olivia Pope and her gladiators have done some pretty questionable things. Realistically, though, this is one of the things that make the show so wonderful. Instead of a show with a clear and therefore boring moral universe, Scandal throws morality out the window and lets us appreciate characters who have all the nuance of real people. The only clear "good guy" character is David Rosen, and he was insufferable, so thankfully we're seeing him a lot less now.

But even though we love us some moral relativism, this week’s episode was rough. There were some moments when characters stepped up and did good things, and some moments that make you want to shower afterwards. For a very, very long time. Here are our top contenders for both the awesome and the ugly.

Awesome: Abby Hugs Olivia

Olivia finally tells the gladiators everything she knows about the Operation Remington saga. Whether or not this is a good idea is debatable, but they all take it like pros and wave away her suggestion that they keep themselves safe by not getting involved. By the end of the episode, they’ve even tracked down some pretty solid leads. All that is to be expected, but what was unexpected was Abby’s brief moment in Olivia’s office where, clearly not quite sure how to go about this she tells Liv, “I’m going to hug you now.” And she does. And it’s one of the most touching things anyone has done for Olivia in a long time.

Awful: Cyrus Crushes Mellie

A decent portion of this episode was devoted to flashbacks to the very dawn of Fitz’s political career as his father tries to talk him into running for governor of California. He brings in an atrociously bearded Cyrus Bean to lay out options, and it's when Cyrus is leaving that he tells Mellie that if she wants this to work, she needs to quit her job and devote herself entirely to her husband. Young Mellie is a little crushed by his heavy-handed assessment, clearly, but it wouldn’t be so heartbreaking if we weren’t also watching a camera crew follow her around while she pastes a smile on her face and babbles about art and wonders if her husband will even show up for her and how this got to be her life.

Awesome: James’s Perfect Line

James is not having a good day. He’s married to a megalomaniac and by the end of the episode he’s lost his job and has the vice president’s husband flirting with him, something Cyrus and Mellie notice and will doubtlessly take gleeful advantage of in their ongoing efforts to undermine Sally. But most importantly of all, he manages to come up with what should be a go to line for every character on this show: “This is not manufactured anxiety. This is actual anxiety. Grounded in genuine impending doom!”

Awful: Quinn Killed Someone. And Made Out With Charlie. These Are Equally Awful.

After a few more days of shooting with Charlie when she should have instead been shooting Charlie, Quinn instead made out with Charlie and possibly slept with him in a car, but I can’t even deal with that so we will never mention it again. And after this little session, he manipulates her into injecting a security guard with something to knock him out, except then it kills him. Because he was Pope and Associates' best hope of finding the man who was mysteriously escorted off the plane Fitz then shot down. And so now B6-13 owns Quinn. I don’t know how even Olivia is going to fix this.

Awesome: Fitz Stands Up for Mellie

Maybe it was just because she got drunk in the Oval Office (always awesome) and gave him the metaphoric smack upside the head he needed, or maybe he’s decided that as long as he can’t fix things with Liv he should start being a decent person to the other people in his life, either way, he totally shut down an interviewer who was attacking her, and it was great to finally see.

Awful: Fitz’s Father Assaults Mellie

This episode really should have had a trigger warning for this scene. I’m not even a survivor of sexual assault and this scene made me so incredibly uncomfortable and sick to my stomach. In flashbacks we see Fitz’s father, Jerry, complaining to Mellie over late night drinks as she tries to get him to maybe be helpful in convincing Fitz to run instead of being an asshole. And instead? He tells her all about Operation Remington, which he helped cover up, and rapes her. And it’s awful. And it’s made even more awful by the fact that she doesn’t tell Fitz but uses it as ammunition to get Jerry to do what needs to be done to get Fitz to run. Oh, and Jerry might be the father of their son. And there are not enough showers in the world.

I Don’t Even Know: Olivia's Mother Is Alive

Olivia’s mother is alive. In a prison somewhere. But I can’t even handle that because I am still back on the Mellie thing.

Image: ABC

Must Reads