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katrinapavela:

I wanted to give Mellie Grant a slow clap for her performance at the end of More Cattle, Less Bull (305). Honeyyyyyyy…the words, the looks, the faux sisterwives urgency. Wow, Mellie. Wow. But I was not fooled for a minute. It is embarrassing for Mellie that Fitz so unabashedly loves, needs and seeks Olivia at every turn. That goes for both love and work. Even in the middle of mistressgate, Olivia and Fitz seemed to be united against Mellie. And in the above scene there is some reluctant resignation in Mellie’s words, but I cannot fully trust her. She doesn’t do anything without gain for herself. What you saw in that Mellivia scene was another world class performance. Maybe she thinks if Fitz can play that game, then she will play the same game with Olivia. After all, being an obstructionist in their relationship by outing the affair on national television proved to only backfire on her public approval ratings. Mellie can’t have that. Instead of beating them, she’ll appear to give her blessing.

Let’s re-visit Mellie’s drunken threat in Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington (303):

Mellie“If your whore had died today, brave and strong protecting a congressman inside the Capitol, with a nation watching? Honey…the nails, the wood…the cross you would build and hammer her on. The worship you would feel for the rest of your days, down on your knees praying to St. Olivia Pope—that would be…[deep exhale] I’d lose. Our little war? I’d lose. I am spectacular, but…I can’t compete with religious fervor, so, no I was not hoping she’d be blown up today. I am not miserable that she survived. I am celebrating because Olivia Pope still walks this earth. She’s still alive! And as long as she’s still alive, she’s your flaw. Your Achilles heel. Which makes her my weapon. She’s the strings that if need be, I will pull to make my puppet husband dance. So, cheers, baby. I live to fight another day.”

That’s why I can’t trust her. So Mellie was not giving her husband to Olivia  because she’s given in to Olitz’s disgusting fairytale, or because she loves Fitz to a fault. Here’s the ugly truth about Mellie’s motivations: she’s a pimp in the Olitz relationship. Attempted pimping and Machiavellian manipulations sanctioned by Cyrus are the only ways in which Mellie stays relevant in a marriage to Fitzgerald Grant. She’s not evil, but she is desperate. She knows the painfully obvious truth about Olivia and Fitz. The dawn of that undeniable reality came in Happy Birthday, Mr. President (208) upon which, she confronted Olivia with Fitz’s missing flag pin. That scene serves as a great parallel to this one, and I will bring it in later in this piece.

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Costume and Blocking

I felt so badly for Olivia. She power strut her little ass down that hallway thinking she was gonna see her man. She had a little smile and everything just as Tom opened the door, just before Mellie appeared. Then her face was like, womp, womp. Anyway, as we’ve seen, Olivia was wearing black and white. This usually signifies that she is in conflict with herself. She certainly wanted to be at the WHCD so that she could be near Fitz in some capacity, but also knowing that she could not be with him. Mellie is wearing maroon, a colour close to red, which she usually wears when she is feeling angry or slighted. It could also just be because it’s an official function and she’s a Republican. It’s also interesting that Mellie used Tom, someone Olivia has grown to trust and associate with Fitz, as opposed to Hal. So the manipulation started before Olivia even stepped foot into that room.

The Converstation

Mellie: “I like your new boyfriend. Is he married?”

Olivia rightly was like,

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The first words that came out of Mellie’s mouth were actually the truth. They were just barely below the surface. She took the lid off that cauldron and that’s what came bubbling out. It’s easy for one’s real feelings to come out. It takes real skill and control to keep them at bay. The rest of Mellie’s  speech to Olivia was an act done to woo Olivia by using emotionally charged language.

Mellie“I’d like you to come back and run Fitz’s re-election campaign.”

Olivia [shocked]: “What?!”

