Ah! Don’t you just love when Shonda Rhimes kills off a beloved character? James Novak (played by Emmy Award-winner Dan Bucatinsky) was not a series regular on Scandal, but damn was he good! Last week, when we saw him and David Rosen facing down the barrel of Jake’s gun I thought I was ready to see him go. I was wrong. Well, truthfully, the episode focuses on the real consequence of his death—not so much that James himself is missed. But that one of our favorite characters, the incomparable Cyrus Beene, loses his husband and we all have to bear witness to the process.
“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang“ wasted no time, and we immediately see James running away from the gun, as Jake shoots him in the back. There is, however, this moment of disbelief and a bit of lag time as we wonder for a moment whether or not he makes it. Alas, he doesn’t, and the sight of James’s pale blue face lying in the concrete is pretty much the worst.
Wait, no. It isn’t. Next we see Olivia trying to comfort Cyrus, telling him that they’re totally going to get the guy who did it and put him away forever. We know that this won’t happen. This is Scandal! Nobody ever goes to prison! Well, except for the guy Jake makes David frame for the murder (which looks like a car-jacking). That guy goes to prison. But we don’t feel too badly about it because he has liver cancer and apparently inmates get free medical care including liver transplants? What? Is this actually true?
Very quickly, Olivia begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together. She notes that the other two women are missing from their respective jobs and realizes that they must have been killed along with James. Huck catches Violent Quinn (because she’s violent now, remember?) on camera stealing the file folders that revealed David and James’s plans to expose Sally Langston and crew, so Liv realizes Jake is behind it.
If you’ve been on Team Jake this whole time, you must have cringed a bit (or a lot) when he told Olivia he was “in the middle of something” and the camera pans to the two dead women he’s burying in the deepest ditch ever. However, there was also something really exciting (er … arousing?) about Jake yelling at Olivia, “I AM COMMAND!” in explanation for what he did. He also brilliantly contrasts his behavior with her father’s, explaining that while Rowan (the former Command) would have paid another man—a broken, powerless man—to do the dirty job, Jake had done it himself. Because he is Command. And he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Anyway, depending on where you stand, you may or may not have found that speech to be incredibly hot.
The episode also took us back to the early beginning of Jyrus, and we got to revel in the adorableness of James and Cyrus butting heads politically, flirting, their first kiss, that crazy-beautiful dance during the Inaugural Ball. Cyrus has all of these flashbacks while working through his grief (literally, working through it). Because he’s Cyrus. And just because his husband was brutally murdered, it doesn’t mean he’s not showing up to work that exact same day. We got to see a great Olivia and Cyrus interaction (there used to be much more of this in the first and second seasons)—Liv quickly becomes the only person not hassling Cyrus to go home. She understands that someone like Cyrus pretty much always needs to be at work, but especially when he’s dealing with a personal tragedy. Of course, he eventually breaks down when he leasts expects to, and it was truly awful to watch Cyrus—our favorite political animal—weeping and wailing in front of the press, crying, “Let me do my job!” as Fitz comes in and helps him off stage.
Even more difficult than watching that scene was watching James’s final moments. Dying in the street with Jake—his killer—talking him through it and promising him that his daughter would be okay? Madness. And a slow clap for the writers of Scandal, who we’ve been a little hard on lately. This episode was the type that warranted all of the drama, and epic speeches, and eyes welling up with tears. It was, without a doubt, the best of the season.
So many other insane things happened that you’re probably still trying to wrap your brain around:
The return of Hucklberry Quinn via Huck and Quinn finally, finally making out. (Some of us have been wondering if this would happen since Huck first took young Quinn under his wings.) Because there’s nothing hotter than having someone tell you that they came to your house to kill you/to invite you back to Gladiator-dom and/or having someone spit in your face. Anyway, yes to this storyline.
Sally Langston and Fitz are now on opposing sides regarding gun control, and it’s good to see this reelection storyline still in full swing.
Whoa, Mellie! In a heated debate about those pesky gun laws, Mellie and her husband’s right-hand man Andrew finally get it on.
In his epic “hand of God” speech, Liv’s Dad admits to being responsible for 183 deaths. Why does it feel like this number is way higher?
Yes to Liv’s mom … although there’s still some confusion as to what, exactly, she’s up to. That scene where she totally came out of nowhere and shot that one dude? It was like something out of Scarface!
Olivia and David have seemingly teamed up to take down B6-13. Please, let this happen. Everyone always tries to put on the white hat with David and then nothing happens. Something needs to happen.
Favorite Flashback Quotes from James, may he rest in peace:
—“You are literally standing me up at the ball!”
—“This is so clearly about you being too afraid to tell your other boyfriend [the President] that you’re gay!”
—“You really think I’m gonna take fashion advice from a guy with a neck beard?”
Shannon M. Houston is a New York-based freelance writer, regular contributor to Paste, and occasional contributor to the human race via little squishy babies. You can follow her on Twitter.