Sunday, May 8, 2016

Scandal 5x20 Review: “Trump Card” (Truth-Telling and Epic Monologues for Everyone) [Contributor: Alisa Williams]

“Trump Card”
Original Airdate: May 5, 2016

Hollis Doyle takes the lead in the Republican showdown, Edison Davis realizes he made a terrible mistake, and Olivia and Abby are back to being besties (for now) in the latest episode of Scandal. There’s a lot to unpack in this episode, so let’s get to it!


It’s been clear from the beginning that Shonda Rhimes’ creation, Republican front-runner Hollis Doyle, is meant to be a blatant imitation of real-life Republican front-runner Donald Trump. Hollis started as the candidate that no one took seriously but found himself leading the pack last week after the other two candidates, Mellie and Susan, had a political catfight that cost them both.

This week, Hollis is riding high, spewing bigotry and vitriol right and left, and Abby and Olivia have set their differences aside to team up and bring him down. But everything is not as sunshiny as it seems. Abby and Olivia may be putting up a united front now, but they’re both still gathering intel on each other’s candidates behind the scenes, just in case their cease fire comes to an abrupt end. But we’ll see what comes of that later. For now, they’re bringing the fight to Hollis.

With their combined efforts, Olivia and Abby have dug up enough dirt to hopefully sink his campaign: he stole tax money from Americans by using bailout money to buy a private island; he allegedly raped his second wife; he goes hunting with KKK members and accepted $100,000 in support from them. Unfortunately, after releasing all of this information to the media, Hollis’ numbers only continue to rise, leaving OPA at a loss on what to do next.

Just when they think it can’t get any worse, Hollis goes on The Liberty Report to announce that he’ll make whichever woman drops out first his running mate. Obviously neither Susan nor Mellie wants to be the Vice Presidential candidate on a Hollis Doyle ticket. But their poll numbers just keep dropping.

Elizabeth North encourages Abby to encourage Susan to take the deal, while Papa Pope encourages Olivia to encourage Mellie to take the deal. There are so many people and secret agendas behind these campaigns, and it’s scary to realize this is probably pretty close to how these things function in reality.

Olivia decides to pay a visit to Hollis Doyle. She pretends that she wants Mellie on his ticket, all the while secretly recording their conversation. He tells Olivia that he’s only spewing his rhetoric to get to the White House and then he’ll change his tune. He refers to his fervent base as illiterate, inbred mouth breathers. After her meeting, Olivia makes a beeline for The Liberty Report where she drops off the recording and waits for the chaos to unfold. It doesn’t take long. Sally Langston invites Hollis back to her show to discuss his bid for President, and then proceeds to present him with the recordings of his insults against his supporters.

Hollis’ campaign combusts as quickly as it ignited and the media speculates it won’t be long until he’s forced to pull out of the race. It’s a win for Liv and Abby, but with Hollis out of the way, they’re back to trying to take each other down.


Susan has finally forgiven David after weeks of giving him the cold shoulder for his infidelity, so David (in his infinite wisdom) decides to jump in headfirst and ask Susan to marry him. He does it in the most awkward way possible, beating around the bush about joining their lives and growing old together until Susan finally asks him to propose to her like a normal person, which he does. And she accepts. Which... I totally don’t get. This man cheated on you for months. You only JUST forgave him last week. I feel like an engagement shouldn’t be the first box you check off after you’ve just gotten back together, but that’s none of my business.

Additionally, David is clearly completely forgetting that last week he lied to Susan and compromised his oath as Attorney General to make a backroom deal that dropped a case against a corrupt sugar company in order to gain Susan an endorsement from the Governor of Florida. He must also be forgetting that secrets like that don’t stay buried for long.


Cyrus meets with Olivia to bemoan the fact that his Democratic candidate, Frankie Vargas, is currently losing in the polls to Edison Davis and he can’t figure out why. Olivia admits that her father is behind Edison’s campaign. Cyrus encourages Olivia to go after her father and bring him down and she flatly refuses. She’s tried that too many times and failed and she’s not interested.

