Can I Watch Scandal by Only Reading Twitter?

Television in the digital age.
Nov. 8 2013 1:49 PM

Can I Watch Scandal by Only Reading Twitter?

Maybe TV’s most-social drama is so tweetable that I don’t even have to watch it.

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Meanwhile, Mellie is a Tar Heels fan and gets hit on by Sally’s husband, who stares at her cleavage during a church service. Quinn, wearing all black, meets up with assassin Charlie at the gun range. Then, in a very heady sequence, Jake goes from doing push-ups (“OH HELLO JAKE DOING PUSHUPS”) to almost being killed by that woman he met earlier. She is foiled—by an employee of Fitz’sand dies. But Eli quickly gets to work recruiting Quinn to replace the dead asset.

In the episode’s last scene, Fitz arrives at Olivia’s apartment (“Bye-bye Jake.”) “There is nothing you could do that I wouldn’t forgive,” he tells her. He admits to shooting down the plane. Olivia then informs him that her mother was on it. “I was 12 when she died. I was 12,” she says. Fitz had no idea. He gets emotional. (“That time the president came over and cried a little.”) Tony Goldwyn does impressive work as an actor. Olivia can’t forgive him. She closes the door on him. The end.

What I think happened on Scandal after watching it on television:

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So, to brag, I nailed that. That is a pretty accurate (and exhaustive) description of last night’s episode.

I certainly got some things wrong. Twitter is the place to read jokes about a TV show, but when the show is as outrageous as Scandal it can be hard to tell the jokes from the facts. I don’t think Harrison really was a used car salesman, Eli didn’t have his fingers crossed, and Olivia said, “Did you give the order to have my mother killed?" not “Did. You. Kill. My. Mother,” though, obviously, the latter is way preferable.

The shorter the scene, the more minor the characters involved, the less Twitter tweeted about it. I also missed some big things: Fitz did not confess to shooting down the plane, he just looked really distraught when Olivia told him her mother was on it. And Sally’s scheme to get support from the religious right for her presidential bid went completely over my head. She and her husband had dinner with Mellie and Fitz as part of that strategy, which means her husband didn’t look down Mellie’s décolletage in a church—he looked at it while saying Grace. Also missed on Twitter: the poignant look of comprehension that flashed on Mellie’s face when she saw Sally too has a husband who cheats. The subtleties don’t make for great tweets.

And that points to a problem with the way many of us watch TV. Twitter is ideal for amplifying big moments—the most common tweets I saw were some variation on “Whoa, did that just happen???!!”—but though Scandal is full of those WTF jolts, Twitter makes it seem like it’s only full of WTF jolts, which has the unintended effect of making all those moments seem like less of a big deal. (If there are four “lines of the night,” maybe one of them wasn’t a line of the night.) But Scandal is good enough to want to share because of its nuances as well as its shocks, even if the nuances don’t make it to Twitter. Because I wasn’t watching on television, I missed that sad look on Mellie’s face, the way Olivia scrunched up on the couch like a little kid, and the desperation apparent in her increased alcohol intake. But if I had watched in my typical way—2/3 TV, 1/3 Twitter—it’s likely that some of those moments might have whizzed past me anyway, because, you know, I was reading Twitter, which amplifies the crazy. That’s part of the fun, of course. Spazzing out about Scandal is the essential part of the shared Scandal experience. But it was nice to be reminded of the subtle details that make Scandal a good television show and not just a series of histrionic events.

So: If you are ever stuck somewhere with the Internet but no television and you absolutely must know what is happening on Scandal, this is the option for you. But otherwise, watching Scandal on Twitter is not nearly as much fun as watching it on television. It is one thing to read on Twitter that Harrison has an “epic tie.” It’s another to see it in all of its resplendent, multi-colored polka dot glory. It’s one thing to read that Tony Goldwyn’s face fell really convincingly. It’s another to see his eyes just begin to well up. And it’s one thing to read that Jake is doing (totally extraneous) push-ups. It’s another thing to see him. Doing. (Totally. Extraneous.) Push-ups.

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