sell back your books

To all my freshman babies who are panicking right now about how much your college textbooks cost: Yeah, you’re right, that’s some highway robbery. No, you don’t have to lie down and take it. You have options. Follow my advice and fly on your own debt free wings.

1. Forgoe the bookstore entirely. Sometimes you can get a good deal on something, usually a rental, but it’s usually going to be considerably more expensive to go through official channels. Outsmart them, babies.

2. Does your syllabus call for edition eight? Get edition seven. Old editions are considered worthless in the buyback trades, so they sell for dirt cheap, no matter how new they are. It’s a gamble, sure; there might be something in edition eight you desperately need, but that never happened to me. However, I’ve only ever pulled this stunt for literature/mass comm/religious studies books, so I don’t know it would work in the sciences.

3. Thriftbooks.com, especially for nonfiction and fiction. Books are usually four or five dollars unless they’re really new, and shipping is 99 cents unless you buy over 10$ in books, in which case shipping is free. 

4. Bigwords.com. It will scan every textbook seller on the internet for the lowest price available, and will do the same to find the highest price when you try to sell your books back at the end of term. Timesaver, lifesaver.

5. In all probability, your library offers a service called interlibrary loan which is included in your tuition. This means if your library doesn’t carry a book you can order it for free from any library nationwide in your library’s network and it will be shipped to you in a number of days. Ask a librarian to show you how to search for materials at your library as well as though interlibrary loan; you’ll need to master this skill soon anyway.  If you get lucky you can just have your required reading shipped to you a week before you need to start reading, then renew vigorously until you no longer need to item. I’m saving over 100$ on a History of Islam class this way.

You professors might side-eye you for bringing an old edition or a library copy, but you just smile right back honey, because you can pay your rent and go clubbing this month. You came here to win. So go forth and slay.

short, sweet, & to the point back to school tips

An anon recently asked for some back to school tips, so I thought I’d give a few for both high school and college.

For high school & college:

  • Need new stuff? Have you checked your backpack? Is it falling apart? Make sure your most basic needs are covered.
  • Be certain you have the right supplies for each class, such as a folder and a notebook for each.
  • Of course, make sure you have pencils, pens, paperclips, tape, post-it’s, index cards, and anything else you might need.
  • Prepare your workspace! Clean out your desk and make sure everything has a designated space. Clear away clutter. A cluttered desk makes for a cluttered mind.
  • Freshen your wardrobe! If you have the extra cash, use some to buy yourself new clothes and shoes. It’ll definitely get you in the back-to-school spirit.
  • Did you do your work for over the summer? Please do not wait until the last week/day/night to do this. Try to enjoy the rest of your break!
  • Do you have a reading list for the upcoming year/semester? If so and if you have the time, get a head start on your reading before you start getting busy.
  • Get a planner or a bullet journal! Set it up and fill out as much as you can: important dates, big projects, etc.
  • When picking a seat on the first day, sit at the front of the classroom. You’ll be free from distractions, be able to hear & see better, and more likely than not your questions will be answered.
  • Start organized, stay organized. Keep all your handouts in separate folders or binders. Use a color coded system: match your folder/binder to your notebook for a particular class.
  • Get on a good sleep schedule. Gradually start going to bed earlier and waking up earlier. It takes two weeks to establish a new sleep schedule.

For college:

  • Make sure you have everything you need to furnish your dorm or apartment!
  • Stock up on some healthy study snacks.
  • Look at a map of your campus and learn the routes you will have to take to get to your classes. You don’t want to be late on the first day!
  • Get your books early to err on the side of caution. Professors are very unsympathetic to, “I didn’t do my reading because I didn’t have the book.” Figure out how much you’ll use your books and/or if you can effectively share, and sell your books back as soon as you can.

Best of luck to everyone as you get ready to head back to school!

