After taking three weeks off, Scandal‘s back with the continuing saga of the presidential election and its fallout.
In this installment, it’s all about Jake. The marriage of Jake and wife Vanessa has gone largely unexplored up to this point, but that changes this week.
One frustrating thing about this episode is that the timeline is particularly confusing. The time jumps are constant, and it can be hard to figure out exactly what took place when. It looks like everything this week happened before last week’s episode. The closest thing we have to the present is the saga of Jake and Vanessa’s not-quite-storybook marriage, which is where we begin…
Sally’s back! It’s the first Sally Langston sighting this season! It’s just after the Democratic Convention, and Sally is talking about Mellie and Jake on her show The Liberty Report. Jake and Vanessa watch it in their living room, and Vanessa thinks everything about the Mellie/Jake ticket is amazing. She says she feels like Jackie O, to which Jake responds by rolling his eyes, and it’s quickly apparent theirs is not a marriage made in heaven. She says he’s about to make history, but he’s in no mood for a pep talk. He bitches about the rigors of the campaign trail and all of the crap he’s had to put up with from Olivia. If you remember back to last season, Jake wanted no part of the vice presidency, but Liv pushed him into it. Seems like he’s getting tired of taking all of his marching orders from the Popes, be it Liv or Pa.
All of his complaining gets Jake all wound up and upset, which leaves Vanessa confused. She wishes she knew what was up between her husband and Olivia, but he hasn’t told her anything. In fact, he hasn’t told her much of anything at all about himself, which will be a continuing source of frustration for her throughout the episode. As for now, she tries to play the supportive wife and tells him that he’s the one about to assume power. If Mel is elected, he’ll be the vice-president, and Liv will be merely “a footnote in his biography.” That placates Jake for the moment, as he responds by jumping her right on the coffee table. Is that the same furniture you use to entertain guests, guys? No, thanks, I’ll skip dessert.
Getting tipsy with Vanessa. Now there’s a time jump forward. Cyrus has just been arrested for Frankie Vargas’s murder, and Jake is backstage at Sally’s show. He’s waiting for his wife to arrive, so they can appear together. Liv is coaching him on what to say. Quinn walks in, wanting a word with Liv. She asks what they’re going to do about Cy, and Liv says they’re not going to do anything; he’s not their client, Mellie is. They have to focus on doing whatever they can to help Mel. Quinn then gets a call from Huck, who tells her he ‘found Vanessa’. The same Vanessa Jake is waiting for at the studio to appear on TV with him? The same.
Liv tells Sally that Jake and Vanessa won’t be able to be on her show, because Vanessa has the flu. One of those crazy twenty-four-hour bugs that comes out of nowhere, whatareyougonnado? Sally gives a wry smile to that explanation and obviously doesn’t believe a word of it. Liv looks like she barely believes it herself, but she just says they’ll reschedule when Vanessa is up and around again.
But Jake’s bride is already getting around. Huck found her off the road in her wrecked car, which she crashed into a tree. Neither she nor her passenger is physically hurt, but the passenger is plenty pissed off, and Vanessa is plastered. After a night of drinking, seems she picked up the bartender, a young buck named Kevin, and went joy riding. He’s not so joyful after the accident, though, and is complaining about what an insane little mess Vanessa is. Huck gets the cops to close off the road and keep the whole thing quiet.
The battling Ballards. They get Vanessa back to OPA and call Jake. He’s decidedly unhappy with his wife’s behavior, even though Liv says they have everything under control. The police aren’t talking, and Kevin was paid off to keep his mouth shut. But Jake starts angrily questioning Vanessa, and things quickly get out of hand. Liv breaks up the fight, and Jake stalks out, says he has things to do, and Vanessa is Liv’s problem.
