Pop Culture Osteology: Scandal


I was recently unwinding by watching Scandal, a show that I think about entirely in capslock. INTRIGUE. OLIVIA POPE. SUSPENSE. THINGS BEING HANDLED.

Sample quote: “My mother blew up the church that’s costing you your presidency.”

As you can tell, this level of drama makes for pretty excellent television, even despite the objectively terrible romantic choices the female protagonist consistently makes.

Her romantic decisions are questionable, but her snack game is on point.

Olivia’s romantic decisions are questionable, but her snack game is on point.

One of my favorite actors on the show is Joe Morton, a man noteworthy for his absolutely impeccable delivery. He makes every statement he utters an Old Testament pronouncement of unescapable impending doom. Even when ordering pizza I’m sure his toppings preferences are communicated with all of the gravitas of an Othello soliloquy:

Pizza Specialist: And what do you want on that?

Rowan: The. ONLY. thing. WORTHY. ofsuchameal. the. only. thing. ANYONE. couldpossiblychoose. in. THIS. situation.

Pizzeria Employee: I’m sorry?


Unsurprisingly, he's also a big proponent of tough love.

Unsurprisingly, he’s also a big proponent of tough love.

A few nights ago, I was watching the last episode of the third season, in preparation for finally starting the fourth season. I know, I know, I’m behind the times, but I don’t have a real TV. By the time I finally watch all of Game of Thrones, George R.R.Martin may have actually written the sixth book.

In this particular episode we witness a confrontation between Rowan and Harrison about politics/Olivia Pope/recent unspeakable behavior etc., etc. However, I wasn’t interested in the what of the conversation as much as I was interested in the where. The argument took place in Rowan’s office, and the scenery immediately piqued my interest. Princeton-educated Rowan is nominally some sort of “antiquities curator” at the Smithsonian, a cover for his true calling of nefarious black-ops intelligence mastermind. And in this episode, we finally see him….curating antiquities.

“Hmmm…Oh nothing, just hanging out and picking up this metatarsal with tweezers, you know, the usual”

JUST KIDDING. His office is actually chock full of bones:

Rowan's Office

The scene later cut to a blurry close-up of some of the elements on that back table, and it seems like his work space is littered with a mixture of human and faunal remains. I took a shot at grainy identification of some of these below:

I may be pretty far off base on some of these, they're hard to make out.

However, throughought the course of the scene, Rowan only has eyes for one bone, a small element that’s apparently so delicate that it has to be handled with tweezers (Note: This is not common osteological practice). He first examined the bone several minutes before this scene while making an important phone call, and then picked it up again during his confrontation with Harrison.

“Harrison, can’t you see I’m trying to examine this metatarsal using these tweezers? I don’t have time to talk to you!”

Given the shape of the bone I’d identify it as a metatarsal, one of the five bones that comprise the anterior sole of the foot, articulating just posterior to the toes. Based on its chunky proximal end, it’s probably an MT3 or MT4.

This provokes so many questions. What kind of a fake curator IS Rowan? Is he a paleoanthropologist? A skeletal biologist focusing on the morphology of the human foot? A forensics specialist intent on determining best practices for teaching non-specialists how to differentiate faunal and human bone? Where did he get his osteological training? What is he looking for when examining that MT3/4? Why is his office home to a scattered and clearly non-comparative assortment of human and faunal remains?

Yes Rowan, I did have one final question –why are you using metal tweezers to pick up a bone!? You’re the head of a covert intelligence operation, surely you’re smart enough to know that metal instruments can damage bones and leave striations that can be mistaken for cutmarks during analysis! I mean honestly.

Image Credits: Scandal header found here. Wine and popcorn found here. Angry Rowan found here. Original third metatarsal drawing found here.  Rowan gif found here. Other photos are screenshots taken from Scandal 3×19.

This entry was posted in Osteology, Pop Osteology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Pop Culture Osteology: Scandal

  1. Bwahahaha! I watch Scandal too, but usually while doing something else like playing Candy Crush or answering email (don’t judge). I totally missed this, and I’m not sure whether to be ashamed or proud of myself. 😉 Good eye, though — the photos of Rowan with the be-tweezered metatarsal are hilarious. I have always wondered, though, what kind of fake curator he is.

    Liked by 1 person

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