'Scandal's' Shonda Rhimes: "Olivia Pope Is Never Going to be the Same Person Again"

The showrunner previews the ABC political thriller's "shocking" second half.

When ABC's Scandal returns Thursday to resume its fourth season, Olivia Pope will never be the same.

The last the so-called Gladiators in (not really) Suits saw the fearless OPA leader she was dancing, having finally let go of her father, Rowan — after unsuccessfully attempting to bring down the B613 boss — before vanishing, leaving only a spilled glass of red wine for Jake to find. 

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The Shonda Rhimes political thriller picks up the moment where the midseason finale ended, revealing who took Olivia (Kerry Washington) in an episode told completely from her point of view and described as "the fight of Olivia's life."

"The way we kick off the [mid]season is really exciting," Rhimes tells The Hollywood Reporter, calling the return episode, "Run," her "favorite episode of television" that she's ever written and done overall. "It's very shocking. I think it's going to be very interesting for the audience. It's not anything that you would expect from Scandal."

Season four will again have a similar structure — with a new arc for the second half of the season that tells another piece of the story and ultimately combines with the first to create one thematic journey.

The first half of the season concluded with Olivia happy, and as Rhimes says, having completed her journey and saying goodbye to Rowan (Joe Morton) and her mother (Khandi Alexander).

"Everything changed," Rhimes said of Olivia closing the door on her relationship with her parents and telling Jake that she wasn't choosing him — even though he professed his love for her — or Fitz.

"She was sort of healed and that Olivia, in a lot of ways, I'm wistful for her because that Olivia would have been a lot of light, fun cases," Rhimes explains. "It would have been a season of light, fun cases. And we talked about that a lot: 'She's healed, it's going to be fun again.' Then we take all that away from her. So the Olivia that we see and the season that's coming is — when you say who kidnaps her is going to affect the rest of the season, I don't think it's going to affect it in the way that you mean but I think it's going to affect it in the fact that Olivia Pope is never going to be the same person again."

Part of the journey, naturally, will be seeing Jake (Scott Foley) and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) putting their tenuous relationship on hold in a bid to work together to find the woman they love.

Read more 'Scandal': Will the B613 Files Help Fix Huck?

"What I love is that Olivia is the most important person to both of them in a lot of ways, or so it seems at this point," Rhimes says. "I can't imagine a world in which they wouldn't be at least attempting to work together."

As for if Olivia will ever make a decision between Fitz and Jake and stick to it, Rhimes believes that isn't even a question anymore given the events that take place in the back half of the season.

"In the midseason finale, she made her final decision: She was done. Now, we're at a place where when we come back, the world is so changed that I don't know that that's a relevant question," she says. 

Scandal and the rest of the TGIT lineup returns Thursday, Jan. 29, on ABC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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