Mellie: “Do you remember what it was like four years ago, Liv? What we were like? Fresh and young and full of ideas. And now, four years later…my God look at us. Congress has stalled everything we’ve tried to push through. Approval ratings are in free fall. People want change. And of course that’s exactly what the Democrats are running on, but that’s…[adjusts her face from being caught up worrying about the mess she’s just laid out] I’m not even worried about all that. Anyone can fix that. That’s not why he needs you.”

Olivia“Mellie—“

Mellie“He needs you, Olivia! He is tired, and broken, and…it isn’t the job. It’s doing the job without you. He’s not alive when you’re not here. He can’t breathe when you’re not here. He doesn’t have the will to run, much less win when you’re not here because you…[deep exhale] You’re everything to him. He needs you.  So, I need you. Come back. Come back to us.”

The phone call Mellie overheard between Olivia and Fitz earlier in the episode was a manifestation of everything she just said. We’ve heard these sentiments play out between Olivia and Fitz in both the Rose Garden (208) and the hospital (219). Earlier in the week, I stated simply that the theme for episode 305,  More Cattle, Less Bull (a play on the very title, and a line taken from It’s Handled) was: the truth works. But in this case, Mellie is using the truth of the Olitz relationship to work to her advantage. She needs their truth in order to stay relevant while still being married to Fitz. Mellie has been trying all this time to be owned by someone, or something, but no one really wants her (h/t @schuyleresprit). She has nothing of her own, and at this point is totally dependent.

The one honest thing Mellie did say: “He needs you. So, I need you.” She’s pimping out her husband in order to get Washington’s best fixer on board the Grant re-election team.

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Olivia: “Does he know what you are asking?”

Of course Olivia’s first thought would be about Fitz. She knows good and well Fitz would NEVER send Mellie to do his bidding, especially not when it comes to anything having to do with Olivia.

Mellie: “No, but he’ll get on board. Of course he’ll get on board. You and I, we’ve always wanted the same thing, Liv: for him to be the man we both know he can be. And after what we did, we owe him this. A chance to run on his own steam. And win.”

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First of all, da fuq?  “After what we did to him”???? Mellie, if I remember correctly, you were eager to get on board with election rigging. You did not bat a finely curled lash because you wanted a seat at the big kids table so badly. You were thinking that it was a shot at yourdreams, not just Fitzgerald’s. Meanwhile, you and the rest of the Defiance Illuminati put the pressure on Olivia every which way you could. She was the only person actually looking out for the well-being of Fitzgerald, the man. I should not at all be surprised.

The thing is, Fitz and Olivia have already resolved this issue in Any Questions? (221) when Fitz was questioning if he had it in him, and if he deserved to ask the nation to run on his own steam. Mellie, again, where Fitz and Olivia are concerned, is redundant. Mellie has never expressed guilt over what she did in Defiance: not when she threw Cyrus under the bus as ring leader (214), or when Cyrus confronted her about Fitz’s knowledge of Defiance (215). Never. So the fact that she is feigning guilt in order to ensnare Olivia is…interesting.Danger, Olivia Pope. Danger!

Happy Birthday, Mr. President Parallels

Much of the Mellivia scene from above recalls a similar scene in Happy Birthday, Mr. President (208). Thesame orchestral music as was played during Olivia’s resignation scene in 208 could be heard. In both instances, the scene was intercut with Fitz making a speech. In 208 it was the SOTU. The music appears to signify Olivia’s leaving and (presumed) return back to the White House (though I don’t think she will return any time soon). Both conversations happened without Fitz’s knowledge. The major difference is that The 305 conversation took place in a private room. The flag pin conversation took place in public, in a busy corridor or the White House. This makes a huge difference in the stance that Mellie, as First Lady, was allowed to take. For anyone glancing their way, Mellie had to appear to be holding court. That certainly comes through in the scene.

 Mellie“We all want the same thing: you, me and Cyrus. We’re a team. We got him in the White House, and we are going to keep him here. We are doing our patriotic duty, serving our country. Working for the greater good.  We just…go about it differently. I suppose.”

