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Live and Let Liv [sic]: The Person and the Parts (Scandal #312)

katrinapavela:

NB: This is very long, so prepare yourself. I may tidy this up a bit later today, but for now…

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“Serving the Republic. I always thought it was a good thing. A great thing. True service. A calling. Now I think…I think it eats at you until you are not you anymore—until you are lost. Until you can’t remember who you were. Until you forget yourself , and all you can see is the greater good. All you can see is God and country. And you’re so busy being a patriot that you forget to be a person…Vermont keeps getting further and further away.”—Olivia Pope (Ride Sally Ride, (311))

Olivia Pope is a tired black woman. That’s what I often think when I look at her, and consider her responsibilities and the expectations placed upon her. Her world has become increasingly complicated, and I’m not sure she has been coping very well.  I think we as the audience, and certainly some in the Scandalverse, forget that Olivia is a person. That seems silly of me to say. Of course she’s a person. Not just any person. She is a black woman at the top of her game in an arena that is heavily dominated by white men. And as much as she exists in a historical context, she is still a person. From some comments I read (both in the press and the fandom), one would never think that. Olivia Pope is supposed to have all the answers immediately. Better yet, she should anticipate for every single eventuality. She should know what all of her staff is doing at any given moment, and be able to control their independent impulses and decisions. She should sacrifice everything  for true love. Always be like-able. She should always make the ‘right’ decision and stay winning. She should be a poster girl for intersectionality theory.  After all, isn’t that what being the great Olivia Pope means? No, that’s a super hero.  She’s been cloaked in such a narrative from the start, but with each season of Scandal, more about the woman beneath the white is revealed to us. 

Scandal is a show about the choices Olivia Pope makes and the consequences that follow from those choices. This includes the choices that impact many other lives. I included the opening quote from Ride, Sally, Ride because I began writing on theme of love and patriotism, and the different ways in which many of the characters and their relationships have been compromised. Olivia’s monologue from that episode is actually very salient to the opening scene in We Do not Touch the First Ladies (312). Although loveniaimani already tackled this scene from the angle of a domestic argument, there are so many ways to analyze this scene and a broader context in which to situate it. Here’s my take below.  

Olivia: Can you just let it go.

Fitz: Let it go? No,  I can’t.

Olivia: Well, I’m not talking about it.

Fitz: He’s standing outside our door.  Are you screwing Jake? Is that what’s happening?

Olivia: How many times are we gonna have this conversation?

Working together with one’s lover was always gonna be tough, especially when one is the campaign manager for one’s secret lover who is the besmirched, married President of the United States running for re-election. There are the fringe benefits, but so so many challenges.  This scene gets to the crux of this couple’s post-coital argument.  Olivia does not take very kindly to misogynistic accusations about who she is, or is not screwing. Edison Davis’s pride is still on the floor of Olivia’s apartment from the backward read she delivered to him in A Criminal, A Whore, An Idiot and A Liar (311).

I don’t know how much time has passed since the end of 311 and the beginning of 312. The last time we saw these two lovers, Olivia was not answering any questions about her choice of beard in Jake Ballard. She told Fitz to accept the fact that this was the only way she could remain as his campaign manager—something upon which he insisted. This is where the boundary between their professional and personal relationship gets blurred. In telling Fitzgerald to accept the decision she made, Olivia was treating her choice in Jake as purely an Olivia Pope business strategy, lacking personal context for their past or current relationship. Mission: Sexual Exploitation, anyone? Anyone? At the same time, Olivia just wants Fitz to let her handle it like he asked her to. Complicating the situation with his jealousy and alpha male insecurities is not something she wants to make time for. Not when she has so much other shit to deal with.

Fitz: Well what the hell is he doing here?

Olivia: He’s here because there’s a pack of reporters covering your campaign downstairs. I can’t be seen alone in a hotel with you!

