It’s an Olivia and Jake episode, y’all. (Fitzvians cover your eyes.)
Things have gotten so complicated in the life of Liv lately that she’s now resorted to a self-imposed stay at her dad’s house — which is fitting because now that she’s got (more) blood on her hands, she’s just like a chip off the old block, right? But she’s not the only one of his kids who’s hanging around the place like they own it, and she’s not even the favorite, apparently.
Jake Ballard, as we’ve seen with all those quiet dining room table dates in recent episodes, is all but blood related to the Pope fam now, too, and as we come to discover during a throwback history of the formation of Eli and Jake as father and “son,” the depth and completeness of Eli’s stranglehold over Jake’s every move (possibly thoughts, too) is shudder-inducing.
The first glimpse of the tumultuous past that landed Jake in B613’s vicious clutches is of him as a little boy, playing out a morbid battle scene with toy soldiers and tanks on the front porch as his dad shouts like a loon in the background. When the fighting escalates to the point of obvious physical violence, Jake closes his eyes and tries to transport himself to somewhere else, maybe a place where he could be free of this constant terror? (Spoiler: Not even close, kid. Sorry.)
Back at Pope HQ, Olivia’s still camped out under daddy’s roof — also attempting a mental escape? — sleeping in her own room even, where she’s still got plastic ponies and kid karaoke and a Dead Poets Society poster on the wall.
Jake’s there and trying to make her eat a little something because she’s been a sullen Sally over what she did last week (you might recall Andrew Nichols’ face being turned into a pile of human jello), but she’d prefer to just lay there and mope the day away instead.
“You gotta stop beating yourself up over this,” Jake says to soothe her. “After everything he did to you, the only thing you should feel bad about is that you didn’t do it sooner.”
Eli arrives to offer his agreement with Jake’s warped little wisdom nugget and sends Jake on his way. He’s got lots of groomy activities to get to because, as Eli informs Liv, his wedding to Vanessa Moss has been moved up to this Saturday. Oh, and she’s invited, too, so yippee for that! Or not (although she looks alive at this news, which is a plus).
Meanwhile, we should have already guessed that Jake Ballard is a pseudonym for something else: Pete Harris. Turns out, Pete Harris is something of a screw-up in his 20s, seeing as he enlisted with the Navy and proceeded to do everything within his power to have those stripes stripped right off his shirt.
In a flashback (during which the struggle to overlook some horrifyingly/hilariously bad wigs is REAL) we learn that Pete Harris is but inches from being dishonorably discharged from service, charged with assault, and then sent to jail for the next decade of his life…and only Eli can save him (of course, groan).
“I can turn you into somebody, a real soldier with a real future, and there’s no one else on this planet that can promise you that without being a fool or a liar. So what’s it going to be, Pete Harris or Jake Ballard? Their b—- or mine?” he offers.
Back in real time, Liv’s finally put on some going-out gear to take a neighborhood jog. The guys are happy to see her on two feet again, and, whaddya know, Huck and Quinn are happy to see their boss at their little rendezvous point down the street. She’s got a mission for them now: Dig up all the dirt on this Vanessa Moss, Jake’s super soon-to-be bride.
NEXT: She’s her own best weapon…
Only problem is, there’s no dirt to be dug. She’s a perfectly normal, politically influential woman of honor who even has Quinn going into hyper-jealous mode because this wedding’ll be featured in the September issue of Vogue (okay, nope to that).
Looks like Liv’s gonna have to break out the biggest guns if she wants to shoot this one down; and she’s Jake’s only weakness, after all, so she better be packing heat.
She throws herself a bedroom pity party over the rehearsal/engagement/whatever party that’s going down at the White House because she “can’t go back” to where she laid waste to Andrew’s face. Jake falls for it and agrees to hang back from the party, but neither Vanessa nor Eli are having it. Vanessa strangely questions why Liv’s “been here for weeks” (duh, lady, it is her dad’s house), and then Eli puts his foot down and orders Jake to follow through on his command. Aye aye, captain, and he’s off.
At the party, Jake and Fitz have the obligatory groom-and-best-man chat over whiskey, and of course, it’s Liv and not the fianceé whose name is hanging most prominently over the conversation, but that’s to be expected. She’s what they have in common, really.
“She’s perfect. It’s easy,” Jake says to compliment his engagement, before adding “That’s what I’m supposed to want, right?” Of course, Fitz wouldn’t know anything about easy relationships, so all he can say is that “it’s good to be free.” (Anyone else kind of vetting Fitz for the next season of The Bachelor right now, BTW?)
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When Jake arrives home, he’s been well-greased by her earlier performance and the party itself, so Olivia seizes the opportunity to play the “drunk girl” and squeeze him for details on what is clearly an arranged marriage courtesy of Command, a.k.a. Eli Pope. He catches on to the fact that it’s all an act — he knows her father way too well to miss out on the obvious cues, like their shared s–t-eatingly satisfied grin — but eventually does admit that, no, he doesn’t love Vanessa, and yes, Olivia’s still his best girl.
“I’m not in love with Vanessa. You know that. You’ve felt that. The truth of the matter is that I’ll never love anyone as much as I love you. You have never chosen me. We’ve done horrible things to one another for some reason. I still am in front of you, looking at you, wanting you, in love with you,” he tells her in a moment of supreme swoon, and while they briefly retreat to separate rooms, that doesn’t last long (of course), and we’re at Code Red make-out mode in 60 seconds flat.
NEXT: Is the wedding still on now that Liv and Jake are hooking up again?
Their little tryst makes for super cringey breakfast with dad, who seems none the wiser as he jets off with that toast he’s been yammering on and on about (he’s not a fan of Jake’s Paleo diet, apparently). But Liv and Jake seem real happy to be making eyes and bumping uglies together again right now, even if they have no idea what it means for anyone involved tomorrow (or, more importantly, Saturday).
Since Eli’s spearheading this wedding fracas — in hopes of jettisoning his now NSA chief son into the even bigger leagues of political society so he can run as Eddison’s VP — it’s hopeless to interfere since “nobody takes down Command.”
“Let’s just eat. Just sit with me, be with me, pretend like last night never ended for a bit,” Jake suggests, instead of trying to hatch a plan among all the eggs on the table.
As much as Jake might want to distance himself from Eli’s plan for posterity here, he can’t help but remember how, after a month spent in the brig rehashing the memory of his father tormenting and abusing his kid sister without Jake stepping in to rescue her once, the only person in the world who truly understands what he felt and probably still feels about it — the anguish, the torment, the sadness — was Eli.
Eli taught him to let go of those ghosts — well, mostly — and established himself as the new dad in town. “I am not him. I will not hurt you. I will protect you. I am here for you, son. Look at me. He is not here. I am. I am your family. I will take care of you. Let him go,” he told a then-defeated Pete Harris-turned-Jake Ballard.
So even as Jake tells Liv that, yes, he does want to be with her and walk out on his wife-to-be at the altar, the commitment doesn’t quite reach his eyes. They both know it’s a fool’s errand, and all Eli’s whispery threat to Olivia does is reinforce the fact that he knows and controls everything (and that whatever fatherly affection he once had for her is now purely superficial).
There was a time, long ago, when Eli asked Jake to make a commitment between a life of freedom and individuality (with the benefit of a tabula rasa, no less) and the cause. And after a brief detour to his childhood home to tie up loose ends — namely, putting two rounds in his former father’s unsuspecting chest and collecting one last remnant of his childhood in the form of an old toy soldier still lodged in his play zone — he returned to his new father and accepted his grave lifelong responsibility.
As Olivia abandons Jake again — with a series of words and insults that he also clearly knows the falseness of and force behind — and Jake goes on to say “I do,” it’s all a case of history repeating the exact moment when Eli first said those fateful words to him: “Welcome to B613.”