40 tips for incoming college freshmen
  1. “I’ll sign up for morning class because I tookclasses in the morning in high school.” NO DON’T DO THAT YOU’RE GOING TO WANTTO KILL YOURSELF
  2. If you can,try to spread your schedule so it’s 9-5. It’ll get you used to functioning atthose hours.
  3. Go to seminars. Pick up on some random shit. Impress people with random shit. But don’t be cocky.
  4. There’s literally no popularity so you really don’t have to fucking deal with cliques or anything just find your group and branch out and go from there.
  5. If you’re drinking:
    1. POUR YOUR OWN DRINK I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH
    2. Have a cup of water (or a bit of Gatorade) between every drink. You’ll never get a hangover.
    3. Don’t be fucking loud. Everyone hates the loud drunk and you’ll get the cops called on you and that’s bad shit.
    4. Don’t mix your liquor with other liquor and oh my God don’t mix it with anything else like drugs that’s just asking for a crisis.
    5. If your buddy is in a really bad place call 911. Don’t be that douchebag who thinks that someone can sleep it off.
  6. DO EXTRA CREDIT FOR THE LOVE OF FUCKING GOD NOT EVERY PROFESSOR OFFERS EXTRA CREDIT DO THE FUCKING EXTRA CREDIT.
  7. College is for expanding your mind. Talk to friends about their majors. Attend their events or art shows. Talk to someone you met about their religion. Take an English class on Lord of the Rings. Learn things you wouldn’t normally learn in high school.
  8. Love might come. It might not. Don’t worry about it and it won’t be a problem. You’re young.
  9. Don’t be the douchebag who plays acoustic guitar in the lounge.
  10. Have fun because you’re spending a fuckton of money to be there but do your homework.
  11. There’s a general rule of college that if you were sitting in that seat for over two weeks, that is your seat. Not many if any professors have seating arrangements but switching seats will fuck everyone up.
  12. Get there early and stay late. As soon as you get home you will not want to do shit. Stay on campus and do some homework while you’re in the environment.
  13. SIT UP FRONT. The best way to start understanding something is to listen to someone talk about it and you can’t do that from the back of the class trying to listen over everyone whispering to each other. LISTENING WILL MAKE HOMEWORK SO MUCH EASIER. 
  14. Be childish, but be respectful. Have a massive snowball fight across campus, but don’t aim for anyone not taking part. 
  15. SHUT THE FUCK UP IN THE LIBRARY. Some people work there, some people sleep there. It is a quiet space. 
  16. Don’t be afraid to talk to professors. They are not there to flunk you. They would rather you pass than not.
  17. IF YOU NEED TUTORING GET TUTORING DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU’VE DUG YOURSELF INTO YOUR GRAVE.
  18. Get involved. It will help you make friends, give you new skills to learn, and even help you get a leg up in the work place if you know the right people.
  19. Take time for yourself—buy a planner, figure out when your best study hours are, figure out WHERE you study best, and figure out how much time you need to complete an assignment—AND THEN make sure to pencil in an hour for video games, some time to watch a TV show, or time to just lay on your floor and blow bubbles. Whatever you like. Don’t forget about YOU.
  20. SLEEP. EAT. DRINK WATER. Don’t die. Caffeine =/= sleep. I cannot emphasize that this much.
  21. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR INSTRUCTORS! If you’re sick, shoot an e-mail and say “Hey, I’m sick today. Can I set up a time to talk to you about what I missed?” If you’ve got a good opportunity (scholarships, to go to another country, to check out a cool lecture, etc.) let your prof know ahead of time. If you just need time to work on projects, all it takes is an e-mail. We understand. I gave a student a free skip day because he e-mailed me and said “Hey, look, I have two massive tests and a project due and I need the time to study.” And THAT IS OKAY
  22. Before signing up for classes, look on “ratemyprofessor.com" and see if the teachers at your campus are included. There may be two or more teachers for the same course, and you want to try and pick the good/easy one. Who your professor is can have a great affect on what grade you make, even for the “same” class. 
  23. Look for a facebook group for your “graduating class” set up, which is a good way to make friends and find people with similar interests (particularly for introverts). 
  24. Look for a facebook group for your “graduating class” set up, which is a good way to make friends and find people with similar interests (particularly for introverts). 
  25. If no one else does it, make a google doc of the exam reviews and post it on the class facebook page. That way everyone contributes to the review. 200 brains are most definitely better than 1. 
  26. During lectures, unless Internet is required, TURN IT OFF. If it’s on, you WILL end up on tumblr or some other site, and you will miss important shit. 
  27. For the love of God, pay attention to your syllabus. Sometimes assignments are listed there, and that’s the only place it’ll be mentioned. Also, if it says to do a reading by a specific date, DO THE READING BY THAT DATE. Otherwise you will get behind, and you will have 200+ pages of textbooks to read in one night before the test, and you will cry.
  28. Yes you actually need to do the readings. Yes it is a lot. Yes it will suck. Do it anyways. 
  29. If you are used to getting all A’s, do not cry when you get a B. Take it from someone who killed herself for two years to maintain a 4.0, it feels like the end of the world when your GPA drops, but it’s not. You’ll be okay. Just breathe and do your best. Your best is good enough.
  30. Try to make sure you leave an open hour around midday so that you have time to get food in you. A lot of people forget to do this. If you have to have back to back classes, check your syllabus or with your teacher—some midday classes allow you to bring in a drink and a snack. Some will even allow you a full meal.
  31. If you can get an online/pdf copy of the book without busting the bank, DO IT. Sometimes there are even annotated versions online. This can make notetaking a shitton easier, because you can highlight printed-out versions of the book and they won’t dock you on the money back. Sometimes professors move through their lecture too fast for you to write stuff down. Shrugging off that old ‘don’t ruin your books’ rule you had in high school may be your only hope.
  32. UNLESS YOU NEED THEM OR REALLY WANT TO KEEP THEM TRY TO SELL BACK YOUR BOOKS—maybe even offer them online to incoming students. You won’t get nearly the worth of them but someone after you will thank you a million times over for providing a used copy. If you take good notes, you can sometimes buy/sell those as well. A lot of professors teach literally the same class every time.
  33. IF YOUR PROFESSOR PUTS NOTES ONLINE GET THEM. GET THEM NOW. TRUST ME. YOU WANT THOSE NOTES. Bring them in with you if it’s possible to get them before class.
  34. Keep change on hand. Always.
  35. The Best Way To Make Friends:
    1. Bring a printer with you to college and offer to print people’s stuff for half of what the school does or for free if you can afford it.
    2. Carry around small candies with you and offer them to people while waiting outside of class. If you are the ‘candy person’ this gives you an in for starting conversations.
    3. Buy a jumbo pack of chalk and find an open sidewalk on a free day. Write the words ‘Come draw with me?’ and begin doodling.
    4. Have a pack of cards.
  36. If you go onto campus and you can’t find what you’re looking for, and you are afraid to go up to someone and ask, find an open, well-populated area, hold your schedule/map in hand, and walk in circles for a few minutes, looking up and around in obvious confusion. Other students know this body language well. Someone will stop and point you in the right direction. (if you are worried that the person’s directions are a joke or faulty, wait for them to leave and take up the stance again; if the directions match-up the second time, they’re legit; do not allow a person to ‘show you the way’ unless EVERY STEP is along an obvious walkway, just in case)
  37. For those of you who fear assault, most campuses aren’t much for small blades or mace. Carry a pocket air horn or a hand bag of those little pop-rock fireworks unless you can get a concealed weapons permit.
  38. Make friends with transfer kids. Chances are, they won’t be able to live in the dorms and it’ll be ten times harder for them to meet people since they have to drive to and from campus. It’s also fun hearing about their experiences before the college you both go to. 
  39. Make friends with an older student. I’m talking about students who have families and full-time jobs. You can learn a lot from them, and they honestly have the best stories. They’re often the smartest and the most dedicated, so they make great study buddies. 
  40. Your teachers are people! Joke around with them, talk to them a bit during break. Make sure they at least recognize you as “that dude with the god-awful puns during break”. In my experience, professors are even more willing to bend over backwards to help the students they know. (But also, in general? They want you to learn! If there’s a way they can easily help, there’s a really good possibility they’ll do it!

