Friday, March 11, 2016

Scandal 5x13 Review "The Fish Rots from the Head" (A Secret Service-Sized Secret) [Contributor: Alisa Williams]

“The Fish Rots from the Head”
Original Airdate: March 10, 2016

Fitz has officially entered the dating game, Cyrus vies for Governor Vargas’ favor, and the Secret Service needs Olivia’s help to cover up a big, well, secret. Let’s discuss the latest episode of Scandal, shall we?


Abby calls in a favor to OPA and it’s a big one. Not that OPA ever handles anything small. This week’s case involves the Secret Service, a hotel party, and a dead prostitute. It seems the Secret Service hired a couple of prostitutes to liven up their party and one of them ended up smashing through a glass table and bleeding out all over the pricey hotel rug.

The Secret Service claims it was an accident — the prostitute, Megan, overdosed on heroine — and they didn’t know what to do. It’s not like they’re trained to respond to emergencies or anything like that. The other prostitute, Erin, backs up their story. But it can’t be that simple, mostly because there’s still 30 minutes left in the episode at this point.

Turns out, everyone’s lying. The Secret Service refused to pay Megan for her services, she got mad, and they got madder and shoved her into the glass table, then pumped her full of heroine to make it look like she was high and clumsy.

Now OPA is left with a dilemma: protect their client or find justice for Megan. After some waffling, Olivia chooses to don the white hat and travel the high road. She takes the information about Megan’s death to Fitz.


While Fitz’s Secret Service agents are busy murdering prostitutes, Fitz himself has entered the not-so-wonderful world of dating, though I use that term loosely. I don’t know how dating generally works for Presidents (since Presidents tend to be married), and I don’t know what happened to Lillian Forrester, who kept his attention for all of two episodes and then vanished without a trace (hopefully forever). But President Fitzgerald Grant’s version of dating seems to be bedding every attractive woman he encounters.

This is undoubtedly giving poor Abby migraines, but she’s worked out a seamless strategy with the Secret Service to get these “picks” in and out of the White House in a flawless manner. The revolving door of women Fitz is now associating with all come vetted with non-disclosure agreements signed, and they all leave via the service elevator. As disgraceful as Fitz’s behavior is, I do have to admire Abby’s ability to strategize and execute any plan necessary to meet the President’s, uh, needs.

Unfortunately, Fitz can’t be relied upon to be quite as careful. When Mellie stops by early to drop off their son for his weekend visit with his dad, she encounters a random blonde woman in Fitz’s bedroom, clothed in only a bathrobe. Mellie is understandably livid at Fitz’s lack of discretion, especially around their toddler son.

Now that Mellie and Olivia are basically besties, Olivia gets to hear all about it. And Olivia had been doing so well at avoiding all knowledge of Fitz and his extracurricular activities of late. Of course, that’s mainly because she’s been too busy spying on Jake, but we’ll get to that later.

When Olivia comes to discuss the Secret Service’s transgressions with Fitz, she lets him have it, reminding him of the proverb “a fish rots from the head.” In other words, the Secret Service men take their cue from their boss, the President, and when his judgment and morals are lax, theirs will be too. Even after their breakup, Olivia still possesses the ability to break through to Fitz when he needs it most. He holds a press conference admitting to the public that his Secret Service agents led to the death of Megan, and that they will be prosecuted for their crimes. We can only hope he really has turned over a new leaf in the wake of Olivia’s wake-up call.


Cyrus has his eye on Governor Vargas as the next President of the United States, and now he just needs to convince Vargas to run. Cyrus is a master manipulator and he pulls out all the stops to convince Vargas to run, all the while making Vargas think he’s come to this decision on his own.

Cyrus gets Vargas on The Liberty Report with Sally Langston, encourages him to tout his education bill, and go head-to-head with Fitz in the process. When none of that does the trick, Cyrus digs deeper and discovers Vargas’ daughter has cancer, and that’s why he doesn’t want to run. He wants to spend as much time with his daughter as possible before she passes away. So in true Cyrus fashion, he sells Vargas some sob story about how he had a younger brother who was paralyzed by a hit-and-run with a drunk driver and how his brother had wanted him to go to Harvard, become a leader, and change the world. Vargas buys it, because poor Vargas is a kind and gentle soul, and people like that are the easiest for evil monsters like Cyrus to manipulate.

Not only does Francisco Vargas decide he will enter the presidential race, but he asks Cyrus to head up his campaign. Everything is coming up roses for Cyrus. Let’s just hope his lies don’t catch up with him.


While Cyrus woos Vargas, Mellie and Susan are both full steam ahead with their own presidential campaigns. Mellie is autographing copies of her tell-all book, which is bound to be a bestseller. Susan is making her presence known, and both women need Fitz’s endorsement to win the White House. Mellie is convinced Fitz will endorse Susan since she’s his Vice President, but Susan doesn’t want his endorsement. She’s disgusted by Fitz’s escapades and wants to distance herself from the inevitable fallout that will occur. By episode’s end, Mellie’s decided she doesn’t want Fitz’s endorsement either, which is good because Fitz lets Susan know he’s officially endorsing her. To her credit, Susan is upfront about her reservations due to Fitz’s recent behavior, and to his credit, Fitz vows to be a person and a President worthy to put the power of his position behind Susan. We’ll just have to wait and see if that happens.


As I mentioned earlier, Olivia spends a decent portion of the episode spying on Jake, which has apparently become a regular hobby of hers. She claims to be trying to figure out what he’s up to, which may be true in part, but I think in reality she just misses him. He’s been dating a woman named Vanessa who is pretty much perfect in every way. She’s smart, well-bred, a humanitarian and philanthropist, and is descended from “George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or some such.”

Olivia is convinced that wooing Vanessa is just part of Jake and Papa Pope’s mysterious master plan for world domination. She’s probably right. They’re definitely up to something, and poor Vanessa is caught in the middle of their plotting. Or she’s in on it too, which wouldn’t surprise me.

Unfortunately, Jake is well aware that Olivia is keeping tabs on him and he does not appreciate it. He tells her to back off, but Olivia doesn’t take orders very easily, and soon enough she’s showing up at her father’s house where Jake’s been living. Jake has another trick up his sleeve though: unbeknownst to Olivia, he’s just asked Vanessa to marry him and she’s said yes. So Olivia’s first official introduction to Vanessa comes served with champagne and an extra dose of awkwardness.

As much as the various current plot points make me squeamish (the ick-factor with Fitz is certainly at an all-time high), I really enjoyed this episode. It felt very classic OPA with the case to solve, the decision to protect the client versus do the right thing, and some good old fashioned character progression. I have long hated how weak-willed, arrogant, and selfish Fitz continues to be season after season, so I really hope he is on a path to being a better human being.

I also hope we’ll find out soon what Jake is up to, and I hope whatever it is he’s still secretly a good guy, working against Papa Pope even if he isn’t letting Olivia in on it. Because it will break my heart if Jake really has gone full-scale bad guy and is just doing Papa Pope’s bidding. Either way, the sooner we can get rid of Vanessa, the better.

Gladiator Gems:
  • “Oh, I didn’t see you there little Cyrus Bean.”
  • “You walk too close to people.” “That’s only because you’re making me whisper.”
  • “I’m the head of the NSA. You don’t get to keep tabs on me unless I allow you to.”


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