Over the last seven seasons of Scandal, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has done more than coin the phrase “It’s handled” and prove President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) definitely cannot earn her. She has also imbibed a ton of red wine while wearing the finest cream and neutral luxury separates a D.C. fixer can buy. While we’re all used to seeing Liv down a glass of vino like an especially thirsty goldfish in a brand new bowl, there was something different about newly-named Command’s drinking habits in Thursday night’s midseason finale “Something Borrowed.” That subtle visual alarm bell was the fact there was no glass at all for her wine — Olivia Pope was drinking right out of the bottle. This may seem like the kind of reaction anyone would have to acting as both the White House chief of staff and Command of B613, the world’s top spy organization, but, in reality, it was proof of Olivia’s biggest transformation.
Throughout Scandal, Olivia has been guzzling wine out of her impossibly large, impossibly grand iconic glass goblets. It’s the stuff endless “Is it Friday yet?” GIFs are made of. Even when it seemed Olivia was drinking an entire bottle of blood-red wine out of a single glass, she still had a glass. In the final 10 minutes of season 7’s “Something Borrowed” she drops such pretense to take a good long swig out of her bottle of unnamed, definitely expensive vino. This is a different Olivia Pope.
The timing of this decision matters. When we enter the “Something Borrowed” scene in question, Olivia is still using one of her goblets when co-spy and ex-boyfriend Jake Ballard (Scott Foley) arrives at her apartment. He’s there to remind her she only has a few more hours to figure out how she’s going to handle her latest B613-related problem, which is the fact her father Rowan Pope (Joe Morton) kidnapped her close, very pregnant friend Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes) and is threatening to murder mother and unborn child. An Olivia-led murder of a Middle Eastern leader and some dinosaur bones are also involved. Throughout the episode, Olivia has small, private panic attacks as the walls close in on her; will she lose her empire, let her friend die, or expose herself for the black hat she has become?
This question is what pushes Olivia over the edge. If Quinn dies, many problems are solved, since the mom-to-be knows Liv killed Bashrani president Rashad (Faran Tahir), but, she’s Quinn. So, Olivia could kill her father and eliminate an overarching problem that’s been plaguing her for years. That’s a no-go in Liv’s mind, even though she can’t let Rowan win. Liv tries to explain her predicament to Jake, and he has no sympathy. Instead, the NSA director only stresses Olivia out more, saying, “Where the hell does that leave you? I’m very sorry, Olivia, but you do not get to have it all.” That comment is so harsh, Liv throws her sometimes boy toy out of her apartment.
Once Jake has fully destroyed the fragile mental framework she’s created in her mind to protect herself from a full nervous breakdown, she sets down her empty goblet and goes for the full bottle instead. It’s the first time Liv has ever descended into such a naked practice totally alone, since the first, and last by all accounts, the time she drank out of the bottle was to commiserate with a client seasons ago. That was social; this is desperation.
By discarding her beloved wine glass, Olivia is metaphorically discarding the many habits she has kept around to keep herself Olivia Pope: Respectable Political Operative, as opposed to Olivia Pope: Murderer Of Vice Presidents, Presidents, And Possibly Best Friends. But, as Jake points out, she’s Command now. Does she still need to keep up any of this charade? No, not particularly, so who really needs to pretend a fancy massive goblet is necessary when a bottle can do the trick in the truest way possible?
Similarly, Liv’s loved ones helped her believe she was still a white hat who loves order and goodness. That’s why so much her anxiety is over her fear Quinn will expose her as the new leader of B613, something that would end her relationship not only with Quinn, but also her connections with “family” like Huck (Guillermo Díaz) and Abby Whelan (Darby Stanchfield). Those three, and even attorney general pal David Rosen (Joshua Malina), are the walking, talking wine glasses of her life, reminding Liv she isn’t a total monster; that there's still order around here. Yet, by “Something Borrowed”'s end, Liv has turned away from her friends and is completely leading that Command life. B613 under Olivia’s tenure has murdered a man who could connect her to Rashad’s assassination, Rashad's innocent young niece Yasmeen (Medalion Rahimi), journalist Curtis Price (Jay Hernandez), and maybe even Quinn if Scandal if to be believed.
The end of the winter finale shows us Liv inadvertently setting her white hat on fire for good. The match, in this case, is Quinn’s alleged death. Olivia tries to play spy chicken with Rowan, attempting to call his bluff on his attempt to trade Quinn and her unborn baby for the dinosaur bones Command confiscated from him. Liv doesn’t believe her father will really murder Quinn if he doesn’t get what he wants, but, she’s apparently wrong. After Liv condescendingly counts down the clock on Rowan’s ultimatum, he walks off screen and fires two gun shots. The sound of Quinn screaming “Please,” can be heard. “You want to see the body?” Rowan asks Liv when he returns, closing out Scandal for 2017.
If the death sticks — this is Scandal and it wasn’t on camera, so anything can happen — it will be the one Liv can never come back from. Considering how far the Gladiator now is from her white hat-wearing, early seasons self, I expect when Scandal returns in 2018, Liv's symbol-laden wine glasses won't simply be set aside, they'll be smashed against a wall.
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