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'Scandal's' Jeff Perry Previews Cyrus and Olivia's Big Showdown

The actor, who plays the president's chief of staff on the ABC political fixer drama, offers 5 things to know about Thursday's "Enemy of the State" episode in which he faces off with his former student, Olivia Pope.

The President's Chief of Staff
ABC/COLLEEN HAYES
"Scandal's" Jeff Perry

"It really goes from assuming we're absolutely screwed to feeling like we're going to confront everything and battle it all head-on," that's how Scandal's Jeff Perry describes Thursday's episode of the ABC's D.C.-set political fixer drama.

During the "Enemy of the State" episode, Perry's Cyrus, President Fitzgerald Grant's (Tony Goldwyn) chief of staff, will go toe-to-toe with his former friend Olivia (Kerry Washington) as things heat up the Amanda Tanner (Liza Weil) case.    

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Perry to preview the big showdown and discuss the mysterious Cyrus' motives. Here are five to know about the episode.

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1. Cyrus' end game is survival: to get to play another day in the political sandbox that is Washington, D.C. "Cyrus is very weary and very protective of the president and battens down the hatches" after receiving the sex tape allegedly featuring Fitz and Amanda and wants to keep the scandal under wraps to protect the administration and live to see another day in office. "Everything you work for -- if you can mitigate this and keep this quiet and internal -- you can do every possible good thing that you'd ever planned while you're in office," he notes. "And if you can't, you've got the Bill Clinton and John Edwards kinds of examples staring at you in the face. I don't know what lengths Cyrus will go to but I have a feeling it's a pretty long rope in order to protect his guy."

2.Cyrus is very idealistic and wants to protect Fitz and the office of the president. As a former political science professor, the president's chief of staff has a real love of history and an acute awareness of what the president -- and Cyrus' -- legacy stands to be. "Cyrus fought very hard for both of them and is very aware of Fitz's legacy. He sure as hell wants to do something good and not be part of an administration thrown in doubt," Perry notes. In fact, Cyrus may be so committed to pushing their agenda through that he might be willing to bend the rules to get it done. "If you're trusting him to carry through on what they campaigned for and to try and help the president push an agenda they believe in, then yes [Cyrus is trustworthy], but whether or not he will go to legal or illegal means to do that, that's where it gets dicey with Cyrus."

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3. Cyrus' full-on political attack won't be subtle considering he's battling a former student. "There's back-room advice and back-room media advice and very much a he-said, she-said going on," Perry offers. A good preview of what Cyrus' strategy looks like can be found in the series premiere, when Olivia -- then working on behalf of Cyrus and Fitz -- sits on the park bench with Amanda and says she's in a no-win situation. "I don't think the attack will be subtle; it's more shock-and-awe," he says, noting Olivia was the best student he ever had. "Cyrus and Olivia are really cut from the same cloth."

4. Cyrus is testing whether or not Billy is trustworthy. "Billy is a climber and Cyrus is aware of it and is very consciously monitoring him," Perry says of the vice president's (Kate Burton) chief of staff. "The vice president is not one to sit still or retreat to the shadows; she's building for a run should anything happen to our guy, so there's a level of, 'Let me make sure this guy has loyalties to me," Perry says.

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5. After three episodes, Cyrus' life outside the White House remains a mystery, but it won't be one for long. "We learn something very personal about Cyrus that is very interesting and some might say surprising," Perry teased.

What do you think about Cyrus? Are you ready to see Olivia face-off with her former mentor? Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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