Scandal for Dummies: An Introduction to the Wonderful World of Olivia Pope [ATA #13]

WARNING: Across the Aisle features a generous helping of exploratory writing, gratuitous pop culture abuse, and complimentary Funyons. This is Hive Mind 101. That glorious moment when Wonder Twin powers activate. Jay Connor + Alex Hardy = the triumphant return of Voltron. These ain’t no studio tricks, and such brilliance is solely intended for mature reading audiences.  Enjoy.

Episode 13
Scandal for Dummies: An Introduction to the Wonderful Wold of Olivia Pope

Alex Hardy: As watch parties are planned and popcorn and red wine stashes are replenished ahead of Thursday’s season four premiere of ABC’s Scandal, we gather here today to offer a primer for those who are new to the underworld of Olivia Pope and Associates, where rapid-fire dialogue and moral abandonment are the cornerstones of company culture. It’s a special world, one where you’re here today and tortured tomorrow. Careers, loyalties and fingers vanish over commercial breaks. Come for the drama, stay for the blood, stylish clothes and flashy editing. If you, like Pharrell Williams, enjoy unsavory White people and straight-faced subterfuge, then this is the show for you.

Scandal is a densely packed show that moves quickly. We’ll try to break down a few key plot elements, as keeping track of each awful person’s acts of awful personhood can be dizzying. Storylines can sometimes feel propelled by that Jesse Spano, but don’t let that deter you from diving in. There are enough flawed slick talkers on the scene to love, root for and despise a different person each week. Fun for everyone.

We have invited writer, attorney, and serial Scandal live-tweeter April Reign to help us address some basic questions about the show. We’ve both seen every episode, while Sir Jay of Connor has yet to see a single episode and missed out on the hilarious pregnancy-masking antics during Season Three. Good times, those were. Grab a jumbo glass of wine, a handful of popcorn, and allow us to get you up to speed.

And. Fuck Quinn. Forever.

1. What the hell is this show even about?

Alex: Scandal follows the doings and screwings of Olivia Pope, the owner of a crisis management firm in Washington, D.C. Aided by red wine and a lack of scruples, Olivia leads her gang of affectionately flawed misfits on a weekly adventure to make tragedies disappear for one another and the bescandled gents and dames who seek their expertise. People die and good guys lose. Basically, Olivia Pope is Diddy.

Jay Connor: Gotcha. And who comprises her devoted roster of extraordinarily talented, yet royalty check deprived cheesecake connoisseurs Bad Boy signees?

April Reign: The Associates of Olivia Pope & Associates are Harrison Wright (an attorney), Abby Whelan (an investigator), Huck (a tech guru who used to work for B613) and Quinn Perkins/Lindsay Dwyer (who cares). Each has a reason they were hand-chosen by Olivia and possess special skills that help the firm run. Except Quinn, because we hate her. She was only saved by Olivia after being framed for a crime (by Olivia). We’ve yet to see her value on the show but her faults are clearly present. Every week. 

Jay: So do we have anyone else of note? Or are we saving the good shit for their individual “Unsung” episodes? 

April: Other characters are Jake Ballard (Navy officer who served with Fitz Grant; worked under, then over, Papa Pope; and became Olivia’s lover (yes, that’s TWO dips in the Vanilla Pond for Livvie); Papa Rowan/Eli Pope (played MASTERFULLY by Joe Morton), Olivia’s father and the head of a shadowy government organization named B613 that actually has more power than the President himself; President Fitzgerald and First Lady Mellie Grant, Cyrus Beene, the President’s Chief of Staff; and David Rosen, a lawyer who truly believes in right and wrong. He and Abby become lovers and as a reward for doing what he was told, he becomes the United States Attorney in DC.

2. Who is Olivia Pope and why is she sleeping with her Commander-in-Chief?

Kerry Washington as "Olivia Pope"
April: Olivia Pope is known nationwide as a “fixer.” She “handles” problems brought to her and her team, each of whom has a significant backstory. The Pope character is based on real life Crisis Manager Judy Smith, who has handled some very high profile cases, especially in Washington, DC. We learned that Pope is the lover of Fitzgerald Grant, the married President. They have had an on-again, off-again relationship for several years and it appears they both have sincere feelings for one another.