Just cleaned up this post ≧◡≦

anonymous asked:

I saw on a post you said "Never ever ever buy anything at the campus bookstore." I was just wondering why??

That preview post contained a link to the full blog post, which said this:

Everything at the campus bookstore is marked up at least 50%. I was there today with my lady friend because she wanted a dry erase marker but didn’t want to go all the way out to Target, where they were on sale for $2 for a pack of 4. The campus bookstore had single dry erase markers for $2.50. For just one marker.

If you try to sell your books back to them, you might get 10% of what you paid, if you’re lucky. And that $100 book they gave you $10 for? They’ll turn around and sell for $90 next semester. They’re con artists.

You can easily get your books for pennies on the dollar or even for free if you spend as little as an hour looking for them online. In addition to the link to the full post, I also linked to my post about finding free textbooks. Instead of walking to the campus bookstore and looking for the book then waiting in line for an hour, why not spend that time looking for the book online where you’ll save serious money? 

Go to the campus bookstore if you want to throw your money away. But if you want to cut back on your loans or start paying them early, avoid them at all costs. You can find literally everything in the store at another store. Want a book? Go to Amazon or even a local independent bookshop. Want a t-shirt? Believe me, local Walmarts and Targets carry college branded apparel. Even the grocery stores have football jerseys. 

Campus bookstores exist to profit off of naive students who don’t know they’re being scammed. Don’t encourage them.

This is funny, it shouldn’t be but it is. Happy Friday everyone! 

anonymous asked:

After publishing a novel (not self publishing), and having it on shelves in a bookstore, how does making money work? Obviously im not writing a novel just to earn money, but im interested in how it works and how much money the author earns. Thanks!

Many writers are intrigued with how payment works for authors, since it’s not your typical nine-to-five job with a bimonthly paycheck.

There are a few different ways writers get paid through the traditional publishing route and it all depends on your contract. This is where a literary agent can really help. They can negotiate rates and get you the best deal.

Paying Agents

Literary agents get paid on commission when they sell your book. 15% commission (of what you make) is pretty standard, but this varies and is usually higher with foreign rights and subrights. Sometimes this includes fees for “processing”, i.e. reimbursement for travel, photocopying/printing, etc., but you don’t pay this out of your pocket. You really don’t have to worry about paying your agent at all since payment, advances, and royalties are all sorted out by the publisher.

If a literary agent asks for you to pay “reading fees” or “editing fees” or anything else prior to selling your book to a publisher, it’s probably a scam.

Bidding

The first bit of money you might see is within a bidding war between publishers. When more than one publisher wants your book, an agent can set up and facilitate an auction, or “bidding war”.

Publishers often bid with higher advances, but may also include marketing plans and other offers. The highest bidder does not always win, as it’s the author’s choice of who to go with.

Advances

The smaller the publisher and the less established you are, the smaller your advance will be.

An advance is upfront money. You get paid in equal parts throughout the publishing process. This can be in two or more parts. For example, you might get ½ of your advance when you sign your contract with the publisher and the second half when you send your completed, final manuscript (after editing and everything). It’s more common for payments to be split up three ways.

Keep in mind that the publishing process takes, at minimum, 1 - 1.5 years. If your advance is 15,000 US dollars for one book, it’s going to take you over a year to make that money.

The amount you get paid in an advance can range from a few hundred dollars to several million (if you’re famous).

Once you get this money, it is yours. You do not have to give it back if your book doesn’t sell enough copies. The check may go to your agent first, who then takes their 15% commission before handing the money to you.

There are cases where the author may have to pay something back, but this is extremely rare. Make sure your contract states that advances are not repayable to the publisher. Literary agents can take care of that.

Advances are formally known as “advance against royalties”, meaning you get the advance and royalties. This is the type of payment that you want when you publish. “Flat fees” are advances without royalties. You just get the advance and nothing else, even if your book sells millions of copies.

Royalties

You don’t get royalties until you earn back the money you got from your advance. For example, if your advance is 10,000 US dollars, you don’t start earning royalties until your book has sold enough to earn that money back for the publisher.

Royalties are small bits of money you make for each book sold. Commission rates for authors tend to be between 7% and 15% with debut authors falling somewhere between. Agents can get you higher percentages. Well-established authors get higher percentages.

The percentage of what you make on each book not only depends on your contract, but on the cover. Hardcover books have higher percentages. Once you sell a certain amount of books, your percentages may get higher on that single book.

Royalty checks typically come every six months, but only if you’ve earned back your advanced. This is not a steady income. Some checks will be more than others. Publishers keep some of your money in case bookstores return your books to the publisher due to them not selling. If they sell, you get the money.

