“What do you want to know about lies, my dear? I’ll tell you about lies. There are white lies and black lies… and many shades of grey lies. But some lies are justified. Lies told out of kindness. Lies that preserve dignity. Lies that spare pain. Everybody’s a liar, dear.”—The L Word, “Lies, Lies, Lies”
The Scandalverse is full of all kinds of lies. So are we. Whether we are lying by omission, or lying through purposeful obfuscation, a lie is a lie is a lie. I’m a strong believer in binary opposition: a thing cannot exist without the thing that it is not. Truth cannot exist without lies, just as light cannot exist without darkness. And lies are sometimes as necessary as the truth. Lying is one of the many ways in which we perform reality. In Scandal Bros Before Moles, I noted that Fitz encouraging Cyrus to fight for his relationship with James is linked to Fitz’s desire for redemption with Olivia. Similarly, last week in A Treasonous Act, I declared that even when it’s not about Olitz, it’s about Olitz. This is another post in that vein. I realize this is my own stubborn view, but go with me on this journey, and see if you see what I see. In this post, I will attempt to decode two scenes that depict the parallel lies and lives of Jamus and Olitz in the wake of the Defiance fallout.
Let’s jump into the most pertinent parts of the Jamus scene:
Cyrus: You love me anyway. You don’t use it against me. You don’t keep a list of my crimes. You want to know who I am? This is who I am. This is who you married. This is who you love.
James: I got on the stand in that Grand Jury, and I perjured myself. You made me purjure myself!
Cyrus: I never made you perjure yourself.
James: You made me! You told me the truth, and you gave me a baby, and you bought my soul. I didn’t have a choice.
Cyrus: You had a choice!
James: No, I didn’t. What was I supposed to choose? What choice did I have?
James blah blah blahs about how Cyrus ‘made’ him perjure himself in a Grand Jury; that he didn’t’ have a choice; that Cyrus gave him all the things he knew he wanted, so he had no choice. Yet James knows Cyrus very well. He knew that Cyrus was trying to bribe him with a baby, but at the time, did not care because he—James—was getting exactly what he wanted. The bribe’s purpose did not matter. Ignorance is bliss, right? But now that James knows the excruciating truth about Defiance, and Cyrus’s motivations, he wishes he were still ignorant. He wishes Cyrus had lied to him. James is essentially mad because of his own guilt, his role in the whole undoing of America. He broke his journalistic (and personal) rules about exposing the truth. Because he can’t come to terms with being both a liar and a truth-teller, he must blame this incongruity on Cyrus.
Cyrus: You had a choice, James. You could have put me in prison. You could have brought down the White House. You could have chosen justice. You chose love; you chose me. You chose our life. You chose yourself. You chose your own happiness. And that’s not sitting so well with you now. Now. This is inside, rotting…deep inside you. You made a choice, and it’s not so much the choice. It’s the fact that you now know that you’re capable of making that kind of choice. That’s what’s keeping you awake at night. And you can pretend it’s me: that I’ve infected you with all my bad, bad ways. But it wasn’t. You made a choice. You did this. This is the man you are. And guess what? I love. You. Anyway. Because that is the man I am.
This scene with Cyrus and James is a parallel with Fitz and Olivia (everything circles back to these beautiful knuckleheads). There are things that we keep to ourselves in order to spare our loved ones from the greatest pain. Sometimes the truth can hurt everyone involved. Even if we choose to lie to someone, we have to face the truth of who we are. Is Cyrus representative of Olivia here? James’s sacrifices representative of Fitz? I’m not sure. I think that both Olivia and Fitz can identify with both Cyrus and James’ perspectives. Cyrus proves that we have to be honest about who we are, but also own up to the things that we did; we can’t see ourselves as the victim.