Olivia is right. He’s thinking only of himself under the guise of protecting her from Jake’s advances. He’s being really alpha male right now. Sometimes I think Fitz has little to no appreciation for the separation of church and state, under which Olivia tries to govern herself in order to be with him.  Like most people in a relationship, Fitzgerald comes at it from his own perspective. Olivia has to think about the optics of it all from every angle, including that of her own mind and body. In Ride Sally Ride, Fitzgerald basically told Olivia to figure out how she  was going to remain as his campaign manager/lover AND make the rumors about their relationship go away:

Fitz: You are NOT resigning.  I refuse to accept your resignation.  You can’t leave me. I’m not losing you again. (311)

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I loved that Oval Office scene for the complexity, but also the growth that it showed in their relationship. Not that long ago in White Hat’s Back On (222), Olivia walked into that same Oval Office and told Fitz that she cannot be by his side as he runs for re-election. She refers to herself as a liability to him and says with her he will not win. And besides, she needs to focus on getting OPA back in order (still waiting on that one). Despite Fitzgerald’s protestations, she wished him and his campaign good night and good luck. This time Fitz was like,

And I am telling you
[You’re] not going
Even though the rough times are showing
There’s just no way, there’s no way
We’re part of the same place
We’re part of the same time
We both share the same blood
We both have the same mind
(“And I’m Telling You”, Dreamgirls)

And I was in two minds about that. I appreciated him standing up for what he wants, which is to be a team with Olivia. It’s one of his biggest regrets about the whole Defiance fiasco (219). Olivia runs the moment things get difficult. While I understand that, it’s not exactly showing the we’re in this together spirit. On the other hand, I need Fitz to be a little more considerate of the real world and emotional impact on Olivia. 

We all know by now what Olivia did to put a band-aid on the problem. After leaving it in her very capable hands, Fitzgerald is then unhappy with her decision. This is where it gets tricky because they both have valid points, though I am hitching a ride with my girl Liv on this one.

Olitz’s personal relationship while Olivia is campaign manager is problematic for her. But, they were getting it in during the last campaign and when they made it to the White House? Same set up now. What’s the difference? The difference is no one was checkin’ for them as a couple back then. It was unconscionable. Now, everybody and their momma are side-eying them in the national press. Not cute, especially when you are a professional woman being accused of bunning-up with your married client.  Suddenly your hard work and brilliance goes out the window in favour of a ‘pussy power’ narrative. Note that this is not my judgment of Olivia. It is a judgment of the patriarchal constructs under which she operates and, more problematically, often fights to uphold as a patriot. 

Fitz: He’s here because you want him here.

Olivia: You have a wife. You don’t get to be jealous-

Fitz: I am not jealous. I am aware. There’s a fox in my henhouse.

Olivia: Did you just say ‘henhouse’?

Fitz: It’s a metaphor.

Olivia: I am not a hen, and my house is not yours.

Remember I said this scene is wonderfully complex because they both have valid points, even though Olivia’s outweighs that of Fitzgerald’s? They are both being petty at this point with the language they are using. Olivia tries to shut down Fitz’s jealousy by throwing Mellie, his wife, in his face when she knows good and well that’s not new information. Forget that Olivia gets jealous whenever she has to witness Mellie and Fitz performing happiness on TV (218, 308). Mellie was there from the start, and Olivia herself has conspired, via her personal internal conflict and patriotic ‘duty’, to keep Mellie as their third wheel. And Fitzgerald has not really fought against this. Now that she’s made the cold, calculated decision of adding Jake as an official fourth wheel, she’s trying to deflect away from Fitz’s feelings on the matter. 

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‘Fox in the henhouse’ is both a literal reference from farming (foxes steal and devour chickens) as well as a pervasive English metaphor, meaning that there is a predator loose among prey.  It is a gendered metaphor which, when applied to human romantic relationships, implies that the hen (the woman) is helpless prey who is there for the taking by the predatory fox (male). In setting Olivia up as a hen, Fitz came across like a cock. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that his jealously blinded him to the misogyny of that metaphor. Though she may feel like he owns her and controls her (Happy Birthday, Mr. President, (208)), Olivia had to remind Fitz that the ‘house’ that is her vagina belongs to her  and he’d better not ever forget that. She’s a grown ass woman, who told Fitzgerald that she does not need protecting (308). She is very capable of making her own decisions and living with the consequences—even if she cries about it.

