Scandal Season 5 Episode 8 Review: “Rasputin”


So far, Scandal‘s fifth season has been the show’s most unbalanced. It has gifted us amazing episodes, twists, and impeccable acting, while many installments have felt sloppy, tired, and outright ridiculous. This is, by a landslide, the series I’ve had the most contentious relationship with this season. And yes, I watched True Detective Season 2. The difference is that I divorced the HBO production, while Scandal still has redeeming qualities that make me hold on to the thought that this might be just a rough patch.

That said, “Rasputin” is one of those episodes that falls into the “it’s complicated” category. Although the stakes were high and the twists were many, as has been a pattern this season, the primary and secondary arcs battle to death, causing injuries to the entirety of the episode.

To begin with, long forgotten is the almost impeachment, and Olivia seems to be widely accepted as the “First Girlfriend,” a development that leaves residual mixed feelings. Granted, she deserves to be respected and not shamed, but the degree to what she is welcomed is far-fetched to put it mildly. Basically, the world has forgotten about the infidelity of it all, and Liv is now at the heart of a reception being held in the White House, where the leaders of Bandar are being honored. It is no surprise that she is the perfect plus one, which causes Cyrus to loath her even more, yet she ends up playing a bit of a double agent when, unexpectedly,  Navid, the translator at her table, tells her that he has information regarding a weapons facility that the U.S. is unaware of. The intel has the potential to compromise the treaty that Bandar and the U.S. are about to sign, which is a thrilling concept.

Liv tells Fitz, Abby, and Cyrus what she learned, and that Navid asks for asylum in exchange of giving up the location. The chief of staff brings up that having the White House corroborating what Navid claims could destroy the treaty; as a result, Ms. Pope offers to use OPA. This is a bad, bad thing. Of course, we all want to see the Gladiators leave the back seat they have been in lately, but the White House refuses to use ANY of the agencies to government has? We are talking about a weapons facility! It’s ludicrous that the government would not use its own resources and trust the POTUS’s girlfriend’s people instead.  I’m still rolling my eyes at this.

While Liv is heading to her office, Mellie calls her to discuss their future collaboration, but Olivia blows her off. Therefore, the former First Lady threatens to come clean to the POTUS about the truth behind Rowan’s release. It feels like an empty threat, which ultimately, it is, since nothing comes out of that. As Olivia ends the phone conversation, creepy Tom ambushes her and leads her to Daddy Dearest, who confesses that he’s frightened his life is in danger. The “big bad” admitting there is a bigger monster who has him shaking in his boots is, perhaps, the most thrilling component of the episode.

Later on, Olivia and the Gladiators look into the intel provided by Navid and believe that the man is lying and is only after asylum. Basically without further asking, Olivia denies Navid the protection he is seeking,  which is enraging and comes at a terrible time given the state of the world. At the same time, it feels like the least Olivia thing to do. The protagonist is a character that, albeit flawed, has a heart. She shows little compassion while weighting asylum.

In the meantime, Cyrus decides to dig into Rowan’s release. For that purpose, he goes to David (an unlikely, yet interesting alliance), who opens an investigation. All of this without Fitz knowing, which makes all the sense of the world since he is one of the worst leaders in TV history.

In parallel, Liv meets with Jake and attempts to have a heart-to-heart about her father, but Ballard is not having it and basically tells her to discuss the matter with the man she chose. He’s right, after all, Olivia chose Fitz; she needs to stop going back to Jake for emotional support. Privileges end when relationships die, not to mention that the man just lost his lover at the hands of Rowan.  Jake finally venting his resentment was my favorite scene of the whole hour, not to mention, it was my favorite Jake scene this season so far. Goodbye, Mr. Nice Guy.

Since Jake cannot offer advice, Olivia resorts to Abby, who strongly pleads her case: Liv needs to tell Fitz about her role in Rowan’s release. However, Liv is not ready. She’s smart, and she knows the kind of havoc the truth would break.

As it turns out, Navid was being truthful about the facility, but the information reaches Olivia when the treaty is about to be signed and as Navid has just slit his wrists. Luckily, Abby stops Fitz from signing, and Liv gets to the translator in the nick of time, so he is saved. Later on, Fitz signs the treaty but warns the prime minister of Bandar that he is about to bomb the concealed location. Had the storyline been treated differently, the announcement of a bombing would have had a different impact on the episode instead of falling flat.

Back to David, the man does exemplary job and finds out about Olivia’s involvement in Rowan’s freedom. As a result, the FBI takes Liv into custody at the White House. Fitz runs to face her and immediately takes the handcuffs off her. He truly believes she is incapable of having done what she actually did. Cue to the show’s heroine coming clean. Fitz is heartbroken over the betrayal, yet he demands that the charges agains his paramour are dropped.

Moments later, Jake informs Fitz that he’s found Rowan, but the president doesn’t want any details: he just wants to know when things are over. As Jake makes his way to get Papa Pope, he finds Tom’s dead body, no Rowan in sight.

Later, as Liv is released and cleans up, she finds that her clothes are at the White House. Fitz casually explains that she now lives there. So there it is, one of the biggest bombshells of the episode: Olivia is sort of trapped. I don’t know how the writers are going to pull this off or hiw the relationship can have any future after this, but I love the development. Fitz’s actions also work well compared to Jake letting Olivia off the hook and able to choose.

Now the second huge twist of the night is that Huck, who seems to be working for Lazarus On, is the one who is holding Rowan hostage. This is exciting for various reasons. First, Huck unleashed is insane and dangerous, and if he is indeed under the influence of Lazarus One, whatever that is, we know it’s bigger than B613. If Rowan was scared, then I’m scared. And I love it. Second, Huck betraying Olivia and having her father is a game changer. Just like with Fitz, their relationship can’t possibly bounce back.

All in all, this week’s episode of Scandal leaves me with ambivalent feelings. I am excited about what is to come, and I like where the game is at; however, the way the pieces moved in this particular episode was erratic, and there were many fundamental elements that were forced to the extreme to fit into the plot. Hopefully, things will get better. The truth is: I don’t want to lose you, Scandal.

[Photo credit: Eric McCandless/ABC]

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