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Everything You Need to Know About “Scandal” Before the Season 4 Premiere

Olivia Pope and Associates return to your TV Thursday at 9.

Catch up on where we last left Olivia and company. Photograph via ABC.

Well, Scandal fans, it’s been a long, hot, wine-cardiganless summer, and even the most devoted Shondaland fan could probably use a refresher on where we last left things with Olivia Pope and Associates. The show returns Thursday at 9 PM; read on for where each of our characters ended last season, plus some questions for the future. For even more detail, revisit our season finale recap


Our white-hatted (okay, mostly coated) heroine was dealt some stiff blows in the finale: First, she gets bested by smarmy rival publicist Leo, whose quick thinking and ruthless opportunism results in Sally Langston’s media-catnip Florence Nightingale moment on live TV. Then her boyfriend’s son dies, and not only does she have to let all of America know what happens, she then also learns (albeit falsely) that her mother is responsible. What’s a fierce, stubborn gladiator to do? Apparently turn to daddy with her tail between her legs and flee the country with her sometimes bed buddy who, let’s face it, she doesn’t even seem to like all that much. Cure for what ails her: Binge-watching one season of Liz Lemon’s Dealbreakers


El Prez also has a rough go of it. In a single episode, he a) is told he is going to lose his place in the White House, b) learns that his father raped his wife and c) that his only son might not have been his this whole time, except d) he actually is, except e) said son dies of maliciously caused bacterial meningitis before he can even process the news, meaning that f) he gets another four years in the White House, but g) the murderer is his lover’s once-presumed-dead mother, so h) he’s now beholden to his lover’s also murderous father for killing her, although i) those last two are actually totally inaccurate. Also he gives up on his long-term pipe dream of moving to Vermont with Olivia on the grounds that he now can’t leave his wife because he just found out about something that happened to her almost 16 years ago*. Cure for what ails him: A bottle of Scotch and several pints of Chubby Hubby ice cream, because sometimes eating your feelings is the only good solution. 

The Parents Pope

Boy, did Maya get the short end of the stick at season’s end. After attempting to kill a President and several very high-level government employees with one bomb (in a plot that in hindsight seems a bit too sloppy for a criminal mastermind like her), she gets sold out by her former cohort Adnan Salif via her daughter’s usually ineffectual employee, loses all that cash she worked for, and ends up in B613’s torture hole for her troubles. Meanwhile, Papa Pope dances circles around her like some kind of demonic Backstreet Boy, dispatching Secret Service lunkhead Tom to murder everyone in sight while and expertly manipulating his daughter, her friends, and the President to maneuver himself back on top of the secret-shadow-government food chain. Cure for what ails them: One decade of intensive marriage counseling, some fruit leather for Mama Pope so she doesn’t return to snacking on her own wrists, and a Cuban cigar for Rowan Pope, because damn, he’s good. 


FLOTUS, and Bellamy Young’s performance in this role, continues to delight and wrench with every episode. After her husband forces the dissolution of her one romantic tryst in a very long time, she contemplates the loss of the power role she’s sacrificed so much to maintain, which itself is immediately swallowed up by the death of her son. She then is forced to phone her crushed husband’s mistress in a desperate bid to scrape him off the Oval Office carpet in time to summon his flaky charm and address the nation about his triumphant reelection. Cure for what ails her: A standing prescription for Prozac and a 50 Shades of Grey box set. And a kitten. I feel bad for Mellie. 


Here’s a theory: Cyrus, in an incredibly elaborate Easter egg for Battlestar Galactica fans, is actually a Cylon who’s gone back in time to pervert American’s conception of democracy, love, family, and generally how to be an actual person. It’s the only way I can explain his enduring utter heartlessness: He pimps out his husband to score political points—which then gets said husband fully shot in the face—he contemplates letting hundreds of people get blown up just to cling to his own temporary position of power, and even when he admits to being a complete and utter monster, his confession is immediately undercut by his unrestrained glee at winning a second term. Cure for what ails him: Three episodes’ worth of listening to Dr. Gaius Baltar pontificate. 


Regardless of how you feel about gingers, Abby continues to be the soul of the show, telling anyone and everyone exactly how things are and dispensing the hard-nosed wisdom Il Papa was once capable of delivering. With Olivia jetting off into the sunset, she’s about the only person around able to keep OPA afloat—and thanks to Jake’s delivery of what looks like Operation B613’s entire backlog of files, she and David can surely get some gladiating done in between being in love and fighting about their polar opposite natures. (Yes, gladiating is a word. No, I’m not sure.) Also, with Olivia’s exit, maybe David will finally have some measure of professional success. Cure for what ails them: A publishing deal for their forthcoming memoir/self-help book, How to Succeed in Business and Other Stuff by Trying (but Mostly Lying) Your Ass Off


Did you guys see Scott Foley’s hilarious shirtless ad campaign from a while back? I like to imagine it’s what Jake was actually doing during his vacation with Olivia, while she drinks wine and wears totally inappropriate white loungewear on a beach somewhere, and he’s all, “Well, someone has to pay for all these coconuts and Merlot.” Meanwhile Harrison—much like the actor who played him—made some truly poor life decisions, resulting in Short being fired from the show and his character likely offed by Rowan. Cure for what ails them: A copy of Abby and David’s book for Jake, and a spot on Celebrity Jailhouse for Harrison. 


If Huck and Quinn never again shared screentime, I would be one happy camper. The antics they got up to in the latter half of season three—spitting on each other, copulating next to a pool of their employer’s maybe-dead father’s blood—were beyond hard to watch and completely unnecessary to the plot. Quinn may think she loves Huck, but here’s hoping her decision to lead him to his estranged wife and son is enough to keep “Huckleberry Quinn” from . . . qucking ever again. Cure for what ails them: Better dental insurance for Quinn, a “Sorry I Let You Think I Was Dead for Like Six Years” Hallmark card for Huck to give his family.

Questions for Season Four

What will Olivia’s hair look like? 

What’s going to happen to B613 now that Jake’s shared all his intel with David, and why is Rowan keeping Maya alive? 

How will Huck’s wife react to realizing he’s not dead, and will he ever learn to speak at a normal volume?

Will El Prez’s grief finally drive him to transform into the cold, terrifying tyrant we’ve only seen glimpses of? A season in which Fitz and Mellie use their considerable combined force against Olivia and Cyrus is one I could definitely get behind.

First Daughter Karen was kind of a non-character—will she stick around to become some sort of Blair Waldorf queen bee nightmare and make Olivia’s life miserable?

A season four teaser is available via ABC; tune in Friday for the recap of the season premiere. 

*Not to sound insensitive, but I call BS on that whole plot wrinkle. Mellie’s been dealing with that struggle for more than a decade and a half—now that Fitz finally knows, nothing he can do is going to magically erase all of that.