Fitz: You know what? I don’t want to fight anymore. I don’t trust Jake.

Olivia: You made him head of B6-13. If that’s not trusting him—

Fitz: Is that what this is about? You don’t like my choices? What, are you battling me for Jake’s soul? Jake is not your father.

Olivia: Who you made an enemy of

Fitz: Your father needed to go, and I need someone who’s on my side.

Olivia: You just said that you didn’t trust Jake.

Fitz: I don’t trust him with you.

Fitz has every right not to trust Jake where Olivia is concerned. Maybe in his eagerness to get rid of Rowan as a threat to his relationship with Olivia (not actually a threat to his Presidency at the time), he oversubscribed trust in Jake. Making decisions under duress, when choosing between the lesser of two evils, the full consequences of your actions are not always apparent. It’s not that Fitz thought he could ever trust Jake around Olivia. We know from the sex tape incident in 222, the basketball scene in 305 and the she-doesn’t-need-a-hero Oval Office scene in 309, Fitz trusts Jake only to guard the grave where his murderous secrets are buried (311).  Having him this close,  and being forced to swallow the bearded performance that is Olake, one half of which undoubtedly carries a flame for the other (“I love you, Olivia”, (310)),  is a bitter pill to swallow. When you consider that Fitz also has to perform a happy marriage with Mellie in public, that pill isn’t just bitter, it’s also jagged. No wonder he feels so cut up. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald is still thinking more about himself than the multitude of challenges their situation also forces upon Olivia.

Olivia: [Olivia laughs mirthlessly]

Fitz: Now he’s compromised

Olivia: He is not compromised

Fitz: He is compromised! He now has a reason to be disloyal to me.

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Fitz, bruh, you and I both know that Jake has been disloyal to you in the past. Again, I have a sex tape that’s been going around. You’ve already seen it, but maybe you need to watch it again. JAKE WAS ALREADY COMPROMISED!!!!!! Holy shit, the line between trusted friend and enemy is barely visible in the Scandalverse these days. Jake already willingly took up the ‘task’ of seducing and sleeping with Olivia in some patriarchal bullshit ploy by her father (this shit is so Greek, #iCant) under the guise of protecting the Republic. In this episode, Jake, now the head of the organization which ‘forced’ him to seduce Olivia (clearly she voluntarily slept with him under manipulated circumstances, but did not voluntarily make a sex tape with him), receives a letter telling him the dictates of his office allow him to go over the President’s head in order to protect the Republic. We’ve seen that basically any act can be trumped up and labelled as ‘protecting’ the Republic. That grin on Jake’s face told me that internally he was cackling like Inspector Gadget’s Dr. Claw. Certainly his later demands of Olivia, as her pretend boyfriend, were emboldened by knowing he has gotten under Fitz’s skin and he has powers that go over Fitz’s authority. He’s going to enjoy his ‘service’ to the Republic.

Fitz [continuing on]: He wants you. He will fight me for you. He will try to win you.

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I had my face screwed up during this scene. The kind of language Fitz is using is intentionally problematic, and extremely alpha male. It assigns zero humanity to Olivia, but rather treats her as some type of possession. From a gendered perspective, it’s already a problem. When you add the obvious  historical racial import to this, Fitz needs to shut the hell up and listen to what Olivia is feeling.  As sensitive as Fitzgerald can be, sometimes he can be stubborn—to which he has readily admitted (“I’m stubborn, remember?” (A Criminal, A Whore, An Idiot and A Liar (211)).

