“Scandal” is a trending topic on Twitter almost every Thursday, but the chatter around this week’s episode feels a bit louder than usual.
In an emotionally charged episode that clearly referenced the events in Ferguson, Olivia Pope faced her most challenging case yet. At one point, she actually uttered the words, “I can’t fix this!”
Reactions were definitely mixed on the episode, with some fans tweeting that they couldn’t watch it. Others praised showrunner Shonda Rhimes for a poignant episode and dialogue that mirrored much of the conversation around the shooting deaths of unarmed black men. Please tell me what you thought in the comments. But first, let’s recap.
Olivia has only been home for a few days. The fact that she was kidnapped doesn’t stop her from working — go figure. When Jake calls to urge her to talk to someone about her ordeal, she tells him that she’s not ready and that she’s resting. In reality, she’s en route to the scene of a police-involved shooting. The D.C. police chief tells her that Brandon Parker, a black 17-year-old has been shot by a white police officer on his force. The department’s story is that Brandon matched the description of a shoplifting suspect. But when confronted, Brandon pulled out a knife and the officer shot him in self defense.
A crowd is already starting to gather around Brandon’s body. Just as Olivia is advising the police chief to handle the situation — just blocks from the White House — carefully, Brandon’s father approaches the scene and fires his shotgun into the air. “Bring me the cop who shot my son!”
Olivia focuses her attention on calming Brandon’s father, Clarence, assuring him that she can get the attorney general down to the scene to address his concerns. She calls David Rosen to explain the situation, but he pretty much dismisses her, sending an assistant U.S. attorney instead.
With Olivia failing to deliver on her promise, Clarence refuses to surrender his gun. A neighborhood activist, Marcus Walker, approaches the scene with a lawn chair — the inspiration for this week’s epsiode title — which he gives to Clarence. The grieving father unfolds the chair over his son’s dead body and sits there, holding his shotgun.
Marcus encourages Clarence’s protest and reminds him that Olivia is there because the police department called her. When Liv says she’s there to diffuse the situation, Marcus fires back: “Your first mistake is thinking that the situation needs to be diffused.”
The story starts to make national headlines and into closed-door conversations at the White House, where Abby fields questions from reporters about whether the president intends to make a statement. Fitz tells Cyrus that he wants to say something, but Cy advises him: “Anything you say right now could vilify law enforcement.”
The White House issues no official statement, but Fitz’s sentiments are summed up in an online address from the governor of New Mexico, Rosalyn Mendez, who offers Clarence Parker her condolences. She ends her address with “We all matter,” an obvious, if tenuous, nod to Black Lives Matter.”
Mendez is in D.C., being vetted as a possible replacement for Andrew, the vice president who (thanks to Huck) is incapacitated. Or as Cyrus puts it, a pumpkin. Enter Mellie, who reminds Fitz that he promised he’d do everything in his power to support her in her desire to be president.
The world according to Mellie: “I prostituted myself so that you could get your mistress back and now you’re gonna take someone young and charismatic and female and Latina and make her vice president. What happened to my turn?”
Fitz ends up keeping his end of the bargain by leaking some unsavory facts about Mendez. He leaves it to Mellie to find a VP candidate and she sets her sights on Susan Ross, a newly elected senator with strong opinions about vaccinations and tax reforms.
Liv interviews the officer who shot Brandon Parker. He maintains that he used his weapon in self-defense. Huck and Quinn run background on Marcus the activist and work on getting security footage from nearby buildings. They discover that the footage has already been obtained — by the police department.
Meanwhile, Clarence is still sitting in his lawn chair and the protest is growing, as demonstrators chant “Stand up, fight back. No more black men under attack!” Marcus and Olivia have several heated exchanges about her role in the situation, with the activist explaining that he grew up in the neighborhood, while Olivia is there to do a job. He reminds her that she got “a Republican president elected … twice” and ends his one-two punch with: “Your black card’s not getting validated today.” Burn.
Olivia starts to question her own role when the police officer’s name is leaked and the police chief tries to shut down the protesters. “The fact that they stand in groups and say things you don’t like does not make them a mob. It makes them Americans.”
Liv learns more about Brandon. He loved electronics and was on his way to an apprentice school. Clarence tells her that he never let his son leave the house without telling him where he was going and he never went to sleep without knowing he was home safe. “Even though he wasn’t going to college, I put a University of Maryland sticker on my truck so if he ever got pulled over the cops wouldn’t think he was just a thug,” Clarence tells Olivia.
Liv notices that the police department is putting up blockades between the protesters and the press and she calls out the police chief for trying to stop media coverage. When the police chief asks Olivia whose side she is on, she makes a decision, crossing the police tape and joining the protesters in their chant.
Olivia appeals to David Rosen again, in hopes of getting a subpoena for the security footage to find out whether the police department narrative is the truth. “I can’t just go marching into every sensitive situation,” David tells her. Olivia tries to put things into perspective: “You talk about fairness and justice like it’s available to everyone. It’s not.”
Liv convinces David to issue the subpoena. She plays the footage for Clarence. It shows the officer in a confrontation with Brandon, who reaches into his pocket for something and is shot by the officer. As Olivia and Clarence look on, Marcus finds a knife underneath Brandon’s dead body. Devastated, Clarence aims his shotgun at the crowd while insisting “he didn’t carry a knife.”
Huck and Quinn examine the footage more closely and discover that the officer had someone in the back seat of his patrol car. It was another suspect, who had a knife that was not booked into evidence. The officer ends up being arrested for tampering with evidence, perjury and filing a false police report, but not before delivering a seething speech about how Brandon Parker didn’t respect him or his authority.
Ultimately, it turned out that Brandon Parker was reaching into his pocket for a piece of paper — a receipt that proved he had paid for the smartphone he was suspected of stealing. Olivia offered to take Clarence home, but stopped first at the White House, where Fitz consoled him.
The episode ended with a close-up of Brandon Parker’s body finally being removed from the street, in a body bag.
Lingering questions: Is Liv going to take a break from work? Are we going to be seeing more of Susan Ross? And/or Marcus?
This post has been updated.