This episode is basically a study in Jake and how much of his character has been shaped by his relationship with Liv. That’s explored with the help of another flashback. It’s a couple of days after the VP debate, in which everyone agrees Cyrus handily beat Jake. Liv is discussing Jake’s performance with him and he’s being his usual passive aggressive self. She’s tired of the way he always behaves toward her and asks him to drop the “cheery pod person act”. He accommodates that request by attacking her, telling her she’s turned out to be just like her father, but all of that effort still hasn’t made her happy. So she tells him what she says will make her happy, which is winning the presidency for Mel honestly. That’s why she’s so laser-focused on winning this race. She wants to make a president the right way this time and try to make some amends for Defiance. It’s her only chance for redemption. That sounds a bit shaky to me, but it has the desired effect on Jake. He understands her needs, and the two forge an alliance instead of being adversaries, and start really working together for the good of the campaign.
While this alliance might be good for the campaign, it stirs jealousy in Vanessa. She notices how well her husband and Liv are getting along, and one night she accuses him of having an affair. He calls it a ridiculous accusation and says she sounds crazy. This couple is barely speaking to each other by this point, and it seems to be all Jake can do to manage to even look at his wife when he argues with her. She says he and Liv talk all of he time, but she’s married to him, and they never talk. She keeps pushing, telling him she doesn’t know anything about him and that she wants a partnership with him. He finally yells that he doesn’t want to talk to her. He basically straight up tells her there is no partnership, which may be true in his eyes, but hey, brutal way to get your message across, buddy.
Vanessa starts to leave but isn’t defeated quite yet. She does her best to brush off Jake’s nasty slight. She comes back into the room and tells him she wants to know about him and Liv. But he has no interest in being honest or civil with her, and he leaves.
Drying out. Back in what appears to be present day in this episode, Vanessa is at OPA after her accident. She’s awake and sober after a drunken nap. Liv tells her that if she wants to take some time for herself and get away for a while, there are places she could go where no one would know about it. Vanessa sees Liv as an adversary, so she interprets the advice as being for Liv’s benefit, not hers and wouldn’t it be nice for Liv to have her out of the way, so Liv could be unfettered to do whatever it is she wants with Jake? Liv says that’s not true, but Vanessa says she wants to hear it; she wants ‘the speech’, the one Olivia Pope has always given over the years in this situation to all of the wives and girlfriends. Liv takes exception to that but not nearly as much as when Vanessa starts alluding to how many miles Liv has put on her private parts with other women’s husbands and boyfriends. That brings out the street in Liv, who gets all up in Vanessa’s face, threatening to lay her out for such trash talk.
The threats deflate Vanessa’s ‘tude significantly, and she backs down. She says she just wants her husband back. Liv has his attention on the campaign trail, and if they’re not having an affair, then Jake is seeing someone other than Liv, because Vanessa knows he has someone on the side. Liv says that’s impossible, since she’s running the campaign and knows where the candidates are at all times. If Jake was having an affair, he wouldn’t be able to hide it from her. If that’s the case, Vanessa asks, then where did Jake disappear to on election night?
Oh great, Pa’s back. That leads to another flashback. It’s election night, and Vargas has just been declared the winner. At Grant headquarters, no one can quite believe this outcome, and while the room is buzzing, Jake gets a text. He’s just learned he won’t be VP, and his wife is standing right next to him, but he doesn’t seem to care about either these facts as he reads the text and leaves.
Vanessa assumed he was going to meet whatever babe he’s seeing. If only that were the case. Instead, Jake has a furtive meet-up with none other than Papa Pope. Pa says that Liv failed, since she didn’t get Mel elected. Jake tells Pa he failed and should have killed Jake when he had the chance. Pa brushes that off. He’s never out of options. As he opens his briefcase, he tells Jake that something is about to happen, and when it’s all over, Jake will be VP if he plays his part correctly. Then he hands over a folder.
So, Pa was behind the Vargas assassination? It’s implied but not spelled out, as is so much on this show. So anything could still be true.
