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No one wins in a Scandal

Scandal (2011) poster

Written by : published Tuesday 12th February 2013

I admit, I was growing tired of ABC's Scandal last fall. The case-of-the-week format was tedious, and the characters were growing less interesting to me by the minute. I had a hard time motivating myself to watch it.

Then came the voter rigging scandal arc. A vast conspiracy among many of the top people in the presidential administration, steeped in lots of cover up and mystery, information being leaked to us only in tiny bits. As the plot gets thicker and thicker, and the focus moves to the offenders, rather than Pope's team and their regular job, the series gets better and better.

All of this culminates in the most recent episode, "Nobody Likes Babies," as all of the truth is finally revealed, at least to certain parties, and the guilty have to face their sins. This episode is a lot about loss, and not just for those who deserve it. In a situation like this, there is plenty of collateral damage, and the fall out is devastating.

First, there's David Rosen (Joshua Molina). He loses everything: his career, his credibility in his field, a little bit of his sanity, and even the women he loves. Rosen may be a little more zealous than some would like, but his mission is justice, and he is trying to right a wrong. Yet, he makes the mistake of trusting the wrong people, something easily forgiven by viewers, but not by Rosen's peers. The lies of a few are enough to ruin him.

Will Rosen recover during the rest of the season? I hope so. He's a good man, and he deserves a break. Fans are often put in the position to root against him because Rosen's actions could hurt other main characters whom we adore. And yet, at this point, it's hard not to care about him, too. Knowing he is in the right only makes the situation more difficult.

Abby (Darby Stanchfield) loses Rosen. She learns that he really loves her, and while she wants to be with him, her loyalty to her colleagues wins out. Abby could be perfectly happy in a relationship with Rosen, but it would cost others she cares about dearly, and so she betrays him by stealing evidence, then denies it, though he sees through her.

Can Rosen ever forgive her? Abby only did what she thinks she has to to protect those she loves. Can't Rosen understand that? Even if she chooses Olivia (Kerry Washington) over him, Abby's feelings for Rosen are valid, too. If Rosen can find it in himself to take her back, it's likely this conflict of interest wouldn't come up again, and they would never have to be tested this way as a couple. The hard part is getting over this particular instance.

Quinn (Katie Lowes) loses her chance for revenge. She has the option to take out Hollis Doyle (Gregg Henry), but when Huck (Guillermo Diaz) makes her pick between her new life and her old, she chooses the new. After all, murdering Hollis won't undo what has been done to her, and she has come to rely on her current support system. It might feel good temporarily, but what Huck is trying to teach Quinn is that evil has great cost. I think she gets the message.

Huck should know. He has lost just about everything that he possible can. He struggles every day with who he is and what he has done. Huck doesn't suffer a particular loss in "Nobody Likes Babies," but he is far from making up for his past. He wants to spare Quinn the same price, and by doing so, he heals just a little piece of himself.

Olivia gives up the chance at a happy life as a senator's wife when she turns down Edison's (Norm Lewis) proposal. Edison doesn't understand why she would seek pain rather than serenity. Is it really love if it hurts? He has a point, and even though Olivia cannot stop herself, one has to wonder if it's worth it, even in that moment, before what comes after. Is she in a bad cycle she needs to break, or is there really a hope of something more if she can hold out just a little longer?

The best executed plot on this theme, though, belongs to Cyrus (Jeff Perry). He is faced with an impossible choice: his husband, James (Dan Bucatinsky), or his freedom and professional identity. There doesn't seem to be any clear way out for Cyrus, as he can't continue to lie to James and save his marriage, but telling the truth could land him in jail, disgraced.

Perry excels in several scenes, first with a raw confrontation, in wish the nakedness is emotional as well as physical, and then later, as he is forced to decide if he should order James's death to protect himself. Neither is easy, and I'm amazing at the way Perry plays it. Cyrus is a character who starts out as such a cut-and-dry cold SOB, but has quickly grown into a fully fleshed out, sympathetic man, warts and all.

In the end, Cyrus can't kill James. It's a good thing, as I don't think Cyrus would ever recover in the eyes of Scandal fans had James been shot. Somehow, though, I am surprised when Cyrus calls off the hit. I didn't expect to see the depth of his love for his husband, and all of the sudden, I am a huge fan of the actor and the character, much more so than previously, and that's saying something.

All of these situations make us questions ourselves. Everyone wants it all, but no one can have that. These are stories on a screen, to be sure, but the best such ones make us think. When there is no black and white right or wrong, it challenges our preconceived notions and ideals. "Nobody Likes Babies" does this as surely as considering the title of the episode does, over and over again throughout the hour.

One big shocker comes when we learn that Verna Thornton (Debra Mooney) is behind the attempt assassination of President Grant (Tony Goldwyn). Many, including the president himself, assume that the first lady, Mellie (Bellamy Young), is to blame. The evidence points to her, and she's heartless enough to do it. Verna is portrayed as being kind and compassionate.

However, the other thing to take into account is that Verna is dying. Arguments can be made whether her most recent missteps come from a place of guilt or a desire to protect herself. Is she ashamed? Is she arrogant? The fact that she calls Grant and Rosen to her death bed hint that she could be good, but the writing dances around motivating factors enough to leave everyone in doubt.

Then we get the second shocker: Grant murders Verna before she can confess to Rosen. Why does he do this? Is he not stupid, as Verna challenges, and knows about the conspiracy the entire time, even if he struggles to convince himself that he is wrong? Is he furious at her? Is he feeling so betrayed by Olivia that he has to lash out at the person in front of him? Is he complicit in the atrocities committed before?

This levels the playing field. Grant is held up as a noble leader throughout all the mud in this season. Others around him break the law so that he can stay clean. This calls into question if he ever was pure, and makes him more complex. Also, he could never really be in a fully equal romantic relationship with either Mellie or Olivia when still being so much more holier than they are.

It's interesting that Grant chooses Mellie over Olivia in the end. Again, the reason why isn't completely clear. Is he seriously mad at Olivia for lying to him, or for not believing in him? Does he find Mellie's honesty, brutal or not, refreshing, or is he trying to hurt Olivia by choosing Mellie? Except, Mellie isn't always honest, as Grant tells Olivia he knows Mellie induces labor and thinks she is hiding it from him. There are definitely negative emotions in play here, and the truth could well be a little of everything. I am curious as to how this will play out.

This episode, curiously delivered in February, rather than season's end, is huge. It's the best of the series so far, and all of the various twists and reveals make it extremely memorable. Sprinkled with Emmy-worthy performances, "Nobody Likes Babies" delivers everything fans of the show want, and more. This is definitely an A+ installment.

Next week, rumor has it, we get a big time jump, and then mostly go back to case-of-the-week stuff for the rest of the season. This is disappointing news. Yes, it's hard to follow up something so big as these past few months, but does that mean Scandal shouldn't try? Can it really go back to being an average series after such a triumphant story? Or will it surprise me, taking the time to really delve into the emotional fallout of "Nobody Likes Babies," and build into something great slyly, even as the main stories are smaller? Hopefully, the latter.

Scandal doesn't take a breath, picking right back up this Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episodes I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter.

About the author JeromeWetzelTV


Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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