‘Scandal’ Season 4 Episode 20 Recap: “First Lady Sings The Blues”

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Last night’s Scandal was Shonda Rhimes’ greatest “SIKE!” moment: Jake Ballard is not dead, at least not yet, despite what Scott Foley says on Twitter. Russell played darts on Jake’s chest last week and left him to bleed out on the conference room at Pope and Associates. The Russian doctor Charlie keeps on retainer claims Russell missed the major arteries, and if he manages not to contract an infection, Jake could make it. Why am I somehow not surprised that it’s not over ’til it’s over?

As Rhimes and her team proved earlier in the night on Grey’s Anatomy, few deaths in ShondaLand are quick and painless. This is perhaps the most agonizing aspect of Rhimes’ dramas: characters really have to earn their deaths. As a viewer, this can be as torturous as that little box B613 likes to throw people in. Based on the previews for next week’s episode, Foley is sticking around a little longer, which is good for Olivia as she prepares to kill, scare off, or convert Russell. Speaking of which, Olivia Pope got a little Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies with her sexual distraction techniques before going all…

Olivia really out to return Russell to Rowan in a body bag. Anyway…

“First Lady Sings the Blues” was full of fierce feminist moments, from Olivia taking control in this new way, to Mellie making Fitz look whipped in order to advance in the polls, to Abby calling out the founding fathers’ misogyny. “So Mellie Grant’s run for Senate is legal because of misogyny?” she asks David. Not only is it legal for a Senator and the President to share a bed, but as Olivia urges Fitz, it’s the angle they should highlight. It would have been more interesting for Fitz and Mellie to get divorced, but I guess we’ll have to wait a season or two for that.

Cyrus is not having this so-called emasculation of Fitz, which is a silly thing to be worried about when your candidate won’t be running for office ever again. If it’s Fitz’s legacy Cyrus is worried about, I think it’s too late now, post-scandal(s). If anything, alpha Senator Mellie may be a good look for the Grants, as it was for the Clintons. That is, if Mellie actually wins her race. I got the sneaking suspicion last night that Sally Langford’s unsolicited advice to Cyrus — that he should run for the Virginia seat — hadn’t gone unheard.

Speaking of Sally and Cyrus, kudos to Scandal writers for taking a chance on dialogue. So many of the pivotal moments on Scandal revolve around intense monologues from one character (usually Olivia or Rowan), directed at another. It may make for exciting TV, but that’s not how people spar in real life. Cyrus’ performance on Sally’s TV show was one of his most memorable moments all season. It teetered right on the edge of danger, much like Olivia this week as she tries to reason with the KGB.

First off, the hilarity of Scandal suggesting that Putin has rebooted the KGB must be pointed out. In order for Jake to receive the care he needs in order to survive, Olivia must put the white hat on the shelf and negotiate with assassins and spies. Black Sable, a Russian spy turned religious grandmother, needs Olivia’s help; she’s been sent to kill someone after three decades out of the game, but she can’t bring herself to do it. Olivia’s plan to solve this problem was suspect from the start: did she really think she could solve her own problem (Rowan) and Black Sable’s at the same time? The KGB would get the head of B613’s, well, head on a silver platter for Putin to admire. And she would get freedom, a chance to stand in the sun again with Jake. Of course, nothing is ever that simple in Scandal. Instead, all the Russians get shots to the head, even the grandkids. All the more reason for Olivia to destroy Papa Pope, if she can find him.