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'Scandal' Cast, Creator Offer 14 Things to Know About Season 3

Who outed Olivia? Will Joe Morton return? How long will Jake be in the hole? Could Fitz and Mellie explore a presidential divorce? The cast and creator Shonda Rhimes preview what's ahead.

Kerry Washington Scandal Season 2 Episodic - H 2012
ABC/DANNY FELD
"Scandal's" Kerry Washington

ABC's breakout hit Scandal won't miss a beat when it returns for its third season in October. When Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope goes back to work, only 22 minutes will have passed between the second-season finale and the start of the breakout hit's third run, meaning the mystery of who outed D.C.'s best fixer as being President Fitzgerald Grant's mistress will still be top of mind for everyone.

Additionally, look for Rowan (Joe Morton) to return as Olivia's father as the Gladiators in Suits will now be tasked with "handling" their employer's personal problems -- a rarity for Olivia Pope & Associates.

The Hollywood Reporter catches up with showrunner Shonda Rhimes as well as stars Washington (Olivia), Tony Goldwyn (Fitz), Bellamy Young (Mellie), Darby Stanchfield (Abby), Katie Lowes (Quinn) and new series regular Scott Foley (Jake) to preview what's to come when the fast-paced drama returns. "Season three begins with a tsunami, like this explosion that completely floods the White House," Goldwyn warns. Offered below are 14 things to look forward to. 

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1. Rhimes notes that 22 minutes will have passed since the end of season two when viewers learned that Rowan, the head of B613, was Olivia's father. As the family drama unfolds, the showrunner notes that Morton will most definitely return. As for who finds out about their relationship, that's another story. "The ramifications of that dad moment? It's huge," Lowes teases.

2. "Olivia, with these two bombs of her name being leaked and her dad showing up, has a lot to navigate," Washington says of Olivia's incredibly complicated personal life right now. "You're going to learn a lot about Olivia's past; it's really shocking."

3. While Olivia ended things (again) with Fitz in the season-two finale, the former couple will look to navigate their new and very public "relationship" now that they've been outed in the season-three opener. "That is going to pose an interesting challenge for them that we're going to see them try to deal with in the first episode back," Rhimes says.

4. Who outed Olivia as Fitz's mistress? Look for that answer to come in the Oct. 3 premiere. That reveal will serve as a springboard for the first half of the season in the same fashion that Quinn Perkins' true identity did in the sophomore season starter. All eyes naturally are going to be on Mellie, who stands to gain the most from exposing Olivia as Fitz's mistress. That typically would mean that Rhimes will likely go anywhere but the obvious. "Mellie is in a really tight spot," Goldwyn says of the first lady. "Mellie is a tough lady, and one of the cool things about this group of people is they all want to win, and even when we think they've lost we discover they have some agenda. Even when Fitz thinks he's been defeated, he's got another move, and Mellie is very much the same way." For her part, Young defended Mellie and noted that there are several people who could stand to gain from that information going public. "You'd be surprised by how many people have motive and opportunity and means," she explains. "It's an incredible hour of television of going on the ride to find out who leaked it, and you will find out in the first episode back. It's the big giant domino and sets the whole season in motion.

5. Also a suspect? The ruthless Cyrus (Jeff Perry), who has been known to play both sides when it comes to protecting the president. "We know that Cyrus has no boundaries in what he'd do to protect his interests, so you've got this very good horse race that's building up," Goldwyn says of the party responsible for outing Fitz and Olivia.

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6. Fitz's re-election is on the season-three menu. "We're going to head in that direction, but I don't know if we're going to get there in the first half of the season," Rhimes says. "But we are heading in that direction. It's a big deal. We're at the timeline where that starts to be an issue.

7. Fitz's priorities are (still) skewed. "We're in a deep disastrous mess in the White House, and somehow we're going to have to figure out how to not only try and save Fitz's presidency, but that's maybe not Fitz's No. 1 priority," Goldwyn says. "A lot becomes clear in episode one, and you understand where Fitz is coming from -- and what we find out is pretty shocking."

8. The healthiest relationship on Scandal? It involves an Emmy nominee. "James [Dan Bucatinsky] and Cyrus are the healthiest relationship on the show, and they continue to be, which is my favorite thing ever," Rhimes says with a smile, noting she was over the moon about news of Washington and Bucatinsky's Emmy nominations. "Their healthy relationship includes an assassin being hired to kill one of them but the romance being that he pulled him back. Cyrus to me is the most intriguing character I've ever gotten to write because he's so dark and so full of love and is so kind and cruel."

9. Fitz may have put his head in Mellie's lap when he came back to her on his knees, but that doesn't mean they're on solid ground. We've thought and talked about a presidential divorce, and we have specific plans about what we want to do when we get to that point," Rhimes teases.

10. While Fitz has always had Olivia in his corner to fix anything and everything, Rhimes wants Mellie's fixer -- John Barrowman -- to return. "I hope we can bring him back," the avid Doctor Who and Torchwood fan says with a smile. "The day he flew in to shoot his scenes, I was dying that I couldn't get to set. He's amazing."

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11. How long will Jake be stuck in the hell hole? A bearded Foley was sworn to secrecy but previewed that when -- and OK, if -- Jake does get out of his B613 purgatory, he will be a changed man. "I think we can assume if and when he gets out, his condition will be substandard to say the least," he says. "He will have been hurt both mentally and physically -- and needing someone to help him out." As for who he turns to once he is freed, Foley described the mystery person (ahem, Olivia?!) as "someone who'd take care of him and knew they would treat him the right way."

12. Lowes warns that Olivia's outing will impact everyone at OPA differently. "Every single Gladiator in the office has to question whether or not, again, they're on board or not," she says. "It makes everyone ask themselves whether or not they support this or don't support this, and how to fix it and how not to fix it. It causes a lot of conflict." In terms of what side Quinn falls on, Lowes says there's only one choice for the newest Gladiator. "After last season, she's totally an Olivia Pope ride-or-die Gladiator. She doesn't have anything to go back to; she doesn't have family or friends anymore. Olivia Pope is really where she belongs, and it's who saved her life. She's indebted to Huck most of all, so wherever Huck goes, she goes."

13. Flashbacks, flashbacks, flashbacks. Some of Scandal's best episodes have come when Rhimes and company put their lens on the characters' often-unexplored back stories, and season three will likely feature more of the Gladiators' histories. "There's so much about these lead characters that we don't know. It's not until you start learning about them as people -- which you do right out of the gate," Lowes says. Stanchfield, meanwhile, previews that she's hearing Abby and Harrison (Columbus Short) may likely be the first to get the flashback treatment in season three. "All season we'll be traveling through time -- more recent flashbacks as well as flashback flashbacks. We've already had some unanswered questions in terms of characters' pasts that have come up in the first two scripts," she says.

14. Abby and David, Round 2? "In the first couple episodes, there's something around the corner for Abby and David," Stanchfield offers with a grin. "I don't know what but they're definitely sniffing around each other. I don't know if it's on, but it's not off. We'll see [how it will take] shape. Maybe she'll shove another finger in his mouth!"

What are you looking forward to seeing this season on Scandal? Hit the comments below with your thoughts.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit