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Thursday, December 19, 2013

SCANDAL Makes a Heck of an "Exit"

Article first published as SCANDAL Makes a Heck of an "Exit" on TheTVKing.

I am ashamed to say I fell behind on ABC's excellent Scandal this fall. But marathoning through the recent installments, culminating in "A Door Marked Exit" this past Thursday, I was very impressed. The entire run has been built expertly, stringing along various bits that mesh together in the most exciting and unexpected of ways, and ending with a number of absolutely stellar performances by several cast members.

The biggest shocker going into the finale is when Vice President Sally Langston (Kate Burton) kills her husband, Daniel Douglas Langston (Jack Coleman). Daniel has been cheating on Sally with James (Dan Bucatinsky) and is intent on leaving her, destroying her political career, but I think it's more Sally's personal pain that causes her to snap and lash out. She's been played for a fool by a man she loves and trusts, and she isn't the type to let him get away with it.

Sally calls Cyrus (Jeff Perry) to clean up the mess. Since James is Cyrus' husband and Cyrus is aware of the cheating, something he and Mellie (Bellamy Young) set up, though Cyrus hadn't expected James to go through with it, this may not be the best situation for Cyrus to go into. Cyrus keeps things together enough to get rid of the body in a non-suspicious way, using his power and influence. But he is also deeply affected, vomiting in a moment of weakness.

The performances by Burton and Perry are both amazing. Burton's shock and Cyrus's grief, both knowing that they bear direct responsibility for the circumstances and not being sure how to handle it, comes through. Both manage to capture all of the layers of the event, making them sympathetic, in spite of the despicable things they have done. Wow, they've come a long way since their days as Meredith Grey's parents!

The full weight of Douglas' death had not yet settled. Mellie Grant, at least, thinks she has Sally right where she wants her, blackmailed into not running against President Fitzgerald "Fitz" Grant (Tony Goldwyn) in the upcoming election. But once Sally starts thinking clearly again, she may decide revenge is the best strategy, as she has every reason to blame Mellie and Cyrus for pushing her into the deed. With the deliciously calculating Leo Bergen (Paul Adelstein, Private Practice) figuring out the truth and wanting to help Sally win, she might have a shot.

The more interesting question is, will Cyrus and James' marriage survive? They've been pushed to their limits before by one another, but unlike in the past, Cyrus is utterly broken when James leaves this time, a man who has lost the most precious thing in the world to him, and he's too upset to try to manipulate James back home. Instead, he offers James his dream job, something that could lead to professional trouble for Cyrus, and that only brings James back to the house, not doing anything towards repairing their emotional bond.

This raises the debate of when is a relationship dead? James has always used Cyrus for his own gain, but now it appears that's all that's left between them. Can Cyrus really be happy if James never forgives him, James only sticking around because he would have to give up the lifestyle to which he is accustomed if he left? I really hope they can move past this because, despite what Cyrus has done, he definitely cares about his partner.

Other relationships also remain broken. Huck (Guillermo Diaz) has no intention of welcoming Quinn (Katie Lowes) back into the fold, even though she can forgive him for torturing her, pushing her into the arms of Charlie (George Newbern), who would turn on her if ordered to do so. Jake (Scott Foley) has given up on having a relationship with Olivia (Kerry Washington), since Olivia is back to sleeping with Fitz. And Olivia isn't on good terms with either of her parents.

Olivia's mother, Marie (Khandi Alexander, Treme), is an escaped con who returns to D.C. with unknown motives. She may want to get even with her husband, Rowan (Joe Morton), for locking her up all of these years. She'll definitely want to get to know Olivia, and probably won't like it when Olivia turns less than receptive, now that Olivia knows how bad a person Marie is.

Rowan also can't be happy with his daughter, knowing Olivia's boyfriend has him removed from his post, with Jake taking over the shady organization.  Rowan surely has connections that can help him retake his position. And Jake's seat gives Fitz new powers no president should have. Time will tell if Jake can be a better leader than Rowan, with or without POTUS consent. It's all kind of a mess.

Not to mention, David Rosen (Joshua Malina) will now be on Sally and Cyrus' scent for the coverup of Daniel's death, even if lead James recants, now that a second person, Shelby Moss (Julia Cho, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries), has come forward with solid evidence.

Scandal delights at keeping every character off balance, each always scheming, forming alliances when it suits them, and working to take others down. It's not like Dallas, in which everyone vies for their own power, as some actually have noble intentions. But it is a well-written, well-performed Shakespearean drama of screwed up people, ripe with constant betrayals, murders, and secrets, making for a fast-paced, compelling series.

Scandal will return for its uninterrupted spring run on ABC in a couple of months.

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