[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” episode of Scandal.]
ABC’s Scandal didn’t waste any time in pulling back the curtain on the mystery surrounding just who took (multiple!) shots at President Fitzgerald Grant.
During Thursday’s hour, ABC’s D.C.-set political-fixer drama flashed back to the days surrounding Fitz’s (Tony Goldwyn) inauguration, when first lady Mellie (Bellamy Young) first learned that Olivia’s (Kerry Washington) relationship with her husband ventured well beyond a political one and Cyrus (Jeff Perry) and James (Dan Bucatinsky) first connected. But the big reveal came when spy-turned-fixer Huck (Guillermo Diaz) was revealed to be tied to the shooting, with reports describing a man matching his description seen fleeing the hotel where the shots were fired.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producer Betsy Beers to discuss the revelation, what would motivate Huck to take a shot at the president, whether he’s working for someone (we’re looking at you, Hollis!) and how Olivia will fare now that she’s back in the White House. Plus, can Fitz make it out of this?
The Hollywood Reporter: That’s really Huck at the end of the episode in the hotel room?! Why would Huck shoot the president?
Betsy Beers: It’s Huck. You asked the right question: Did Huck shoot the president? How could Huck shoot the president? What possible reason would Huck have to shoot the president? But there he was.
THR: How soon will we find out what propelled him to do so?
Beers: The next couple of episodes move at breakneck speed, it’s like a roller coaster. Things stay the same and change incredibly fast. There’s some amazing sort of escalations that will occur in the next couple of episodes that will simply blow your mind. Everything happens fast, but every time something happens then there’s another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that falls in or falls out. It’s a massive cliffhanger, but do you remember last season around the episode that was called “The Trail” and it was the campaign and it was a flashback? It’s exactly the same except there’s so many more layers now because we basically have a three-tiered story: the case of the week, the ongoing voting issue, the “what the hell is Quinn doing.” Then you have the backbone of the entire thing, which is Olivia and the president, and all of them woven together and connected like this.
THR: Was the president who Huck was aiming for?
Beers: I can’t say. The direction that that whole storyline takes is surprising and incredibly satisfying.
THR: Considering Huck is a former spy, what’s the likelihood that he’s not actually working for Olivia at the time of the shooting?
Beers: That’s an interesting question. You ask good questions that I can’t answer because you bring up really good hypotheticals. By the way, on Twitter, we’ve gotten everything from “It’s Huck” to “It can’t be Huck,” and there’s one person apparently who said that they thought the president had put a hit out on himself because he wanted to get out of the marriage. We’ve gotten an amazing range of reactions to why would Huck ever do this. The logic and reasons for doing things all come from an emotional place, which is I want the best for the country which why at the end of season one you don’t allow Fitz to run away with Olivia. Look at Huck: He’s done things in another context in other episodes and I still want to care for him. He’s the best friend Olivia has ever had and it makes me really happy when they’re together and they’re talking and I know he’s taken care of.
THR: Might Huck be acting on behalf of Hollis’ (Greg Henry) “secret circle”? He’s already done a lot of dirty work for the group going back to drugging Quinn and giving her a new identity.
Beers: That’s true. On one hand, he has done those things; on the other there’s that thing where you look at him and you love him. That’s the interesting conflict for the viewer. They’re all good theories; that’s what’s really great about this.
THR: How much does Mellie know about what was going on?
Beers: You see this woman who is new to the White House and over the course of the flashbacks realizes her husband is cheating on her with somebody who’s very dear to her and somebody everyone relies on. The devastation of that compared to this woman who is hysterical and in a total state of shock who then gets her act together when she speaks to the press shows the main stress for her in present day is keeping her act together and focusing on the president.
THR: Was Huck expecting the president to be first out of that limo, or was he expecting someone else?
Beers: The great thing about a show that is all about conspiracies, intrigue and scandals is any reason is a good reason if it makes sense emotionally. There’s so many characters who have so much to lose and so many things going on that any number of them could be involved with this.
THR: Will Huck return to Olivia Pope & Associates? They’ve already started to question his whereabouts.
Beers: Huck will continue to be an active part of the storyline. You haven’t seen the last of Huck. He’s such an incredibly valuable part of both Olivia Pope & Associates and the cast. He continues to be a character that people just love, especially after the episode where you meet the other spies and you get a sense as to these people that he was working with all this time.
THR: Olivia’s back working at the White House. How is she going to navigate Sally (Kate Burton), who has taken the presidency? What’s that confrontation going to look like?
Beers: It’s not over for Sally; that horse has not finished running. Sally does not take no for an answer, but there is still a live president in a hospital bed. There are a bunch of surprises in there. I mean, there’s one or two sort of curveballs, which make it all the more intriguing. There’s no doubt about the fact that there are two different camps and two different agendas and how they navigate their way around this is fascinating. Olivia Pope has a lot on her plate. There’s going to be more on her plate by the end of the next episode, beginning of the other episodes. She’s got a lot to manage. I think there’s certain things that she’ll be able to manage more on the ground there, but then there are other things like her office and her people. That whole side of things where it’s making it more difficult for her to wear both hats.
THR: Is Sally connected to Hollis’ secret circle? Does she know more than she’s letting on?
Beers: I can’t answer that because I don’t want to ruin it. Sally’s focus is on becoming president of the United States. Look at this woman: She landed on the White House lawn when she’s supposed to be sequestered some place because she wants everyone to feel like she’s in charge. There’s this wonderful moment in this episode where right after they swear her in and say, “Congratulations, Madam President,” and she clutches the Bible and makes a little face like she’s squealing with delight. She drops the serious, “I’m really worried about the president” thing for a millisecond, and you can see that that is the farthest thing from her mind.
THR: James has the smoking gun about the election rigging. How is he going to tackle the shooting investigation, considering he already has so much info in his back pocket?
Beers: What’s interesting to watch in the next episode is how when a president is shot, what happens to everything else. It’s such a massively consuming story that all that information that he has still exists and is still around but for the next episode. The most important thing is who shot the president, and is the president going to survive. But James’ information isn’t going anywhere.
THR: Can Fitz come back from this? Tony Goldwyn isn’t going anywhere, right?
Beers: On Scandal they’ve proven that they’re not scared of shocking the audience. I’m also going to say that Tony and Fitz are a huge part of the show. We proved last season that we’re not scared of killing people in shocking fashion, and we’re also not scared of losing people. However, Tony is a very valuable part of the show. Make of that what you will.
What did you think of the big reveal? Do you think Huck really did it? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Scandal airs at 10 p.m. Thursdays on ABC. In the meantime, look forward to an extra 10 minutes of this episode on the Scandal season two DVD.