There are two types of royalties:

  • Gross: Gross royalties are when the percentage that you make is cut from sales before any other deductions on the publisher’s behalf are made. This earns the author more money.
  • Net: Net royalties are when the percentage that you make is cut from sales after deductions are made. This is more common than gross royalties.

Subrights

You get paid more money for selling the audiobook rights, translation rights, and other rights including film rights.

And here’s the amazing thing about film rights. The chances of your book being made into a film, even after selling the rights, are small. It takes a lot of work to get that book to pre-production and many projects fail. But you get to keep that money they gave you. And you can sell the film rights again to someone else. Of course this comes with the risk of selling the rights, getting a movie made, and having that movie end up being terrible.

Your agent also gets commission from subrights and sometimes, if they team up with another agent who has more experience or connections with certain rights, that commission will go up. They may be taking in 20% of what you earn or even higher, since those agents have to split it. 

Average Earnings

It’s impossible to say what the average author earns through traditional publishing because of all the variables, but I can tell you that authors don’t make a lot of money unless they get lucky.

It’s that time of year again. If you are in college or going to college or are still in high school even join Amazon Prime Student. Seriously last year I rented all of my books for under $100 in my spring semester. Also if you bought a book and you want to sell it back and your school book store sucks (like mine), Amazon has trade in for up to 80%. Another amazing part is I love being able to order the new Pokemon games and have them delivered the day they are released. It’s half the price of Amazon prime with basically all of the benefits of Amazon Prime. When you sign up you using this link you get 6 months free and $5!  

#Scandal 402: Life, Loss and Leaving (commentary)

NB: I’ve made brevity a goal this season. Today, however, is a fail. 

The summary: Every union has to come to some hard, painful truths about life, loss and leaving.

The Extended Version:

State of the Union (#Scandal 402) gave us an update on the state of many unions on the show, and not just the romantic ones.

Cyrus and Olivia: Phone a Friend

Technically we start with Olivia and Jake, but I’ll get to the substance they lack later. Let’s get into the political booty call of Scandal’s Best Frenemies Forever: Cylivia.  

I watched that scene again. The surface of the conversation is about them, but the subtext isn’t. It’s about Fitz, but then it becomes explicitly about Fitz. It’s not my Fitz coloured glasses. Cyrus’s language isn’t first person until he says he needs a favour:

Cyrus: “You could let a person know you’re back in town”

Olivia: “You knew I was here”

Cyrus: “You could phone a friend”

Olivia: “Are we? Still friends?”

Cyrus: “I need a favor.”

Olivia: “I don’t do favours for the White House anymore.”

I couldn’t help but compare this conversation to the first Cylivia political booty call in Sweet Baby (101):

Cyrus: “He needs a favor.”

Olivia: “I don’t work for him anymore”

Cyrus: “He trusts you”

Olivia: “I don’t work for him anymore.”

Cyrus:  “And yet you came when I called.”

Olivia [acquiescing]: “What.”

In the present, Cyrus proceeds to threaten emotional blackmail with Fitz, which proves more effective than Cyrus’ financial blackmail with the IRS—a ubiquitous American institution of which Olivia is not afraid. But don’t stir up emotional drama with her and her Boo! That puts the fear of God into her. In Scandal’s inaugural episode, one could say that Cyrus, still in the dark about the true nature of Olitz’s bond, used Olivia’s loyalty to Fitz to bend her arm on helping the White House. This, of course, means helping Fitz—something she actually started doing indirectly in last week’s episode with the Equal Pay Act, and again this week with talking about gun legislation. Their political idealism intertwines.

Speaking of the favour Olivia was doing for the White House, let me get into the case of the week because it’s actually important.

James and Lisa Elliott: They Want the D…

The case of the week involves Olivia, corralling and delivering to the SOTU, James and Lisa Elliott, a couple whose lives lend meaning to Fitz’s central piece of legislation. The Elliotts: a couple who model a fairytale union in public, but have grown privately dysfunctional over the years, yet remain together.  For James and Lisa, their livelihoods are intertwined and depend upon the public perception of the state of their union. They hate each other as “husband of” and “wife of”, but actually, on reflection, have fond things to say about each other’s individual qualities.

James is a “real life war hero” where Fitz is a pretend one (Remington is a lie, remember?). He met Lisa two years before the shooting at Red Hawk Elementary. Lisa is a heroine in her own right. She saved at least 50 kids from a crazed gunman before she was hit by a bullet in her spine, causing significant impairment and paralysis below the waist. Let’s not even mention the emotional changes that would result from such a life-altering event. Their marriage was one of politics and love, as they told reporters that they dedicated their lives to getting guns off the streets…and to each other. (Look which one is mentioned first.) They even wrote a book about it:

 

For all intents and purposes, they are perfect. Even Quinn loves them. Olivia knows better. There is no perfect couple. Her suspicions prove correct.   

James: “I’m sick and tired of making sure the lady in the wheelchair gets whatever she wants, whenever she wants it.”

Lisa:“Oh here we go again! I love this wheelchair. I can’t get enough of this wheelchair. I’m the bitch who, somehow, came up with the crazy idea to get shot in the spine.”

 

As I said last week, Olivia has learned that you can’t fix people, only their Scandals. So she doesn’t’ try to fix the Elliotts because they need to do that.  Olivia knows this kind of couple. She’s seen them before. She’s worked to fix the public perception of their marriage before. She’s in love with one half of that kind of couple. But in this professional instance, Olivia suggests divorce for what she sees is a couple of people whose un-abiding hatred for each other as a public entity obscures any genuine appreciation for the one another.