Jay: What are these “feelings” you speak of and where might one find some? Asking for a friend.

Alex: Destructive dependency, romantic repulsion, unhealthy mutual obsession, and so forth. ABC’s very own Bobby and Whitney, with only the finest Oil of Enthusiastic Self-Debasement to really get shit poppin’.

Jay: Well, color me badd intrigued. Shout out to her majesty, Queen Shonda, for breathing new life and congeniality into the universal pandemic known as The Other Woman. Professional athletes, Basketball Wives, and Alicia Keys, take heed and upgrade accordingly. 

3. Who is this Fitz person blowing up my social media feeds every gotdamn Thursday night?

Tony Goldwyn as
"President Fitzgerald Grant III"
Alex: Fitzpatrick Thomas Grant III is the Fuckboy In Chief and Olivia’s part-time lover. President Grant is a Republican, but that is not the reason for his astounding terribleness. Like many of the other characters, Fitz is a murderer and an opportunistic scoundrel. He is married to Mellie Grant, one of two people who regularly puts Olivia in her motherfucking place. (Papa Pope is the other.) He killed someone who was literally in a hospital bed dying from cancer. He blamed his wife for his affair with Olivia and hired a stalker-spy to protect his douchely personal interests. He promised Mellie that if she didn’t disappear like Judy Winslow and allow him to rebrand himself as the nation-uniting captain of Team Swirl, he’d ruin her life and career with a fairytale freshly harvested from his terrible anal cavity of terribleness. Fitz is what happens when kids raised by helicopter parents make it to adulthood without therapy. He is a useless White man. He can’t get right and is a waste of privilege. I think that pretty much covers it.

April: I…I have nothing to add. LMAOOOOO

Alex: You know that 112 song about cryogenically freezing your main squeeze’s heart until you’re done spreading it low and spreading it wide? That sums up all of the fuckboy philosophy Fitz has pitched at Olivia. “Wait for me. No, you can’t have anyone else. But I promise you, at some point, no more broom closet humpings for you. I swear.” And she wants to believe him.

Jay: Desperate. Sinister. Unscrupulous. Just so we’re crystal clear here, are we talking about an actual person or Robin Thicke’s Paula album?

4. And Columbus Short is involved…how?

Columbus Short as "Harrison Wright"
April: This has been an ongoing problem in the show. Everyone has a backstory but Short’s (who plays
Harrison Wright) has never been fully fleshed out. We know that Olivia saved him from going to prison, but it’s not exactly clear what the crime(s) was. It seemed we were going to learn more near the end of last season but Harrison decided to step to Papa Pope and…you just don’t do that. Add to that Short’s problems off the air and Shonda yanked him from the show. We won’t be seeing Harrison Wright/Columbus Short again. RIP to Harrison and to Short’s career. Welp.

Jay: I would pour some liquor on the curb in his memory, but I’m sure the careers of Kel Thompson and Smilez & Southstar were dying for companionship anyway. I hope he knows how to play Spades.

Alex: If not for his daily presence in the muted halls of Pope & Associates, Harrison Wright would be Tommy Strong: a murky background and no discernible abilities. Harrison Wright was most skilled at slowly turning away from tables with clenched fists and a harrowed scowl. He was the best-dressed two-dimensional reformed [past profession unknown] you’ve seen thus far.

Jay: Okay, so he wasn't a cornerstone, like say LL Cool J’s hat or Benzino’s aversion to bow ties, but he wasn’t quite [insert Blackstreet member of choice that isn't Teddy Riley] either. Which would make him French Fries: Appreciated, but by no means the star of your indigestion the plate. Carry on.

5. I’ve never seen this show before a day in my life. Is it too late to jump on the bandwagon? Or much like society’s need for Lil’ Kim, has time passed me by?

