Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Last week's Scandal left off with a pretty huge cliffhanger -- Huck (Guillermo Diaz) and Jennifer Fields (Chelsea Kurtz) had been shot by Meg (Phoebe Neidhardt). Fields is obviously dead and Huck is obviously not, but we don't pick up with them.
Instead, the show picks up with the even bigger bombshell: The fact that Abby (Darby Stanchfield) was in cahoots with Meg and "Sarah" (Zoe Perry).
So we are now treated to finding out just exactly how a former gladiator and the current chief of staff to the president got in bed with the organization that assassinated Frankie Vargas (Ricardo Chavira). And that's where things start to feel a little off.
Scandal is always at its strongest when the key players are making moves against one another. One of the weaker aspects of the show is when the key players are fighting some shadowy "big bad," because they can show and tell us how big and how bad the shadowy organization is all they want, but it ultimately feels a little removed. It's not as intimate as when the characters are battling each other, even if they have Joe Morton around to elevate the material to Shakespearean levels.
In the case of "Sarah" and the mysterious organization that wants Frankie dead and Mellie (Bellamy Young) in the White House, they don't even have Morton there this week to help out with the heavy hitting.
Not that Stanchfield isn't solid this episode, but having Abby turn on all she has fought for because she wants to be president rings really false here. Yes, President Grant (Tony Goldwyn) treats her with very little respect at jsut the moment when Marjorie Ruland, a.k.a. Sarah, and Mr. Paeus have approached Abby with an incredible offer of political and monetary support, but that still doesn't quite feel like it would be enough to get her to hop into bed with these people.
Also, do they really want us to believe some nobody is just going to run for president out of nowhere? Yes, yes, Donald Trump blah blah, but he was not a nobody. He's been a celebrity for decades and not only is Abby a nobody, but she's a woman. It would be infinitely harder for a woman to pull this off and we all know it. At least Mellie was first lady and then a senator before she ran for president. That at least makes a modicum of sense.
But Abby is a nobody. Chief of staff is a huge job, yes, but how many average Americans know who the president’s chief of staff is? Outside the Beltway, she’s a nobody who would never be able to mount a successful presidential campaign without having held some other political office first.
Sarah even tells Abby later that she was a complete fool to believe she could run for president. Yeah, no kidding. It would have been more believable to the audience if Abby had ever shown a shred of interest in political office, but she hasn’t and that’s why this feels so fly-by-night. Either way, however, Sarah and Paeus getting Abby on board was all a ruse to get someone helping them from the inside.
Granted, Abby wasn't helping Sarah and Co. because of her desire to be president. She was helping them because after they set up her up with a PAC (political action committee), they dropped the bomb that the $300 million used to fund it came from North Korea and they could turn Abby in for terrorism. They also kidnapped her boyfriend Leo ( ), so she was essentially blackmailed into helping frame Cyrus (Jeff Perry) for Vargas' assassination.
So Abby's motives are definitely legit, but the entire storyline is still ridiculously outlandish, even by Scandal standards.
What might have been marginally interesting is if the show had kept Abby's backstory with all this secret for a few episodes. Send everyone out on the manhunt for Huck that we know is coming based on the previews for next week. Sure, the explanation still would have played a little false, but at least there would have been time to let the conspiracy theory breathe, let viewers wonder if Abby really is a traitor.
Instead, that OMG moment is completely wrapped up, in a rather unsatisfactory way, no less. Huge bummer.
Though as previously mentioned, Stanchfield was the featured player this week and she handled her material like a champ, particularly the scenes at St. Anne's hospital following Vargas' shooting. She was quite good there and it was highly enjoyable to see that sequence from the other side.
Let's hope after the Huck manhunt brings everyone's favorite hacker home safe and sound (because of course it will), the show gets back on track to explain exactly what the "Fund for American Renewal" is all about.
The name certainly smacks of a Trumpian, Koch-esque organization, but we don't even yet know if that's the true organization Paeus and Sarah even work for (and it's probably not). But if we have to jump in bed with another mysterious organization on Scandal, the best we can hope for is some kind of interesting payoff, a la Papa Pope being in command of B-613.
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Photo: Courtesy of ABC.