‘Scandal’ Season 4 Episode 21 Recap: “A Few Good Women”

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“So that’s it, we never find out what Foxtail means?” Quinn asks as this week’s Scandal comes to a close. As Olivia knows better than anyone, when Rowan wants to make his presence known, he does so aggressively. He’s just not ready to reveal his big plans for Foxtail, which viewers learn this week *is* Mellie Grant. Does next week’s season finale bring a terrible fate for Mellie, or does it merely use her as a bargaining chip to get, for example, the President to shut down any future Attorney General investigations into B613? Whatever the case may be, I have a feeling it will in turn force Olivia to confront her feelings for both Fitz and Jake, and perhaps make a decision once and for all. The gang probably won’t have time to take down Rowan too, but hey, a recapper can dream.

I have to applaud Scandal for tackling such a meaty, relevant-to-the-real-world B-plot — the scandal in Scandal — this week even as the show sets up for its finale. VP Ross visits a naval base for a photo-op, where she meets Ensign Amy Martin. She notices a bruise on the officer’s wrist and senses immediately how it got there: Amy was raped by one of her fellow officers. Ross is a little too pushy with Amy at first, but woman’s intuition is real, and I love that Ross stays true to her little voice. She’s one of the few politicians on the show that doesn’t make me want to throw something expensive at a wall.

After Ross confronts Fitz and Cyrus about action steps on Martin’s behalf, both men are outraged and cite 200-year-old law about how military indiscretions must be tried in military court. (Olivia later reveals more archaic law: military personnel who are raped while serving cannot sue the U.S. government; the rape is considered a liability of the job, like an injury.) Martin knows these laws and doesn’t want to up-end her life because she was violated by a naval officer more decorated than the White House Christmas tree. Olivia Pope won’t stand for that. So, while Fitz and Cyrus are sitting around with their thumbs up their butts (seriously, shut up Cyrus), citing some nonsense established before women were even allowed to serve in the armed forces, Olivia is doing what she does: holding a press conference to highlight the inherent injustices of this scenario.

This is why you love Olivia, why Scandal — for all its frustratingly circular plotlines — can be an interesting show about politics from time to time. Is justice served more frequently than it would be IRL? Absolutely. But does it make you believe that change is possible? Occasionally. After a Black Lives Matter episode earlier this season, Scandal takes on not just one relevant topic with military rape, but “A Few Good Women” also portrays some of the realities of getting an abortion. After Amy discovers she’s pregnant, Olivia takes her to get an abortion per her request — and still finds a way to win Amy’s case without having to involve traumatizing DNA tests. The implication of abortion is one thing, but Scandal showed Amy at the doctor’s office, calmly and quietly getting one done. I was reminded of a powerful video that went viral last year, in which a woman filmed her abortion to show that it doesn’t have to be completely terrifying. Good on Scandal for going there too; I can’t think of another major network show that’s shown a character who’s getting an abortion in the actual procedure room.

Furthermore, good on Fitz for either: a) recognizing that his initial reaction to military rape doubted or downplayed the victim’s claims, or b) having so much guilt about his wife being a rape survivor that he suggests she throws him under the bus over all this. (I think it’s a little bit of both, but when he gets those naval base security logs to Olivia, there’s also an implication of him “doing the right thing” — or at least I hope. If the point of all that was for Fitz to start to win Olivia back again, then excuse me while I punch the air repeatedly for a little while.) And so, when Mellie returns to the scene of Jerry’s death, she does so with a strong speech in which she declares that her husband botched the Amy Martin case, which by that point had been resolved via leaked security footage (how convenient). She rallies women voters, which is exactly what she needs to win the Senator seat.

While I don’t particularly buy Mellie as a Hillary Clinton archetype, her speech in Springfield had me coming around to the idea a little more. But at what cost to her marriage? Ultimately, I think Mellie getting elected could somehow lead to Olivia and Fitz getting Vermont.

All around, “A Few Good Women” was a strong lead-in to the finale, and not just because the topics were relevant and plotlines were revealed. The scene between Jake and Russell, where they’re drinking beer and reminiscing about Rowan, is one of the most memorable scenes all season. There is so much about B613 that viewers don’t understand, but to hear Jake and his counterpart trade command stories gives you a better understanding of how complicated these dynamics at play truly are, and not just for his biological child, Olivia. Rowan was the closet thing these men had to a father, so it takes a lot for Jake to try to kill him, over and over again. “You can’t take command, son,” may be the mantra, but here’s hoping that next week’s finale proves that wrong.