His anger and his macho-ness are a by-product of the stress caused by the situation they are in. I’m tempted to think that the writers are intentionally embedding this scene in the context of the post-coital moment. It’s a great juxtaposition. We see Fitz and Olivia getting dressed, and the bed is messy from their presumed tryst. Orgasms are amazing, but sometimes there is an emotional and psychological phenomenon called post-coital tristesse in which—especially for men—a feeling of melancholy and anxiety takes hold a short time after ejaculation. During arousal and the actual sex act, the mind is completely preoccupied (certainly for men) with the pursuit of pleasure and is concerned with little else. There’s a small window of euphoria that follows orgasm which can leave you very emotionally vulnerable. Post-coital tristesse can take hold, bringing back all of the anxieties and worries previously pushed aside in order to get some. We know that the Jake situation had been bothering Fitz before, so after sex all of those anxieties came rushing back in an even more pressing way.  This is certainly not to defend his words, but provide some context for the persistence of his interrogation and accusations.

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The other thing to consider is that bringing up another man right after you’ve been nakedly joined at the groin is kind of a bummer. It reminds them both (especially Fitz who likes to indulge in the fantasy of their relationship) that for now all they have are stolen moments (215), not a full life as a couple who are free to be out in the open. That life only exists as a possibility in Vermont for right now.  In the meantime, they are making do, but as we can see it’s fraught with all kinds of tensions.

Olivia:  Oh, two for two.

Fitz: What?

Olivia: One: I am not a hen. Two: I am not a prize at the State Fair. You can’t win me.

Olivia is not a toy, and certainly not one to be won. Nor is she a fantasy. As a person, her affections and loyalty must be earned,  as she so very famously reminded Fitz in A Woman Scorned ( “If you want me, earn me” (220)). That’s not a one-off thing, by the way. Fitzgerald, you must stay vigilant and recognize when you are being a problem. But it’s OK because Olivia is certainly no angel either…baybeh (#Beyonce).

(sidenote: I really wish people would stop trying to cast Olivia as some perfect angel type in order to disparage Fitz. Seeing their relationship in those limiting binary terms of  ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is so not what this show is about. And it’s not what Olitz is about.)

Fitz:  You’re twisting everything I’ve said.

Lol. This is classic behavior from someone who doesn’t recognize that their language can be seen as problematic when considered from another perspective. In this case, the perspective is pretty damn important. But I get you, Fitzgerald. You’re not trying to be a dick.

Olivia: That’s because what you’re saying is twisted!

Fitz: Would you just give me a chance to…would you just—

Olivia: Do you think I care

Fitz: Will you just SHUT UP AND LET ME TALK!

Olivia: [awkward no-this-muthafucker-did-not-just-yell-at-me-like-that expression]

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Fitzgerald retreats inward emotionally and lashes out in anger to temper his pain. It never works, but old habits die hard. The situation was escalating and they were not hearing each other. I read a comment by someone whose sister basically said that Jake is treating Olivia in the same shitty way in which Fitz treats her and that she must like being treated that way.

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Umm, no, because context matters. These are two lovers who are having a perfectly legitimate quarrel, one in which both parties are yelling. Both Fitz and Olivia yell at each other at separate times. Not that it’s right, but when you’re in a relationship it happens. I am a yeller.  I’d rather yell and expel that frustration than stress myself by trying to keep calm. When people do that in an argument, I want to punch them in the face. It’s infuriating.  The way in which Jake behaves later on at Olivia’s apartment was throwing around his male privilege as a pretend boyfriend who feels a little used, but also a little superior.

Fitz: Liv, you did this thing. And I know you did it for me, or because Mellie made you think you were doing it for me—

Olivia: I didn’t do this for YOU! I did it for me. I did it so I could work on the campaign. So I could walk down the street and not be whispered about. So I could stop being known as the woman who screwed the President. So the scarlet ‘A’ on my chest could be invisible. So I’m not a joke. I am a person. I am not a hen. I am not a prize. And I have a business to run, people to support. A life to lead. A desire to wake up and face myself in the mirror every day. Oh, and oh…once I fixed a presidential election, and I’d like a chance to right that wrong. Your wife may be many things, but on one thing we are united: I cannot honestly win a presidential election if I am your public ‘whore’. This is not about you. My whole life is not about you. I have goals. I have DREAMS! I did this for me. Jake by my side is for me.

Gotdamn. There is so much to unpack there. If I don’t see mainstream media hailing this as a feminist speech, then it will be confirmed for me that they only see Mellie in that way. Sigh. Anyway, I’ll break down Olivia’s monologue into four parts in order to properly analyze it.

