[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Thursday's episode of Scandal. Read at your own risk!]
Scandal has had its fair share of shocking moments, but the opening of Thursday's episode took the ABC political fixer drama to a new level by quickly revealing exactly who got shot and proving that executive producer Shonda Rhimes is not afraid to kill someone off one of her shows, even if you are an Emmy winner.
That's right, James Novak (Dan Bucatinsky) was Jake's (Scott Foley) third victim! After the head of B613 offed both White House reporter Vanessa Chandler (Jennifer Peo) and Shelby Moss (Julia Cho) — those who could implicate Cyrus (Jeff Perry) and Sally (Kate Burton) in Daniel Douglas' (Jack Coleman) death — James attempted to run for his life, but Jake quickly shot and killed him. Fortunately, David (Josh Malina) is spared so he can eventually help cover up Jake's role in James' murder.
That's not the last we see of James though. Flashbacks detail his first meeting and initial flirtation with Cyrus, which leads to their first kiss, even though Cyrus claimed not to be gay. Eventually, we even get to see Cyrus attempt to come out to Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) just five days into POTUS' term in office. He later officially comes out at the State Dinner by bringing David onto the dance floor.
When Vanessa is a no-show at the White House, Olivia (Kerry Washington) deduces that those connected to Publius are either missing or dead, all except David, who denies knowing anything to Abby (Darby Stanchfield). But Huck (Guillermo Diaz) discovers that Quinn (Katie Lowes) had cracked the OPA safe, which means that B613 knew everything about Publius. Olivia confronts Jake and learns that he was the one who pulled the trigger. Jake threatens Olivia to stay in line or something bad may happen to her, too, but it's not long before she tells her father (Joe Morton) the truth.
Huck confronts Quinn about the safecracking and points out that she purposefully got caught on camera so they would know Jake was behind the murders. He decides not to kill her and says she's still a Gladiator deep down inside. And then they... make out!
Elsewhere in the world of OPA, David doesn't deal well with the guilt of seeing James murdered and admits to Abby that he's only alive so he can place the blame on a man who was blackmailed by B613 into confessing. Abby goes to Olivia with the information, but every OPA member comes to their fearless boss with a similarly major problem. Huck says they need to extract Quinn from B613, and Harrison (Columbus Short) reveals that Adnan Salif (Nazanin Boniadi) is up to no good. Little do they know, she's working with Maya Pope (Khandi Alexander). Olivia chooses to go to David and tells him to pin the murder on the patsy, which means they'll lose the battle, but eventually they can win the war by taking down B613.
But it's the end of the episode that's the real gut punch. After Cyrus breaks down during a press conference, we learn that James did not immediately die after Jake shot him. In order for Jake to cover his tracks, he had to make the kill look like it was done by an amateur. Unfortunately, that means no merciful clean shot to the head, but an excruciatingly slow bleed-out instead for James. And as the life goes out in his eyes, another heartbreaking episode of Scandal comes to a close.
Were you surprised that James died? Hit the comments.
Scandal airs Thursdays at 10/9c on ABC.