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Scandal, Ep. 3.04, “Say Hello to My Little Friend” continues arc with flair, underwhelms procedurally

Scandal, Ep. 3.04, “Say Hello to My Little Friend” continues arc with flair, underwhelms procedurally

Scandal, S03E05 Say Hello to My Little Friend promo pic

Scandal, Season 3, Episode 4, “Say Hello to My Little Friend”
Written by Mark Fish
Directed by Oliver Bokelberg
Airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on ABC

Scandal may be three years into its run, but viewers are finally starting to catch on and it’s easy to see why. After picking up speed in season two, the episodes this year have kicked into high gear, exploring Olivia in greater detail and depth thanks to the revelation of her complicated, to say the very least, relationship with her father. There’s plenty more going on, but it’s this arc in particular that has elevated the season so far and it’s no surprise that this holds true again in “Say Hello to My Little Friend”.

Gladiators hoping to see more of Scott Foley’s Jake Ballard this week are likely to be disappointed, but while less of the episode centers on his reappearance than many may have expected, the scenes we do get are dynamite. One of the best moves the writers made in the first three episodes this season was keeping Ballard a strong presence on the show, despite his physical absence. This allows us to jump right in with him this week, saving time- we remember who he is and what significance he holds to Olivia and the writers know we know, ‘cause they’ve gently reminded us over the past few episodes. Instead, we spend our few scenes with him getting the answers he has to give and (surprise!) discussing Olivia’s father. Kerry Washington is always great, but she’s a knockout in her scene with Foley as she cracks in a way we’ve never really seen, reverting to the appeasing daughter and showing the audience just how emotionally abusive her father has been. Olivia Pope is a fantastic character, capable of so much and of being so many things. When we look at her in this moment we see, for what seems like the first time, a scared, helpless child. It may be difficult to watch, but it makes for great drama.

Scandal, S03E05 Say Hello to My Little Friend promo pic

Elsewhere in the episode Lisa Kudrow begins what looks to be a recurring role as a Democratic up and comer, given notoriety after an unfortunate mic slip-up by Mellie. Kudrow is an excellent fit for this show and seeing Pope represent her next week should be an absolute blast. More importantly, this mistake from Mellie gives us another of the episode’s highlights, her almost-moment with Fitz. It says a lot that in a jam-packed episode like this, writer Mark Fish and director Oliver Bokelberg take the time to sit with this beat, letting Bellamy Young tell Mellie and Fitz’s ever-repeating journey from hope to bitterness in a single look. It’s a rare bit of stillness in an otherwise very busy episode and that contrast only makes it stand out more. Some may wonder why this nighttime soap is breaking through in a way others aren’t, and the answer is moments like this. Fitz also has a nice scene at the funeral and we get to see Cyrus and James be adorable (it’s nice to have them back together and happy, for now at least), but the majority of the rest of the episode is spent on an unfortunate case of the week.

It’s not surprising to see Scandal take on the Wiener texting fiasco, but it is disappointing that they do so little with it. Ripped from the headlines only works for so long before stories start to feel repetitive, and this case, minus the cell phones, is one we’ve seen before (pretty sure Law & Order did a shockingly similar case during the middle of its run, down to the reveal of the wife, though she may have stayed with her husband). Melora Hardin and Patrick Fabian do their best with it, but this is not a particularly interesting case and they both end up wasted. Fortunately there are a few nice touches throughout. The early wipes during the trial are a fun and efficient way of moving ahead and despite their less-than-standup client, it’s great to see the team back in action. Rosen is the highlight here- it’s surprising how successfully they’ve managed the character, keeping believable in both his roles as opponent and occasional ally.

Between the rumblings of Project Remington, Huck’s struggles with his form of sobriety, his newfound partnership with Ballard, and Fitz’s awareness of Eli, there looks to be plenty of twists and turns ahead. If they’re anywhere near as fun as these first few weeks have been, we’re in for one hell of a ride.

What did you think of this episode? Are you glad to have Ballard back? Think Huck’s right about Quinn? Anyone else love Harrison’s Happy-Paying-the-Bills dance? Post your thoughts below!

Kate Kulzick