Olivia: I didn’t do this for YOU! I did it for me. I did it so I could work on the campaign…”

At the end of 311, Fitz, after discovering  through that day’s paper that Olake is a thing—was already hating on the idea and the optics of it all. Olivia told him, “It’s how I can stay. Now, no more questions about our relationship.”  It was a comment about shutting up the press, but she also cut off all communication about the matter with Fitzgerald. As far as she was concerned, as both his campaign manager and lover, it was handled. Let’s move forward. Except, no. This is not new bahavior for Olivia. She keeps a lot of who she is very close to the vest. This is true not just in her relationship with Fitz, but could be evidenced in the Olison and Olake relationships (I barely want to dignify the latter with that term).

The other thing to note is that Fitz is so used to thinking about Olivia as a kind of extension of himself because meeting her was a pivotal moment for him in which he came face to face with himself, made a choice then chose to pursue that choice independent of  his wife or his father’s input. Since then, he has been defining his identity through Olivia: “I am nothing, and you are everything” (Seven Fifty-Two (219)). Nothing-ness cannot exist without everything-ness. Olivia knows she is everything to him, and a part of her enjoys and depends upon that. It sounds so romantic, but binary oppositions like that don’t work for relationships. They are dangerous and co-dependent. 

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Olivia [continuing on]: 

“[I did this so] I could walk down the street and not be whispered about. So I could stop being known as the woman who screwed the President. So the scarlet ‘A’ on my chest could be invisible. So I’m not a joke. I am a person. I am not a hen. I am not a prize…”

No, Olivia, you’re not a joke.  Just pretending with a Joke.  Let’s hope that pretending is not what’s real in this case (shout-out to Mellie).  J/k.

Olivia Pope made a deliberate choice to begin a romantic connection with Fitzgerald Grant—a man she had every intention of making President. I have written extensively about the unfolding of that decision in The Trail (106). Although her choice was an informed one, I don’t think she could account for every possible indignity she might be accosted with from other people and entities whose sense of ‘morality’ differs from hers. No matter the strength of Olivia’s (or any woman’s) feminism and self-confidence, it is hard not to feel the sting of judgment that comes with exercising her sexual freedom –especially if that judgment threatens her livelihood and future goals. Olivia is not practiced at dealing with the scrutiny that comes with being publicly accused of being the President’s mistress. It really wasn’t all that long ago:

Olivia“I’m. Fine.”

Fitz“Your name’s the headline. You’re not fine.”

Olivia“I tell my clients all the time that it’s not personal. The reporters? They’re just doing their jobs. It’s not personal. It’s not about me, it’s the story. I’m fine.” (It’s Handled, (301))

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It is so very personal.  The line between Olivia Pope™ and Olivia the person is blurred all the time. We’ve seen her in moments where she allows herself to overcome by the weight of it all, but pulls it right back into G mode: the coat closet in 201; the Presidential closet in 208; and in Fitz’s arms in the bunker in 301. She’s a person and shit gets hard sometimes, even when she thinks she’s put it all behind her. Just last episode, Leo Bergen, out of nowhere played the mistress card on national TV in order to derail Fitz’s campaign by bringing up ‘old’ shit. And Leo doesn’t know it to be true, but we all know on this show—and in real life—gossip trumps truth.

Olivia [continuing on]: 

“And I have a business to run, people to support. A life to lead. A desire to wake up and face myself in the mirror every day. Oh, and oh…once I fixed a presidential election, and I’d like a chance to right that wrong.”

I’ve called Fitz ‘selfish’ several times in this analysis. Selfishness is innate to our very survival as individuals, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it has consequences for people we love. Fitzgerald is selfish in their relationship because he lacks perspective. He does not get to wake up with Olivia every day and watch her face herself in the mirror. In a lot of ways, he doesn’t really know about her life. He’s an absentee boyfriend due to a situation that they both perpetuate. It doesn’t mean that Olivia isn’t allowed to be hurt or frustrated by that. She’s a person.