The battling Ballards, part II: Creepy Jake. Vanessa is sober and back home. Jake is alone and working when she walks into the room. She tries getting romantic with him, but of course, he lets her know in no uncertain terms that he’s not interested. She asks what she did to make him hate her so much. Then she confesses that her car accident was no accident; she drove into the tree on purpose. That gets through on some level, and he finally condescends to hold her. While he seems vulnerable, Vanessa starts questioning him again. She knows virtually nothing about him, and that has to change for the sake of their marriage. She wants her questions answered.
That’s easier asked than answered when you’ve lived your life in the shadows, like Jake has. They settle on the couch, and she puts her head in his lap and tells him to start spilling his secrets. She has no idea what she’s really asking, and he doesn’t know how to respond right away. As he’s thinking, he briefly puts his hand on her neck and gets a creepy look in his eye. It seems as if he’s contemplating solving this problem like he did so many others while working for B613. But he’s running for VP, and covering up such a big mess would be a challenge, even for someone as well-versed in covering up messes as he is. So instead, he decides to be as honest as possible. He tells her he can’t answer her questions. He’s done things he can’t tell her about. He can’t talk about his past, and maybe she can’t deal with that, but that would be too bad, because if she could, they’d make a great Washington power couple. If she could just accept him as he is, with no questions asked, they could be unstoppable.
Vanessa is shocked by this admission and isn’t ready at this point to commit to such a relationship. She’s spooked by the fact that she married someone with so many closely guarded secrets and hastily gets up and leaves the room.
Tracking Jake. At OPA, Liv and the Gladiators go over the timeline of Jake’s election night disappearance. They say there are nine hours he was unaccounted for. Nine hours?? By her own admission, Liv was keeping such a tight lid on running the campaign. Then how did one of the candidates manage to slip away unnoticed for nine hours? This isn’t addressed.
Huck traces Jake’s cell phone to Virginia the morning after the election. They wonder what he was doing there, and we find out via another flashback. Turns out it was Jake who blew up Jessica Fields’ cabin in the woods. Huck and Quinn are seen approaching the cabin when it blows up, and Jake slips out the back door.
Liv and the Gladiators go over the facts. They suspect Jake of killing Jennifer. Circumstantial evidence points to him, but they need proof. Liv says they have to keep him under constant surveillance. Huck and Quinn follow him and find that he’s making regular trips to a motel room. He’s been there eleven times since the election.
Educating Vanessa. Remember when Liv was a fixer? That’s what the show used to be all about. I’m reminded of this when she harkens back to those days by trying to get Vanessa under control. She shows up at Vanessa’s door with Mellie in tow. Mel has some things to say that Vanessa needs to hear, Liv says, and leaves them alone.
Mel brings up Sally’s show. Vanessa is pissed, isn’t inclined to play along, and says there’s no way she’s appearing on The Liberty Report with Jake. She’s soured on her husband and the whole politics thing. She just wants it all to be over. Mel kind of chuckles at that and says the real problem is that Vanessa doesn’t know what she wants. She’s the wife of a public servant and sure, that can be trying at times, but it also puts her in a position to get what she wants. First, though, she has to figure out what that is. Mel says Vanessa should be figuring out her priorities. Prop up Jake and play the dutiful, supportive wife, but always be working herself. She needs to suck it up now and have the world later. Mel says she should know, because she speaks from experience.
The folksy, direct approach works. When we next see Vanessa, she is indeed on The Liberty Report, sitting at Jake’s side and playing the faithful wife. She appears to have taken Mel’s advice to heart as she talks up what a great guy Jake is and what a great VP he’d make.
Liv gets Poped. As Vanessa gushes over her husband, Liv watches from the wings. While this TV appearance is going on, Huck and Quinn are breaking into the motel room Jake has been frequenting. Then Liv gets a call from Quinn who tells her the trip was a bust. The motel room is empty and immaculate; it almost looks as if Jake knew they were coming.
And, of course, he did. Even though we’ve never actually seen him on the job, Jake is the head of the NSA and has all of that spy experience, so it’s tough to surveil him without him knowing. As Liv speaks with Quinn, Jake walks up to her, so she hastily gets off the phone. Jake informs her that they’ll find nothing in that motel room. He cleaned it up pretty well. And he knew he was being followed; Huck and Quinn were so obvious about it, he says, it was as if they wanted him to notice. Then Jake hands Liv some papers and tells her to go make a president honestly.
