The ‘Sins’ of Mellie Grant: An Episodic List
[A huge thanks to spectaclesinscript for her invaluable contributions to an early draft of this list.]
I was very annoyed with the Mellivia conversation in Flesh and Blood (317) for several reasons, even though I thought it was a great dramatic scene. If you watched the Scandal Podcast , I promised that I had a lot of feelings about the scene, which I would put on my blog. I was particularly perturbed by Olivia’s comment to Mellie: “You’re not an idiot, and you are never reckless.” I did a ruh-roh.
I had to take to my dictionary.
Reckless: (of a person or their actions) without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action.
I realized that Olivia chose that word very carefully. She is right. Most (not all) of Mellie’s problematic actions have not been reckless because she did think about them and cared about the outcome. HOWEVER, Mellie has caused much wreckage with the miscalculations of many of her deeds. I started thinking about her ‘sins’, as I deem them, and tried to write them down. I took myself way back to the first episode and thought about extent of her lies, manipulations and denials. Once I started, it soon became clear that I could not fit them into my forthcoming essay, Mellie Grant, Please Stop Being a Victim, Or Why Olivia Pope Owes You Nothing. I have decided to publish the list of ‘sins’ as a separate companion piece prior to the essay. This list is made in bulleted format, without much regard for pretty sentences. I tried to minimize my commentary and just list her actions. Some of you will disagree with this list, as I’m sure I’ve interpreted some of Mellie’s actions according to my own world view. I tried not to be petty, or exhaustive because God knows Mellie is not extraordinary in her manipulations—just in her victimization. Without further ado…
Hell Hath No Fury (103): Fitz was not sleeping, not able to run the country properly, tried to pimp Olivia as sexual labor in order to get her husband to fall in line and not endanger her investment in the White House. But guys, she’s totally humiliated by the whole thing ::eye roll::
The Trail (106): First campaign flashback, a Mellie who is deeply invested in the political reality of the presidency, takes it upon herself to use her gender to manipulate female votes for her husband by lying about a fake miscarriage. Believes she is justified and that husband owes her for something he did not ask for.
Grant: For the People (107): Is seen packing her bags for Santa Barbara. Readily admitted wanting to abandon Fitz when rumours about him and Amanda tanner hit the media cycle. Not about that Tammy Wynette life at the time. When confronted, accuses Olivia Pope of failing at her job as ‘sexual labourer/Fitz’s protector’ (remember this is the truth at Mellie sees it, not an objective, universal truth). Makes a deal with Olivia to wrest control of her husband in order to control him and their life in the White House.
White Hat’s Off (201): Pregnant Mellie during a televised fluff piece to find out sex of the political capitol then known as ‘America’s Baby’, without warning, brings up East Sudan. Tries to force her husband’s hand to enter a war he wants to avoid at all costs. Fakes ‘pregnancy brain’ when husband is not impressed by this public manipulation. Husband does not desire her as his closest political advisor, later yells at her for publically undermining him. Calls her position of First Lady “ornamental”, not “functional”.
Hunting Season (203): Mellie and Fitz have a cute moment being nice to each other while she folds baby clothes from Queen Elizabeth II. Later notices that her husband seems distracted and forlorn at dinner, so charms Secret Service into revealing who could have changed his mood so suddenly. Becoming angry upon learning that Fitzgerald met up with Olivia Pope in the middle of the day on his hunting outing, Mellie threatens him about her “bright, bright political future”, saying she will make sure he does not make it to a second term. Yells at him to “GET OVER HER!” Her anger is deemed justified and appropriate.
Beltway Unbuckled (204): Still mad about the Olivia Pope thing, encourages husband to leave for the G-8 as soon as possible because she doesn’t want to see his face. After being puked on by some unimmunized kid, referring to Defiance, demands a seat at the adult table again doing something less trivial than typical First Lady stuff. Threatens Cyrus with Defiance while husband in the room (doing a 20-minute shtick of pretending to care). Cyrus tells her this is the job she signed up for. Seeing political opportunity in Jenny Nystrom case Olivia is handling, goes behind her husband’s back on policy and publicly takes a stand “not as First Lady, but as a mom”, adding public pressure for her husband to revoke Alexander Lavich’s diplomatic immunity. This was less to help Olivia, and more to put herself in the public eye doing something substantive.