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When Olivia is sitting in the silence of her home with her wine and popcorn, I sometimes wonder if she’s thinking, is it all worth it? Can I have all of the things, or is the burden and sacrifice too much to bear? What can I absolutely live without? The truth of the matter is that, generally,  this is not a question that men sit and ask themselves. There are no magazines and news shows and Lean In conferences telling men that they can ‘have it all’. No. Men don’t consider that question because for centuries women have been relegated to roles that support and enable men so that they never have to ask, let alone consider that question. There’s rarely a choice between family, relationships and career for men.  So when Olivia mumbles that, “Vermont is getting further and further away” (311), she’s trying to hold fast to that dream because life ain’t no crystal stair right now. And yes, I’m using a famous Langston Hughes reference for a woman that attended prep schools with the children of  royalty. She is privileged in so many ways, but it doesn’t mean she is immune from oppression in all parts of her life.

Let’s get real. Rescuing the original Fitzgerald Grant campaign—a candidate that no one thought was electable— is what catapulted Olivia Pope from smart-as-a-whip attorney to White Knight Institution. And everyone believes that that win was honest.

DC’s Finest Madame (Sharon Marcott): “You did a nice job with him. The President. Getting him elected, I mean….Oh honey, I followed that election. He was a diamond in the rough before you started working for him…” (Dirty Little Secrets, (202))

Remember this? Of course you do, it just happened last week:

Olivia: “You are stressed. And you are scared. And you want this. You want to win this election so bad you can’t breathe. And I understand that. But you don’t trust me.” (Ride, Sally, Ride (311)

She understands that feeling because she feels it, too. Winning the election honestly this time is not just something she wants to give to Fitz as a result of robbing him of that, it’s something she desperately wants for herself. Her white hat has been sullied. She needs to restore her own self-perception  and prove that she, the Great Olivia Pope, can actually make an honest President of the beleaguered and embattled Fitzgerald Grant. It would also be a big boon to her business.

Olivia [continuing on]: 

“Your wife may be many things, but on one thing we are united: I cannot honestly win a presidential election if I am your public ‘whore’. This is not about you. My whole life is not about you. I have goals. I have DREAMS! I did this for me. Jake by my side is for me.”

Let’s get one thing straight because I’ve have disagreed with so many people’s interpretation of this part of Olivia’s monologue: not for one moment did I think Olivia was self-reflectively referring to herself as a ‘whore’. The woman is not a brazen harlot, which is the narrative Mellie has constructed. It is a construction entirely informed by the fissures patriarchy engenders along racial and gender lines. Here’s a sliver of what I wrote regarding this in Desire Unbound: The Sense and Sexuality of Olivia Pope OR Why Olivia Pope is Not Your ‘Jezebel’ :

“Patriarchal structures under which we are governed made women the gatekeepers of sexuality, responsible for warding off a man’s innate wild tendencies. In effect, if women give in to that kind of nature, disorder will follow. When it’s necessary for the narrative, women are looked at as the less lustful, more reasoned creatures, the regulation of whose loins will keep society from tumbling into chaos. And this is partly why monogamy is sold as the ideal relationship model deemed necessary for keeping the social order. The portrayal of Olivia Pope’s sexuality and active desire (especially as it regards Fitzgerald Grant) defies the patriarchal notion that sexual freedom is the domain of men.” –Katrina Pavela

It’s why we see Mellie lording her virtue over Olivia’s head even though she’s had/having and emotional affair with Andrew Nickles:

“You actually think that we are the same, Olivia. No matter what I went through back then, no matter what happened and why, when I was faced with the option to cheat, I kept my legs together. We are not the same.” (Mellie Grant, We Do Not Touch the First Ladies, (312))

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The basic idea is that the burden of the affair is on Olivia. As the woman, she should have kept things from falling apart by keeping her legs closed. And I’ve already mentioned the racial anxiety that underpins this, which I’ve already written about here and here.

Anyway, as I was saying, Olivia was not self-identifying as a ‘whore’. She has had to embrace the fact that this public perception of her still exists and can be exploited. Dealing with Mellie is one thing. Having your reputation come under fire (for a second time in mere months!) is quite another matter. Olivia doesn’t have to be Strong Black Woman™ all the time.