Olivia: “What you need is a divorce…You can. Get out before this kills you both. It’ll be hard. You’ll have to pay back the advance for your second book, sell the house, take the loss…But I will spin this for you.”

Again, very eerily similar to a couple I know who live in a big, white house, espcially their fight in The Trail (106). I actually wonder if, when she was called in to work for The Grant campaign, she felt then that the Grants needed a divorce. But since it was an inopportune time and she ended up falling in love with the man who’s marriage she was supposed to fix, she created band-aids for a couple who so very clearly hate each other. And that hate is none of Olivia’s business.

 

Quinn and Huck

Huck extracted Quinn’s teeth to teach her a lesson about minding her business. The Scandalverse is so perverse sometimes, you really have to laugh. Like, what?!

Let’s have a recap of their relationship in the last year, shall we. Huck, true to his word, is still not speaking to Quinn (318). If I were Quinn, I would be thankful. Huck tried to shut you out before, Quinn. Remember in season 3 when he realized how “interested” you were in why he was humming and vibrating for another kill, he decided to stop sharing information with you. He felt responsible for the monster mini-me that you were becoming. And when your interest led you down a path to be exploited by B6-13, thus making OPA vulnerable, Huck went from shutting you out to trying to shut you down. But you ended up finding yourself, Quinn, and relied on Charlie as a comfort while you did so. You never really wanted him, but he was the only one there and that was good enough. Lick, lick. Spit, spit. You get back at Huck for what he did to you. Cue torn fishnets on the hood of a car and doggie style next to a pool of your boss’s father’s blood. Lovely. 

But your inquisitiveness didn’t die with your extracted molars, Quinn. You used your skills to dig up Huck’s family, thinking that you were Santa Claus. But you know that Huck is the one that taught you everything you know, which means he has always possessed the tools to find his family. There’s a reason why he didn’t. But you wanted to be Santa Claus and here you are. Huck is being really cold to you, and it sucks.

Quinn: “You don’t have to treat me this way.”

Huck: “Yes, I do.”

Don’t let him disrespect you, but don’t try to push him either.


Abby and Olivia

 

I love this little scene about this particular union for a number of reasons. First, as I said last week, the Abby and Olivia conversation is not over. There’s going to be an on-going source of tension between them until they are forced to work together on something for the White House, or Abby can be a resource for Olivia in a case she’s working on that is also relevant to Abby in some way. Or vice-versa. When’s the last time Olivia came to Abby’s aid since she took a tire iron to Charles’ knee caps and moved Abby into her apartment so she could re-start her life? Their relationship has undergone a lot of changes since then, from betrayal to loyalty and everything in between.

Abby: “You don’t work here anymore, Liv. I do. And guess what, you don’t know everything. YOU don’t know anything. Harrison dies. The firm falls apart. Huck and Quinn were incesting all over the office for God knows how long and you had no idea.”

Olivia looks at the OPA strategy table like

Abby has learned so very much under Olivia’s tutelage, and she seems very eager to prove that on her own terms. No more apparent was that than when Abby tried to Pope Mellie into going to the SOTU. Cyrus told Abby that he had unfailing faith in Olivia’s ability to deliver, which prompted Abby to prove that she, too, can deliver in Olivia Pope fashion. 

Also of note is the fact that not working at/for the White House has never stopped Olivia’s influence from running all through the halls of the West Wing…or the East Wing, for that matter. Indeed, though it is Abby who works there and not Liv, it is Gabby who is dismissed with the others from the room so that he can ask his “closest advisor” (301) for her opinion on his speech. So no, Abby, Olivia doesn’t know everything, but on some matters what she does know is tops. Ask your new boss.

Mellie and Cyrus: Measure of Cruelty

This, too, is a union of a sort. These two have relied on one another to get Fitz to perform in the presidential ways they need him to perform. They have plotted, tag-teamed and schemed too many times to relay here. And now they have something in common other than getting Fitzgerald Grant to act right. They have their grief and the loss of a great love in common. The most interesting aspect of this is that neither of these two people behaved in “model” ways towards the love they have lost. At the same time they don’t need to “earn” their grief through exemplary behavior as partner or parent.

I won’t mention the numerous occasions upon which Cyrus has insulted James, or that he tried to bribe him with a baby (S2), almost had him killed once to save his own skin over Defiance(213), and of course the kicker, pimp him out to Daniel Douglass in order to blackmail Sally Langston (S3). Cyrus is indeed a bastard, as he called himself earlier in the episode. He did some awful things to James. But I will not blame him directly for James’s death, nor deny him the right to grieve the love he lost. James ended up dead because of the manner in which he chose to retaliate against Cyrus’s abuse of their marriage: by becoming Publius so he could expose Cyrus’s involvement in the DD murder cover-up. On more than one occasion James tried to stomp with the big dogs, but he was only a puppy. An actual divorce, like he threatened, would have left his life intact. Mellie for her part has admitted that she was a cold and distant mother to Jerry (318) because she was always fearful of what he might be: a ridiculous soap opera cliche the child of her husband’s father—her rapist.  It is true, too, that Mellie has expressed having children as a sacrifice, playing the role in helping her branch of the Grant dynasty ascend the political ladder.

Mellie: “They’re not the same. My child, your husband…it’s not the same.”

Cyrus: “I keep hearing that: the loss of a child is greater. I resent that, having never lost a child. I resent having to feel like losing the love of my life—the only someone who ever made me feel like, truly me—is less of a loss; is smaller than your loss. I am now broken. I am not me. I am now forever changed; I’m undone. A broken heart is a broken heart. To take a measure is cruelty.”