All Roads Lead to Fitz (205): Cyrus describes Mellie to her face as “a frightening political animal, who would eat off her own foot if it mean you could get ahead.” It’s a trait he admires, which says a lot. Following that conversation, tries to get out of Defiance Illuminati meetings after just asking for a seat at the adult table in the previous episode. Threatens to “deny, deny, deny” any involvement with Defiance. True to her word, Mellie later never apologizes to her own husband after he finds out.
Happy Birthday, Mr. President (208): In a flashback, within the first 100 days of being in office, Mellie figures out that Olivia and Fitz are having an affair. Does not express anger, does not threaten Olivia, does not implore her to stop. Instead, ambitious Mellie recalculates in her brain that Olivia Pope is a sexual laborer to her husband who keeps him relaxed and better able to lead. Mellie therefore still envisions herself as a ‘prize’ and her position at the top of the hierarchy can be maintained.
One for The Dog (210): In fear of temporarily losing White House to VP Sally Langston, takes drastic measures, forming unholy alliance with Cyrus Beene, by forging her bullet-hole riddled, comatose husband’s signature to a reinstatement letter. Does not calculate adverse outcomes, forcing Olivia Pope to come to the rescue of the alliance and the whole country.
A Criminal, A Whore, An Idiot and A Liar (211): In flashback to first campaign, when husband seems to need help in the polls, instigates bringing her attacker, former beloved Governor of California and father of her husband, Big Jerry, onboard in order to gain votes for her husband. Secondly, when not invited, insinuates herself into the election fraud cabal in order to get her husband elected by any means necessary.
Truth and Consequences (212): A very pregnant Mellie, feeling desperate after her husband requests a divorce in 211, takes drastic measures and co-opts her doctor to induce the birth of America’s baby. This is after Mellie claims to be the cause of all of Fitzgerald Grant’s success.
Nobody Likes Babies (213): Having very recently given birth, Mellie tells her husband “til death do us part. There will be no divorce, honey” after Fitzgerald tries to follow-up on his request in 211. Days later, makes threats to Cyrus Beene, claiming she will “go nuclear” and destroy Fitzgerald Grant should he dare go through with a divorce. After his destruction, she will “leave him, take his children, take every penny he has in the bank and dollar of political capitol he has in this town…[sic], bury him and dance on his grave.” Lovely. By episode’s end, a betrayed, and now murderous Fitzgerald Grant, turns to the one person who he thinks “has always been honest about who [she is]” (ha!) and asks “do you love me…enough to be on my side?”. Mellie accepts him back without question because this benefits her goals. Yay, no more divorce!
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (214): Mellie blames Cyrus for her involvement in Defiance. Tells Fitz that Cyrus got everyone on board. Takes no responsibility for her actions.
Boom! Goes the Dynamite (215): When summoned by Fitz to the Oval Office for leaking national security secrets on a conference call with families of the Kashfari hostages, she feels she is a victim of Fitz’s anger. Takes no responsibility for the lives she put in danger.
Snake in the Garden (217): Having failed to apologize to Fitzgerald for Defiance, Mellie dismisses the complexity of Fitz’s devastation over Defiance, and accuses him of simply being a baby who is mad that Olivia Pope is no longer his perfect angel who holds the secrets of the universe between her magical thighs.
Molly, You in Danger Girl (218): When Fitz tries to confront her about the real truth of their marriage, and whether or not she knew that their meeting was engineered to pair them off in a secret political alliance, she skirts the issue wanting to avoid any responsibility. Launches into a speech about how pretending is what’s real, including pretending that one doesn’t hate their in-laws (Big Jerry, her attacker), or that one doesn’t love one of their children (Karen) more than the other (Jerry).
A Woman Scorned (220):Vindictively goes on national television—without considering the full extent of the repercussions to herself and the life she supposedly desires—playing the victim of her husband’s philandering.
