Scandal has been on hiatus for a couple of weeks, so to refresh your memory, Frankie Vargas was shot and killed the night he won the presidential election. One of his campaign volunteers, Jennifer Fields, left a voicemail for the FBI saying that Cyrus Beene was responsible. Then someone blew up Jennifer’s cabin. Cyrus’ ex-lover Tom Larsen confessed that Cyrus ordered him to kill Vargas, so Cyrus went to jail. Then Tom recanted his confession, and now Cyrus is off the hook ... maybe?
But this episode is all about Jake Ballard, who’d been MIA so far this season. Apparently that’s because Jake has been busy, which we learn through a series of dizzying flashbacks told mostly through the lens of Jake’s deteriorating marriage to Vanessa, who is played by some new actress who acts nothing like the Vanessa we met last season.
The episode begins with Olivia canceling a joint interview with Jake and Vanessa on Sally Langston’s Liberty Report because Vanessa had the flu ... and by “flu” I mean she got drunk and drove herself and her 23-year-old bartender boy toy into a tree. Olivia and the gladiators wipe away all evidence of the incident, but they can’t wipe away Jake’s utter disdain for his bride.
We learn through flashbacks that Jake resents being forced by Papa Pope to marry Vanessa, the daughter of a powerful Washington, D.C., political family, and forced by Olivia to be Mellie Grant’s running mate. Essentially, the Popes are the masters, and Jake is their dancing puppet. Jake accuses Olivia of being just like her father, and Olivia heatedly explains that she has to win the White House to ensure that all the lying, cheating, backstabbing (murdering) and election rigging she’s done wasn’t for naught.
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Meanwhile, Vanessa can’t figure out why Jake will talk to Olivia but not to her. She’s certain they’re having an affair, but Jake has no patience for this woman, so he fills her glass with wine and shoos her away.
Back to the present. While sobering up in Olivia’s office, Vanessa accuses Olivia of sleeping with Jake, so Olivia slams Vanessa against the wall and yells things like, “I’ll lay you out right here,” “You are not going to come for me” and “I’m not here for it.” I’m not here for Olivia borrowing phrases from NeNe Leakes and Kenya Moore on a Real Housewives reunion.
Nonetheless, Vanessa calms her ass down and reveals that Jake was receiving texts all election night, he sneaked off somewhere as soon as the election was called and he’s been staying out all night since then.
As it turns out, Rowan was sending those texts and was the person Jake sneaked out to meet. OF COURSE Papa Pope knew Vargas was going to be killed, and he told Jake that if he played his part, he’d become vice president and “take what’s [his].”
Back to the present. Vanessa’s still trying to save her marriage, but Jake tells her that she’ll never know him. Well, that settles that. He also contemplates killing her by strategically applying pressure to her neck, but he decides against it ... that time.
Vanessa can’t take it anymore. She wants off the campaign trail, but Mellie encourages her to figure out what she wants and to work the situation in her favor. Um, could you be more specific, please?
Meanwhile, the gladiators track Jake’s whereabouts on election night to find out that Jake’s the one who exploded Jennifer’s cabin and he’s been visiting some motel room every day. Of course Jake is on to them, so he tells Olivia that her father set up a trust fund in her name from which he wired money to Tom Larsen to make it look as if Olivia paid him to kill Vargas.
When Olivia confronts her father at his office, Eli demands that she stop talking and leave immediately. Shortly after Olivia leaves, a mystery woman in a red dress barges into his office. Eli wants to know why the payments to Tom were linked to Olivia’s account. Mystery Woman says it’s an insurance policy to keep Olivia in check.
Just as Eli warns this woman not to threaten his daughter, she warns him that Olivia has served her purpose, and therefore, every breath she takes from here on out is a gift. She also warns Eli not to force her to report that he and Olivia are going to be a problem, which causes Eli to fall back. HOLY CRAP! Someone runs Command?!?!
Jake is waiting for Olivia in the parking garage after she returns from her father’s office, and he takes her with him on a late-night drive, during which he tosses her phone out the window and reminds her that the first rule of self-defense is “Never get in the car.” Welp. It’s too late now. They’re deep in the middle of the woods, and Jake is pushing Olivia deeper and deeper into them until the two come upon a cabin ... where Jennifer Fields is alive and well ...
There are so many questions, but first and foremost: Someone runs Command???