Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season 6 premiere of Scandal. Read at your own risk!
Who killed Frankie Vargas? It’s the question that will surely plague Scandal‘s sixth season.
During the ABC political drama’s season premiere, Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) was elected the next president of the United States — but was assassinated while giving his acceptance speech.
Naturally, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) immediately suspected that Vice President-elect Cyrus Beane (Jeff Perry) had hired the hitman in order to succeed to the presidency. Though Cyrus seemed truly in shock over Frankie’s death, OPA uncovered an FBI tip line message from a Vargas staffer that pointed the finger at Cyrus — and the staffer soon ended up dead.
As Olivia vows to prove that Cyrus is to blame, the former chief of staff’s reaction raises a red flag. Sure, killing the new leader of the free world to take his place seems like a very Cyrus Beane thing to do, but why do it now? Why not wait until after the Electoral College has made it official? By killing Vargas now, Cyrus runs the risk of the Electoral College nominating basically anyone over him, so it doesn’t quite make sense.
Here’s a theory: Jake Ballard (Scott Foley) is actually responsible for the death of Frankie Vargas — and Charlie (George Newbern) helped him!
Let’s flash back to election night: As soon as Frankie was shot, Jake disappeared from Mellie’s (Bellany Young) campaign headquarters, later reappearing in the war room to tell Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) that the shooter acted alone, having received no calls or texts before or after assassinating Frankie.
So, how does Charlie fit into it? When Huck (Guillermo Diaz) initially downloaded all the tip line messages, there were 832, but when Charlie later mentions them mid-proposal, there are 833 — the mysterious extra message was the Vargas staffer pointing the finger at Cyrus, which had been deleted before Huck downloaded the messages. If it was deleted, how did Charlie then find it? He was likely the one who initially deleted it, conveniently finding it when they needed to point the finger at Cyrus.
Now with Olivia determined to make Cyrus pay for killing Frankie, she’ll be totally blinded to the fact that Jake is actually responsible. But Jake surely isn’t acting alone. Lest viewers forget, Olivia’s father Rowan (Joe Morton) basically orchestrated getting Jake on Mellie’s ticket, making sure that the former head of B613 would regain power and become the puppet master of the highest office in the land. So, in actuality, Rowan probably set everything in motion at this time because, as David Rosen (Joshua Malina) pointed out, the Electoral College can now nominate anyone, including Jake Ballard, to become POTUS. Hence, Rowan gets his puppet as president.
But when we posed this theory to Foley, the actor thought it was a little too obvious — so he’s either throwing us off the trail, or… well, we’re wrong. “All signs point to Cyrus, maybe purposefully,” Foley says. “I think it’s a valid theory. I think it’s a theory that makes sense. It’s one that were it written, honestly, I would say, ‘Oh yeah, that makes sense. I saw it coming.’ I don’t know if that’s Shondaland. It’s the obvious. Jake’s candidate didn’t win the popular vote, so Jake does what he’s supposed to do, Jake and Rowan take care of it. ‘How do we fix this? How do we get us to where we need to be?’ It makes perfect sense.”
Do you think this theory is viable? We’ll find out when Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. In the meantime, read our postmortem with Kerry Washington here, and our postmortem with executive producer Shonda Rhimes here.