"My whole life is not about you" recalls past Olivia moments such as:

  • "I wait for you. I watch for you. My whole life is you. I can’t breathe because I’m waiting for you. You own me, you control me, I belong to you." (Happy Birthday, Mr. President (208))

  • I think about him. I worry about himHe’s in my head all the time." (Snake in the Garden, (217))

The words seem romantic, but Olivia said them with disdain in the Rose Garden and with a perturbed self-consciousness in her apartment. She doesn’t want her head full of Fitz all the time. It , can be overwhelming and distracting. It’s now come to a head for her.

Part of me wonders if the “My whole life is not about [Fitz]” was a dig/reminder to some fans who love Olivia when she’s ‘doing right by Fitz’, but then denigrate her when she makes choices that they think would hurt him. Listen, everyone on Tumblr should know by now how hard I stan for Fitz, and I do believe he is a good man—full stop, not just for Olivia. However, I am not blind to the fact that the circumstances of his present existence often compromises and hurts Olivia. I don’t always think Olivia does the right thing, but she’s the owner of her life. Not Fitz.  

Fitz:  I’m sorry. I don’t think about how hard this is for you.

Olivia:  [as Fitz tries to comfort her and assuage his own guilt]: No! No, no no no don’t touch me.

Fitz:  Some day—

Olivia: No! Please don’t. Don’t make promises. Just…

Fitz: [sighs in resignation]

Olivia:  This is where we are. This is the only day.

Remember this?

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Fitz:  Somewhere— in another life, in another reality—we are married. And we have four kids. And we live in Vermont. And I’m the mayor—

Olivia: And I make jam. (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, (302))

So many of us, including me, thought this moment was so romantic. It is, but it’s wistful because they don’t live in another reality. They don’t have another life. They only have this one. And so this is where they are. This is the only day. That is something that comes straight out of the mouth of a pragmatic realist. Fitzgerald is the pragmatic idealist. This is why they balance each other out. Whereas Fitzgerald can afford to use visions of Vermont to get him through his days and nights without Olivia, but Olivia has far many more things to worry about and no entire house to do that worrying for her.  She’s handling more than anybody else on the damn show. In One For the Dog, Olivia tells Mellie: “You have one job. I am handling everything else!” (210). That’s still the case.

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Olivia and Fitz, still hot from a lover’s quarrel, emerge from the hotel room having barely collected themselves only to come face-to-face with the very subject of their argument. And he’s still there looking smug. Olivia and Fitz immediately have to wipe the embarrassment off their faces and  go back into President and Fixer mode, like nothing’s just happened.

Olivia: When you talk to the donors, hit on the economy, jobs, housing. And don’t trash Langston. You want to appear gracious. Above the fray.

The last part of that could have easily been a prescription for how Fitz should behave towards Jake. Like it, or not, Fitz’s campaign and the stake of his second presidency is benefitting from Jake agreeing to be Olivia’s beard. Literally there was no other guy more suited for this job. By choosing Jake, Olivia was making it clear that it was her choice to use him in this catch-22 situation, and not at Mellie’s insistence. Though Jake is playing a role, the potential for messiness is catastrophic.

In the last Olitz scene, people lost their damn minds. Fitz asks, “Do you have feelings for Jake?”. He would only have asked if he had reason for doubt.  Olivia responds, “honestly, I don’t know”. Let’s think about Olivia’s past actions where Jake is concerned and her point of view. Olivia has forgiven Jake for conspiring to exploit her after he “rescued” her from the B6-13 agent who kicked in her door in 222 (never mind that the agent was actually there because Rowan wanted Jake dead). Her desire to trump her father for Jake’s soul (I do believe Fitz is right about that one), has led her to confuse her care for him as genuine romantic love. litnerdlovestv reminded me that the opening scene of Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington (303) is staged with religious connotations. We see a half-naked, bruised and battered Jake laying across Olivia’s bed, while she is on the floor looking on. It’s very Jesus Christ/Mary Magdalene.

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So it’s scenes like that which make it impossible for me to believe Olivia has some deep abiding love for Jake. I don’t think she believes it either, but the something she feels for him is confusing.  Every time she has given this guy any affection, it’s been either to say goodbye (222, 310) or because she’s been in a low way (218, 304). Jake has also taken advantage of these loopholes in Olivia’s emotions.  She used him to go to the White House Correspondents dinner to catch a glimpse of her boo, Fitzgerald. So, I’m sorry, as a viewer I don’t accept that she has some deep abiding love for Jake. Clearly she cares for him, and she needs to figure out the difference between the two.

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I thought it was a particularly poignant moment, in the last scene of Oval Office scene.  This time, he’s aware of how selfish and reactive he was being at the start of the episode. Olivia finally stops avoiding his gaze and looks at him. He says, “there you are”. He was seeing her again, and she was letting herself be seen. And that ‘seeing’ is why they will never truly let go of one another:

Olivia: I have to take care of myself. I have to protect my people. I can’t spend all my time worrying about you. This whole house worries about you: what you want, what you need. It has to be about what I and what I need.

This could apply to every relationship ever for when things become off-kilter.  I must say that I have been on the receiving end of a similar speech, and I’ve also given it. In the case of Olitz, they have normal relationship problems in a unique situation. Everyone knows that I am here for Fitzgerald and his feelings as a man. I’ll never invalidate him on that (even if I do tell him to listen, sometimes). For Olivia, it’s more than emotion. The Olitz situation adversely affects Olivia, in ways that don’t apply to Fitz. The crux of that adversity lies at the intersection of race and gender. Olivia takes care of everybody else. Who’s actually there for her in a personal way (Maya can you come take care of your baby, please)? Obviously she has Fitz, but not really. His situation makes him an absentee boyfriend in some ways. 

I titled this piece Live and Let Liv not just as a cutesy play on Olivia’s name, but because ‘living’—not just surviving (shout-out to Solomon Northup)—is what Olivia Pope dreams of. After all this show is primarily about her and the choices she makes in her professional and personal life, including all the ways in which those intertwine. We see a lot of discord in the Olitz relationship because that’s where the dramatic tension is. It makes us enjoy the precious moments like in Vermont is For Lovers, Too (308). What Vermont showed us is that for all the tensions in that relationship, Olivia finds something incredibly truthful and worthwhile in it. Life is a collection of choices that we make, and each one takes us somewhere. Wherever we go, there we are. This is where Olitz is: today. Each shared experience is lived for that day. The tenuousness of their relationship (not their love) is such that every time we see them together, it is only today.   

 

 

The O’Jays - “Back Stabbers” performance on Soul Train. 

Song was played during the last moments of “We Do Not Touch The First Ladies”, episode 312.

"Back Stabbers" Song Lyrics

What they do)
(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)
(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)

All you fellows who have someone
And you really care, yeah, yeah
Then it’s all of you fellows
Who better beware, yeah yeah
Somebody’s out to get your lady
A few of your buddies they sure look shady
Blades are long, clenched tight in their fist
Aimin’ straight at your back
And I don’t think they’ll miss

(What they do)
(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)
I keep gettin’ all these visits
From my friends, yeah, what they doin to me
They come to my house
Again and again and again and again, yeah
So are they there to see my woman
I don’t even be home but they just keep on comin’
What can I do to get on the right track
I wish they’d take some of these knives off my back

(What they do)
(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers
(Back stabbers)
Low down, dirty

(What they do)
(They smile in your face)
Smiling faces
Smiling faces sometimes tell lies (back stabbers)
(They smile in your face)
I don’t need low down
Dirty bastards (back stabbers)

"Back Stabbers" ("the pinnacle of Philly Soul") was released in August 1972.

Song was played in “We Do Not Touch The First Ladies” when it was revealed that SSA Tom is B613 - (the ears and eyes of B613 inside the White House) AND when Adnan Salif’s true boss was revealed  - Mama Pope. \o/

Great song choice!