Poor Jake Ballard. Once upon a time I liked him on Scandal and thought he was a good guy, but now it’s clear that he’s just a broken pawn. This week the show uses flashbacks to reveal how an innocent young boy named Pete Harris became Jake Ballard. His real father was an abusive monster, and so is his surrogate dad Rowan.

The guy can’t catch a break and even his relationship with Olivia is thrown into question. Does she actually love him? Or is she just as vicious as her father, using and manipulating Jake for her own personal agenda? I’m honestly not sure.

Olivia and Jake: A Love(?) Story

Several weeks have passed since Olivia killed Andrew Nichols and she’s sleeping in her childhood bedroom as Jake and Papa Pope try to get her back to normal. However, it’s all an act and Olivia is secretly working with Quinn and Huck as a mole inside Papa Pope’s home to find out his real agenda.

She even pretends to be drunk and crazy to trick Jake into admitting that he doesn’t really love Vanessa. He knows she’s pretending, but still tells her that he’s in love with her despite everything that has happened. Olivia has sex with Jake and succeeds in convincing him to call off the wedding.

Papa Pope’s Master Plan

Jake also tells Olivia about Papa Pope’s real plan, which is to use the wedding to raise Jake’s profile so he can be Edison’s vice presidential pick.

The wedding is moved up, but Olivia convinces Jake not to go through with it. However, the plan is for him to ditch her at the altar to destroy his political prospects, ending Papa Pope’s plan.

The problem is that on the wedding day, Papa Pope figures out the plan and threatens Olivia. If Jake doesn’t go through with it, he vows to slit Jake’s throat (and do the same thing if Olivia tells him about this threat). He claims that he’s doing it all for Jake, hoping that he will succeed in achieving greatness while Olivia has failed.

Olivia Breaks Up with Jake

Olivia listens to her father and, right before the wedding, tells Jake to go through with it. She’s utterly vicious in claiming that she doesn’t love him, she always loved Fitz and he’s just a cheap knock-off version. She even says that Jake will always come crawling back to her no matter what she does and that it makes him pathetic. In the end, it works and Papa Pope gets exactly what he wants as Jake marries Vanessa.

But the real question I have is about Olivia’s motives. On the one hand, perhaps she really loves Jake and only said all of those things to prevent her dad from killing him. Maybe her big speech to Jake was an act.

Or maybe having sex with Jake was the act. Maybe Olivia is just like her father, using Jake by any means necessary, dangling the promise of love just like he did. Sure, she didn’t want him to die, but there was still a lot of truth in everything she said to Jake before the wedding.

That’s the big mystery I can’t figure out. Does Olivia really, truly love Jake or is her love as fake and manipulative as Papa Pope’s love for him? Both answers seem equally plausible at this time.

The Tragic History of Jake Ballard

Throughout the episode we get flashbacks showing how a young boy named Pete Harris became Jake Ballard. And it’s an incredibly depressing and tragic history. His father was an abusive wife-beater who also sexually abused his own daughter. We also learn that Jake’s sister even committed suicide after being impregnated by their dad.

So when he faced disciplinary action in the Navy, Rowan swooped in and recruited him into B6-13. With some help from Charlie, Rowan literally beat Jake into submission, using physical and psychological abuse to tear him down. After a month in the Hole, Rowan’s promise to love and protect Jake the way his real father never did is what gets him to become a loyal son, bug not before Jake goes back home to murder his real dad.

While the story in the present makes me question whether Olivia loves Jake, the flashbacks also make me question if Jake really loves Olivia. Is he even capable of love? Is he capable of being a real person? After his tragic family backstory and the way Rowan beat him down, Jake seems more like a creation of B6-13 than an actual human being.

This episode of Scandal might be more ambiguous than any before. Olivia and Jake’s motivations are equally unclear and their relationship is a mystery. The only thing I do know is that Papa Pope won again and he’s responsible for creating both Jake and Olivia, so everything is his fault.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.