God damn it, Shonda Rhimes. I know you wrote that, even though the episode was written by Heather Mitchell. I know the hallmarks and rhythm of your dialogue. What Cyrus just said?

Also, is this the balcony of truth, or what? So far I have been like

over every scene that has taken place on the Truman balcony. It must be something about being outdoors that lets people feel compelled to air out their truth.

Back to the scene. This is one of the arenas in which Scandal shines. Many people are all too eager to pick a team, a side, or assign hierarchies of pain to which some people are entitled and others are not. But when I watch this show, I don’t often feel like I’m being asked to choose because the narrative presents itself in such a way that I can see multiple sides to an impossible situation. For instance, in this scene with Mellie and Cyrus, I feel where they are both coming from, but I also scoff at both of them. I’m going Plessy V. Ferguson on Mellie and Cyrus’s grief. They are separate, but equal. 

Fitz and Mellie: A Piece of Chicken Runs Through It

 

Fitz tries to appeal to Mellie’s sense of vanity (not far off the tail end of Abby’s appeal to Mellie), by telling her that her absence would shift the focus away from the SOTU and toward her mental frame of mind. Mellie 1.0 would have cared very much about this, and there’s plenty of evidence to back this up. When Mellie learned in 222 that going on television to out her husband’s affair in 220 backfired on her approval ratings, she rushed to Cyrus’ bedside at the hospital for photo ops with both him and Fitz. And let’s not forget that Mellie did not go along with Olitz’s bunker plan in 301 because she would look like a fool when the American people realized she aided and abetted her husband’s affair for years.

The Mellie that showed up in the Oval as Fitz waited was uncomfortable and unsure in the costume of her old self. 

Mellie’s in a lacuna at the moment. As we see later in the episode, donning her wardrobe of pretense nearly suffocated her once she was done performing at the SOTU. It’s no accident that the moment she crossed over the threshold of the Vermeil Room (Gold Room), with its haunting portraits of former First Ladies, Mellie collapses, literally clutching at the pearls of her life that are suffocating her neck. She collapses into a puddle of grief on the floor, crying “leave me be.” It feels like her hitting bottom. It feels like she’s finally let her grief out—not just for her son, but for all that her life has become. I’ve criticized Mellie in the past for relying on a man and a marriage (for which she’s shown disdain long before Olivia Pope was on the scene) as a pathway to achieve political standing. So I’m watching to see what kind of Mellie 2.0 emerges from the chrysalis.

Let me get back to Fitz’s current role in this union.

Mellie:  “Oh, honey, baby…! Do you actually think I give a damn what anyone thinks of me anymore? And for you to actually come here and pretend that this is all about me, when—let’s face it, baby—this is all about you. This is the Fitzgerald Grant show, staring Fitzgerald Grant. And you just want me to play my part, the co-star, the dutiful wife who smiles, and applauds and looks so proud of you. And doesn’t eat chicken, or wear sweatpants, or hang out on graves…[cackle]”

It is true that, in many ways, Mellie would be a kind of prop at the SOTU. As all First Ladies tend to be because that’s the designated role devised for them; the role the American people like to see them playing. Fitz didn’t invent that, but he does depend on it when it suits him.  Fitz’s plea for her to be there in order to deflect gossip about her mental state was both about wanting to keep the media focused on his focus (because he’s all about his job right now), but also about preventing Mellie’s current state of undone-ness from being exploited by the media. Look at the headlines that popped up in just one day!

Here’s what’s going on with Fitz in this marriage right now:

Fitzgerald: “You think I don’t want to be a better man? You think that I don’t want to dedicate myself to my marriage? You don’t think I want to be honorable? To be the man you voted for?”—Happy Birthday, Mr. President (208)

What I’m seeing right now is a man who is trying to do and be all of those things upon concluding that he can’t (nor should he) rely on Olivia as  his salvation. That he’s got to figure out this life of his because he’s the only one living it. He’s being a dutiful care-taker to Mellie, who’s in a delicate wilderness that he doesn’t completely understand, but he is by her side nonetheless. The day before the SOTU speech, Mellie visits Jerry’s grave (we have no idea how frequently she does this). Fitz is laser focused on his work—both as a way of proving his mettle in a job he didn’t earn the first time around and questionably the second, and as a means of emotional avoidance. Where Mellie has let it all go; Fitz has tucked it all in. The point is, Fitz did not have to be there with her at the grave site. Yet he was there working on the speech while watching over her, just in case, with a bag of Mellie’s favourite snacks and magazines.

These people do not like being married to each other, but they know how to support each other in the best way they know how when no one else is there. They will be divorced soon enough, but as I have said before, Mellie and Fitz will always be in each other’s orbit because they will always be a family.



Fitz and Olivia:

It’s interesting that we see other strained unions working together for the greater good before we get to Fitz and Olivia:

James and Lisa Elliott are encouraged to work together one last time for the sake of the SOTU, and Fitz’s landmark piece of legislation: gun control—a cause to which they had supposedly devoted their lives.

Quinn and Huck are forced to work together to ensure safe delivery of the Elliotts to the SOTU

Abby and David are exes with issues who come together in a professional capacity to prep David for his Senate confirmation hearing as Attorney General. Which…

David: “Michael Jordan left the Bulls to play minor league baseball. These things happen”

Senator: “You’re comparing yourself to Michael Jordan?!”

David: “I’m comparing myself to anyone who’s ever followed a dream, Senator.”

