[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Thursday's season finale of Scandal. Read at your own risk.]
After Olivia (Kerry Washington) helped Jake (Scott Foley) escape from her father on Thursday's Season 5 finale of Scandal, Mellie (Bellamy Young) selected the NSA director as her vice presidential running mate — and that's exactly what Rowan (Joe Morton) wanted.
Yup, Papa Pope's endgame wasn't to make Jake VP to Edison's (Norm Lewis) POTUS. He wanted Jake on Mellie's ticket so Liv can return to the White House, which means he would theoretically have access to the White House to do God-knows-what. "That's my girl," he says while watching the Republican National Convention.
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So Papa Pope is still the puppet-master — especially now that we know he knows Cyrus (Jeff Perry), who is named Vargas' (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) running mate, staged the Capitol shooting. But the more pressing question is: Is Jake still in on it? Or was he completely genuine in seeking Liv's help to ditch Rowan and "chase the sun" and "be normal" with her? And if he is in on it, how will he manipulate or tamper with Mellie's campaign?
We caught up with Young to find out. Plus: How long will this honeymoon period between Mellivia last, since Mellie knows Liv killed Andrew (Jon Tenney)?
So Mellie and Jake! What did you think of how it all unfolded and Rowan's true motivation?
Bellamy Young: Yeah, right?! I mean, that was a big shocker for me. Not as big as the whole Cyrus thing. It's interesting because I don't think Mellie knows what she's getting into. She and Jake have had very limited exposure to one another. She does not have any inkling that she's just landed in Papa Pope's lap. Between that and finding out a couple episodes ago what Liv did to Andrew, I think that in this moment — we leave her on such a high as a nominee because on paper, Jake looks like a fantastic running mate — she is all optimism, with a very significant undercurrent of a fear of Cyrus. But wherever we come back, if we come back on the campaign trail, it will feel through-the-looking-glass to find out that she's in bed with Papa Pope.
How will Mellie react when and if she finds out Rowan is still running the show in the background? This is the man who murdered her son and whom she freed from prison.
Young: I'm baffled and interested because she has such a complicated history with him. On one hand, she knows him to be the devil. And on the other hand, she's made bargains with the devil in the past. I think it will depend on how desperate she feels, how in her power she feels, but I think it will not go down easy. It will be a fight.
No one knows he's actually happy about how it all worked out. Is Jake still in on it too?
Young: That's my question! Is Jake playing the part or did he actually want to escape from Rowan? I can't tell and I can't wait to find that out in the fall. No one really knows. I'm so interested. Jake and Rowan are so close, and he lives with [Rowan]. They are in so deep together. I can believe him wanting to escape, but I can also believe him still working with him.
Like you said, Jake and Mellie haven't interacted a lot, so is she really OK with him being her running mate?
Young: I think she just ran out of time. It was a very pragmatic decision. When we filmed it, I think the timeline [in the episode] was 10 hours. The convention was the next day. We tried. We looked. We danced. But we had to cross [other candidates] off the list for various nefarious reasons. Mellie doesn't know Jake well, but he has a nice-looking resume, and she trusts Liv, who does know him.
What do you imagine their relationship will look like? Do you think he will be amenable to her ideas and wants on the campaign trail?
Young: I think there will be a lot of surface agreement. Jake's used to running the show, so I don't think he would do well as ornamental and not functional. So I think there will be more clash than calm. But it all depends if he's working with Rowan.
I was pulling for a Mellie-Susan (Artemis Pebdani) ticket.
Young: Wouldn't that be amazing? I think they'd be a great team. I think they'd be incredible together. I think they respect each other and I think they're so different that they'd make a whole ticket.
It was nice to see Liv and Mellie get so close this back half and work together. But Mellie knows that Liv killed Andrew. She's still acting on the outside like everything is cool, but has the way she sees Olivia changed?
Young: I think right now it's just the maelstrom of the campaign, so she hasn't had even 30 seconds in the bathroom to even process the bombshell. ... But I think the truth of it is sort of seeping through her heart and through her body. I have to think going forward, it will turn all of that trust of Olivia into doubt, and I think it will make her second-guess herself. I think it will have endless repercussions. That is devastating — that someone killed anyone at all, that someone killed someone with their hands and it was Andrew. It's such a complicated issue. I just think it will be their undoing.
Liv's and Mellie's paths have been converging this spring in such a beautiful way — mutual support and trust and friendship and kinship. Now that knowledge of killing Andrew has to have sent them on divergent ways. I think a chasm between them would make for some big moves ahead as the campaign goes down.
