Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Scandal: “YOLO”

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I… don’t… know.

I don’t think that “YOLO” was very good. I don't think it was bad, but I sort of didn’t feel that it was anything. I was actually pretty bored for the first half of the episode—in fact, I didn’t really perk up until James and Cyrus started fighting.

A few days ago, Molly Eichel and Ryan McGee discussed Scandal, and what I liked about their conversation was that they located, in my mind, Scandal’s greatest strength: emotional manipulation. This is a show that is willing to do almost anything to get a rise out of you, the audience. That’s a bold courage not usually seen with shows that are often trying to do as little as possible to maintain their viewership.

But I didn’t feel a lot tonight in the main plot, which lifted a whole bunch of stuff from Alias (as the show has this whole season) and muddled it with B613, Olivia’s parents, and several overexposed flashbacks. In between, there is literally the worst Huck/Quinn torture sequence ever, followed by the worst Quinn/Charlie sex scene. Worst as in absolutely repulsive to watch.

Like, Huck: What is going on with Huck? Why the fuck did he lick Quinn’s face? How does that make any sense? And Charlie: Son, why did you think that the tender lovemaking you shared with a girl who was minutes away from death by dentistry was a good idea? You kissed her! On the mouth. Where her teeth used to be.

I’m more sensitive than most television/film watchers about gore and violence on-screen. I really didn’t like the Huck and Quinn scenes. What struck me more than the visuals were the noises: The sound of Quinn being tortured is at least related to the sound Quinn makes when she’s orgasming. There are a lot of moans and gasps, and it doesn’t help that Huck overtly sexualizes the scene by licking her and stripping her naked (she’s bound with duct tape for the tender sensibilities of our network audiences, who can watch horrific torture—but not a boob!).


Why the abuse, all of a sudden, in a show that consistently derives its power from verbose monologues and escalating decibels of impassioned yelling? Huck has always played around with power tools and torture, but the amount of blood on screen these past few weeks has been alarming. Honestly, I think Scandal has run out of ways to make us feel something about the show, so it’s resorting to pulp. It’s frustrating. I have a lot of feelings about the way Huck treats Quinn, but I don’t think I got a chance to process them or frame them the way I did with Mellie’s rape, for example. But both scenes are so awful that they require that kind of thing. One of the reasons I’m numb to “YOLO” is because this kind of wanton violence is very, very hard to process. Followed by immediate sex, which turns out to be manipulative sex—yikes. A big mess.

And it’s hard to process because I don’t care enough to process. As much as I like the bait-and-switch with Olivia’s mom—as first good-guy then bad-guy—I saw it coming a mile away. And B613, on the whole, is a tiresome, narratively flat organization that I hope disappears after next week’s midseason finale. It adds nothing to the story if Olivia is constantly cowering in a corner, unable to speak to her mother, impassive and uptight.


There are about four elements of true, unadulterated Scandal in this week’s episode, and they are: Cyrus and James’ everything, Mellie’s scene with Cyrus, Abby, and David Rosen, and Sally “Crazy Eyes” Langston. I’d even toss in Olivia’s phone call with Fitz—as predictable as it was, it felt real, and sold their chemistry in a way little else in Liv’s storyline felt sold.

But everything else—as soon as its out of the vortex of B613—improves tremendously. Cyrus and James’ marital problems are insane and riveting; seeing James fall apart and ask for a divorce—seeing Cyrus break down in tears in front of Mellie—that was gold. It was really great acting and writing on both parts, and made that story fall apart in such a fantastic way. Mellie’s four minutes in the episode were obviously the best four minutes. Abby and David are real together in a way very few other couples on the show ever are. Sally Langston is insane on levels, but dude, everything she did was hilarious to watch. And I can’t believe/can totally believe that she stabbed her husband in the goddamn back. Awesome. Yes. Bring that crazy shit, Scandal, that is what you are good at. Bring us the story that just keeps getting worse, as the stakes keep getting higher and higher.


This season is the make-or-break one for this show—the one that will prove whether or not Scandal is a show with staying power; one that can move past its premise to a sustainable future. We’re still waiting and seeing. This first half of season three has been crazily inconsistent.

Stray observations:

  • Kind of a toss-up for me as to who I like least: Quinn or Huck. Even Charlie can stay, because he’s at least capable of producing a scene I’m semi-interested in watching.
  • Olivia making jam? I don’t believe it for a second.
  • Why was this episode called “YOLO”? Sigh. I don’t understand anything anymore.