And then we my faves. This scene put me in the feels of my favourite Scandal episode: A Criminal, A Whore, an Idiot and A Liar (211) while drawing additional parallels with Happy Birthday, Mr. President (208).  Given the professional capacity in which the above listed unions worked in this episode, it makes sense that the same would be true of Olivia and Fitz. There’s just always more subtext with the two of them. Before I get into this scene, I need you to remember that the beautiful moment at the end of 401 was a shared moment for the audience, not Fitz and Olivia. They don’t know that the other’s finger reached out to connect; they don’t know that time slowed down for the other; they don’t know that they both got their entire lives after passing one another. Each of them think they are the only ones. We know differently.

 I’m gonna say ‘I told you so’ about the tenor of this scene. I knew there would be no explosive anger, nor would there be any attempt at reconciliation. Why is that? This episode is called The State of the Union, meaning what is the lie of the land between these two people? What we can assess once Olivia and Fitz are face to face, looking each other in the eye with nowhere to hide, is a profound sense of loss (for both of them), regret, resentment, disappointment—all covered with a performative, professional indifference. That’s about right for the two of them. I’ve already expressed that I don’t want them to be together romantically right now. In my fantasy, they can re-establish communication as trusted advisor and friend. You guys, I really want them to re-discover what they love about each other: their shared political idealism, the fact that with each other they are more themselves than with anyone else, make each other smile. I want Fitz to consider Olivia’s life, not just the professional excellence she projects. I want Olivia to be honest about why she left, and that Fitz was hurt by her inexplicable disappearance. Is that too much to ask?

Fitz: “I need to hear what you think. Before I go out there and talk to the country, I need to know what you think.”

Olivia: “No.”

Fitz: “Don’t you think you owe me at least this much?”

Olivia: “It’s fine.”

Fitz: “I know you. ‘it’s fine’ never means it’s fine.”

Fitz’s “you owe me” appeal to Olivia is language of entitlement, but it’s also one that is very familiar to us coming from Fitz. It’s language that indicates a desire for teamwork with Olivia. When all else breaks down between them, she is still his most trusted advisor. Olivia is a bundle of contradictions. She wants Fitz to be the better man she deserves, but she also depends upon him needing her. When this proves not to be the case, it creates anxiety and fear in her. Recall how she felt in 305 about Fitz’s jokes for the WHCD. Teamwork. The fact that Fitz only interacted with her in a professional capacity with no mention of the elephant in the room scared her in a way that recalls 204-207. This time I don’t think a tragedy it will be a tragedy that brings them together. They need more than that.

 

Fitz did not have to dismiss the room in order to solicit Olivia’s advice on his speech. But he wanted a moment alone with her so he could gauge her reaction to seeing him alone, after absconding for two and a half months. So he could soak up her presence. This is the man who stared at her face (on mute) on his television the night before. The man who was entranced by half her face on TV in Defiance (207).  But neither one of them gave an inch in that room, keeping their cards close to their vests.

Olivia: “That’s your problem. You’re always trying to say what you think everyone wants you to say, be what everyone wants you to be. And I should have caught it before!  I would have, if we weren’t…I know you because you let me know you. But America has no idea who you are because you’ve never let them know who you are. Nobody can tell you how to do that.”—A Criminal, A Whore, An Idiot and a Liar (211)

Olivia gives Fitz the sage advice she’s been giving him for years: show them who you are. Emboldened with that confidence, he does an absolutely stellar job. My hat’s off to both Tony Goldwyn for the performance and my darling Fitzgerald for being the only Republican President I would actually vote for.

I told you that Fitz wouldn’t allow himself to be vulnerable with Mellie. That as his pain festers, it would not be because of Mellie that it would ooze out. That it would be Olivia who would get to him. Fitz performed brilliantly in the SOTU speech, mixing just enough patriotism with heartfelt vulnerability to appeal to the American public’s better angels (too bad his party is filled with bastards).  I was moved, Mellie was moved, the nation was moved. All of that was because Olivia, still his most trusted advisor, gave him permission to, once again, show the American people who he is because weakness is [his] strength; it’s what makes him human. And that’s what the American public wanted to see in the wake of his personal tragedy; it’s why Rowan knew for certain that Fitz would be elected by manufacturing Jerry’s death. Damn this show!

Fitz: “Do you think I’ll make a good president?”

Olivia: “I think you’ll make a great president.”

 

Fitz: “Watching a little girl take her last breath. Watching the light go out of her eyes. That…that is when the argument ends. That is when the debate is over.”

Just like in Happy Birthday, Mr. President (208), we see Olivia preparing her exit from a government building as Fitz delivers the SOTU (where are the side by side gifs!). . Olivia leaves because…why? Because she knew he hit it out of the park and her ‘job’ was done? Because “end” and “over” were resounding in her head? Listening to him talk about what he and his family have been through is too much? Now that she’s actually had to face him she feels guilty? Guilty because she believes her mother killed Jerry, and guilty for leaving Fitz to his grief without saying good bye? She’s no longer on that island, and she’s no longer standing in the sun. Olivia slays me because she is at once quick to extricate herself from a situation if her presence is a distraction or threat to the success of other people’s lives, yet she is reluctant to acknowledge the emotional consequences of her departure on others.  Of course she’s a grown ass woman, but decisions have consequences—both intended and unintended and we all have to deal with those.

 

Gone are the halcyon days of writing the first SOTU in the midst of foreplay up at Camp David. That strange work-life balance that Olivia briefly achieved, caused her to give a closeted Cyrus this advice:

Cyrus: “I’m a leader of the Republican party. It’s complicated.”