Meaning, Olivia should keep fucking Fitz, keep him in good spirits so that he can focus, and Mellie will make sure to play the entitled, doting, supportive wife. You can’t read the tension between the both of them. The shame of Olivia. The feigned superiority of Mellie. But you can see it in their body language, and hear it in the way they deliver the lines. They are both in a pickle because of their relationship to Fitz. Mellie has realized for the first time that Fitz’s fondness for Olivia runs much deeper than she imagined. It’s a fondness that threatens to usurp her position, not just as First Lady, but the very relevance of who she is. Mellie’s whole adult life, her very identity, has been built around her marriage to Fitzgerald GrantI’ve repeatedly said, who is Mellie Grant without this marriage? I don’t think she knows, which is why she’s still married to someone who has repeatedly shunned her. The only way for Mellie to deal with Olivia’s prominence in her marriage, and threat to her identity, is to castigate her in the most demeaning way: refer to her as a whore. Repeatedly. Mellie sees Olivia as sexual labour there for her exploitation. I’ve explained why she does this in my It’s a Cold War essay, but I it bears repeating here:

“… in order to maintain her self-worth, Mellie demeans Olivia by calling her a ‘whore’. It’s clearly desperate because it’s her only means to claiming power…A ‘whore’ is a prostitute. So Mellie is attempting to render Olivia a prostitute—a sexual labourer who receives payment (actual money, or in kind favors) for their services. Mellie can rationalize Olivia’s role in Fitz’s life as a sexual labourer because Olivia would then also be serving Mellie’s own needs. This is why she invited Olivia to the State dinner in “Hell Hath No Fury” (103). She thought Fitz wasn’t sleeping well because he needed to get laid by his favorite ‘whore’: Olivia. “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”, with its references to the most infamous presidential mistress,  Marylin Monroe, re-emphasizes Mellie’s view of Olivia’s role in Fitz’s life…In order for Mellie to uphold her value (as wife, mother, ‘chosen’ one), she must proffer her virtue, and perhaps her Mayflower lineage over what she thinks Olivia can offer to Fitz. There is a racial anxiety that underpins this. This kind of dynamic harkens back to slavery, and it is deeply rooted in both racism and patriarchy that still exists.” 

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And then as a means of showing who is in charge, Mellie gives Olivia a task:

Mellie [handing Olivia the flag pin]: “You’ll make sure Fitz gets this?”

Olivia: “Yes.

Mellie: “Thank you, Olivia

As much as I want team OFC back together and kickass partnership and sexiness on the trail, Olivia should not go back at the behest of Mellie. She’s proven herself untrustworthy. If Fitz absolutely needs Olivia’s help,then he needs to ask her. But let’s be real, it’s more compelling and contentious if they are on opposing teams, like real life political strategist (ex) couple Mary Matalin (Republican) and James Carville (Democrat). They vied against each other in the 1992 presidential election. It looks like, at least for now, Olivia won’t be joining the Grant campaign.

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katrinapavela:

                       Olitz Phone Call (Scandal #305): How Do I…Liv?

It seems like every Olitz phone call is better than the last. How do these two people make talking on the phone so amazing? I’ve never tackled their phone calls before because they usually convey so much subtext and cornucopia of emotion that…#iCant. I tried with the most devastating of all Olitz phone calls from Top of the Hour (216), but I was like,

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I never tried again. In any case, here I am with a phone call that had a lot less pain. This one was full of squeeeeee and I melted a little bit. I just have a few comments, so let’s jump in.

Location and Blocking

I try to notice what the directors and the actors are trying to convey with costume, setting and blocking (body positioning within the setting) because it often adds an additional layer of meaning beyond the words that are spoken. In this scene, our lovers are in different locales. Fitz is in his pyjamas. He probably couldn’t go to bed without telling Olivia how proud he is of her, after watching her work on TV with Josie Marcus. He’s in the inner sanctum of his chambers:  the bathroom. It’s a place that symbolises privacy, where one can be free from intrusion. During the conversation, at times we can see his image reflected in two of the mirrors. And indeed he does reflect on how he feels about his identity as President in the wake of #mistressgate.  Lastly, Fitz is leaning up against a wall at the start of the call and then leaning on the countertop . Why? Because he needs support. He needs Olivia’s support. By the end of that scene, Fitz is standing up straight.

