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The second season of ABC’s breakout drama Scandal was initially conceived as a 13-episode season before the network pulled the trigger on a back-nine episode order. To that end, Thursday’s 13th episode of the season serves as a season finale of sorts, wrapping up several of the story lines — who was behind Fitz’s shooting? Will Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) go down for her role in the election rigging? — and setting the stage for the home stretch of its sophomore season.
Among the characters facing the biggest conflicts is James (Dan Bucatinsky), an enterprising reporter who successfully unraveled the rigged voting machines in Defiance, Ohio, that ultimately delivered the presidency to Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn). With the smoking gun in the form of a data card delivered to David (Joshua Malina), it was only a matter of time until the journalist helped blow the lid off the story of the century. That all changed, however, when Cyrus (Jeff Perry) presented his partner with an offer he couldn’t refuse: a child.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Bucatinksy to preview the big episode that contains a scene between James and Cyrus that showrunner Shonda Rhimes has described as one of her all-time favorites. From the look of the exclusive clip from Thursday’s episode, above, the impending confrontation will be a game-changer for the couple after James receives a subpoena from David.
The Hollywood Reporter: Things are coming to a head for the cabal. Is James at risk considering what he knows?
Dan Bucatinsky: The notion about how much James knows about the election rigging puts him at great risk. The fact that people know what Cyrus is capable of and that he found out his spouse had been lying to him when he said he was going to his parents’ house puts James at risk. People should assume that James is a target. Anybody who knows too much is a target and anybody who knows someone who knows too much is a target (laughs). We received the script for this episode at the table read and nobody had seen it before. I’ve never experienced something so heart-racing as reading that cold. Every single character behaves in a manner that is somewhat unlike themselves in some way. Everyone pulls out a surprise in ways that you would never imagine across the board.
THR: Shonda Rhimes told us that there’s a big James and Cyrus moment coming that ranks as one of her favorite scenes ever. Is that in this episode?
Bucatinksky: That is in this episode. It’s a scene where Cyrus and James go head to head, where it’s a game-changing moment for the two of them in their relationship. It’s explosive. A lot of truths are revealed. I don’t think James knows what Cyrus is capable of, only his involvement that got the president elected. More than anything, James wants Cyrus to make good on his promises of a family and he wants to have a really truthful confrontation with his spouse. He wants to be able to clean the slate with him.
THR: Will the confrontation jeopardize their relationship?
Bucatinsky: James might have a little bit of remorse about having poked the bear and finding out more than you care to find out. The journalist in him is at such odds with the aspiring father in him. One side is so desperate about the pursuit of truth, while the other is in pursuit of fatherhood. Both sides are at odds with one another.
THR: How will David and James work together in the election rigging case?
Bucatinksky: Because the two things James wants most in the world are at odds with each other, the further he goes down one path, the more the other path becomes impossible. The more he’d encourage David to find justice and expose the election rigging, the more the idea of a stable family life would become impossible and vice versa. There are two paths he could take, and he’s at that crossroads.
THR: Could James ultimately wind up with a baby and a happy marriage?
Bucatinsky: I can’t say (laughs). James could either wind up dead or with a baby. It’s incredible how life and death the stakes are in this episode. He’s at the ultimate crossroads, and he’s either going to have a life that many gay men didn’t realize they could have 20 years ago — with a husband, house and baby in his arms — or he could wind up hit. He’s dug and scratched at the surface of something explosive and stands at a precipice of potentially bringing down a presidency and that could put him in some very dire circumstances. This is what makes Cyrus’ battle even more painful because Cyrus wants to protect the man he loves, but also protect the man for whom he’d take a bullet in the president.
Scandal airs Thursday at 10 p.m. on ABC. Hit the comments with what you’re looking forward to seeing. Do you think James will turn on Cyrus?
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