'Scandal' Case Study: Shonda Rhimes on Amanda's 'Huge Bombshell'

The showrunner breaks down the third episode, "Hell Hath No Fury," and how Olivia will handle the former presidential aide's revelation.

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's "Hell Hath No Fury" episode of Scandal.]

The president's alleged affair got very real on this week's Scandal when Amanda announced that she was pregnant with Fitz's baby, sending Olivia on a rampage for justice.

During the episode, President Fitzgerald Grant's (Tony Goldwyn) chief of staff Cyrus (Jeff Perry) received damaging audio of what he believes is the president with his former aide, Amanda Tanner (Liza Weil), thus nixing the planned fix-it meeting with Olivia (Kerry Washington) and her new client.

Meanwhile, with the president not sleeping, first lady Mellie (Bellamy Young) sets up some quality time for her husband with Olivia, revealing that she has some awareness of their romantic bond.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with showrunner Shonda Rhimes ahead of Thursday's installment to break down the episode and what Amanda's pregnancy means for everyone.

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Amanda revealed that she's pregnant with what could be the president's baby. Will that help prove whether or not her affair with the president happened?
That notion that Amanda Tanner is confessing to being pregnant at the end of the episode is a huge bombshell for Olivia and for Fitz and Cyrus. Things explode after that and get far more heated in every way.

Olivia hears the news and it sets her off with how she deals with Travis' case. How will the revelation change her?
As we watch Olivia in the next episode, she's a little off her game. Someone lobbed a bomb into her hand and it's one of those moments where for once she's not positive that she can or even if she wants to fix this. Once you reach that place where the evidence is piling up and it's not just a girl with an affair, now there's a child involved. It's just getting uglier for her and there's possibly no fixing it.

What does Cyrus stand to gain from preventing Amanda's meeting with the president?
He truly believes that Olivia or Amanda is tying to blackmail them. He senses something afoot with the tape they received and for him the idea of letting that meeting happen, the president in his mind is too naive or optimistic about Olivia to understand that she might not be on their side.

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When Cyrus confronts Fitz about the tape, Fitz never really admits that it's him with Amanda.
His reaction is an admission as far as Cyrus is concerned. But no, he never technically admits it. The tape comes back and we start to realize as we head down the road further that there are many things that Fitz has not shared with Cyrus.

Considering the division we've heard about between the president and vice president, why are Billy, the VP's chief of staff, and Cyrus dining together? How much of an enemy is Billy?
I think Cyrus has the view that you keep your friends close and your enemies closer. That's what he was doing with Billy. We're going to start to see that the vice president and the president have very different agendas and that they're not a match made in heaven; they're a political marriage made out of necessity. Billy's motives are interesting. I do think he flirts with Olivia and I don't think that that will necessarily go away. But I wouldn't say that his motives are completely romantic or completely political [with Olivia].

Mellie lets on that she knows about Fitz and Olivia's relationship. What makes her OK with that?
She knows pieces of it; I don't know that she knows everything. Mellie is a political animal herself and she views the office of first lady as a real job and a thing she won and feels strongly about. She's just as ambitious as her husband. What ever she knows that's going on between Fitz and Olivia becomes more complex as we go on. You discover more and more layers as to what she knows and how she feels about it.

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How much of Quinn's burgeoning relationship with Gideon play a role in cracking Amanda's case?
That becomes more pivotal as time goes on. I don't think it's going to play out the way you think it's going to play out. It's relevant in a much different way than you'd expect but it definitely plays a role. All these little pieces start to come together and the puzzle becomes very clear. Quinn is just starting to grow into her sea legs; there's still a lot more for her to learn and there's more going on there.

Our favorite line in the episode is when Olivia says, "Perception is more important than evidence." That's something that obviously plays into everything Olivia does, be it the case of the week or the president. Will she realize that with Fitz's case or is she too off her game to see it?
That's kind of the point. In the pilot, she says, "I trust my gut; my gut tells me everything I need to know." From the pilot on, honestly, her gut has been wrong and lying to her because her gut does not have all the facts. You see it as it spreads over the series and you watch her come back to who she should be. From the moment she discovers that Fitz had an affair to the moment she destroys Amanda, she is off her game.

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How will we see her get back on her A-game?
The idea that she's a fixer eventually steers her right back to herself. As we head down the road in the series, things get dark enough where the only way back is up and she sort of finds her way back up.

Has she hit bottom yet?
No, not even close. Things are going to get very interesting before they get easier.

What did you think of Amanda's revelation? Do you think the president is guilty of having an affair with her? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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