Professional fixer Olivia Pope would have been a big help at Sunday night's PaleyFest panel for Scandal, if only to diffuse the tension and awkward silence when an audience member asked the cast about departed cast member Columbus Short.
"That is a good question that no one's gonna answer," moderator Jimmy Kimmel joked. Short was charged with spousal abuse, child abuse, and felony battery last spring and his character, Harrison Wright, was killed off in the Season 4 premiere.
"The one thing that I would say, just so that it's clear: Everyone who's in this family is in this family whether you're in this show or not," star Kerry Washington said diplomatically before shutting the question down completely. Although the cast was mum on Short's exit, they did drop a few hints on what's to come for Olivia's issues post-kidnapping, Fitz's new VP, Mellie's campaign and more:
1. Olivia gets a little help from her associates. Olivia may have been able to get to the bottom of Brandon Parker's unjust murder, but throughout the ordeal, she was still suffering the aftershocks of being kidnapped and held against her will. Fortunately, that crazy bunch at OPA — Huck in particular — has a little experience with those issues. "It's going to bring Olivia and Huck closer because she's going through a similar thing that Huck has been through," Guillermo Diaz said. "All the characters have kind of gone through these extreme situations, so at the end of the day, they're going to have each other's backs and they're going to be OK. But there is something off about Olivia now. There's something a little bit off about her which makes it really interesting."
2. Cyrus' biggest battle yet? Fitz may officially be on board for Mellie's campaign, at least for now, but his chief of staff will not be so easily swayed. "Cyrus has a deep problem with this and I don't know how much of it is subterranean or jealously and how much of it is objective. ... But anyway, he's got problems," Jeff Perry said. "I wouldn't be surprised if Shonda tortures Cyrus and puts him in the position of, 'Well, then you have to win her election for her. You have to cheat, you have to steal, you have to be her running mate."
3. Don't bet on Fitz's VP just yet. Susan Ross, Fitz and Mellie's pick for his new vice president, isn't exactly an obvious choice, which will makes the process of adding her to the ticket that much harder. "Let's hope it's better than the last two he picked. Fitz does not have good luck with VPs," Tony Goldwyn said. "I don't know even know yet if Susan Ross is going to make it to office because it's Fitz's choice, but there might be some problems there."
4. David's surprise guest. David has been an inconsistent part of the Scandal equation this season - "I think fans would agree that a little bit goes a long way," Joshua Malina said with a laugh - but he teased a big story for this Thursday's new episode. "An unexpected visitor to the attorney general's office kind of throws him, for better or worse, into having to deal with some touchy subjects," Malina said.
5. Abby's personal reprieve. Abby has been having a tough time professionally as of late, but fortunately, the focus will soon turn to her life away from the office. "It's interesting that Abby's now kind of on the outside of the bubble at OPA and she's struggling to be on the inside of the bubble at the White House," Darby Stanchfield said. "I can tell you in the next couple of episodes you get to find out more about Abby's personal life, and it's very fun."
6. And Cyrus may actually have some fun too. Despite the stress of Mellie's presidential ambitions, Perry said that his fake husband will be back as well as another important person in his life. "We're going to see baby Ellie real soon," he teased on the panel.
7. Huck's past isn't behind him just yet. It's been a while since Huck paid a visit (read: stalked) his estranged wife and son, but Diaz doesn't believe viewers have seen the last of them. "It's definitely not a closed subject. It's not over," he said. As for Huck's recent "no blood" policy, Diaz was a little more unsure. "You never know what's going to happen," he said.
8. Mellie's next hurdle to the White House. Should the White House staff start stocking the fridge with fried chicken again? Bellamy Young said that the upcoming introduction of Mellie's sister, Harmony, will be "a dark day" for the First Lady. "That is not going to go down well. Anyone that's trying that hard to appear perfect as Mellie is trying is definitely trying to hide a world of trauma from everyone," Young said. "When you meet her, you will start to understand everything that Mellie is trying to sort of tuck away in a corner. ... I think ultimately Harmony being there will be great for her. At least I hope so. But it is not good in the short run." Mellie and her sister may be on the outs, but Young said she's been enjoying her character's reignited bond with her husband. "We spend a lot of time bickering or undermining each other and right now we're in a place where we're a team. And we're great as a team," she said. "It's been a lot of fun for me and Tony to spend days like that. Marriage is complicated, so it's fun to see that color of that marriage."
9. But there's still hope for Olitz. Goldwyn admitted that the two are in "a pretty dark place right now," but he knows that won't keep his character down for too long. "I don't know how Fitz survives without fighting for Olivia. She's essential to his existence, so, yeah, he's not going to be deterred," Goldwyn says. For her part, his on-screen wife wouldn't have it any other way. "I hope that we're miserable forever. As long as Shonda wants to write the show, I want Fitz in love with Olivia and I want it to be uncomfortable," Young said with a laugh. After all, that jam isn't going to make itself!
Scandal airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC. What do you think of Mellie's run for office? Can Fitz really win Olivia back?
Watch our supercut of all the greatest drunk Mellie scenes: