Jake Ballard (Scott Foley) and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) haven't had easy lives. But until last night's episode of Scandal, we didn't know just how rough Jake's childhood really was. And the elements of his backstory, that were revealed last night, play into both his relationship with Rowan (Joe Morton) and his relationship with Olivia. The love triangle between Olivia, Jake, and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) has always been the guilty pleasure of the Scandal-verse. Sure, there's torture, murder, and government conspiracies, but there's also a soapy love story in the heart of Washington. Olivia has very different connections with Fitz and Jake, but last night's episode gave us new insight into what, exactly, the connection between her and Jake is. When Olivia and Jake first met, it was nothing short of a meet-cute — they made small talk at a coffee shop, both of them lying about what they really did for a living in D.C. Since then, they've been through a lot — it turns out, Jake's known Olivia's father, Rowan, for a lot longer than he's actually known her. (It does make things a little creepy when you think about the fact that Rowan calls Jake his son, and, as we learned last night, Jake sees Rowan as a stand-in for his own father.) Full disclosure: I have never been a Fitz fan. The faces he makes during his sex scenes with Olivia are not attractive and make me want to immediately look away. He's also pretty selfish in his relationships with both Olivia and Mellie (Bellamy Young), which often leads Olivia to deliver feminist speeches against him, yet they still find their way back to each other. But I was very happy to see Olivia leaving the White House, suitcase in tow. That said: Last night's episode made me question how great Olivia and Jake's relationship actually is. Previous seasons have painted Jake as a sensitive loner, who cares about and understands Olivia, while Fitz never seemed to understand or respect her ambitions. Yes, Jake was still a murderer, like everyone else on this show, but he was a thoughtful murderer! He let David (Joshua Malina) live after killing James (Dan Bucatinsky)!
But last night, we met a darker Jake, one who's distant from the sensitive, brooding Navy man we've grown so attached to over time. This Jake faced 10 years in prison for repeated fights and insubordination in the Navy — at one point, he apparently broke someone's jaw. We understand why Jake joined B613, and it's dark — Rowan convinced Jake that killing his biological father would make up for the years of abuse he put Jake's sister and mother through. We've seen Rowan refer to Jake as his "son" in the past, but last night, we see that Jake actually considers Rowan a stand-in father, which makes us wonder about why, exactly, he's so drawn to Olivia in the first place. It's not just Jake who's at blame here, though. Olivia's behavior last night suggests that she might not ever be ready to commit to either Fitz or to Jake. Yes, ostensibly, she told Jake that she didn't love him because Rowan had threatened to kill him. But that's also a cop out for hiding her own feelings — Jake and Olivia successfully sent Rowan to prison, and she's brought Jake back to life after Rowan's first attempt to kill him. Olivia is using her father as an excuse not to address whatever concerns she has about actually being with Jake. (Even though they were once so happy living together on that beach, away from Washington life.) Jake and Olivia genuinely care about each other (and have a pretty spectacular sex life together, too). But both of them are still battling their own egos and backgrounds. And they'll always have the awkward Rowan factor hanging above their relationship. Of course, there's also the fact that Jake married another woman last night. But considering the fact that Fitz was married for almost all of this show's existence, that's probably not going to stop Olivia and Jake from being together. Either way, yesterday's episode was a turning point for Jake-Olivia fans. It's definitely not as simple as Olivia choosing between Jake and Fitz, but it's clear this love triangle isn't going away anytime soon.