Especially if it comes out that Liv killed Andrew.
Young: Yeah, but I think right now [Mellie's] trying to get through the day. She hasn't really thought about that yet. She's in survival mode right now, but Mellie's never one to hide her emotions well. Right now we're on a very truncated timeline. Everything's happening very fast and furiously. Depending on when we come back on the show in Season 6, then it will start playing out.
What would be worse: It becomes public that Liv killed Andrew, or that Cyrus staged the shooting?
Young: Oh, my God! They're both pretty bad for each [ticket]! [Laughs] I don't know. I think the fact that Rowan knows about Cyrus — that will be in his back pocket.
Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) let Liv know he was OK with her abortion, unbeknownst to her. If Mellie were to find out, do you think she will be OK with it too? She's pro-choice and she had already split from Fitz at that point.
Young: First, I love that when he's giving her his blessing, Olivia doesn't really know what's going on. It's really Fitz doing it for Fitz in a way. That's a great question. We set it up so beautifully this spring with Liv and Mellie closer than ever, more trusting than ever — the wedge is already there of her finding out Olivia killed Andrew. I just think there's no way for a person to be even-handed about another person getting pregnant by their ex. I don't think the abortion would be the issue; I think it'd be the jealousy again. You're right — Mellie believes in the right to choose, so I don't think the abortion is the focus. I think it'd be the drudging up of really old jealousy.
And Mellie lost a child.
Young: Yeah, I'm sure that will be part of it too. It's hard to say. That's the writers' providence, so I'll leave it up to them!
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Mellie and Fitz had another great confrontation at the convention. She told him he's never done anything for her and she got to where she is because of herself. Do you think that was finally the wakeup call for Fitz? He did change his speech.
Young: I do. I always get sentimental at the end of the season, so I was hoping to have another Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? moment with Tony. It's so much fun and we have a great time doing it. I also love how complicated it is between them. There's so much love and respect, but there's so much fury and jealousy and distrust. Just because he's no longer working against her on the campaign does not mean in any way that you can assume he will be working for her. It had to be said. She had to hold a mirror up against him before they took one more step forward on this campaign. She had to say, "Do you notice that when we're campaigning for you, it's all about you? When we're campaigning for me, it's all about you. Can you see yourself in this?" To his credit, he was able to take it in. As much as he hated it in the moment and as much as he hates hearing it come out of Mellie's face, he's still able to take it in and grow, and I think that's why we love our Fitz.
And she's right. She made his career and presidency.
Young: Yeah. And he didn't have to admit that. There are many men who wouldn't. He takes it all in and moves forward with it. I know I love him for it.
Marcus (Cornelius Smith Jr.) and Mellie had a little moment last week. It's sweet to see that he believes in her. Is a romance brewing?
Young: Who knows? I think it's a surprise to both of them. They started out with so much animosity, but they have a real bond and they have a real kinship. I'm excited to see where our writers go with that. Cornelius is such an amazing addition to the whole Scandal family, so it's been great to be able to do some work with him. I just really love what Marcus and Mellie bring out in each other. I'm as interested as you.
Mellie's changed and grown a lot since the beginning of the season, not just individually, but with her relationships as well. What's your take on her trajectory now that she's so close to her dream? And if she does win the presidency, what's her next goal?
Young: Season 5's been incredible for Mellie. At least in her own mind, if not in the world, she's really moved from being victimized to being emancipated. It's been incredible to feel how much vulnerability she's faced on that journey. She's spent a lot of years being very rigid and judgmental and almost haughty in her pious rectitude because she was the wronged woman, but to see her walking her own path, to try to follow her own dreams, to see how much harder it is to be behind the wheel instead of yelling from the backseat, it's been beautiful because it's also been an authentic life. I've loved every moment of it, from that scene in the closet with Olivi,a through the divorce scene with Fitz, through the filibuster, through Liv and Mellie finding their friendship again.
Mellie's found new parts of herself. She's found new ways to connect with people and that's shown with Olivia and Marcus. She's surprised to find an ally and partner in crime in Marcus because they were so diametrically opposed when they met. ... If I know anything about Mellie and I have to say a caveat — she always surprises me — I can't think of anything that will stop her from getting her dream at this point. She'll move heaven and hell. I think all the doubts have burned away. And I don't know what's next after that. I think she would just be focused on being the best president she can be. But first, she has to get there.
Mellie vs. Cyrus will be a throw-down.
Young: Yeah! They know a lot about each other! I think she can take him down. [Laughs]
What did you think of the Scandal finale?