For Fitz, Cyrus’s monologue is about killing Verna (because that’s exactly what they talk about later). He can pretend Olivia’s bad, bad ways drove him to that decision. But he had a choice. He could have brought down the White House and chosen justice, his ideals. But he chose love. He chose his life. He chose happiness (some approximation of it). It’s been eating away at him, all mashed up with his feelings about what Olivia did to get him elected. He’s been pretending that even killing Verna is her fault. But that’s on him. Just like James, Fitz now knows that he is a person who is capable of doing something horrible. He’s a murderer. That is a huge thing to confront and accept about oneself. It’s one thing to think about murdering in the abstract, quite another thing to look in the mirror and know that you killed another person. On the upside, Fitz can console himself that he is now an official member of team OFC: where everyone’s a liar and a murderer. Olivia and Cyrus have both killed by proxy (through Huck and Charlie, respectively). [EDIT: Olivia has tortured by proxy]. You know what the Bard said about a rose by any other name smelling just as sweet? Yeah, well a person who’s been murdered by proxy is just as dead.
For Olivia, Cyrus’ monologue is about her Defiance decision. It’s not the what, it’s the why. She made a choice, and it’s not so much the choice, but the fact that she knows she’s capable of making that choice. She lied for years to spare Fitz pain. But her lies have kept her awake at night. She can pretend that Cyrus, the rest of the Illuminati, and her love for Fitz infected her and drove her to that decision. She made a choice. This is the woman she is. And guess what? Despite the fall-out, despite himself, Fitz loves. Her. Anyway. Because that is the man he is.
James: I wish you didn’t tell me. When I asked about Defiance? I wish you had just lied to me. I wish you’d let me believe that…I wish that you’d lied.
God, that’s powerful. James’ comment made me think about how fucked up human relationships can be. Sometimes we say we want one thing, but are completely unprepared to withstand the impact. In episode 213 (“Nobody Likes Babies”), James begged: “Cyrus Rutherford Beene: for once in your life, show me who you are!” Cyrus showed him, and James wished he hadn’t seen it. And he couldn’t un-see it. His psyche and marriage have suffered for nearly a year because of the truth that he saw. In episode 212 (“Truth and Consequences”), a near catatonic Olivia tells Fitz on the phone, “You don’t know. You don’t know who I am. You don’t know me.” When he finally found out exactly why she said that, he couldn’t un-see the truth of what she was saying. And he wasn’t prepared to deal with the consequences, at least not for nearly a year. I think he’s ready now.
James leaves the room after he makes his final comment. Cyrus is left looking like he can’t win. He’s right; he can’t. It’s a Catch-22 situation. Exactly the same is true for Olivia where Defiance is concerned. Either way you win, someone has to lose. Everyone’s truth is someone else’s lie. In an earlier Jamus conversation, James accusingly shouts at Cyrus, “You are a liar! You lie for a living.” I thought that was interesting because as a journalist, James job is to tell the truth for a living. He has been compromised since unpacking the truth about Defiance, and then lying about it to a Grand Jury.
“We all make rules for ourselves. It’s these rules that help define who we are. So when we break those rules, we risk losing ourselves, and becoming something unknown. Who is [she] now? Who am I? Is this a new beginning, or the beginning of the end?”—Dexter, “This is the Way the World Ends”
James compromised himself as a person for the sake of his husband and family. He doesn’t know who he is any more since Cyrus told him the truth. Is that on him, or on Cyrus to fix? Olivia, too, has been compromised. She broke her own rules. Her compromise, however, started with her relationship with Fitz. Her decision over Defiance and its subsequent consequences, represent the pinnacle of that compromise.
From episode 212 (“Truth and Consequences”):
Olivia (to Cyrus): “I made a mistake. I sat on that plane, and I voted yes. And ever since…I made a mistake. I don’t do things like that. I fix things. I should have fixed it so that there wasn’t even a reason to vote on that plane. If I hadn’t been emotionally involved with Fitz; If I had kept it together, I would have fixed it. We should never have done it. And now? We’re the bad guys, and I don’t know how to fix that.”
