8:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Scandal' Case Study: Bellamy Young on Mellie's New Suitor, Threats to the White House
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the "Ride, Sally, Ride" episode of Scandal.]
ABC's Scandal returned from its midseason hiatus Thursday with a jam-packed episode that revved up the political thriller's engine for the remainder of its third season, setting up multiple challenges for Fitz on his road to re-election, a backstory for Harrison and a new love interest for beleaguered first lady Mellie.
During the episode, vice president Sally Langston (Kate Burton) declared her intent to run against Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) -- while retaining her role in the White House! -- and it naturally doesn't sit well with anyone in the Grand administration, which has officially tapped Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and her team of Gladiators to run his re-election campaign.
Their first order of business is to vet the president's pick for his new running mate: Andrew Nichols (The Closer's Jon Tenney), Fitz's former lieutenant governor of California who is currently holding Fitz's former job in the Golden State.
Naturally, Nichols is a stand-up guy -- save for one small detail: he's never married because he had his chance to settle down and let her go. That woman? It's first lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young). And the only one to raise a flag that Nichols, despite Fitz's declaration that he's the only one he can trust, isn't the right pick for the spot: Olivia. It sets up yet another point of friction between the on-again love birds after Fitz reveals that he installed Jake (Scott Foley) as the head of B613 to protect the truth from coming out: that he killed 300 people and let Maya Pope (Khandi Alexander) get away.
Rowan (Joe Morton), meanwhile, swears vengeance on Fitz for displacing him from B613 and tells daughter Olivia that she is his biggest weapon as he vows to bring down the man who stripped him of his career. To get the ball rolling, Rowan meets with Sally's campaign manager Leo (Paul Adelstein) -- who knows that Cyrus helped the VP cover up her husband's death.
Elsewhere, David (Josh Malina) and James (Dan Bucatinsky) are tag-teaming to bring down the latter's husband, chief of staff Cyrus (Jeff Perry). As for Harrison (Columbus Short), the dreaded Adan Salif has arrived -- and she is being played by Homeland's Nazanin Boniadi-- and it turns out the duo have a romantic (and apparently violent) history.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Young to preview what's ahead for Mellie, what viewers can expect to learn about Andrew, threats to Fitz's campaign and what it's like for the first lady to (finally!) be shown some affection.
What kind of relationship does Mellie have with Andrew Nichols? How much does he know about her? We know they have a romantic past of some sort.
Next week you're going to find out a lot of backstory on Andrew and Mellie: What their relationship is, how they met and what they might be bringing into the present with them.
Will there be flashbacks next week to Fitz's time as California governor and his (and Mellie's) relationship with Andrew?
You'll get to know Andrew better next week. There might be a hiccup in the road that makes us second-guess him as a vice presidential candidate -- some things come to light. It will be a great episode for Jon. That character is so interesting, I think Gladiators are going to dig him.
Andrew has feelings for Mellie, but how romantic is their past? Were they a couple? He refers to her as the one who got away.
You're going to have to find that out next week!
How does Mellie feel about having him on the ticket considering his feelings for her?
As with anyone that resurfaces from your past, you're not quite sure how you feel. There's a certain degree of comfort for people that you've known a long time because they're not just meeting you in the moment; you have a sense of history with them. They have a fuller sense of who you are and there's comfort in that. But who knows where he is in his life. Mellie is as unsettled, excited, curious and wary. Because it's Shondaland, it's probably going to play out to be just as complicated going forward as it is in the first moment when at the end of this episode when he says that sweet, sweet thing she is very taken by it and she has to give a speech. It's an interesting time.
How much of Mellie's tragic backstory does he know? Does he know Fitz's father raped her?
You'll find all that out and it's juicy and fun.
Mellie finally has a romantic suitor. How might she feel about Andrew's advances considering Fitz and Olivia are back on again and not trying to hide it from her?
It is unfortunate to be walking into the Oval Office and finding her husband kissing other people; it's like a knife in the heart. In a public crucible like the White House, you have to zip it up and go forward. There are bigger issues at play. As for Andrew, it's too delicious to spoil. It's complicated and fun and Jon Tenney is remarkable.
Olivia is vetting Andrew and learns that there's one woman who got away -- but she doesn't ask who it is. Why?