What she sees in the papers drives Liv to make an angry visit to Pa. She says he set up a trust fund in Switzerland in her name and made a wire transfer that makes it look like she was the one who paid Tom to confess to killing Vargas. Pa tells her to stop asking questions she doesn’t want the answers to. Though he dismisses her, as he usually does, he’s not his usual totally cocky self while doing so. He seems a slight bit hesitant, and we soon find out why.
The lady in red. A little while after having it out with Liv, Pa is alone in his studio when he gets a visitor. It’s a woman who appears to have appropriated Pa’s cocky attitude. She breezes in, and Pa is angry with her at first, wanting to know why she’s trying to frame Liv. So it looks like he didn’t set up Liv’s trust fund. She says it’s just an insurance policy, and besides at this point, Liv is expendable. She served her purpose. She delivered Mellie, and now she’s just a loose end that can be cut at any time. Every day she has from now on is a gift, because she’s not needed anymore. And neither is Pa, for that matter. She says if he starts bitching about every little thing, maybe he’ll be judged too much of a pain to keep around, and both he and Liv can be gotten rid of. It’s up to him, she says, and looks at him for an answer. Pa is sufficiently cowed and contrite and tells her what she wants to hear, so she can leave while he’s still in one piece.
Soooo…huh?? Command has a boss? They’ve spent, like, five seasons setting up Pa as Lucifer, and now it turns out Lucifer has someone to answer to? The evil buck always stopped at Pa’s door, to mix metaphors, and now they’re telling us there’s someone even more evil pulling his strings? If so, where does that stop? What if this mysterious woman in red also has a boss, who’s even more ruthless and nasty than she? And that boss has a top super secret quadruple-nasty boss! The possibilities are endless. Boring, but endless.
And who is this woman in red? The whole time she was on screen, I was trying to figure out if I should recognize her. I have to admit, many of the Scandal ladies of recent episodes—Vanessa, Jennifer, this lady in redall look pretty similar to me, so it’s hard to tell. But she is a brand-new character, one we haven’t seen before and one we know nothing about. Except that she scares the previously unshakable Papa Pope.
The last shocking twist. Scandal has been keeping in reserve a bomb to drop at the last minute of episodes lately, and this week’s is about to detonate. Jake meets Liv in a parking garage and tells her to come with him. Once in his car, he pulls the silent treatment except for asking for Liv’s phone, only to throw it out the window. He will say nothing, nor answer any questions. Liv gets increasingly nervous as he drives and won’t tell her where they’re going. It would be a tense scene, except we know that Jake isn’t going to kill the star of the show, so that drains much of the intensity. But what, exactly, is he up to?
He drives into the woods and stops the car before telling Liv to get out. Again, this looks like a classic hit, but we know it’s not. Liv doesn’t know that, though, and keeps trying to get Jake to talk. She tells him she didn’t pay Tom off to kill Vargas, and Pa set her up. Then she says she knows he blew up the cabin and killed Jennifer and wants to know if he killed Vargas, too. After walking through the woods, they come up to a cabin. As Jake unlocks the cabin door, he finally tells Liv he killed Jennifer because Pa asked him to. That’s what he does, he says. First in the Navy, then in B613. He follows orders. Then he opens the door and pushes a reluctant Liv inside.
And who does Liv find herself face to face with in the cabin? The very much alive Jennifer Fields. Seems rumors of her death have been greatly exaggerated. Also seems maybe Jake didn’t follow orders this time.
As is often the case with this show, when questions are answered, it leads to even more questions. The maelstrom continues with next week’s 06.06, “Extinction” –
Rowan is caught by surprise when someone from his past resurfaces; Olivia has to make a life-changing decision about the campaign; flashbacks reveal exactly what happened the night of Francisco Vargas’s assassination.
More flashbacks! Where would this season be without them?