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Character Development: Olivia and her Dad’s twisted relationship revealed, Scandal “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” 

Photo Credit: Danny Feld/ABC

“We are family, sweetie. We’re never done.” –Eli Pope (aka Rowan aka Command)

The first two episodes of Scandal’s season three has taught us a lot about Olivia Pope. More than ever before, in fact. I was always mildly curious about Liv’s past but I was more obsessed with her present, meaning her relationship with Fitz.

But, man, we knew she was a damaged individual. Now we know how much. And why. And it all begins and ends with the relationship she has with her father, Eli Pope. Or should we just call him by his B613 title? Command.

It also begins and ends with those icy cold dinners the two shared via flashbacks. The ones that took blackmail and extortion to enable them to happen. Witnessing those made me wonder why Eli wanted to have dinner with a daughter who clearly wanted nothing to do with him.

It’s like he wanted these to occur because this is what fathers and daughters are supposed to do. This is what family does. They have dinner. Talk. Share a relationship even though it’s based in bitterness and disappointment and not knowing each other very well. There’s not an ounce of warmth in those dinners. Which is why they are so fascinating to watch.

But before we get delve more into these messed up meals, let’s talk about all the Olivia Pope character development we’ve learned recently:

  • Olivia’s a Princeton grad
  • She graduated from Georgetown Law School
  • Her mom died when she was 12 — she was in a plane crash
  • Olivia never lived at home after her mom’s death
  • She went to all the best boarding schools: Surval Montreux and St. Anne’s (as in St. Anne’s-Belfied School, I believe)
  • She has a penchant for older men
  • At one point she was a noted party girl
  • She worked for Cyrus, current Chief of Staff, who once turned down running Harvard
  • She didn’t like wine originally. Her dad introduced her to fine wines. Now we know she LOVES the stuff
  • Her father, Eli, was curator for the Smithsonian…or so she thought
  • Now we know that Eli is Command, leader of the super-secret assassin training group known as B613
  • Olivia and Eli had a standing Sunday dinner rendez-vous.
  • Olivia showed up for these dinners because it meant her dad would pay off her law school loans
  • These flashbacks were five years ago, so we again saw Olivia interacting with Homeless and Hairy Huck in the subway. When she got mugged, Huck saved her and started beating the muggers senseless.
  • When she confronted him, Huck came clean about his super spy assassin past for an organization called B613 which is the CIA except on American soil.
  • She asked her dad to find out about B613 and Huck. And that’s when Olivia figures out her dad doesn’t work for the Smithsonian. He’s involved in something much less fuddy duddy and decidedly more deadly.
  • He tells her Huck was arrested. Really, B613 took him back. But Olivia makes a plea for him.
  • Huck never finds out that Command is Olivia’s dad until this very episode. That results in a super intense totally scary scene in the garage. Now who knows what their relationship will be from here on out. The Olivia/Huck friendship has always been such a great part of this show.
  • Even the whole Edison/Olivia engagement was nothing more than a strategy or a tactic to put her dad on notice. Five years ago, Senator Edison Davis had been appointed to the Senate Intel Committee. “The one that makes sure spies don’t break any laws, like disappearing innocent civilians, that kind of thing.” Poor Edison. Command Dad arranged for an “accident” to happen (broken collarbone, broken leg or two) and then put his daughter on notice: end the engagement. This guy isn’t for you. As a result, Olivia knows enough to stay away from what Eli does from here on out. He won’t tolerate any interference now that she knows the truth about him.
  • In present day, she once again makes a deal for someone she cares about. She puts those dreaded dinners on the table again and suddenly Jake Ballard — who looks wounded and awful — shows up at her door. He just got the same treatment Huck did. That Command Dad is a bad, bad dude.

I wonder if they really are going to resume Olivia and Eli’s weekly dinners. And if we’re going to get to witness any of them. The one when Olivia confronted her dad about knowing he actually didn’t work for the Smithsonian was probably the most awkward, painful and scary family outing ever (well, until those airport scenes from “It’s Handled”). Joe Morton has a way of taking all the emotion out of his voice and whenever Olivia is on the business end of that, I’m genuinely scared for her:

Olivia: “Dad? Do you teach people how to kill? Do you throw them in a hole until they go insane? Do you work in Wonderland?”

Eli: “I’m your father. So I’m going to explain to you how you are to behave in my presence. You do not ask questions that you cannot handle the answer to. You do not make judgments about things you cannot imagine. You don’t know me that way. You don’t ever want to know me that way. But if you push you will know me well, and that would break my heart, because I’m enjoying these Sunday dinners that you make me pay for. Now you are on my dime, pick up your menu, order your meal, and tell me about your day.”

It’s like he feels they have to have this public face. And they will show they are a family and damn whatever the hell else is going on or has gone on in the past. Their relationship is so complex. There is probably love there but it’s dark, twisted and cold. Joe Morton and Kerry Washington excel in their scenes together. But their scenes are just so painful to watch. This isn’t what you’d consider a lovey dovey touchy feely father-daughter duo. These two are formidable opponents. I can’t wait to see these deliciously disastrous father-daughter dinners make a comeback.

Random Thoughts

-A goateed David Rosen in the flashbacks — so glad he got rid of the facial hair.

-Cyrus: “You’re evil.” Mellie: “You’re welcome.” — such a great exchange. I love Mellie/Cyrus scenes.

-I loved the proud look on Fitz’s face when Olivia went on the attack regarding the whole Jeannine Locke business.

-Of course, later, the president came clean to the world that he did indeed have an affair with the girl. That was to help save Jake. I want to feel sympathy for the girl but I don’t as much anymore. She was willing to accept a two-million dollar payoff from Mellie to lie and tell the media she did sleep with a “super-hot” Fitz.

-Olivia and Fitz aren’t together right now. But I’m okay with that. It’s not like last year when secrets and lies and Defiance and so much more kept them apart. There wasn’t a lot of hope then. This season, they’re still able to talk on the phone occasionally. There is still hope for them. That’s enough for me right now.

-I do wonder how things are going to play out with Jake now. He’s in a world of hurt and Olivia will probably help him recover.

-Not sure how I feel about Quinn hacking into Liv’s private emails. Must process that later.

-And what was in that Remington report? Inquiring minds want to know.

Scandal airs Thursdays on ABC at 10/9c.

If you love Scandal, check out our articles where Dan Bucatinsky (James), Katie Lowes (Quinn) and Joshua Malina (David Rosen) talk about their show’s social media success and having to do all those great monologues.


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