Scandal 5.18: “Till Death Do Us Part”

It’s time to welcome back Laura, who’s returned with her thoughts on the latest episode of Scandal!

I think that was one of the most painful episodes of Scandal that has ever aired, and there have definitely been some tragic storylines before. As a member of Team Jake, though, that episode truly broke my heart.

Here’s my main question: Jake knows Rowan, and he knows Rowan would do absolutely anything to see his plan succeed. Yet the things Olivia said to him at the church were so brutal, and they played on his every fear about the two of them together and all his insecurities that she could never truly love him and choose him. So would he be able to see past her act and figure out that Rowan was behind this? I wish he would, but I don’t know if any of us could see clearly after an assault like that. Still, I found myself hoping, even though he said “I do” to Vanessa, that deep down a part of him knew Olivia would never treat him like that. I desperately hope he knows she does love him and that she only said what she did to save his life. He has to know Rowan got to her somehow, right? What do you think? Is he too blinded by his broken heart to realize the truth?

Scott Foley gave an outstanding performance throughout the episode, particularly during that horrific scene in the church with Olivia. Watching the tears come to his eyes and his jaw muscles tense as he tried to face her rejection with dignity made me feel that he deserves an Emmy for that alone. Then there was his devastating backstory and the guilt he must live with every day because he couldn’t save his sister or, in his mind, didn’t save his sister through his failure to act. Rowan plays on those buried fears (in much the same way Olivia did when she was forced to convince him she didn’t love him) to push Jake over the edge and make him a part of B613.

Scandal has always excelled when it shows us a backstory episode, giving all of us greater insight into the complex nature of its characters. Many of us felt much more sympathy for Mellie after we learned that Fitz’s father had raped her. While I’m not sure I would have stayed silent the way she did, that episode portrayed beautifully how and why she made that decision. Similarly, this episode finally gives us a glimpse of how Jake Ballard came to be. Knowing that, and seeing the horrors of his childhood, we can feel the same sympathy for him as we did for Mellie. We can understand why Jake has done some of the horrible things he’s done, even if we don’t condone them. And we can at last truly understand why Rowan has such power over him.

Studies in the real world have shown the power of brainwashing. Scandal has made it clear what time in that B613 hole does to a man. Combine that with the protectiveness and love Rowan appears to offer as an alternative, and you have a brutally efficient brainwashing technique. What the show also does well is giving us insight into how different people react to that same process. Huck, Charlie, and Jake all went through Rowan’s “training,” and each emerged a very different man. On the surface, Huck has the most scars and fell the farthest after Rowan tossed him into the hole until he’d say his family never existed. Ending up homeless on the street, he had the hardest time adjusting and couldn’t pull himself back together until Olivia entered his life.

We don’t know Charlie’s backstory yet, and since he’s not a major character we may never learn it. Still, we see his humanity when he’s with Quinn, as he does truly seem to love her—even as he deceives her by telling her he’s babysitting, when he’s waiting around to see if he has to kill an innocent child if that child’s father doesn’t do what he’s told. So no, we don’t feel much sympathy for Charlie, and I don’t know if we ever will. He could be a true psychopath that loves what Rowan made him and thoroughly enjoys killing and torturing people.

This week, we saw far more of Jake’s scars, and in his own way he’s as damaged as Huck. He managed to make something of his life and thrive at times under Rowan’s tutelage, but he’s still completely under Rowan’s thumb and may never break free. Personally, any doubts I expressed about Jake after the last episode have been wiped away. I’m completely back on Team Jake, and I truly hope he and Olivia can find their way back to one another.

Do you think they can?

Finally, a word about Olivia herself. Honestly, I’m glad she’s not falling to bits after killing Andrew. Yes, it affected her, but after what he put her through I can’t say I blame her for beating him to death. It’s not like she coldly went out and planned to kill him. He taunted her, and she snapped. Now we understand why she went to Rowan’s house at the end of the last episode—not to grieve, have a nervous breakdown, or become a stone cold killer like her father, but to discover his plans. What Rowan forced her to do to Jake is its own form of torture. He can effectively control her, too, in certain ways by threatening to kill the people she loves. We know she’d do anything it takes to protect them, and so does he.

This time, though, I don’t know how she’s going to bounce back from this. It physically hurt her to break Jake’s heart that way. She was finally ready to be happy, as she told Huck. And once again, her father ripped that happiness from her grasp.

What do you think she and Jake will do now? Is there any chance for them? It looks like next week Olivia throws herself back into the campaign, burying her emotions with work as usual. Any further predictions on who will win the election? And what will happen when Jake gets added to Edison’s ticket if Edison makes it to the general election?

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