In this week’s episode we see the act of deception taken to new heights as Fitz’s wife, Mellie, forges his signature in an attempt to falsely present the President as in recovery and capable of resuming his role as decision maker. With the help of Olivia, Cyrus and a few others the ruse is maintained by their insistence to the government and the public that Fitz has made a miraculous recovery despite the fact that he remains unconscious in his hospital bed. Olivia sets up an interview for the First Lady to substantiate the deception even manipulating the interviewer by further false information about the President. Olivia and her cohorts are willing to break the law, even risking prosecution for treason to prevent the Vice-President, Sally Langston from maintaining the role of acting president, especially with her growing relationship with Hollis Doyle. Is what they are doing acceptable? Is the line between right and wrong mobile?
What we have here are individuals making decisions not solely for their own personal interests, although the desire to stay out of prison for their previous illegal acts certainly comes into play, they are also moving on what they believe to be in the best interests of the country. They do not want to leave the country in the hands of someone they feel will be manipulated by Hollis, who clearly has his own agenda and who they suspect of being responsible for the assassination attempt. To our group it is a matter of their survival and that of the country. As Olivia says, what they are doing is so far outside of the law but does that mean they endorse breaking the law? I don’t believe so and I suspect if they were caught they would expect to justifiably face the consequences. Does this make them criminals or villains or bad guys? It’s open for interpretation if we agree that what is right or wrong is rarely as simple as black or white. Are there not times we all might ignore the law because of some priority? If your friend or relative needed to get to the hospital for an emergency would you not violate the speed limit? Or ignore other traffic rules in place for our safety? If your family was starving might you attempt to steal food?
I realize this might sound like I am saying the ends justify the means but I’m not. I think Hollis probably feels the ends justify the means but in this case I don’t believe that Olivia, or Cyrus, even Mellie would say what they are doing is okay; rather, they feel it’s necessary, and should they get caught they would say they deserve to be punished. Olivia knows they are desperate and feels at the moment there is no other way to go. It could be considered an unlawful act for a moral cause but again that is an interpretation. Certainly, without laws, rules, and ethics society would be thrust into chaos but whether contrary actions are sometimes necessary to protect that society is a matter of interpretation. What is clearer is that this flowed from a crisis that shouldn’t have occurred, the tampering with the ballot issue. When a crisis occurs as the result of some action we take, in an effort to lessen the blow, individuals may take more drastic actions that result in making their own situation potentially worse by sinking ever deeper into inappropriate decisions. That’s why I usually support coming clean with a strategy as to how to accomplish this. Would I do what Olivia and the others have? Under the same circumstances I don’t know. How about you?
Judy A. Smith is the founder and President of Smith and Company, a leading strategic and crisis communications firm with offices in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles as well as a Co-Executive Producer of ABC's Scandal. You can follow her on Twitter (@JudySmith_) or "Like" her on Facebook, and you can get more information about managing personal and professional crisis situations by visiting her site, judysmith.com.