'Scandal' Case Study: Tony Goldwyn Talks Fitz's Operation Remington Shocker

"Whatever ugliness happened, Fitz had to compartmentalize it and deal with it the way all soldiers do," the actor behind President Fitzgerald Grant tells THR in our weekly postmortem.
"Scandal's" Tony Goldwyn

[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Scandal's "More Cattle, Less Bull" episode.]

Holy mother of a reveal, Scandal! Shonda Rhimes' political thriller peeled back a major layer of its story Thursday in an episode that offered a glimpse at President Fitzgerald Grant's potential re-election opponents as well as a major part of the cover-up behind Operation Remington.

During "More Cattle, Less Bull," Jake (Scott Foley) and Huck (Guillermo Diaz), now working together to bring down Rowan (Joe Morton) and B613, discover that Fitz's (Tony Goldwyn) missing flight was a U.S. government-sponsored mission in Iceland to shoot down a commercial airliner carrying 300 civilians, including Maya Lewis -- otherwise known as Olivia's mother.

Of course the reveal comes after Olivia (Kerry Washington) turns down working as the campaign manager for Fitz's Democratic challenger, Sen. Josie Marcus (Lisa Kudrow), in favor of returning to the White House. Olivia sports a "Grant for President" shirt, signaling her intent to go back to working for the man she still loves, following a gut-wrenching speech from Mellie (Bellamy Young), who went behind the president's back to bring in his former mistress.

The Hollywood Reporter turned to Goldwyn to get the scoop on what's ahead as part of our weekly Scandal Case Study postmortem series.

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Fitz shot down a plane with Olivia's mother on board! What was your reaction when you found out?

I was absolutely stunned. I had made out an entire scenario in my head for what Operation Remington was, and I was partly right. I figured out the whole Iran end of it, but beyond that, when I heard it was with her mother and that it was somewhere else, I was completely freaked out by it!

We presume Huck and Jake tell Olivia about it in the next episode, what can you tease about how she'll respond to the news?

You can only imagine what that would be like to find out that your mother did not die in the way that you thought she died, in terms of it being a willful act. It's surreal for Olivia, but it's very bad! (Laughs.) It's not good for Liv and Fitz!

How will this reveal change Olivia's already strained relationship with her father?

The audience can imagine what that must be like to find out that your mother was murdered along with hundreds of other people. So the fact that her father was behind it is incomprehensible. It's going to really complicate it because Rowan remains a very dangerous person. It's not like everyone can just expose him or take him out. It becomes a very volatile and dangerous situation. You can imagine how devastating it is for Olivia.

Was Fitz aware that Olivia's mother was onboard the plane he shot down? Is he finding out for the first time that she was on board?

He didn't know; he is completely in the dark. I can't tell you how Fitz finds out, but he had no idea about it. In that same way, he has no idea that Rowan is Olivia's father. As far as Fitz knew, he was a young special forces pilot and doing black ops operation and he had no clue. Operation Remington was a dark chapter in Fitz's career, but for anybody in the military who's in active duty, dark chapters are not unusual. Whatever ugliness happened, Fitz had to compartmentalize it and deal with it the way all soldiers do. 

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What kind of orders did Fitz receive that would have him shoot down a commercial airliner without question?

We don't. That's not been made specific yet. I assume we'll find out more about it, but I do know that those missiles that those fighter pilots launched -- medium-range air-to-air missiles -- they're called "launch and leave," and you see it on radar and zero in on the target, but you never have visual contact with it. It's completely plausible that Fitz would launch that missile never having any idea what the target actually was until he landed on the ground and found out what had happened.

At this point, is he aware that he shot down a commercial airliner with 300 aboard?

We'll find out more about that. Fitz was a pilot following orders. I don't know whether he knew it was a civilian airliner. It's the same thing if he's ordered to bomb a village. What I assumed Remington was -- I knew it was a dark stain and something that troubled Fitz greatly -- and the story I made up that was half true was that there was a CIA-related extraction of some kind of assassin in Iran. This is at the beginning of the Gulf War, we're not supposed to be Iran, and it's some sort of CIA assassin who had targeted a high-ranking official and we needed to get him out. Jake's team of Navy SEALs had to go and get this guy out of Iran secretly, and Fitz was providing air cover for them and something went terribly wrong. I presumed that Fitz had to launch a missile at a village and a lot of civilians were killed or something terrible like that in order to keep this mission a secret. I thought that was bad! (Laughs.) So this is an extreme extension of that that Fitz has had to compartmentalize. Whatever he thought it was, he knew it was a terrible thing that he had been involved with, but that's the job.

Rowan tells Fitz that someone is snooping into Operation Remington. What could that do to Fitz's re-election campaign if that information were to come out?

I don't know if it's ever going to come out; the two are so separate in my mind. If something like that ever came out, it would be like Watergate times a hundred, Edward Snowden times ten thousand. It would be so extreme. I don't know how Fitz would handle that. In many ways, Fitz is an unwitting victim of the situation. It would put a stain on him if it came out, but I can't even imagine what that would be.

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Why would Rowan want to take out a plane carrying his wife? Did he know his wife was on board?

We don't know yet, it's so complicated. We don't have an answer, but hopefully we'll find out soon.

Mellie went over Fitz's head with a gut-wrenching speech to bring Olivia back in as his campaign manager. Is this Mellie conceding that she's lost her husband to Olivia?

It sure looks that way! It appears to be the only way Mellie seems to win is to sacrifice her marriage to Olivia, but you never know with Mellie; she's always five steps ahead of everybody. Her agenda is tough. [It's hard] to know where she's coming form. It seems that Mellie is conceding, but I would not trust that for a minute! (Laughs.

Olivia was poised to run Fitz's re-election campaign. How does potentially finding out Fitz shot down the plane with her mother on board complicate her decision?

A lot! You'll find out; it's a problem and it's not pretty.

Fitz again professes his love for Olivia and Jake breaks things off with her. Was she poised to start things back up with him?

It's undeniable. These two cannot deny their feelings for each other. Despite herself, Olivia is almost subconsciously always looking for a way to Fitz, and Fitz very consciously is looking for a way to Olivia. Olivia is always somehow seeking that opening to be back in association with Fitz; even if she fights hard against it, she can't help herself. So in that sense, yes. But there's a lot of obstacles and now there are even more.

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Foley told us we'd be seeing flashbacks of Olivia's family. Will we see any interactions with her mother?

Her mother becomes a major issue in her life but I don't want to divulge that.

Josie Marcus is gaining steam as Fitz's Democratic challenger and Sally Langston (Kate Burton) is considering a run as an independent. Who poses the biggest threat to Fitz? Or is it Reston (Tom Amandes)?

Josie Marcus is the biggest threat to Fitz. Sally is a potential threat in the sense that she could really divide the party like Ross Perot did but even more. Sally could be a very divisive force. But in terms of a direct political threat to Fitz, it's Josie because she's a Democrat and she's very authentic -- and that's the one thing that Fitz prides himself on: his ability to connect with people. Defiance not withstanding, he views himself as authentic in the eyes of the American people and Josie is a straight-shooter who fills that void as a Democrat, and she has the grit and guts to go the distance.

What did you think of Fitz's dark military history? How do you think Olivia will respond? Do you like Josie as Fitz's Democratic challenger? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit