Catch Up on Scandal S5 Ep. 18 Til Death Do Us Part


L.T. Milroy


Any Scandal fans who aren’t Jake fans, you may as well take this week off.

This episode is basically everything you ever wanted to know about Jake Ballard, including some things you never even thought to ask. Forget about Mellie and Susan and David and Lizzie and Cyrus, and the whole election storyline in general. All of that is MIA this week as we listen to the ballad of Jake. And a mournful tune it is.

While so many characters are missing, Papa Pope is not one of them. Jake’s story intertwines so much with Pa’s, that the whole episode is pretty much theirs. Those with a low threshold of tolerance when it comes to Pa and his speechifying, you’d best proceed with caution.

Flashing back. There are scenes from Jake’s past shown throughout the episode, which serve to set up the kind of person he became and how he fell under Pa’s influence. One of those scenes opens the ep. It’s a travel in time back to his childhood. A young Jake is shown playing with toy soldiers outside his house while his parents argue inside. It quickly becomes clear that his father is a total bastard, a pathetic excuse for a man who beats Jake’s mother and molests his sister.

There’s a jump ahead a few years, and Jake is a soldier in the Navy. He’s in the brig. Apparently, he was quite the surly big mouth as a young man, and the military was getting tired of him getting into fights and speaking his mind to his commanding officers. One day, a visitor turns up to speak with him, someone he’s never met before. It’s Papa Pope, and he has a job offer. He’s starting an experimental covert unit he wants Jake to be a part of. He can’t say much about it, but he gives Jake a form to sign, officially joining up. Jake notices that the form refers to him as Jake Ballard, which, interestingly, is not his name. It’s Pete Harris. He asks about the name change, but Pa basically tells him not to ask questions. It’s just something he’ll have to get used to, as well as other things he’ll discover along the way. So is he interested? Jake, I mean Pete, says he’ll pass.

Of course, it’s not that simple saying no to Pa. He informs Jake that he’s going to be dishonorably discharged. It seems the fight that landed him in the brig was with a politician’s kid, and the family plans to press charges and raise a big stink. Jake’s track record as a total screw up won’t help his case any. Pa tells him he can go to prison for the next ten years or come work for him. Looks like Pete Harris is about to disappear.

Back home again. In the present day, Liv seems to be having a hard time dealing with her actions of last week. She just hasn’t been herself since she wielded a chair at former VP Nichols and turned his face into Andrew tartare. She’s been staying at Pa’s house, in her old room, which is impressively intact from when she last lived there. It’s almost as if Pa has preserved it like a shrine. There’s a weird mix of objects childish and young adult-ish, along with an insane amount of trophies and ribbons. Always the overachiever, our Liv.

But she’s too depressed to get out of bed. All she does is lie around in the dark. Jake comes in and opens the curtains. He tells her she has to move on and that she shouldn’t feel bad about Andrew. He had it coming, after all. Pa appears in the doorway and agrees. He also tells her she doesn’t have to worry about being prosecuted for Andrew’s death, because Jake and Fitz have “taken care of” the matter. It’s good to have friends in high places.. That way if some dirtbag of a former Veep happens to goad you into throwing a little temper tantrum and smashing his brains in, at least you won’t have to go through the indignity of a murder trial, like some common slob.

After Jake leaves, Pa tries to get Liv out of bed that includes glib talk of doing puzzles together, but to no avail. She isn’t interested in talking or getting up or eating or basic grooming. It’s only when Pa mentions Jake and Vanessa’s wedding has been moved up to that Saturday when Liv shows signs of paying any attention. He adds that she’s invited.

OPA on the side. Hearing about Jake’s impending nuptials finally gets Liv off her back. She gets up and dresses to go for a run. Pa and Jake are pleased she’s finally up and about. She just needed a little down time to recover, Pa says as Liv jogs out the door.

But it looks like all this remorse and recovery is just a ruse. Liv jogs to a remote location and meets up with Quinn and Huck. She tells them Jake and Pa don’t suspect a thing. It seems she’s just faking feeling depressed, so she can be left alone to investigate in peace. She says Vanessa is being used for more than just money laundering, and they need to find out what. There’s more urgency to their mission now that the wedding has been moved up.

The Gladiators discover that even though the bride and groom didn’t want a flashy wedding, it’s been turned into a major DC affair. There’s been lots of publicity, and the guest list now stands at six hundred. All of it, including the wedding date being moved up, is traceable back to Pa. He clearly wants the whole thing to be as noisy as possible. Liv wonders why. She’s running out of time, so she decides to exploit Jake’s biggest weakness to try to get information out of him. Jake’s biggest weakness, of course, is Liv herself.

Jerkin’ Jake around. Jake and Vanessa are about to leave for the White House. Fitz is throwing a little pre-wedding party for the happy couple. Liv sees this as the perfect opportunity for a little manipulation. She’s been invited as well, but when Jake drops by her room to see if she’s ready, he finds her on the floor, a big mess. She cries that she can’t go to the White House, because that’s where it happened, and she can’t face dealing with it. She’s pretty convincing as she pretends to be totally traumatized by the thought of returning to the scene of Andrew’s death.