Olivia has always struck me as a woman who lived by the rules she created for herself, not by society’s rules. Maybe because her rules kept her grounded and safe? Whatever the reason, she’s been incrementally colouring outside the lines since she yielded herself to Fitz on that campaign bus. And while her relationship with Fitz has brought her some of the highest highs, it’s also brought her some of her lowest lows. I guess that’s painful, difficult, devastating (ruinous), life-changing, extraordinary love for ya. Olivia is a liar; she lies for a living. She lies to herself all the time. After all that’s happened, she has to decide the woman she’s going to be. Her vacillation between a woman that loves Fitz; hates Fitz; loves herself; hates herself is not doing her any favors.
Now let’s look at a related later scene wherein, Cyrus, licking his wounds from the earlier Jamus conversation, speaks to Fitz. Fitz is calling Cyrus, half out of genuine concern for his love life, but also because he’s looking for a redemption song. Earlier in the episode, we saw Fitz playing mentor to Cyrus, which is a role reversal in itself if you think about the fact that Cyrus’ job is to mentor Fitz as president. In this scene, Fitz—the man, the mentee—is seeking the counsel of his mentor and friend, Cyrus. Let’s breakdown the scene (I’ve skipped the trivial part of the conversation):
Cyrus: [sic]…Why are you calling, Mr. President?
Fitz: I killed Verna Thornton
Cyrus: [Scoffs incredulously. Pauses.]
Fitz: Would she forgive me? If she knew?
Complete emotional evisceration is usually Fitz’s instinct when it comes to Olivia. But Cyrus, having been burned by doing just that with James, knows that too much “truthiness” can have dire consequences.
Cyrus: There are things we don’t tell them. Things we never tell them. Things we bury. Things we hide. That’s the job. You did something, sir. It doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be happy.
There’s a striking contrast between the advice that Fitz gives to Cyrus earlier in the episode, and what Cyrus gives to Fitz. Their respective advising is completely reflective of their vision of the world, and their professional roles. In light of everything that he’s been through in the last year, Fitz is still idealistic at his core. He still believes in true love—partly because he knows how profound that experience is, and how the loss of that love can shake the very fibre of one’s being. He tells Cyrus that all that matters is that he fight for his love. Cyrus—who’s used to the dirty, back-alley brawling side of life—gives cautionary advice to Fitz. But it’s advice that he thinks will help protect Fitz. He’s encouraging Fitz to lie to spare both Olivia and himself the pain. But will it work?
Secondly, Cyrus’s advice is in direct contrast to what he told Olivia in 107 (“Grant: For the People”). Cyrus convinced Olivia that she could not allow Fitz to resign to live a fairy tale with her: “Some men aren’t meant to be happy; they’re meant to be great.” But the great thing about the Scandalverse and life is, people actually evolve based on the experiences they have been through. Cyrus has been through some things. His marriage has been through some things. He’s not the same man he was about 18 months ago. He now knows what it means to lose his place of power (briefly when Sally took over); what it could mean to bring down the whole administration, and the lengths he would go to protect the president and himself. He has a child now, and that tends to change people’s perspective on what is valuable in life. (I don’t know if that changed Cyrus all that much since he almost killed his baby daddy.) So maybe Cyrus is a liar who lies for a living. The important thing is he knows who he is and can face himself in the mirror. Can James? Can Olivia? Can Fitz?
To circle back around this long, unwieldy post, when we say we hate lying and liars, who are we talking about? When we say we really, truly want to know someone, how honest are we being? Are we really prepared to see the potential nasty underbelly? Of them? Of us? It sounds cynical and unromantic, but I don’t know that most of us are ready. Granted, most of us are not secretly dating murderers and election riggers, but we are all liars in one way or another. Trust me, there is some shade of darkness within us all. As human beings, our light cannot exist without our darkness. If we weren’t equally capable of bad, bad ways as well as overwhelming goodness, our species would not have survived. Everyone’s a liar, dear. It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to be happy.