Olivia: “No it’s not. You wanna be with the man you love. Be with him”

The state of the union is far from that simple now, as painful reminder after reminder has shown her that Fitz doesn’t belong to her, and she doesn’t’ belong to him. For all the rapturous intensity of their coupling, neither of them can afford to feel complacent in their feelings for one another so long as the status quo is maintained.

Jake and Olivia:

Right. Back to these two. At the start of this commentary I referenced “Some hard truths” because many of the characters had to deal with difficult truths about themselves and their various relationships. In the middle of the night, I came to one, too. Olivia and Jake are forging ahead with an arrangement unworthy of remark.  I say “arrangement” because it’s clear that Jake knows that his relationship with Olivia is a three-some. When I say there is no there there, I mean substance. This relationship is one of mutual coping, not true desire (I’m gonna write something on ‘need vs. want’ because it’s been on my mind).

Jake: “We’re not standing in the sun anymore. I’m not gonna live in your apartment, waiting to service you. I have things to do. I am busy, but I did book a nice hotel suite for booty calls.”

Though I have real problems with their relationship (just as some people have valid reasons for not liking the way Fitz sometimes treats Olivia), I can see that Jake is a convenience that functions for her needs. This character, Jake, literally has no home in the narrative (did B6-13 own his sick-ass loft? I know he didn’t have time to sell it before leaving) except by Olivia’s side. And we have heard Ms. Fuck Me Boots tell Fitzgerald that Jake being by her side is for her (312). Because Fitz, as an absentee boyfriend, isn’t by her side. Not when she wakes up, not when she comes home. For all the ways in which Fitz makes her feel like herself, it’s the absence of the little everyday things that start to add up.

In Sweet Baby, one of the first things we learn about Olivia is that she is not normal. And again, in Nobody Likes Babies (hmmm, with those two titles. There’s a persistent thread about Olivia and babies), she rejects Edison because she doesn’t want “normal and easy.” When actually, she’s afraid of normal and easy—to such an extent that I believe she fetishizes normalcy. What’s her ultimate fantasy? To escape to the country, make jam and have babies (212). She wants it so badly that she is afraid of her own wanting. She had the nerve to harbor this fantasy with a man who is already married and has children. She has only pictured that fantasy with him because Edison offered her this exact thing and she said:

She wouldn’t even do it for the Vine. Though the house exists to contain that fantasy life, it remains a fantasy until there is a clear way forward for Olivia and Fitz. Fitz has real baggage and Olivia has emotional baggage over which she was re-traumatized last season . Olivia will not allow herself to rely on promises because they, too, do not exist:

Fitz:  I’m sorry. I don’t think about how hard this is for you.

Olivia: [as Fitz tries to comfort her and assuage his own guilt]: No! No, no no no don’t touch me.

Fitz:  Some day—

Olivia:No! Please don’t. Don’t make promises…

 

In the meantime, Olivia lives in reality. In that reality, she has some pretty normal needs that Jake is willing and able to service.  We see him literally jogging by her side in the opening, telling her that he’s here for her needs. In some ways, it’s the dream thing she wants to hear, just not from this guy. We all remember Olivia telling Fitz near the end of 312:

Olivia: I have to take care of myself. I have to protect my people. I can’t spend all my time worrying about you. This whole house worries about you: what you want, what you need. It has to be about what I want and what I need.


Subsequently, Olivia’s wants and needs were never met by Fitz for the rest of the season. What we saw at the end of 318 and now is Olivia’s attempt to take care of herself and her needs. Everyone recognized the low point that was Fitz’s life while failing to recognize the various emotional traumas Olivia suffered through last season. She was at a low point, too, when she left.  Indeed this is a selfish thing, but every individual is in charge of making sure their needs are met. If we don’t take care of us, who is going to do that? And not all of our emotional and physical needs are met in isolation. Why should Olivia be lonely when someone who knows she is in love with the POTUS has offered himself as her meantime plan B (albeit with benefit to himself)? Someone who can jog in the open with her. Someone she can actually pick up the phone and call directly. Someone who can instantly make themselves available to her for whatever. Someone she can summon instead of always being summoned by them (203, 220, 308, etc). Someone that allows her to feel a sense of control in her personal life. She knows she’s not in love with Jake, and so does he.

There is a storied history of Olivia using sex with both Edison and Jake to quash her pain over Fitz. This time, we see Olivia insisting on what she wants from Jake without pretense. Literally, she strips bare (save for the boots! I’ll refrain from making a crass joke) and ordered Jake to bring it. All of that has to do with the pain, the regret and the sense of loss she experienced from seeing Fitz and watching him be the President for whom she voted. He’s doing it all without her, without so much as a peep about the state of their union.

We hear Donna Summer’s MacArthur Park play over Olivia’s sex scene with Jake as well as the one with Cyrus and Mr. Ed Mike, a sex worker. The song is about someone who has lost the love of a lifetime. Their love is compared to a cake into which a lot of time and energy was poured, but the cake is now melting in the rain because “someone” left it out. The narrator cannot take this site of melting destruction because they know the cake was a one-time love:

“I don’t think I can take it

‘cause it took so long to bake it

And I’ll never have that recipe again”

Cyrus and Olivia have this in common, as they are both mourning the loss of a loved one. They proceed, for the time being, in the best way they know how: sex. Cyrus, of course, denies himself the meat he was craving (he’s a vegetarian now). What’s interesting is that both Olivia and Cyrus’s partners explicitly make themselves available for sex in this episode, but only one of them is getting shamed or it on the Internet. As Fitz said,  “…[W]e are—all of us—dealing with our loss in the best way we know how.”