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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#Scandal

Twitter screenshot

Every Thursday night, ABC’s Scandal takes over Twitter. While Shonda Rhimes’ gonzo soap opera, set in a Washington, D.C. so putrid, corrupt, and full of murderers it makes the real D.C. seem like heaven, airs, 2,200 tweets about the show go out per minute. (At least that was the measurement in February, and the show’s ratings have only gone up since then.) Last week, as I watched Scandal while scrolling through Twitter—my de facto method of consuming Scandal—I wondered if I needed the TV at all.

Willa Paskin Willa Paskin

Willa Paskin is Slate’s television critic.

How much of Scandal would I miss if I just “watched” the show on Twitter? I decided to find out. When last night’s episode “Icarus” came on, I sequestered myself in a TV-less room and read only these Scandal-centric Twitter lists. Then I wrote down what I thought happened. And only then did I watch the episode to see what I missed. Spoiler: I missed almost nothing.

What I think happened on last night’s Scandal based solely on reading Twitter:

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Scandal begins with a flashback, starring a young Olivia, wearing glasses and eating cereal (“Lil Olivia likes Fruit Loops!”) talking with her mother, who dresses a little bit like grown up Liv, cooks casseroles for dinner, and is played by Khandi Alexander. When the flashback is over, Olivia arrives at the White House to confront Fitz directly about the plane her mother died on. Mellie is under the mistaken impression that Olivia is there to agree to run Fitz’s presidential campaign. And greets her with a “Welcome home.” (“Scandal, for that awkward moment when your wife welcomes your mistress home.”) But when Olivia asks the president about Operation Remington, he pulls rank, refusing to answer. Olivia tells him “I can’t work for you,” and leaves. Mellie does not feel culpable for Olivia’s rejection: “I did everything but roll your whore up in a rug and unfurl her at your feet.” A Rick James song plays either now or in one of the next scenes for effect.

At this point, we are introduced to one of the major threads of this episode: Harrison’s backstory, which involves him having once been a used car salesman (“explains his wardrobe selection”) and a man named Adnan Salif. Cyrus calls Harrison, who is wearing a memorable tie, and drops Adnan’s name. Harrison starts tweaking. Salif was once—according to Shonda Rhimes’ Twitter feed, but possibly not the information relayed in this actual episode—Harrison’s boss, before they both got busted for insider trading. A few scenes later, Harrison calls Huck and says, “If Adnan Salif sets foot on U.S. soil, I'm a dead man.”

Back home, Olivia is drinking a loooottttttt of wine and watching footage of her mom’s plane crash. Which seems like a good time to call her father (“Drunk Dialin Daddy”), who either in this scene or a flashback has a mustache that looks like Eddie Murphy’s in the ’80s. "What was the last thing you said to her?" she asks him. He replies, "Have you been drinking?" (“Is Scandal a comedy now?”) "I have so many questions I want to ask you but I'm afraid you'll kill my friends if I do,” Olivia says. Eli offers her reassurances, with his fingers crossed, and tells her she can ask one question. She asks: "Did. You. Kill. My. Mother?” (“Special five-part episode of Scandal where Kerry Washington says one word a week.”) Eli denies it, tears up, and suggests someone else might have had it in for Maya. At this point, Seagram’s Gin tweets that Olivia Pope may need something stronger than wine, which seems accurate.

On the campaign trail, Olivia is explaining to Josie that she is too nice: “Nice doesn't get you president unless you want to be president of Candyland.” Josie doesn’t really want to hear it: “Stop trying to make me someone I'm not!" But then an attack ad gets Marcus good and riled up, and she vehemently defends herself along feminist lines. It works out well for Josie, but it’s all thanks to Olivia: Pope and Associates concocted the attack ad and blamed it on Reston.

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