When I watched it, I felt that Olivia often finds herself mirrored in these really salacious, scandalous and secretive situations that she has to handle. Often -- and I love these moments with her character -- I see her check herself like, "Is this my future?" It resonated like that for me. Like, "Am I going to be sitting alone giving this interview to someone in how many years talking about something I never had that crushed my life and truncated my ability to love?" That's how I read it. Ask Kerry, now I'm curious!
There are multiple threats to Fitz's re-election: Sally, Leo and Rowan, James and David Rosen, Fitz's affair with Olivia. Which is the biggest threat?
It's always Mellie! Worry about the ones that are closest, it's a dangerous business being the president! (Laughs.) I suppose, in art as in live, the most dangerous threat is the one you least suspect. The ones you can gird yourself against … so often you're on the wrong trail. It's a small world, Washington, and things can be related in surprising ways.
Does Mellie and Andrew's potential romantic relationship pose a threat to Fitz's re-election as well?
Right now, everything that is out of the ordinary is a threat to the re-election. Sally is formidable and she often has plenty of dirt on us. Any little tiny wave that rocks the boat must be considered and quieted. You'll find out so much about Andrew and anything that might come out is a potential threat. We're on a very short timeline now, and Sally has hit us with this late in the game. Everything has to go perfectly from here on out and it just won't and that will make it all fun, glorious, gory and crazy.
Mellie, Cyrus and Olivia are already working overtime to ensure Fitz is re-elected. Could there come a point where they resort to a by any means necessary approach, a la Defiance?
Ha! You can never rule that out of the game in Washington, D.C., or in Shondaland. That makes for great drama. We just had our penultimate table read and the eight episodes we've read of the back nine, every table read has left us shocked and awed. We can't even get up from chairs after table reads, they have all been so jaw dropping. I can assure you that stuff will go wrong and be crazy. We will try and handle it and that will probably make things worse. I don't know how it's all going to turn out because I haven't read the finale yet; I'm on this ride with everyone, too.
Adnan Salif has been revealed! What can you say about what we'll learn about her going forward?
I can say nothing! Naz is so sexy; I think Twitter might break when all of that goes down between her and Harrison. The greatest taboo!
Harrison feared for his life with her return and then presto! They're hooking up!
They're high-stakes people, sex and death! It's the greatest taboo, what could be sexier?!
James is trying to expose Cyrus and by association Fitz. Should he fear for his life at this point considering people are going to find out he's the mole?
These are life and death times; certainly as it plays out with Harrison and Adnan, everybody in the story is on the brink. Poor Fitz has got pretty price on his head from any number of people. Every one of us is facing very dire choices of conscience or allegiance or safety and you really have to define your character as how you walk through it. It's crucible to be in, where every day you say, "I chose to be this person even though I'm risking everything to be this person; I'm risking everything to love person; I'm risking everything for the truth; I'm risking everything to get free." That's why I love this job. All of us worry every time we sit at a table read, we all worry, all the time! (Laughs.)
Rowan has warned Olivia to run because he's going after Fitz. Will he go straight for the jugular or will his pursuit be much more savvy when it comes to his attempt to bring down the Grant administration?
Rowan operates completely outside of our human system, not just our civilized society but he's almost outside the realm of humanity in a lot of ways. His threat is unnamable; it's like [Harry Potter's] Voldemort! It's so different from everything else that you cannot name its name. Fitz should be shaking, quaking and terrified. Rowan is almost archetypal in his ability to go places that the rest of humanity would keep from going.
How will Mellie change now that she has a romantic suitor?
It's amazing how swiftly kindness can melt your heart. Even in that moment when Andrew turns to Mellie and says something sweet to her, when is the last time someone said something loving to her? It instantly sends the ice flow that is around her heart into some sort of springtime flood; it all melts away all at once. Suddenly the world is very different for Mellie. Everyone one of us blooms when kindness, grace and love and the sun shines on us in that way. You'll see Mellie raise her face to the sun and try and decide if she can enjoy life in that way. It's the William Blake quote, "We are all here to learn to endure the beams of love" but we can't all learn that; that's not a lesson that all of us can achieve. But it's interesting to watch her try.
What did you think of the Scandal midseason premiere? Do you think Andrew is another threat to the presidency for Fitz? Hit the comments below with all your thoughts and theories. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.