Jake goes out in the hall and tells Vanessa to go ahead without him. He can’t leave Liv alone when she’s in this condition. He says he’ll see Vanessa later at the party, but she’s not happy. They fight over Liv and why she’s been staying at the house for weeks. Liv listens to their bickering from behind the door, obviously pleased her plan is working.

Pa shows up, and an annoyed Vanessa leaves for the party. Jake, clearly agitated, tells Pa he thinks moving up the wedding was a bad idea. Pa totally shuts him down and says the decision has been made. It’s irrevocable, and there’s no discussion on the matter. Jake backs down and says he’ll fix it. Liv, who wore such a satisfied expression a moment ago, now looks concerned.

Jake does manage to make it to the White House. Out on a balcony, away from all the guests, Fitz congratulates him, but says he’s surprised Jake is marrying Vanessa. Fitz thought once he was out of the picture, Jake would get back together with Liv. Jake speculates that it just wasn’t meant to be.

Educating Jake. Jake’s current measured demeanor is in contrast to the hot-headed younger Jake we see in the flashbacks. In a B613 training class. He mouths off to Pa and is removed from class for a little discipline. Goaded by Pa, Jake takes a swing at him, but Pa takes him down easily and proceeds to beat the hell out of him. Jake remains defiant the whole time he takes the beating, refusing to give Pa the satisfaction of showing any pain.

Unable to break him, Pa lets Charlie, who was in the same training class as Jake, take a shot at him. But Jake is no more cooperative as Charlie smacks him around. He hurls insults as quickly as Charlie can hurl punches. Jake is bruised and bleeding but as defiant as ever. Charlie tells Pa that Jake may be irredeemable, and maybe they should just put him down and be done with him. Pa instead decides to throw him in the hole for a month, after which time he’ll be reevaluated.

As flashback Jake is banished to the hole, present-day Jake comes home from the party to find a drunk Olivia. She says Pa is out, and she hates to drink alone, so Jake sits with her. She says she knows Pa is making him get married. He denies it, but then she relents that maybe he really does want to marry Vanessa, especially after Liv just proved herself to be a murderer and all. I don’t know, Liv. In the circles in which you run, that’s probably considered an attractive trait, not to mention a handy skill. Then she tells him to admit that he doesn’t love Vanessa, and he does. He admits it readily, but he follows up by saying that he knows Liv isn’t really drunk and is just playing him. Smooth move, Jake.

So Liv drops the act. She immediately ‘sobers up’ and demands to know what he and Pa are planning. Surprisingly, Jake coughs up the info pretty quickly: Pa is aiming to get Jake on the ticket as Edison’s running mate. Marrying Vanessa is part of the plan to make Jake a more attractive candidate to the voters. Liv says he doesn’t have to do this if he doesn’t want to. Jake counters that Pa only wants what’s best for everybody, and if this is what he wants, then it’s the best thing. That sounds like real brainwashed talk, but then he adds that despite his pending marriage, he’ll never love anyone like he does Liv. Vanessa’s okay political wife material, but Liv will always have his heart.

One more time. That kind of talk inspires Liv to tell Jake that he can’t get married. He asks her what he should do. She looks frustrated and leaves but then comes back, and they start making out. After all that’s happened, it seems that’s how it always ends with these two, even with Jake scheduled to be married in what can now be measured in hours.

The next morning, Jake and Pa are having breakfast when Liv walks in. Pa chatters a bit about wedding preparations before leaving to get fitted for his tux. Alone together, Jake and Liv seem to know they’re trapped. Liv says she doesn’t know how to protect him from Pa. They decide to just enjoy the few minutes they have together and eat breakfast.

A couple of comments about what just took place. First, the political philosophy that a candidate must be married to give the aura of being grounded and stable is a dated one at this point. But even if Pa still subscribes to it, there’s the fact that Edison isn’t married. Shouldn’t the candidate at the top of the ticket conform to this theory before the VP does? And, incidentally, now that it’s been brought up, only two of the five presidential candidates in Scandalverse are hitched. Hollis and Vargas. Mellie and Susan are both single, as well as Edison.

Secondly, do Liv and Jake really feel that conversations they have in Pa’s house are private? They’re in Pa’s house. He probably has that sucker wired up tight as a drum. Every room is probably live. I doubt anyone can take a pee in that house without Pa knowing about it. Jake and Liv must know this better than anyone. Yet they seem to think that just because Pa wasn’t physically there, the talk they had in his living room was just between them. Fat chance.

Breaking Jake. Flashback Jake has come to a turning point. I suppose a month-long stint in the hole to think things over can have that effect. He sits in Pa’s office, looking as bedraggled as expected after a month away. Since Pa beat the hell out of Jake but failed to break him, he moves on with defeating him psychologically. He asks how he dealt with the sensory deprivation that’s the hallmark feature of doing time in the hole, but Jake isn’t feeling chatty. Pa, like any respectable evil, manipulative monster, has done his homework and knows about Jake’s past, so he plays that card by asking how he feels about having such an awful person for a father. And what’s worse, Jake never stood up to him. He must have known what his father was doing to his sister. What kind of brother was he, to just do nothing? Pa has even found out that Jake’s sister had aborted their father’s child just before killing herself. Her horrible life and early death are just as much Jake’s fault as his father’s, Pa says, since he was too scared to help her.