April: You can catch back episodes on Netflix and the first season was really the best to me because it showed how Olivia and Company handled their client’s problems. In the most recent season, the show was almost exclusively focused on Olivia and her various relationships, so the show lost some of its edge. The only thing that Olivia was trying to fix was her own life, basically, and the really interesting cases that she used to handle in 48 minutes each week were lost. It’s definitely not too late to jump on the bandwagon and the show has almost a cult following, especially on Twitter where we live tweet each week.

Alex: Start from the beginning. You need to be fully up to date on those doings and screwings. Besides, it’s best if you let your Quinnhate blossom gradually, rather than taking it to the head now, when her herpesworthiness is at an all-time high.

Jay: That makes sense. Could you imagine a world in which Original Recipe Aunt Viv succeeded her vapid, imitation crab incarnation? Even chaos demands some semblance of order, and since ire doesn’t grow on trees (or in petri dishes), if I’m going to learn to loathe someone I want it to come naturally. Which leads to our next question.

6. “Everyone Loves Raymond,” but where did Quinn go wrong in this equation?

April: Quinn began by being too naIÏve and whiny. She was helpless. Then she made a series of mistakes to prove her worth to Olivia that literally put folks’ lives in jeopardy. Then Huck took her under his wing to train her and she was desperately trying to prove herself to him. I’ve yet to find any redeeming quality about her. She needs to die. Swiftly.

Jay: Ouch. Alex?

Alex: Quinn is an idiot. She’s a terrible liar and is as trustworthy as a self worth seminar led by someone who adores coleslaw. Like Orange Is The New Black’s Piper Chapman, her sister in Useless Whiteness, she is a herpes sore on my soul. It’s hard to stand out for exceptional scumbaggery among such company, but betcha by golly wow, she does it. Dave Chappelle said it best: “I hope all the bad things in life happen to you and only you.” 

Jay: This Quinn person must be hell on the arteries. I mean, damn. Disdain this resounding is typically reserved for Sprint. Iyanla, please fix her life.

7. Alright. So who is likable on this show?

Guillermo Díaz as "Huck"
Alex: Despite his stabbiness, I am not turned off by Huck. I feel like he wants to be a better person. For some reason, I pity him when he’s hacking away at someone. I want him to get the fuck away from Olivia and Abby and into therapy. And I root for former Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rosen, Olivia’s punching bag of choice. So far, he’s the only person here I’ve never wished spontaneous combustion upon.

April: Huck is going to have a very interesting season. He has been psychologically damaged by previously working for B613 and hasn’t had an opportunity to properly deal with his issues. At the end of the last season, we saw him about to reconnect with his wife and their son, people he hasn’t had an opportunity to see or speak to in years because they thought he was dead. I truly enjoy watching Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene in action. He has fantastic dialogue and will do whatever is necessary to reach his goals. He knows he’s the devil and has made peace with this fact. He’s wonderful to watch.

Alex: When in doubt, root for Rosen.

Jay: This guy sounds a lot like Deadpool of Marvel Comics infamy. Tremendously gifted but keeps questionable company, and that whole “internal turmoil” thing disqualifies him from babysitting unsupervised. I like him already. Pencil him in as my spirit animal.

8. Okay. Soooooo what should I expect from Season Four?

April: At the end of the last season, Harrison is about to die, Quinn and Huck are sleeping together, Fitzgerald Grant has just won reelection but cannot celebrate because his son has been murdered (the outpouring of emotion from which won him the election), Papa Pope is back in charge of B613, and Olivia and Jake are literally flying off into the sunset. Who the hell knows what is coming next, although the tag line is “Where is Olivia?”

Jay: After three seasons of acclaim and fanfare, Empress Rhimes must be running short on ideas. When Carmen Sandiego sues her for copyright infringement, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Alex: I’m certain we will quickly learn what master plan Olivia’s dastardly ass mother cooked up at the end of Season 3. When the credits last rolled, Maya Pope and her laid ass hair were seen scowling up at a highly self-satisfied Papa Pope from her new home in the chokey. Though hemmed up, it’s not smart to count her out. Because half of Olivia’s terribleness flows through her, I feel like she is at least two steps ahead of her estranged daughter and her equally dastardly husband. Whatever happens, I’m certain her hair will look mad luscious.