White Hat’s Back On (222): Humiliated that her husband openly defers to his brilliant political strategist lover, Olivia Pope, in front of her and others, Mellie threatens to only accept her husband back if he is crawling on his knees. After learning that the public has lost faith in her for airing her dirty laundry on national television, takes opportunistic visit to the hospital where her husband is at the bedside of Cyrus Beene. Tries to lure Fitz into making an appearance with her to boost her ratings with the public. At the end of the episode, mistakenly thinking that her husband has actually humbled himself and seen the error of his ways, Mellie takes Fitz back. Taking Fitzgerald back is not out of love (hello, have you seen their relationship?), but because it’s easier than actually forging her own life without him. After all, look at all the sacrifices!
It’s Handled (301): After agreeing to a plan concocted by herself, Olivia Pope and her husband in the Bunker, then goes behind husband’s back and throws innocent White House staffer, Jeanine Locke, under the bus as the Presidential mistress. This is done to avoid having to come clean to the American public, and allowing Fitzgerald and Olivia to ‘win’. Calls him her idealistic, romantic, optimistic, idiotic husband. Finds out husband did not humble himself, but instead used her ‘pretending is what’s real’ philosophy to start a cold war with her.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (302): When Cyrus refuses to push Fitz into supporting the Janine Lock-as-Mistress idea that Mellie came up with, replies “He is my husband, not yours, Cyrus. I will push him however and whenever I want.” Later hatches blackmail plan to get Janine to collaborate, thereby fucking up Olivia and Fitz’s plan. Fitz ends up admitting to a lie as the best possible outcome given what Mellie did.
Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington (303): Drunk Mellie tells her husband that she will exploit his flaw of religious fervour for Olivia Pope. ::hiccup:: Promises to use her as a weapon to “make her puppet husband dance”. This tanslates to doing whatever she deems necessary in order to stay First Lady, even after she calls it a bullshit job that is profoundly boring, most recently in 301.
More Cattle, Less Bull (305): Having been rejected by Leo Bergen to run her husband’s campaign, sober Mellie, makes good on promise from 303. Overhearing a romantic call between Fitzgerald and Olivia, Mellie enlists Olivia Pope to consider coming back to her and her husband by appealing to Olivia’s vulnerabilities for Fitzgerald. Again, Mellie is re-visiting behavior from 103 and 208: Olivia, please motivate my husband with your magical thighs, so long as it gets me what I want in the end.
Icarus (306): Despite Cyrus’s reservations about Olivia potentially managing Fitz’s campaign, Mellie emphasizes that Olivia “wins elections”, thereby showing what her primary concern is, despite the price. Standing in the Oval Office, gestures to her husband as a prize that Olivia now gets for coming back to the White House, while enthusiastically saying to Olivia, “Welcome home.” When Olivia Pope decides she cannot work for Fitzgerald due to some personal issues, Mellie Grant pushes her husband in the chest and says to him, “I did everything but roll your whore up in a rug and unfurl her at your feet. I begged her. I bled for this.” Fitz says NBD, they’ll find someone else. Mellie emphasizes that to win, “there is no one else. “ Storms out.
Everything’s Coming Up Mellie (307) [fun fact, Mellie’s fixer uttered this in 221]
Flashback: (15 years ago) We see a time that Mellie seemed to be happy, independent (partner at a law firm) and actually liked her husband, Fitzgerald Grant. He was also clearly very taken with her. Mellie works with Big Jerry (behind Fitz’s back) to advance a political dream that Fitz had, and that Mellie also clearly wanted. When Fitzgerald rejects running on his military record, thereby threatening to derail everyone’s (including Mellie) investment in him, Mellie tries to rescue the operation by keeping Cyrus Beene on board. Agrees to Cyrus’ terms for her to give up her career and adopt Fitzgerald as her project. Mellie did not have to abide by that, but it was a choice. That same evening, Mellie leaves her husband to retire to bed by himself and stays with her father in law, Big Jerry, in further collusion to get their prized pony over the finish line. We know what happens next. A traumatized Mellie does not tell her husband, electing instead to pretend the rape did not happen, and focus on future goals which are at the very core of her marriage to Fitzgerald Grant. The repercussions would go on to create concentric circles of unintended consequences.