Olivia’s in her office, having just sucked down a glass of red wine. It’s not enough to assuage what she’s feeling because what she’s feeling isn’t just about her being fired by Josie Marcus. It’s so much more, which is why she stills herself for a moment as she embraces that realization. Homegirl could have gone home and had that glass of vino. So why did she go back to the office? She wasn’t doing any work. The answer rings out from a wired basket on the floor. Olivia dives into the rubbish to pull out the antidote for what she’s feeling: the FitzFone. Or, rather, the person on the other end of that phone. She stays on the floor of her office for the duration of the call, despite the fact the phone isn’t tethered to anything but her heart.  She’s in a position of surrender to her feelings for Fitz because his love (and all of what the means) grounds her.  I think the other reason why this scene takes place in Olivia’s office is because she does go into strategy mode with Fitz, but it’s less Olivia PopeÔ and more Livvie.

The conversation

Olivia : “Hi.”

Fitz: “That was well done—the debate, Josie. Smart.”

Subtext: That’s my girl! I was bursting with pride, even though you are working with the enemy. I support you even when you make things difficult for me professionally because I’m here for you in every way. You make me better because you challenge me to be better.  

Olivia: “I got fired. She fired me.”

Fitz: “She’s an idiot.”

Olivia:  “You’re calling me.”

Earlier in the episode, we saw Olivia waiting for him to call, watching for him. Not breathing because she was waiting for him. Her whole life is him, and the security that his need for her provides. She depends on it because he’s embedded in her DNA at this point. Side note: this is why I can’t tolerate people who say, ‘why doesn’t Fitz leave Olivia alone, with his old married, 3 kids-havin’ ass’. Does she look like she wants to be left alone? 

When Jake was snooping in OPA earlier in the episode, Olivia told him that she was waiting for Fitz’s call. Wating for him to confirm that he does indeed still need her. She said it out loud, and realized that it sounded kinda stupid, even if it is the truth. Jake was judging her a bit and she felt silly. Plus, I always feel like Olivia tries to protect her relationship with Fitz by not letting anyone know the true extent to which they belong to one another. So, I could understand why she threw away the FitzFone in that moment.

Fitz: “I’m calling you. I’m hiding from Mellie. I’m in the bathroom.”

Olivia: “I just dug the phone out of the trash.”

Fitz doesn’t flinch when she says that. He takes a breath like that’s typical Olivia. She doesn’t flinch when Fitz tells her he’s hiding from Mellie. They know the circumstances and their need to connect pushes through all that. No matter what, they will find a way to each other.

Olivia: “How are you? Are you freaking out about the White House Correspondents Dinner?”

Fitz: “I am freaking out about the White House Correspondents Dinner.”

There’s so much lightness and relief and joy in her voice. It’s a rarity. He’s just made everything better for her, if even for a moment, by calling her. What a stark contrast to the angst that usually pervades their calls, even the ones where she’s offering advice (notice who gives and who takes direction in their calls). Even the White Hat’s Off (201) phone call where Olivia eventually gives him advice about East Sudan and he lovingly replies, “I hate you,” had an entirely different feel to it. Indeed, they were in a different place in their relationship at that time.

Also notice how she knows exactly why he’s calling. Fitz needs her, and she knows that. She likes it. In fact, she depends on it. She asks him so that he doesn’t have to ask her.

Olivia: “Who’s vetting your jokes?”

Fitz: “Me.”

Olivia: “You can’t vet your jokes. You’re not funny.”

Fitz: “I know that. Wait…I think I’m funny.”

Olivia: “You’re funny, but you’re not funny.”

Fitz: “And you’re funny?”

Olivia: “I’m funnier than you!”

