Friday, December 7, 2012

Hooked on SCANDAL and Its Juicy Political Intrigue

OMG! Scandal shot President Grant!

Okay, that was last week. And if you watch Scandal, you know that I'm not talking about Ulysses S. here. This is President Fitzgerald Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn, someone I've always thought was handsome, but... Kind of opaque. If you're just catching up with Tony Goldwyn, I will tell you that my view of him was formed by his performances as Neil Armstrong in From the Earth to the Moon, the bad guy in Ghost and Goren's brother in Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a lot of episodic TV (Without a Trace, The L Word, Frasier, L.A. Law, Murphy Brown, etc.), and most recently, playing slimy boss Sheldrake in the Broadway company of Promises, Promises. My feeling? Always hot, but kind of cold.

In Scandal, Tony Goldwyn is not cold. Not. Not. Not. Let's just get that out of the way. Goldwyn has been steaming up the small screen with Kerry Washington, who plays Olivia Pope, his former press secretary and a professional "fixer" who makes problems go away. The two fell in love and major lust when she was part of the crew running his presidential campaign, and they've had a really hard time keeping their hands off each other, in some very sexy scenes played out over the fifteen episodes of Scandal aired so far. The temperature rose even higher in last night's "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" episode that flashed back to some pivotal events in the Fitz-Liv relationship. Let's just say their method of writing a State of the Union speech is a little unorthodox.

Olivia may be a fixer, but for President Grant, she causes a whole lot of problems. He's already a mess, since, you know, he's President, he's married, his wife, the manipulative Mellie (Bellamy Young) is pregnant with "America's child," he has a scheming, ambitious, double-dealing VP (Kate Burton), and he only got elected because of a voting fraud conspiracy involving his chief of staff, Cyrus (Chicago's Jeff Perry, doing a terrific number as a Machiavellian politico), along with Olivia, Mellie, a Supreme Court Justice and a powerful business tycoon not above taking out whole office buildings to cover up his evil deeds.

As nosy folks get closer to uncovering the voting fraud, more people get mowed down. The stakes got even higher last week when shots rang out outside a presidential birthday bash, felling Fitz and his post-Olivia press secretary, played by Keiko Agena, AKA Gilmore Girls' Lane Kim. Fitz is clinging to life in the hospital, but Britta/Lane the press secretary didn't make it. Did Hollis, the billionaire pulling everybody's strings, call in a hit? Was it Mellie, tired of playing second fiddle to Olivia when it comes to Fitz's affections? Could the assassin really have been Huck, the scary, messed-up former spy on Olivia's payroll? What about the crazy Vice President, Bible-thumper Sally Langston, who pulled an Alexander Haig and told everybody she was in charge before the keys were out of the ambulance ignition? And what about poor Britta/Lane? Was she the real target in this assassination attempt because she knew something she shouldn't have about the rigged voting machines in Defiance, Ohio?

There's at least one more episode this year -- next week's "Blown Away" is billed in some places as the fall finale, but IMDB has another one, "One for the Dog," also listed for 2012 -- but you can pretty much bet we're not going to get answers to any of these questions anytime soon. Scandal creator/executive producer/writer Shonda Rhimes has shown with Grey's Anatomy that she knows her way around a cliffhanger, that she's not afraid to pile up a body count, and anybody and everybody is expendable. I'm figuring Olivia has to be around for there to be a show since she's at the center of it, but even President Grant could get taken out if Rhimes think there's more drama to be had with him out of the picture (or maybe with his brain preserved in a jar floating on a boat in the Potomac, like all the old conspiracy theories about Lincoln and Kennedy). That's part of what makes the show so addictive -- there's real suspense there as you wonder who might be in the next body bag.

I don't think I've ever been hugely interested in political thrillers, but the soapy aspects of Scandal make it very attractive to me. Well, that and Tony Goldwyn. It doesn't hurt that Olivia's other boyfriend is played by Norm Lewis, the Broadway star who lit up Sondheim on Sondheim with his amazing performance of "Being Alive."

You can catch full episodes at ABC if you want to catch up, plus there are some fun (free) podcasts available at iTunes for extra tidbits of info. After watching the episodes and listening to the podcasts, you'll definitely need to be there next week for "Blown Away," scheduled to air December 13, 2012, at 9 pm Central time. 

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