'Scandal' Case Study: Shonda Rhimes Talks Game Changers and What's Next

The showrunner talks with THR about the shocking outcome of the Defiance case and previews what comes next after the show jumps 10 months ahead.
"Scandal's" Kerry Washington and Debra Mooney

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's "Nobody Likes Babies" episode of Scandal.]

When ABC promoted the 13th episode of Scandal's second season as a #GameChanger, they knew what they were doing. In what would have marked the show's season finale had the network not picked it up for an additional nine episodes, nearly every single character made a life-altering (and game-changing!) decision that had huge implications for everyone as the election-rigging case came to a head.

Fitz (Tony Goldwyn), on the brink of divorcing Mellie for Olivia, learns that Verna (Debra Mooney) -- not Hollis -- was responsible for the attempt on his life. Just as she's about to confess everything about the election-rigging to David, snuffs out the last remaining breaths she has left, thus ending his relationship with Olivia (Kerry Washington).

Meanwhile, James (Dan Bucatinsky) gets down to the naked truth with Cyrus (Jeff Perry) about his role in the election-rigging and narrowly loses his life in the process before ruining David's (Joshua Molina) attempt to prove the election was stolen.
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The Hollywood Reporter caught up with showrunner Shonda Rhimes to discuss the surprising events of the episode -- including Abby sacrificing her relationship with David for OPA, Quinn's dark side and the future of Olivia and Fitz -- and what's next when the show jumps ahead a whopping 10 months between episodes.

The Hollywood Reporter: Where does episode 14 pick up? There's a 10-month time jump.  What will have changed?
Shonda Rhimes: Ten months have passed, so wounds are 10 months deeper and 10 months more healed in whatever way they can be. Emotionally, we pick up where we left off. We jump back in the middle of a world to discover that things are different and how things are different. As you go on, you discover what's happened to David since they left him and where Fitz and Mellie (Bellamy Young) really are emotionally -- the baby is now 10 months old -- and what that Fitz and Mellie relationship looks like now. What Olivia is feeling and doing and how she's coping, and you see that as well.

THR: Is that where Scott Foley's Jake Weston comes in, to help her cope? Could he be a new client?
Rhimes: I don't know if it's part of Olivia's coping, but you definitely meet Scott Foley in episode 14. He's got quite an entrance, and by the end of the episode, you're very intrigued with who he is. At the moment, he has scenes with Olivia in the next episode. He's not a client but in true Scandal style, he's a piece of the puzzle where the audience isn't quite sure where he fits yet. Everything carries over from Defiance and it's the repercussions of Defiance in a lot of ways. There is a central thing that carries over that perhaps Scott Foley is either a part of or becomes a part of.

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THR: How will Fitz deal with the guilt of his role in Verna's death? Will it eat away at him?
Rhimes: The very act of illegally making him president undoes the things they were all making him president for -- thinking Fitz is good, he's better than everybody else, he most deserves to be president because he's pure and he believes it and he's the real deal. Olivia's betrayal and her choosing to believe that he couldn't do it on his own and fixing the election for him is basically her proving to him that he is in fact everything his father ever said he was. It's every fear he ever had.

THR: Could we see more flashbacks to his relationship with his father (played by Barry Bostwick)? 
Rhimes: That's not necessarily what you're going to see right away, but possibly. Fitz has demons now and he's struggling with them.

THR: How will Fitz's role in Verna's death change his moral compass?
Rhimes: I don't believe that he threw his morals out the window and is now just a bad guy. He did a terrible thing and now he thinks that he's a terrible person who doesn't deserve anything more than Mellie. He feels very embittered about what's happened to him and he's probably going to struggle to be possibly even a better president than he was before.

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THR: How will Fitz and Mellie work together going forward?
Rhimes: Her position is tenuous at best. I don't think that these two people are meant for one another. She's struggling for her position in his world and he may have said, "It's you and me," but I don't know that he fully either understands what that's going to mean or if he even knows how to do that with her. 

THR: What's Fitz and Olivia's relationship like now that he's dismissed her?
Rhimes: They have a very steamy and painful thing. Obviously, Fitz and Liv are never going to be over. I don't think that "over" is a word that's in their vocabulary. Has it morphed into something else? Yes.

THR: Will Olivia still be involved in the cabal, trying to make sure that the election-rigging secret never comes out, or will she take a step back from her involvement with the White House?
Rhimes: I don't know that the cabal exists anymore now that Verna is dead. There's not really a reason for a cabal to exist now that she's dead and they've shut down David.

THR: Will we see the members of the cabal go after one another?
Rhimes: In episode 13, you saw a lot of people make a lot of different deals with the devil (laughs). James got his baby, Mellie got Fitz, Cyrus got to keep James, and Hollis got to live and Verna died. Now people are living with their decisions. How that's going to play out is going to be very interesting. There will be consequences.

THR: James committed perjury. How will David handle his second major defeat?
When we come back, David Rosen has a job. What that job is I will not say (laughs). But it's definitely not the job you think it's going to be. David working for Olivia would be a very interesting thing.

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THR: Olivia juggled Edison and Fitz. Might we see her get back into the dating scene? Have we seen the last of Edison?
Rhimes: She definitely needed some time on this. Ten months have gone by since we've seen her and she's not necessarily ready for anything. Honestly, I don't think she ever will be -- it's not like this is a simple thing to get over and I don't think Fitz is a simple thing to get over. You never know if you've seen the last of someone on this show.

THR: Could we see Olivia make a play to get back into Fitz's good graces and maybe apologize and try to explain herself?
Rhimes: If she gets the opportunity, she'll try to take the opportunity to try and explain herself.

THR: There's a genuine love between Abby and David. What's their relationship like when we pick up?
Rhimes: Abby (Darby Stanchfield) did what she had to do. I don't think her betrayal is going to be a simple thing to fix or that she's interested in fixing it or believes it can be fixed. They're not in a good place when we come back to them.

THR: Quinn showed a very dark side when she tried to pay Huck (Guillermo Diaz) to whack Hollis. Will she still go after Hollis?
Rhimes: Quinn's (Katie Lowes) evolution is the most interesting to me. When we come back, Huck has really taken Quinn under his wing and she's been training under him and has started to become a very different person. She definitely has a darker side to her that she embraces. There is an innocence in her that has been absolutely lost and she's letting it go. I wouldn't say she's done going after Hollis.

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THR: Harrison (Columbus Short) hasn't had a central story-line in the first half. What does he have coming?
Rhimes: I consider Harrison to be the gun on the wall that we haven't fired on purpose. The story of Harrison and his past -- he used to work for Adnan Salif and then he went to jail -- that thing that's going to unfold, that's a giant story that we want to unpack when it suits us most. We've been holding onto it. We will be getting glimpses and hints as to what's to come.

THR: What about Huck and Becky? In spite of everything, there seemed to be something real there.
Rhimes: I don't know if we've seen the last of Becky. Becky and that relationship fascinate me. Is she bad for Huck? Absolutely. Do you want to say to him, "Go find yourself a nice girl?" Yes!

THR: There are still a lot of players floating around -- Charlie, Billy and Tom Amandes' Gov. Sam Reston, who lost the election to Fitz.
Rhimes: Nobody actually saw Billy die and that's all I will say (laughs). Reston was a great character and set up his wife, who was played by Brenda Strong, who's now a regular on Dallas. If we could get her back, we would. Those two characters were super-interesting and that's a story-line we love coming back to. He absolutely could come back this season.

What did you think of the heart-racing episode? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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