This is some couple shit right here. Completely natural. Completely at ease. Completely them. Gahhhhh.

 [pregnant pause as things get really real.]

Fitz:” I…I feel like…ashamed. Like, I don’t have the right to make jokes because I am the joke. The guy who can’t keep it in his pants. Like my father, you know. “

Olivia: “Dive in. Own it. Mock your image. You start out strong, something like…’I see a lot of familiar faces here tonight, including one or two who ,inexplicably, haven’t been accused of sleeping with me.’”

Fitz: [laughs] “That’s good.”

That’s because she’s funnier than you, like she said ^_^. But anyway, she’s made him feel better because they are in this together and they always have been. Even after ish got real at the end of White Hat’s Back On (222), I maintained since then that mistressgate would require Fitz and Olivia to work together since the situation is so intimately about them. So far, season three has proven that to be true. This is another example of them navigating the emotional pitfalls of that bomb together.   

Olivia: “Laugh at yourself. It’ll make it impossible for them to laugh at you.”

Fitz: ”I love you.”

Gawd. How many different ways can this man say ‘I love you’ and have it convey so many different emotions? It’s a thank you.  It’s a ‘you complete me, you do realize that right?’ It’s an exhalation because he can’t breathe without her, and he just needs to say it out loud.

Olivia’s  face returns that ‘I love you’ in an ‘I know it. And you know it. But I can’t make this wait any harder for myself, or you, by saying it. I’m trying so hard to fight the urge to be close to you given the circumstances. Your love threatens to overwhelm me, but I’ve got to keep at least one bollard of defense up because we both know that now’s not the time.’ And the other best part is that Fitz can feel all of that over the phone. So, he moves on. They are not on different pages about their situation. I maintain that.

Fitz“OK, what about… I say something to the press about how much they hammer me. Something like—“

Olivia: “‘You’re welcome’.”

Fitz: “Exactly. OK, so we have to say something about Sally. Let’s see, they wrote me a bunch of jokes. You tell me which ones you like best…[waits for Olivia to finish whatever she’s saying, then laughs] I’m definitely not saying that.” 

Finishing each other’s sentences as usual!

This? This whole exchange? This is what Mellie should be doing. This is the stuff of partnership and intimacy. But it’s been made abundantly clear that Fitz has nothing for Mellie but a sense of obligation, while he bides his time. And Mellie, listening in on the whole thing, knows this to be true. She’s been receiving confirmation after confirmation in that last two years. She gets it now, but what will she do with it? Well, we saw that later in the Mellivia scene at the WHCD. Typical Mellie fashion, she uses it to her advantage.

Stay tuned for the Mellivia piece coming up this evening (GMT/EST).

Abby Whelan’s Ralph Lauren Gown in “More Cattle, Less Bull”

Darby Stanchfield’s Abby Whelan wore a sage green silk charmeuse Ralph Lauren gown in “More Cattle, Less Bull.” (Can I say that I really love Abby’s look this season?!)

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Scandal’s costume designer Lyn Paolo shares her thoughts on the dress with InStyle.com

“Isn’t it so 1930s Veronica Lake?” Paolo asked of Abby’s (Darby Stanchfield) Ralph Lauren gown. “That color green is stunning on her with her hair. It’s a sage green silk charmeuse gown and because it was very vintage-feeling, we used a lot of art deco rhinestone jewelry with it.”

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Here’s the runway look from Ralph Lauren Spring Summer 2012 RTW collection

Stunning!

Can we all just take a moment to reflect on THIS Olivia Pope moment?

  • First off, she’s wearing her Grant for President tee-shirt from her campaign fixer days.
  • Second off, she has a box! THE BOX! A box of her campaign moments with Fitz. (H/T to George @ScandalProps for the amazing photos & newspaper article!)
  • Third off, she’s happy!
  • And lastly with Fitz’s re-election campaign in full swing, this moment was full circle with this

and this

Look at how far they’ve come! I am ready for Fitz’s re-election campaign trail moments. Are you?