Meanwhile, Papa Pope is having impromptu meetings of his own. He meets with Abby and gives her a folder full of info all about Olivia’s abortion a few months ago. Up until this point, Scandal hasn’t ever actually said the “A” word or admitted that that’s the medical procedure viewers watched Olivia have done. It was strongly speculated, many articles were written about it, but Scandal itself never came out and said that’s what happened. Until now. Now, it seems Olivia’s secret procedure — which she didn’t tell a soul about — is known by her father (who knows everything), and he’s encouraging Abby to use it against her. Now, Abby has a real crisis of conscious on her hands. She’s been looking for dirt that will bring down Mellie’s campaign and now she has it. Olivia aborting the President’s baby and now running the President’s ex-wife’s campaign for President is about as bad as it gets. But Abby and Olivia have been best friends for years and despite their tenuous relationship now, Abby doesn’t want to hurt Olivia. She wants to hurt Olivia’s campaign, but never Olivia herself.

Papa Pope isn’t done delivering uncomfortable truths and secrets: Later, he meets with Edison Davis. Edison thinks now would be a great time to hold a press conference where he speaks out against Hollis Doyle and all the hate and bigotry Hollis is spewing. Papa Pope tells him no and then proceeds to deliver one of his infamous speeches about how that will absolutely not be happening, that Edison needs to stay silent on this issue because he can’t be perceived as “too black” by his large base of white supporters, and that he’s never really felt what prejudice is like anyway because he was born into wealth and privilege. Papa Pope delivered so much in that hurtful and controlling monologue that Edison finally gets his first inkling of just how dangerous Papa Pope is underneath the mild-mannered façade.

Edison tries his best to shrug it off, but Papa Pope isn’t done pulling puppet strings yet. He asks Edison how his list of potential Vice Presidential running mates is coming and Edison says he has some names. Papa Pope proceeds to tell him he needs to add Jake Ballard to the top of that list. Edison doesn’t think that’s a great idea and says so but is left with the distinct impression that his opinion on this does not matter one bit.

Sticking to his guns, Edison calls a meeting with Jake to tell him that he will not be considering him as a running mate. He has other, more highly qualified candidates in mind, and that’s that. Jake’s amused that Edison is still clinging to this ridiculous idea that he runs the show, when everyone else knows Papa Pope calls all the shots. Jake does his own truth-dealing mini-monologue where he explains in crystal clear terms to Edison how Papa Pope’s world works. Edison asks what happens if he says no; if he refuses to be a puppet at the mercy of Papa Pope and Jake. And that’s when Jake comes clean about a secret he’s been holding onto for a while: that horrific car accident Edison had a couple years ago? Jake was behind it. He caused it at the command of Papa Pope. So, if Edison wants to keep breathing now, he’ll do what he’s told.

The next day, as Edison stands stoically at this office window, mulling over his campaign, Olivia pays him a visit. She warned him a few weeks ago about her father and he didn’t listen then, but she’s willing to try again. She tells him that even if he wins, he will never run the country. She points out that he’s won the primaries in every state so far, despite going into each one either down several points or tied with Frankie Vargas. Papa Pope is stealing the election for him, and he’ll continue to do it with every primary moving forward until Edison is sitting in the White House. Olivia tells him he needs to drop out but he knows he can’t just say "no" to her father without some dire consequences. She agrees and instead encourages him to say everything he’s ever wanted about Hollis Doyle. That is a sure-fire way to isolate his white supporters and sink his campaign. And that is exactly what he does. Next time a reporter asks him about Hollis, he doesn’t hold back. It’s about time Edison had the chance to deliver his own truth-laden monologue, and it did not disappoint.

After delivering his speech, Edison calls Frankie Vargas to concede. Frankie is now officially the Democratic nominee. Cyrus calls Olivia to thank her for changing her mind about going up against her father. But this war isn’t over. Papa Pope and Jake know Olivia was behind Edison’s speech.


With Hollis’ campaign effectively neutered, and both Abby and Liv equipped with dirt on each other’s campaigns, Abby calls a meeting with Liv. But while Abby is planning just a meeting between the two of them where she can let Liv knows that her dirt is about Liv’s abortion, Liv has other plans. Liv shows up but instead of heading to Abby’s office, she heads to the Oval instead. Abby comes in to find everyone with skin in the game there, including the President. If she delivers her dirt now, it won’t be just to Liv – it’ll be to Liv, Fitz, Elizabeth, Susan, David, Marcus, and Mellie.

