A Door Marked Exit Scandal RecapRaise you hand if you have had enough shouting about Mama Pope for the rest of your life. Raise your hand if you’re confused whether Olivia and Jake were ever supposed to be considered a viable option? Raise your hand if you expected Scandal’s season 3 mid-season finale, “A Door Marked Exit,” to be leagues more shockworthy than it actually was?

No doubt about it: as per usual, the social media airspace was a-twitter with posts on the topic, but this year’s mid-season finale was a bit of a let down. Not only are we continuing with the Mama Pope storyline even though that entire premise could use some serious rest, but Huck is still scary, Fitz is still inefficient, and OMG Scandal lovers I think I saw Liv wearing a heather black coat in the preview for the backhalf of the season!

But let’s get into “A Door Marked Exit,” because, if nothing else, this episode delivered the best character monologue ever on Scandal. And with a group of Shonda Rhimes writers, that’s saying quite a bit.

Continuing the most promising thread of last week’s surprising episode, “A Door Marked Exit” picks up with Vice President Langston, and recaps the events that led to her husband’s murder. In an entertainingly well-directed segment (a handclap goes to the director of tonight’s episode, frequent Rhimes collaborator Tom Verica), we jump between the moments before, after, and during the murder of Daniel, Sally’s husband, and the scene wraps with the fateful phone call to Cyrus. “I have committed a sin,” Langston says blankly. And boy, has she.

Cyrus comes to the rescue, putting on his inner Olivia and working magic at the scene. Worth every moment? Cyrus using the Bible to justify just why Sally shouldn’t admit to killing her husband. Our favorite Chief of Staff arranges for a doctor to proclaim Sally’s husband has had a heart attack, and her deception clearly shakes Sally to the bone. It’s one thing to watch an over-the-top religious caricature on television, but when that character’s faith has been shaken, it’s actually scary to watch the aftermath. When Sally throws her body down on Daniel’s lifeless body in front of the White House doctor, you know she’s thinking about her immortal soul.

Somehow I don’t think hellfire is going to do her complexion any favors.

Elsewhere, that Scandal tension proves yet again why this show is a masterclass in establishing that never-let-go grip on your heart, even when consciously aware that the notes the show strikes are noticeably synthetic. The blip of admiration for Quinn that popped up at the end of last week’s episode passes entirely in “A Door Marked Exit,” and as Fitz kidnaps Rowan for a lackluster interrogation, the tension is here still, but it’s difficult to care about the fallout.

That is, until Rowan gets talking. Fitz plays his hand at syndicated cop show interrogation techniques, and the results are legitimately squirm-inducing, but ultimately have use. He gets Rowan talking, which leads to the best monologues in Scandal history, even better than the “twice as good” speech from the first episode of the season. I’ll continue to write about  this speech, but must immediately note that there’s no amount of writing that can do justice to this powerful acting from Joe Morton and writing by the Scandal team.

Not only does Rowan address the racial and social differences between himself and Fitz, accurately noting Fitz’s resentment of his own privileged background is merely a way of whining about white privilege while others actually work for what they achieve, but Rowan nails Fitz’s psychological make-up, insisting that Fitz doesn’t love Olivia, he merely loves that Olivia is “the door marked ‘exit,’” the way out of his own life.

Now, one could argue that all this assessment is simple when it comes from the mouth of a man with access to all sorts of information about Fitz. But the more important fact here is that Rowan’s words are a commentary on all the men he’s experienced in his life. Frankly,it’s an attack on white privilege on the whole, and Rhimes pulls this off without ever having Rowan mention race at all.

Fitz has had everything in his life handed to him: money, his wife, even his presidency. And all he does is complain about it all. People like Rowan and Olivia work for the things they receive, and they’ll be working to achieve more until the day they die, but Fitz is so wrapped up in himself that he tries to use Olivia as his life-preserver. And Rowan will not have this man, this poster-child of white privilege, come in and attempt to use his hard-working daughter to give him an escape out of his perfect, packaged life.

A Door Marked Exit Scandal Recap

Fitz isn’t the only one getting a much needed talking to. When Liv goes off on Huck at headquarters, Jake delivers a well-deserved “the world doesn’t revolve around you” speech. Yes, she may have lost her mother 22 years ago, but Liv has to remember that Huck lost far more than that at the hands of Liv’s own father, and her asking Huck to now work in favor of that very man is selfish. It’s a much needed reminder to Olivia, who lately has descended into indignant terror, yelling at everyone without a bit of perspective.

Yay for Jake.

Scandal has a terrible habit of cramming snowball arguments into its narrative to move the plot along. The more this happens, the more obvious it becomes that the writers have had far more time to think about plot machinations than the audience. And of course they have! We know they don’t write these episodes in real time. The problem is, sometimes it happens that writers have thought so much about what they’re doing, that their logic starts to skip things. And that’s clear in this episode when Olivia demands Fitz let her speak to her imprisoned father.

Liv wants to discuss that day, 22 years ago when her mother disappeared. So she walks through the facts with her father: her mother put a bomb on the plane, so instead of letting the bomb go off over London, her father took a calculated risk and chose to shoot the plane down instead. But wait, that doesn’t make sense because her mother wouldn’t kill herself (supposedly). So of course there had to be no bomb. Her mother had to have lied.

Wait—why do these things have to be true? Because the plot needs them to be.

I’m not suggesting this doesn’t make sense. It does. But the way Liv goes through the story is too quick, too aware. The entire exchange seems to imbue Liv with more knowledge of her mother and the situation than she deserves at that moment. And it’s very convenient.

And the rest of “A Door Marked Exit” is a jumbled mess that seems to wrap up this “We’ve been on this topic for way too long” first half of the season, but the last images seem to suggest we’re actually not done with Khandi Alexander’s Mama Pope.

In the rest of the episode, Jake kisses Liv before declaring that he has to leave. (Too bad because I really liked him in the crew.) But! He’s not going far! Just over to B6-13 where he takes Rowan’s job as command because apparently that was within Fitz’s power to do this whole time! Wow, for convenient surprises! He is a series regular now, dontcha know?

But has any of our story been wrapped up? No, not really. Mama Pope gives Liv one last ring just to hear her daughter’s voice. Where is she? She won’t tell Liv, but we see her in front of the White House, rocking one fine white coat. Sweet. Mom and daughter shopping date, anyone?

But what’s Mama Pope up to? We’ve seen how troublesome this “Mom as a secret enemy agent” can get on Alias. How far is Scandal willing to push the envelope?

Notes

  • Quinn goes running back to Charlie after Huck amps the scary levels to 11 and claims he’d have ripped out each of her teeth if it weren’t for Liv looking over his shoulder. It’s an effective threat, but is more time spent with Charlie really worth it? He’s creepy.
  • With little to do this season beside bantering with Abby, David finds himself a new plotline. An NSA engineer comes to him with a recording of Sally’s confession phone call to Cyrus. Uh-oh. Can’t David catch a break?
  • James and Cyrus really seem to deserve each other. James sells his self-respect to Cyrus all for the cost of becoming the White House Press Secretary. C.J. Cregg would be so proud.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, get ready! Harrison’s plotline waits just on the other side of the holiday break!

What did you think about “A Door Marked Exit”? How great what that Joe Morton monologue? How boring was Fitz tonight? Who else hoped Cyrus would be unrepentant about his role in Sally’s “sin”? Quinn. Quinn. Quinn? Anything? Does anyone care about Quinn? And who else felt bad for Rowan when he walked into his office only to find Jake behind the desk? But only for a second.

Leave your comments below.