10:31 pm EDT, March 24, 2016

‘Scandal’ 5×15 review: The stage is set

Scandal season 5, episode 15, “Pencils Down,” prepares for the first Republican debate. Which candidate is for the people?

The Texas Truth Teller is running the public-political game, for now. The ladies of the Republican party are not going down without a fight. With Sally Langston hosting Scandal‘s first Republican and some candidates are going to have to work a bit harder to find themselves in the public’s good graces. Not everyone fits into the Presidential mold that the public envisions, even if they have Olivia Pope on their side.

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It’s Susan vs Mellie vs Hollis — who has the advantage heading into the debate?

Basecamp: Mellie Grant

Scandal 5x15 Mellie Scandal 5x15 Olivia

Practice: Even with the right dress, the right hair, the right arm motions, Mellie is not performing well in the focus groups. The people do not like her no matter how many gas prices she can recite.

Problem: Unfortunately, Mellie was told she knows too much. I’m not one for trying to make Mellie seem like the soccer mom who brings some “fun juice” to her kids’ soccer game. We saw that Mellie, it’s not pretty. But America apparently wants a dumber version of the “know it all.” Olivia proves to be far more of a hinderance taking Mellie out of her comfort zone and putting her in a booth eating freedom fries. Mellie is book smart, but she is not out on the streets with the people which leads us to– Burger Gate 2016.

Advantage: Mellie can control her arms, but she is true to herself and that is her greatest strength. She knows when to internalize, when to lash out and that is all because she lets her gut take over in those moments. Honestly, this is the Mellie I watch for and the Mellie the people of fake-voting-America need to appreciate a bit more.

Performance Review: Mellie doesn’t need to hold anything back. She swallows the last of that Georgetown burger hiccup and gets out on stage.

Basecamp: Hollis Doyle

Scandal 5x15 Hollis Doyle

Practice: [insert sigh here]

Problem: [insert eye roll here]

Advantage: Brings bacon for reporters.

Performance Review: He wins the center podium by doing nothing.

Basecamp: Susan Ross

Scandal 5x15 susan

Practice: Elizabeth fires questions and Susan Ross catches each one with ease. In order to seal the deal with her public image, Elizabeth’s final suggestion, to bring David Rosen on stage following he debate as her surrogate “family,” is met with reception on both sides. She also has Fitz playing Hollis and to be honest, he isn’t even good at that, accent or no accent.

Problem: Abby gets in Susan’s head by dropping the bomb that David is consulting her for advice on his two lovers. Susan begins to falter, but she ultimately wins David’s heart. However, she holds onto some lingering doubt.

Advantage: She may not have the stature to see over the podium, but she does have moxie. That gusto comes in handy when she approaches Fitz with a question about cheating. Susan Ross has a question and an answer for everything.

Performance Review: Dumping David five minutes before the debate after confronting him one more time about his sexcapades. She is ready. I’m surprised by how much I want her to sweep the floor with the competition.

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Meanwhile on the democratic side of things…

Basecamp: Frankie Vargas

Practice: Cyrus tries to fire up the Vargas camp with the new campaign slogan, “Believe in Better!”

Problem: Frankie Vargas does believe in better. But Vargas’ vision of “better” includes Alex Vargas, his brother, on the trail.

Advantage: Alex Vargas wins by any means necessary, including hitting up Olivia Pope for some dirt on Edison. Vargas is ready to strike deals in the primaries so that the two can go to war for the White House.

Future: I am loving the new big bad on campus, even if he is taking Cyrus down in the process. Vargas is testing Olivia’s darker side and making Papa Pope seem like the rational brain in this episode, which is a hard feat to accomplish. If Olivia takes Vargas’ dish-for-dish- than she is no longer Robin Hood stealing for the downtrodden. Olivia sheds what is left of her tattered white hat for an advantage.

Extras:

? Sexplantions with Jake: Are we done messing with Jake’s lower half? Apparently not since that is the only way Olivia can get into his head these days. With Quinn out schmoozing Vanessa she discovers that Jake is using her bank accounts to funnel money into Edison’s Super PAC.

Edison is mesmerized by Papa Pope’s ability to work the system and to get Edison an office with a view of the Rose Garden that he is blind to the consequences of taking Eli’s help. But Olivia is not worried, because just like with the debate buzzers, she is confident she will win.

? The Real Winner of the Debate: Sally Langston in her curlers pulling it together right before heading into the debate.

Watch Scandal season 5, episode 16, “The Miseducation of Susan Ross,” Thursday, March 31 at 9:00 ET on ABC.

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