That finally gets to Jake. He gets up and makes a move toward Pa, who says fighting with him won’t change anything. Even if he could beat Pa up, which he probably can’t, it wouldn’t mean redemption for Jake. What happened in the past can’t be changed. There will be no redemption, but what Jake can have is a new father. One that will never hurt him again. Pa will be his family and protect him. Instead of fighting Jake, Pa goes and hugs him. Jake hesitates a moment before hugging back.

Meanwhile, present-day Jake has been mulling over his situation. He tells Liv he’s decided that he doesn’t want to marry Vanessa. He wants Liv. At OPA, they try to figure the best way for Jake to get out of the wedding. Liv says if he jilts Vanessa at the altar, it would effectively kill his political career. He would never be politically viable again, after publicly embarrassing his fiancee. Jake likes that plan and says he’ll do it. After he leaves, Huck asks Liv if this is really what she wants. She says she wants to be happy and that she knows what she’s doing. There was something about the way she added that last part, with a hesitant little smile, that foretold her fate. She obviously has very little idea what she’s doing, and a crash and burn is just around the bend.

Past, meet present. It’s graduation day for flashback Jake. He’s all decked out in his dress whites as Pa congratulates him and tells him he has the chance to join B613. But first, he offers Jake a choice between sacrifice and freedom. Staying with Pa would be the sacrifice. Working for him will be tough, Pa says, but Jake will have the opportunity to achieve greatness. Otherwise, he can choose freedom, which would be a safe, anonymous life, doing a boring job and achieving nothing. It’s his choice.

It’s interesting that Jake is getting this choice, considering Pa basically blackmailed him into joining up in the first place. Now, after all the training and the efforts to mold Jake to Pa’s specifications, he’s getting the chance to just walk away? I suppose Pa is confident Jake will jump at the offer to work for him. Instead, Jake thanks him for all he’s done and leaves.

In the present, Liv sits in a church, waiting for the DC wedding of the century to start. Pa sits down next to her. He wastes no time letting her know he’s on to her and says to tell Jake she’s changed her mind. He knows what they’re planning, and he won’t stand for it. She says Jake doesn’t want to get married. He answers that it doesn’t matter what Jake wants. If he doesn’t marry Vanessa, Pa will slit his throat. He seems to take particular pleasure in getting so graphic in his threats. He wants Jake to achieve great things, and nothing is going to stand in the way of that, not even Jake himself. Pa would rather see him dead than average. Pa says he’s already lost a daughter, as he pointedly looks at Olivia, and he won’t lose his son.

He also adds that Liv can’t tell Jake that she and Pa had this conversation, again with the threat being a slitting of Jake’s throat. Pa’s like a dog with a bone on that particular point. She’ll have to come up with another reason to convince Jake to go ahead with the marriage and leave Pa out of it.

Liv decides to take the cold and heartless route. She meets with Jake just before the ceremony is to start and tells him she can’t be with him. He immediately suspects Pa has gotten to her, but she denies it and she says it’s just best for everyone that he get married. She gets a bit insulting by saying they could never have a future, because he’s too weak and she’d destroy him. He still doesn’t believe her and says she’s just scared, so she lets loose. She tells him he’s wrong and pathetic and she never loved him. She loves Fitz and always has. Even when she and Jake were together, she never stopped loving Fitz. Jake was just a mere diversion. Liv wishes him luck in his marriage and walks away.

One last thing. Present-day Jake and flashback Jake each has some unfinished business to wrap up.

When we last saw graduation day Jake, he was leaving Pa’s office after seemingly turning down an invitation to join B613. Now he pulls up to his childhood home. He goes inside, and we don’t see what happens, but we do hear his father’s surprise to see him, followed quickly by gunshots. Once Pa so brutally dredged up those memories, Jake wasted little time exorcising his demons and attempting a small measure of redemption. He walks out of the house, blood splattered all over his dress whites.

Back at the church, the wedding is going forward. Jake catches Pa’s eye for a brief moment before saying “I do” to his bride.

Flashback Jake returns to Pa’s office. Pa looks a bit surprised, but then sees the blood on Jake’s clothes and understands. Aw, his boy had to go take care of some business, settle an old score, and get his first murder under his belt, and now he’s ready for his future to begin. Jake is silent as Pa gets up and pours them a drink. He hands Jake a glass, and says, “Welcome to B613.”

So now we know all the details about Jake’s weird connection and obsession with Papa Pope. Just your regular, dysfunctional family.

After this brief detour, it looks like it’s back to the campaign trail next week with 05.19, “Buckle Up”. A preview –

As Mellie, Susan and Hollis prepare to meet with Florida’s governor to vie for her influential endorsement, a spin war between Abby and Olivia threatens to keep their candidates grounded; Cyrus is faced with a decision that could dramatically alter his future.

Abby is taking on Liv, so soon after seeming scared of her and being threatened by her? Got to hand it to Red, She doesn’t back down.

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