December 1, 2015

Beautifully Seamless: Those Few Seconds of Scandal

Olivia Pope in less complicated times.
Olivia Pope in less complicated times.

By Alexa Day

Last time I was here, I used this space to do a lot of complaining about television. So many annoyances. All the grievances. Oh, yes, there was wailing and the gnashing of teeth.

I said I’d return to Satisfaction and its unorthodox take on marriage, and I will. That’s going to be important. Right now, Satisfaction might be the only thing that gives me hope that I’ll survive marriage.

But before I do that, I want to correct an oversight.

Last time I was here, I said I was ready to write off Scandal for good. The decision pained me; the show has been near and dear to my heart for a long time. But I couldn’t bear any more of the come-here-go-away with Olivia and Fitz. The two of them were driving me crazy.

I was so worn out with them that I wasn’t really paying an optimal level of attention to them and their problems during the finale, which aired shortly after my last post. I was actually in the kitchen, fooling around with something else and not looking at the TV at all, when I heard Aretha Franklin singing “Silent Night.”

I smiled to myself. I have to hand it to Shonda, I thought. She uses the best music.

And so, from the kitchen, I listened to Aretha compete with Olivia Pope’s father, ranting in his intense way about how familial intimacy is destructive. I made a mental note to look up that recording of “Silent Night,” wound up my work in the kitchen, and went back to the TV, where I continued to be annoyed with Scandal‘s entire cast of characters. When the show was over, I shook my head and asked myself whether I’d be back for the second half of the season.

And that was it.

Later that night, I got a call from my mother about Olivia Pope’s abortion.

“What abortion?” I asked.

Mom — I don’t know how she deals with me — said Olivia had gotten an abortion on Scandal and asked what I thought of how the show had handled this.

I was completely lost. Where had she heard about an abortion? This was impossible. If Olivia had gotten an abortion on screen, the whole universe would be talking about it. Perhaps Mom was confused. I loved Mellie’s Planned Parenthood filibuster and thought she deserved a fist bump. That must have been what she was talking about.

But I was wrong. While I was in the kitchen listening to Aretha’s beautiful music and Rowan Pope’s ugly words, Olivia Pope had gotten an abortion. I missed it entirely. No one mentioned it. No one drew attention to it. And when I went back to the couch, I had no idea it had taken place.

That’s impressive. That is masterfully handled.

Let us leave aside for the moment our feelings on abortion generally and focus on what has actually happened.

This woman — the most visible woman on the show, its central character — made this decision, followed through on it, and went on with her life with no involvement from the rest of us. If we had any business of our own to mind at that precise moment, as I did, we would never have known about any of this.

Olivia’s abortion had nothing to do with me. I basically blinked and missed it.

I got through most of the next day before NPR confirmed what Mom had told me. Olivia Pope had in fact had an abortion on prime time television. I was on the way to a party and had to stop and call her to tell her I was wrong. Mom — I don’t know how she deals with me — knew I was wrong; she’d actually watched the episode. Dealing with me takes immense patience.

She repeated her question. What did I think of the way it was handled?

Well, I missed the whole thing. I don’t think she’s being treated any differently. Her own world has probably changed irrevocably, but we don’t know. We spectators aren’t privy to that much of her inner life.

In essence, it isn’t any of our damned business. Her decision had literally no effect on me at all.

And I think that was communicated brilliantly.

Stick with Lady Smut. Don’t miss a thing.

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1 comment

  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    I really do enjoy some great TV shows via these blog posts of yours. You admire Olivia — you’re *my* Olivia.

    Reply to Madeline Iva

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