Present day: After husband fails to show up for her in an interview set up to make him (and obvs, her) look good, tells Fitz that they are “supposed to be in this together” (blasphemy!), but she is alone. Fitz says let’s not pretend. She then reminds him, “If you knew the sacrifices I have made, the things that I have given up, and the pieces of myself that I have given away for you…And you treat me this way….[sic] I have done nothing but fight for you.” This is disturbing because Mellie has rationalized the rape and her ensuing actions as a sacrifices she made on Fitz’s behalf. Something unbeknownst to him. Therefore, she has since canonized herself as Saint Mellie who does everything, apparently, for Fitzgerald Grant out of pure sacrifice with no gain for herself. ::eye roll:: Also colludes with Cyrus on entrapping Daniel Douglass in an affair so as to derail Sally’s efforts to run against Fitz. Picks out the girl, then when that fails tips Cyrus off about DD being gay.
Vermont is For Lovers, Too (308): First time we see Mellie not yell at Fitz, knowing he has been with Olivia Pope. Decides to pick her battles carefully, after all, according to Mellie, she did practically roll Olivia up in a rug and deliver her to Fitzgerald (306).::eyeroll:: has her eye on the White House prize.
YOLO (309): Even after warning Cyrus against pimping out his own husband (because she knows that life!) in 308, pressures him to make a move with the photos he had taken of Daniel Douglas and James’s adulterous tryst. Later mocks Cyrus (after supporting Fitz in yelling at him) about withholding the photograph, thus causing Sally to submit her papers to run against Fitz.
A Door Marked Exit (310): Helps Cyrus Beene clean up a murder. Does not tell her husband for sake of plausible deniability. Instructs Cyrus not to tell Olivia, otherwise Fitz will find out. Does not want to endanger Fitz’s re-election.
Ride, Sally, Ride (311): Walks in on Olitz in Oval Office canoodling. Grits her teeth and says nothing because she has her eye on the prize, and is once again pimping her husband out for said result. Tries to set Olivia up in a bearded relationship to keep the press off the scent. Her moon-eyed paramour re-enters the picture
We Do Not Touch the First Ladies (312): Tells Olivia that she is more virtuous, and well-practiced at keeping her knees together. Kisses Andrew by end of episode.
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (314): Makes bullshit straw man argument insisting that background checks on guns are as silly as background checks on vodka because bloody marys kill far more people than guns Sorry, I just…some Republicans, maaane.
Mama Said Knock You Out (315): Recklessly has sex with Andrew in unlocked room of East Wing. Later confronted by husband about her affair, not because she is having sex with another man, but because of the man’s relationship to him and his children, as well as the lies she told him for 15 years. Still does not tell husband about the rape. Instead is shocked that he is confronting her about her lies from 15 years ago. She lied to him about the reason why she was rejecting physical intimacy after Jerry’s birth.
The Fluffer (316): Husband asks Olivia Pope to destroy the relationship between his wife and his ‘brother’, Andrew. Upon being rejected by Andrew, an angry Mellie charges into the Oval Office and slaps her husband while yelling, “You take everything from me!” Mellie continues to see herself as a victim in her marriage, and Fitzgerald Grant a proxy for his father who was her attacker.
Flesh and Blood (317): Drunk Mellie tells her husband that outsiders are not the only ones that want him dead, and sarcastically that she is ready to be blown up. Mellie Grant, for the first time, exposes cracks in her armour to Olivia Pope. Tells her husband’s lover that she wants him to ‘burn’, ‘suffer’ and bear the cross of Big Jerry, which she has carried for far too long. Bearing the cross alone, was again, the choice that she made to protect a future she wanted. Puts responsibility of fixing her mess on Olivia Pope’s shoulders.
As I’ve said before, Mellie is not the only treacherous character on Scandal. That’s not the point. She is, however, the only prominent character who repeatedly fails to take responsibility for her actions. I’m sick of it, so I’m calling her all the way out. Stay tuned for a more nuanced argument about why I’ve reached my breaking point with this character.b