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'Scandal' Case Study: Shonda Rhimes Says 'Anybody is a Suspect Now'

The showrunner breaks down the fifth episode, "Crash and Burn," and tells THR what Amanda's murder means for Olivia and Fitz.

MIDSEASON OFFERINGS: "Scandal"
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"Scandal's" Kerry Washington

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's episode of Scandal.]

Amanda Tanner's case went from kidnapping to murder on Thursday's Scandal when the president's former aide was recovered after Huck tortured a former CIA colleague to find her whereabouts in a body of water under a bridge.

During the fifth episode of ABC's Shonda Rhimes D.C.-set fixer drama, Huck's (Guillermo Diaz) dark past was revealed when, in a very Dexter-like scene, he got what he needed from a former colleague gone rogue revealing not only that Amanda was dead but also that she was lying to Olivia (Kerry Washington).

Upon learning the news, Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) was immediately shaken at the loss of his former aide while his chief of staff, Cyrus (Jeff Perry) came close to celebrating the news before he realized that Amanda and his one-time student, Olivia, weren't the ones attempting to blackmail the White House. For her part, Olivia also received some positive news about the president, when a DNA test revealed that Fitz wasn't the father to Amanda's unborn child.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with showrunner Shonda Rhimes ahead of Thursday's installment to break down the episode and what Amanda's death and the subsequent revelation about her baby means for Olivia, Fitz, Cyrus and company.

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The Hollywood Reporter: Olivia learns Fitz wasn't the father to Amanda's baby, how will that change their approach to finding Amanda's killer?
Shonda Rhimes:
For her, it suggests that there's somebody else out there. That's the first real proof that she has that there's somebody else out there who migt have wanted Amanda gone. It also suggests that Amanda was lying to her. For her, it opens the world up; anybody is a suspect now.

Fitz shows up at Olivia's door in the closing moments of the episode, just as she finds out about the blood test confirming he isn't the father of Amanda's baby. Will Olivia be quick to look the other way and let bygones be bygones?

I definitely think that she still doesn't trust him. It's nice to know that he wasn't the father of Amanda's baby but that doesn't suggest that he wasn't having an affair with Amanda Tanner. It doesn't suggest that there are still things she doesn't know. She's protecting herself. I continue to fee like the last thing she suspected was to get involved with a married man and certainly not the president of the United States. So she's busy trying to do her own damage control on her own life and keep herself protected.

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Will Fitz attempt to give her the hard sell and win her trust back?
We're going to see the president take responsibility for who he is and what ever he has or hasn't done. That's the nature of who he is. I feel like in a weird way if we've done our job right, you're partially rooting for him at this point. This next episode is going to really reveal a lot more about him and who he is as a person.

Cyrus isn't sad at all about Amanda's death, rather seeing it as a good thing for Fitz and the country. How much does the president worry about what happens when he lets Cyrus off his leash? Should the president be worried about his chief of staff?
In this episode, it becomes clear that in a lot of ways, Olivia is right about Cyrus. But I also think it's the nature of the game, and these are political animals. I still maintain that Cyrus believes himself to be a patriot who does what he feels is necessary to protect the office of the United States. For him, he's a guy who's doing what he thinks is right, whether we necessarily agree with those things is a different story.

Cyrus learns Olivia and Amanda weren't blackmailing the president when he receives Nixon's resignation speech. How will Cyrus handle this now that he realizes he made a mistake in accusing Olivia?
For Cyrus, the knowledge that Olivia wasn't against them is a piece of information that's going to be important to him. He is, in his own little way, Olivia was his girl, he loves her, he taught her everything he knows. It was really upsetting to him, which is why he came out swinging when he thought that she wasn't on their side anymore. I always go back to the pilot when he's standing with Fitz and Olivia and says, "The band is back together." For him, that's everything. It's going to be interesting when he discovers that he's wrong about her. I don't know that you'll see him backtrack and apologize and do those things you generally see people do. This is business, he had a fight with his work wife and there's not a lot of time to stand around and say you're sorry.

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We met the vice president (Kate Burton) briefly when we learned how easily swayed by the president she was to vote against her beliefs. Is she more of a force or more of a puppet?
She is a very political animal who does what she needs to do to survive. She's very smart at gauging what it is she needs to do in order to survive. For her, that's everything. She's just as serious about what she does as Fitz and Cyrus are. She's a force to be reckoned with and we'll get to know her much better as we go on.

Billy defended the vice president and said she wouldn't be swayed but changed her vote on the Dream Act after the president suggested he wouldn't support her campaign. How well does Billy know the vice president?
He doesn't have as much control over vice president as he feels like Cyrus has over Fitz. He believes in her and actually believes her to be a person who stands on her principals. That's going to be fairly surprising to him that she's changed her vote.

Does that have the potential to change Billy?
I likened Billy in a great way to a religious fanatic: he never questions, he only believes, which is a lot like Cyrus is -- people have the guys that they back. Billy is as much as patriot in his mind as Cyrus is in his and he's fully behind the vice president of the United States. 

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We learned so much more of Huck's back story. Could we potentially meet his family at a later point?
It's possible. I thought about that a lot. I find Huck's character endlessly fascinating, there's endless story to tell with this guy and so many layers to uncover. He's got the most interesting past that I could imagine and it also feels like he's the most broken person that I could imagine. There's definitely room to find out more about him.

With Only two episodes remaining and upfronts around the corner, how are you feeling about Season 2? Have you heard anything?
I haven't heard anything but no one has heard anything about anything at this point. It's very quiet at ABC while they're screening their pilots. I'm very confident about the show and I feel like it's got an audience and held it really quickly which is great and sort of rare right now. But we'll see what happens.

Are you still rooting for Fitz? Who do you think is blackmailing the president if it's not Olivia and Amanda? Who was Amanda working for? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit