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To think: When viewers last watched a new episode of Scandal, the 2016 election cycle was still mid-primary. But now, more than seven months later, the country has a new president in real life — and viewers are about to find out just who is stepping into Fitzgerald Grant’s (Tony Goldwyn) shoes as the new president of Scandal‘s fictional USA.
The season-five finale ended just as Scandal‘s faux-election running mates were announced. On the Republican ticket, former first lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) is paired with ex-B613 baddie Jake Ballard (Scott Foley), while on the Democratic ticket, all-around good guy Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) is teaming with Fitz’s former chief of staff Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry).
Here’s a refresher of where things stand ahead of Scandal‘s return — with the Shonda Rhimes drama picking up six months after the events of the finale and taking place on election night.
Olivia (Kerry Washington)
Where Things Left Off: When viewers last saw Olivia, she had deliberately gone against her father’s orders and tried to save Jake by making him Mellie’s VP candidate. She’d also sacrificed her own happiness by convincing Jake she wasn’t in love with him, and made peace with Fitz, who found out about her abortion. Heading into the premiere, Olivia will be focused on getting Mellie elected president.
Burning Questions: Will Papa Pope retaliate after Olivia essentially undermined him? What happens to Olivia if — gasp! — Mellie loses? Without her White House ties, how powerful is Olivia Pope?
Where Things Left Off: The former first lady had just announced Jake as her running mate, despite the fact that the two have barely interacted before. The outcome of the election will, obviously, dictate what happens next for her.
Burning Questions: How well will Mellie and Jake work together? Will Mellie find out that Jake is under B613’s thumb? What would Olivia’s role in a Mellie Grant White House be? What would Fitz’s role be, for that matter? Plus, most important, what happens if she loses?
Where Things Left Off: The newlywed was ready to escape from life under Rowan’s thumb, and sent an SOS message to Olivia asking for her help. The only way she could think of to save him, however, was to set him up as Mellie’s running mate — which, to be honest, could have been what Rowan wanted in the first place. But now, after trying (and failing) to get Liv to run away with him, he’s under her thumb instead.
Burning Questions: Was Jake in on the plan to get him in the race? Did he manipulate Olivia? Or was it all sincere, and he’s now indebted to her (and terrified of Rowan)? Plus, what’s his marriage going to be like? Will he still hold a torch for Olivia?
Where Things Left Off: There’s nothing better than a lame-duck president in terms of getting things done. No matter who makes it into the White House after him, there’s plenty of political moves to make in the final months of his presidency. Fitz and Olivia are off (for the moment, at least), so there shouldn’t be anything stopping him from finally retiring to Vermont. But remember, this is Shondaland and anything can happen.
Burning Questions: What would Fitz’s role be in Mellie’s administration? Will he and Olivia be able to rekindle anything? Will he and Mellie, for that matter? What happens to Fitzgerald Grant when he’s not in the Oval Office anymore?
Rowan (Joe Morton)
Where Things Left Off: Rowan was offering a significant sum of money to the Vargas campaign in the hopes of getting Jake on the ticket as vp — until Olivia went and put Jake on Mellie’s ticket instead. That works, too, right? Either way, he has someone on the path to the presidency.
Burning Questions: Did he orchestrate the whole thing? Did he know Olivia would defy him? Even if it was his plan all along, will he retaliate for Olivia crossing him? What happens if Jake and Mellie don’t win?
Abby (Darby Stanchfield)
Where Things Left Off: Abby unintentionally informed Fitz about Olivia’s abortion (which she learned about from Rowan) by leaving papers she’d gathered in opposition research out on her desk. The good news: After butting heads with Olivia quite a bit, the two finally had a girls’ bonding night in (with wine, of course). Abby’s candidate might have dropped out of the campaign, but at least she and Olivia are on good terms again.
Burning Questions: Will Abby head back to Olivia Pope & Associates, or continue to forge her own way in the White House? Will Olivia give her a role in Mellie’s campaign?
Where Things Left Off: The master manipulator weaseled his way onto Frankie Vargas’ ticket as the vice presidential nominee. No good things can come of this.
Burning Questions: Was this Cyrus’ goal all along? All Cyrus really wants is power, so what happens if Vargas loses?
As for everyone else, Marcus, who finally bonded with Mellie, might have done too good a job as the duo shared an almost-kiss. Then there’s poor David Rosen, who proposed to Susan but who was subsequently dumped — twice. And Quinn and Huck? Well, they were busy doing their vaguely terrifying Quinn and Huck things. Do you really want to know more?
Find out the election results when Scandal returns to TGIT on Thursday, Jan. 26, at 9 p.m. on ABC. Head back to THR’s The Live Feed after the episode for more coverage.
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