When Abby tells Olivia this isn’t what she had in mind when she called the meeting, Olivia says she thinks it only fair that the dirt on both sides be revealed at the same time, to everyone in the room so they can know what each opposing team has and plan accordingly. If either Susan or Mellie decide to drop out after hearing the dirt, it will stay buried. If, however, they decide to stay in the race, the dirt will be used against them and they’ll have to suffer the consequences.

Olivia reveals her dirt on Susan first, which is of course, that David dropped the sugar company case in order to secure an endorsement for Susan. Susan is shocked and livid that not only would David do this, but that it means he lied to her again.

Before Susan makes a decision to drop out (though it’s obvious this dirt will sink her chances and her career), she asks to hear the dirt on Mellie. Now Abby has a choice to make: reveal the dirt on Olivia’s abortion in front of everyone — including Fitz, the father of that unborn child — or stay silent and protect Olivia while sacrificing any chance Susan has left at the Presidency.

Abby chooses to stay silent. Instead of revealing the dirt on Olivia, she reveals some dirt Elizabeth North gave her: that Mellie saw a psychic twelve times following the death of her son, in the hopes that she could communicate with him beyond the grave. It’s obvious that this dirt is much less damning than the dirt on Susan. Though embarrassing, the dirt on Mellie isn’t unethical or polarizing to voters. In fact, it makes her seem more human by showing the extent of her grief in the wake of her son’s death.

Olivia knows Abby well enough to know she’s holding something back, but she doesn’t know why and she doesn’t say anything. Left with no other choice, Susan tells them she’ll drop out. She also severs her engagement to David in an inspiring monologue of her own. Susan announces to the media that she’s dropping out and throws her support behind Mellie. Mellie is now officially the Republican nominee.

That evening, Olivia pays a visit to Abby and asks her what she was holding back during their meeting. After much hesitancy, Abby admits that the additional dirt she had wasn’t on Mellie — it was about Olivia’s abortion. Olivia is thankful that Abby kept it a secret but wants to know how she found out. Abby tells her about her meeting with Papa Pope and warns Liv that her father isn’t done with her yet.

Meanwhile, Papa Pope and Jake pay a visit to Edison. Papa Pope tells Edison he knows Liv was behind his sudden burst of courage. Edison says that Papa Pope can’t hurt him and he replies that he doesn’t have to — that’s what Jake is for. Papa Pope leaves Jake to it, but Jake tells Edison that he’s not going to kill him because Papa Pope may need him in the future. And when Jake’s sure Papa Pope has truly left the room, he also tells Edison to deliver a message for him to Olivia: he wants out, he wants her to rescue him from her father, he wants to be with her. I guess we’ll see next week if Edison passes that message along or not.

This episode bolstered my hope that Scandal is getting back on track. There was so much truth-telling and so many epic monologues packed into these 43 minutes. It was truly fantastic. The season finale is up next and I can only imagine what kind of cliff hanger Shonda Rhimes has planned for season five.

Gladiator Gems:
  • “Mellie wants to end Medicare. The woman hates old people. But I have to smile and be neutral because we are going to burn Hollis, and his hillbilly hate, to the ground.”
  • “I’m going to need you to say it. Just say it clearly. In a full sentence. ALL THE WORDS.”
  • “Look, ol’ Fitzy’s part of what I call the ‘lucky sperm club.’ Never worked a day in his life, looks down on us hard-working, new money folks. Still, he’s welcome on my island anytime, so long as he keeps his drawers on. I don’t want him waving his tiny flag around, scaring all the natives. You feel me?” 
  • “Books and thoughts — they don’t hurt people. Well, maybe books.” 
  • “You have NO choice here. You KNOW you have no choice. But yet, your brain can’t compute it. It’s charming.” 
  • “The idea that this country belongs to one kind of person is the least American idea that anyone has ever had.” 
  • “We are a country where we are always greater than our past.” 
  • “May I say how glad I am that you have chosen to never go to therapy. It has served us so well.”
  • “I know I’m amazing. I’m witty and cute and funny and smarter than you. I’m incredible, David. I’m going to change the... world. Which is why this is over. I know. But you don’t. I can’t be with someone who doesn’t believe in me, whether I’m the President of the United States or some substitute teacher in suburbia somewhere. I believe in myself, and I need to be with someone who feels the same way. You can go now. Because guess what? You just got dumped by the Vice President of the United States of America, and she has work to do.”


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