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Pope's Relationship Anatomy: Olivia, Cyrus & Mellie

Olivia, Cyrus, Mellie

I find it interesting that many fans constantly berate Olivia for never calling out the people close to her who regularly cause her headaches and get in her face. Cyrus is the worst offender when it comes to this.

I find it interesting because we’ve seen from the beginning that really, the only people Olivia goes off on are Fitz, for obvious reasons (if those reasons aren’t obvious to you, then you’ve probably never been in a relationship), and those who threaten the people she loves.

Fans including myself would love to see her go off on Mellie and Cyrus in particular, because they’re the ones who are constantly causing her grief one way or the other, but she has an incredibly complex relationship with both of those people. I also wish she’d read Verna the riot act, but only because I felt so strongly about her betraying Huck. Up until this point, Verna seems to have fulfilled some sort of maternal role for Olivia though, so I’m not sure that that smackdown will ever happen. Unless Verna turns out to be the mastermind behind the shooting of course.

Anyway, what I want to do is to examine the dynamics of the relationship that Olivia has with Mellie and Cyrus, the key aggravators in her life.

Olivia and Cyrus

Olivia definitely has the most complex relationship with Cyrus, and although in Season One, they engaged in a war of words regarding the whole Amanda Tanner mess, since then, we’ve seen Cyrus go at Olivia, and her blatant refusal to fight back. I have a few theories about the reasons behind Olivia’s passiveness.

One of the few things that we know about Olivia is that she was Cyrus’ protégé at college, and I think this plays a big part in why she rarely attempts to deliver a verbal smack down to him. I think back to my favourite lecturers at university and the respect I had for them, and honestly, even today as a grown woman, if they were to berate me the way that Cyrus often does Olivia, I’d probably just stand there and take it. That willingness to be used as a punching bag, comes from a place of respect, and sometimes the patterns that we’ve always followed when it comes to our mentors stay with us.


The other reason I think that Olivia takes the crap that she does is because Cyrus is one of only two people who knows all of her secrets. This is a huge thing for somebody as secretive as she is. It means that he’s the only person that she can – not only be herself with – but can put aside all sense of guilt with. To some degree, that has got to be a liberating feeling for her. Of course she can be herself with Fitz, but he is also the greatest source of her guilt for so many reasons. First of all, he’s married, and that must weigh on her somewhat, regardless of the state of his marriage to Mellie. But more than that, the fact that she’s very aware that the life he currently leads is one that was orchestrated and provided for him in the most treasonous of ways, must impact her greatly.
Because Olivia doesn’t have many people in her life who know her as well as Cyrus, their twisted friendship is something that she seems unwilling to let go, no matter how often he double-crosses her. Also, quite frankly, he’s also her gateway to Fitz.

The other thing is, Olivia knows that Cyrus has Fitz’s back. When all’s said and done, he’s the one person that she can trust with Fitz’s well being, and we all know how important that is to her.

Olivia and Mellie

A few people have scratched their heads over why Olivia consistently plays a submissive role, when it comes to Mellie. There have indeed been times when even I’ve scratched my head and thought that she should really tell Mellie to go screw herself, but you know what, I get it.
Olivia, at the end of the day, is having an affair with the woman’s husband. It doesn’t matter what we think about the state of Fitz and Mellie’s marriage, or even of Mellie herself, at the end of the day, if you’re even a half-way decent person, you will feel some sense of guilt. And quite honestly, in order for her to be a character that I can pull for, she needs to be able to feel that guilt, otherwise, she just becomes another unconscionable home-wrecker.

For me, the complexity of Olivia’s relationship with Mellie also stems from the fact that at one point, Mellie considered Olivia a friend. A friend who was the reason why her husband took his first major step towards becoming president. And not forgetting, Olivia is the reason why Mellie and Fitz’s marriage was brought back to life (in a manner of speaking). Let’s face it, when we meet Fitz and Mellie in 1.06, they had been trapped in a dead marriage for at least a couple of years, and it had come to that point in their relationship, where their only method of communication was yelling very loudly at each other. Olivia changed that. Mellie was probably thankful to Olivia for bringing about that status quo.


Also, ironically enough, Mellie is the only other person who’s aware of Olivia’s darkest secrets, but unlike with Cyrus, where this brings a certain sense of relief and openness to their interactions, it puts her in a precarious position. Mellie knowing what she does about Olivia, probably makes her relationship with Fitz seem brazen, and perhaps somewhat tawdry, and this is something that would definitely unsettle Olivia.

As the mistress, Olivia can’t help but feel that on some level, she is the one who is at fault here, and that is something somebody who talks about white hats would feel very uncomfortable about. So, she’s not likely to exacerbate those feelings of being the other woman, by letting loose on Mellie. She just doesn’t feel that she has the right. I think she absolutely has the right, but I’m not the one engaged in an extramarital affair.


Also, last, but not least, when all’s said and done, Mellie is the First Lady of The United States, and there’s a certain respect that that title affords her. You can’t just go screaming and yelling at the FLOTUS, no matter how much you may want to.

As we saw though, in episode 2.10, Olivia is pretty much done with appeasing Mellie, but this was because Mellie had risked Fitz’s presidency by doing something utterly bonkers. We’re all aware that Fitz is the one person who Olivia is willing to engage in a showdown for.

On a broader plane, I do think Olivia understands better than most that actions speak louder than words. If we think about how self-contained she usually is, even in her dealings with her OPA team, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that she prefers to maintain a stoic silence rather than totally losing control. I really never want to see her break down in front of Cyrus and the snakes on the plane the way she did in 211 again. I have a feeling that that whole experience may have taught her a lesson or two, when it comes to showing weakness in front of others, hence the Olivia we see in the present.

I understand that fans want Olivia to deliver verbal smackdowns to Mellie and Cyrus on a regular basis, but if Shonda Rhimes stays true to the Olivia Pope that we think we know, (what am I saying, it’s not like she has so far!) it wont happen often. Which is a shame, but there you have it.