Separately, Scandal’s Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) are fascinating—sympathetic, but morally nuanced. Together, they form the worst part of one of most exciting shows on TV.
She devolves from a savvy and ambitious Beltway “fixer” into a weepy and lovesick invertebrate. He mutates from a fair and compassionate commander-in-chief into an angst-ridden and self-indulgent control freak. Their tortured back-and-forths could convincingly fill the pages of the cheapest romance novel. But as presidential chief-of-staff Cyrus Beene said at the end of Season 2, “Life isn’t a romance novel.”
Unfortunately, there is no Scandal without “Liv and Fitz.” Creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice) has built an entire universe around the affair. It’s the titular scandal, the narrative glue that binds together two separate but equally compelling worlds: that of the clandestine crisis-management firm, cleaning up after misbehaving elites; and that of the moderate Republican White House, rebuffing extremist elements from within its own party. Without #Olitz, these stories run parallel, unconnected.
Which is why Montana congresswoman Josie Marcus, played by Lisa Kudrow, is such a gratifying third-season addition. The introduction of a major character (played by a major actress) with interests outside the sphere of Liv and Fitz, renders fresh plot for the writers to explore. What’s more, this upstart candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination embodies the kick-ass, uncompromising feminist politico the show has been lacking. Witness this scene from last Thursday’s episode, described by Jezebel’s Dodai Stewart as “Lisa Kudrow goes HAM in an epic speech on sexism in politics.”
Josie is the character Liv could have been from the start—had she not entangled herself in a co-dependent relationship with the most powerful man in the world. Thankfully, when First Lady Mellie Grant (well aware of her husband’s infidelity) begs her to rejoin the White House and pilot Fitz’s reelection outfit to victory, Liv declines. As she and Fitz are once more “off again,” she takes a job managing the Marcus campaign instead. “To make history.” Truthfully, it’s a move more likely inspired by the possibility that Fitz had a direct hand in the death of Liv’s mother—because borderline ludicrous plot twists are as elemental to Scandal as Liv and Fitz.