'Scandal' Case Study: Tony Goldwyn Talks Fitz's Bold Move, 'Nuclear' Mystery

The actor behind President Fitzgerald Grant breaks down the ABC drama's surprising season-three premiere.
"Scandal's" Tony Goldwyn

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season-three premiere of Scandal, titled "It's Handled."]

ABC's addictive hit Scandal opened its third season Thursday with an hour that picked up 22 minutes after Olivia (Kerry Washington) was outed as President Fitzgerald Grant's (Tony Goldwyn) mistress -- and after viewers learned that B613 baddie Rowan (Joe Morton) was the father to OPA's best Gladiator.

After Rowan attempted to "fix" his daughter's crisis, Scandal revealed that the president -- in a selfish move that ultimately could have opened the door for Fitz and Olivia to have their happy ending -- is the one who had their relationship leaked to the press. Only he hasn't told the woman who he considers the love of his life. Instead, Fitz, Olivia and Mellie come up with a plan to meet the press and allow the president to do what he really wants: to tell the public the truth about his affair -- and his feelings for a woman who isn't first lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young).

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While Olivia is busy crafting her plan, Harrison (Columbus Short) leads OPA to fix the situation themselves, instead spinning the story -- with Cyrus' (Jeff Perry) help -- to discredit the reporter who broke the news and having her wind up taking the fall (and becoming their client).

Meanwhile, Rowan enlists B613's Charlie to bring Cyrus to him -- in a trunk! -- and show the president's chief of staff a classified file containing information with what happened during Fitz and Jake's Navy work in Iran known as Operation Remington.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Goldwyn to discuss Fitz's motives, Operation Remington and why the president would suddenly trust vice president Sally Langston (Kate Burton).

What is Operation Remington, and why is Cyrus freaking out about Fitz and Jake's military history?
I can't give you any details on that, but we know that Fitz and Jake were in the service together and were in some kind of covert intelligence-based operation that's been so top secret that most of it has been redacted. Cyrus' concern is because it's a very inflammatory operation, whatever it was. It's a nuclear subject.

Do you mean literally "nuclear"?
Maybe! Honestly, I don't know yet. But it's very big.

Who else is involved? Is Jake possibly privy to it?
It would be a major spoiler to indicate that. I'll say maybe.

Fitz says he's going to war with Mellie. How can we expect to see him fight her?
Fitz is serious about that. He's really calling a spade a spade. It was such a brilliant, grand manipulation that Fitz did by outing Olivia in order to protect Olivia even though that seems counterintuitive. He knew Mellie would have roasted Olivia to the pulp by having that information over her. I love that turn because I was very confused and discomforted by that scene when Fitz had his head on Mellie's lap. I couldn't make sense of it. I thought there was more to it than what it appeared to be. When I read that scene, it's really to protect Olivia. It's Fitz's moment to stick it to Mellie. Their war with each other goes hot and cold. At times, he takes the gloves off and will attack. Other times, he moves along as if everything's fine, depending on what's happening.

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He was so close to telling America the truth and being able to live as his authentic self. How will he respond to having that taken away?
Fitz is not going to be happy about that because this whole thing was to protect Olivia. It was also perfect because Fitz has been fighting all of season two to be honest and be his authentic self. That rug is pulled out from under him just when he set it all up to come clean. That's going to be really bad for him. Shonda [Rhimes] never makes it easy for her characters to do anything.

Now he has to deal with the fact that he's had an affair with the woman who broke the story. How will he attempt to repair his political career?
The resiliency of politicians is amazing. I think there's some realistic chance he can rehabilitate his political career, but it's not going to be easy. I think it's unlikely, but he's a politician -- as is Mellie -- so we'll see. At this point, it's not going well for Fitz in that way, which is to be expected.

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Why doesn't Fitz tell Olivia that he's the one who outed her and was trying to also protect her from Mellie if he wants to be his authentic self so desperately?
That's a good question. There's no clear answer for that. For me, it's because she wouldn't understand. It's such an explosive thing that he did. There's a component that is manipulative in what Fitz did that is self-serving. Olivia would smell that and say, "You did this so you could be with me, and you made my life a living hell by doing it." I don't know that the Mellie argument necessarily would persuade Olivia. Fitz keeps that card closer to his vest. That said, he might tell Olivia if things weren't so messed up all the time. If they had time to really communicate, he might say, "Look, this is what I did because you were in danger." But he doesn't have the chance since things are too crazy.

Will OPA representing the reporter-turned-"mistress" create a rift or greater bond between Fitz and Olivia?
Both. In one sense, Fitz applauds her for doing it because he feels that girl has been abused. But everything will end up blowing up in both of their faces. It's never that simple.

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Fitz tells Sally the truth about his affair and encourages her to make the most of his misfortune. Why would he do that?
There's always a duality happening. Is he manipulating Sally or is he setting her up? Is Fitz throwing in the towel and saying, "Look, I'm done. My goose is cooked. You need to seize this moment to take leadership because I'm out"? That is what he's saying to Sally. The degree to which Fitz means that, we'll have to wait and see. He's already said Olivia is more important to him than the presidency. He means that, but his relationship with Sally is a complicated affair, so you'll just have to wait and see.

Sally opened up as well and revealed that her husband has been unfaithful, and she's also been struggling with that. Could we see Fitz and Sally bond over that?
I think so. It would also be useful information for Fitz.

Did who outed Olivia surprise you? What do you think Operation Remington is? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC. Check back to THR's The Live Feed every Thursday night for our weekly Scandal Case Study postmortems.

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