September 27, 2012



SCANDAL:  Thursday 10PM on ABC

WHERE WE WERE:  Washington DC, where Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) is the best fixer around.  Not a lawyer (although she has a law degree), not a publicist (although she’s expert at manipulating the press), and not a lobbyist (although she’s been known to influence public policy), she’s the one you go to when you’ve screwed up very badly and need a way out.  With associates Abby (Darby Stanchfield), Harrison (Columbus Short), former CIA wetware specialist Huck (Guillermo Diaz) and newbie Quinn (Katie Lowes), she puts the fires out.  (There used to be another associate played by Henry Ian Cusick, but he’s departed.)  She also has very special ties to the White House, which is to say that she’s the secret adulterous love of President Fitzgerald Grant’s (Tony Goldwyn) life, a fact that causes no small trauma for First Lady Mellie (Bellamy Young) and Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry).  Last season, Olivia was engulfed in a raging saga that started with a junior White House employee claiming to be pregnant by the President, and ended in murder.  That finally went away (although some of the culprits are still very much with us), and when the First Lady revealed that she was pregnant, it ended any chance for Olivia and Fitz to be together, which left just one small remaining problem:  Quinn, it turns out, isn’t “Quinn” at all.

WHERE WE ARE:  Wondering if Quinn is a murderess.  She’s on trial for 7 counts as we rejoin SCANDAL for Season 2.  Quinn’s real name is Lindsay Dwyer, and 2 years ago, she had a fight with her boyfriend in California, who worked at a high-tech company.   Shortly thereafter, a bomb was seemingly sent from Quinn/Lindsay’s address, with her fingerprints, to the boyfriend’s place of work, where it blew the place up.  And shortly after that, Quinn was drugged and woke up 3000 miles away, in a Washington hotel room, with all the paperwork for her new identity laid out neatly on the bedside table.  (And what we know but Quinn doesn’t is that the drugging, abduction and new identity all came to her via Olivia and Huck, before she’d ever met either of them.)  Now she’s being prosecuted for the California deaths by Assistant Attorney General David Rosen (Joshua Malina), a sometimes-frenemy of Olivia’s, and seemingly headed straight for death row.

In case that’s not enough plot, the season premiere, written by Co-Executive Producer Jenna Bans and directed by Tom Verica, also has the First Lady using the live national broadcast where the gender of her unborn baby is being revealed to very publicly pressure her husband to declare war in East Sudan, in order to give him a boost in the polls.  And apparently on the theory that what the hell, let’s have a scandal-of-the-week too, a Congressman comes to Olivia for help after he’s been filmed having sex on his Congressional desk.

It’s all nuts, but Scandal races through these convoluted storylines with such rapid-fire ersatz-Sorkinian dialogue and breakneck plotting that there’s no time to raise a finger and say “Huh?”  After a shaky first few episodes that only featured scandals-of-the-week, Scandal found its identity as a grand stew of intertwined government and romantic conspiracies.  Now, if you’re willing to strap yourself in and take the ride, it’s like a shot of highly unstable moonshine, with one cliffhanger instantly leading to another (Quinn/Lindsay’s trial, which would have taken up half a season on most shows, was over before the last commercial break here, and while we know Olivia was responsible for what happened, we don’t have any idea how or why).

Washington seems to be having a fine time barking orders at everyone in earshot, head of the nation on down, and there are juicy supporting roles, especially for Perry and Young.  At some point, Scandal will have to slow down enough to actually develop stories about Olivia’s associates, but for now, they mostly just scoff that she can’t win this one, then bow their heads in admiration when she does.  Which is sort of how one has to regard Shonda Rhimes, the creator of this disreputable but highly enjoyable soap.  This season it’s facing off with another promising young show, CBS’s Elementary, and with NBC barely airing a test pattern in the hour (aka Rock Center), the slot should be big enough for the both of them.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."