I know that Fitz, fresh from burying his murdered son, will resort to his Robin Thickely ways and wind up inside Olivia by Episode Three. But ultimately, I just need Quinn Perkins to die horrifically. Perhaps death by sugar grits. Perhaps a flesh-eating virus will take her out. I’m sure Shonda will think of something snazzy. I have faith in her.

Jay: More fire, more brimstone. Another round of elevated blood pressure and plots with more twists than Chubby Checker. Death comes in threes, syndication arrives in fives, and our beloved Fitz will finally goad Olivia into a threesome during this whimsical Fourth Season of Nielsen ratings supremacy. But I ain’t one to gossip, so you ain’t heard that from me.

9. Why should Shonda Rhimes receive my vote in the upcoming presidential election?

Shonda Rhimes Tha Don
April: Should she? Her shows have become a bit formulaic. Fantastic starts but you soon realize that the female protagonists are brilliant but emotionally flawed. We’ve seen the same in Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, and I expect to see it in How to Get Away With Murder, Shonda’s new series starring Viola Davis. The writing can be great, but once Shonda starts focusing on the relationships of the female lead and not the original premise of the show, it loses something for me. Shonda does bring us a PERFECT soundtrack in the music she chooses each week. Not to mention fabulous styling, especially of Olivia Pope, which is handled by Lyn Paolo (in real life).

Alex: Say what you will about her shows, but Shonda has excelled at consistently presenting three-dimensional, relatable Black characters in primetime slots. Her shows aren’t perfect, but I appreciate that, with Grey’s Anatomy specifically, these characters of color feel like people. Likable people. Scandalous people. Murderous, despicable people. But people rather than types. With brisk writing and more twists and turns than a piecemeal Mariah Carey album rollout attempt, Shonda has kept viewers emotionally invested in the lustings of Whitley Gilbert’s jilted beau’s chile. Plus, she gave me a weekly opportunity to watch Harrison—in all his underutilized, great-faced splendor—as he power-whispered his way through scenes. She hasn’t figured how to write Miley the entire quarantined fuck off this planet, but she is doing quite a few things right. Dat girl good.

Jay: As someone with firsthand involvement in the nefarious underworld known as film and television, I can attest to Empress Rhimes’ ubiquitous Black reign. In fact, her dominion over Thursday nights is imperiled only by power outages, football, or anemic remote control batteries. No weapon formed against her shall prosper. She is the way, the truth, and the life. Oprah aspires to be her when she grows up, and whoever dogged Her Highness out at the prom can be found sharing a heroin needle with Kima, Keisha, and Pam.

10. Does that about cover it, or is there anything else I should know?

April: There are a lot of little pieces that can’t possibly be covered here, but we’ve hit the highlights. For example, we haven’t even mentioned Mama Pope! You know there’s a reason she’s being kept alive. I would still recommend watching at least the last few episodes to get caught up, if not binge-watching from Season One.

Alex: Huck, Olivia’s Shyne, is the creepiest of them all. But even after watching him pull teeth from someone’s mouth, he’s still more likable than Quinn Perkins, who must be disassembled at once.

Jay: And that brings “Scandal for Dummies: An Introduction to the Wonderful World of Olivia Pope” to a close. For those already familiar with the show, hopefully we’ve been able to provide you with a quick refresher, and for those new to this series, consider this a gateway drug towards harsher, much more addictive Shonda Rhimes-helmed opiates. Because in the immortal words of nosey ass Black people, you’ve got the juice now

Make sure to catch the season premiere Thursday night on ABC April’s Twitter feed, and this is Jay Connor, reminding you to help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.

Follow Alex on Twitter: @chrisalexander_
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A million thanks to my partner in crime:

Jay Connor is a prized pupil of the esteemed Professor Xavier and a Los Angeles based freelance writer. When he’s not preoccupied with accruing overdraft fees while chasing the dream, he can be found disseminating terrorist threats on Twitter and Facebook. Direct all business inquiries, sexual innuendo and Nigerian email scams to

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