[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of Scandal. Read at your own risk.]
The White House was thisclose to another Monica Lewinski-esque public scandal, Mellie won this round in the Fitz game against Olivia, Cyrus contracted Amanda Tanner's murder, and turns out Quinn Perkins is not actually Quinn Perkins! No wonder creator Shonda Rhimes said Scandal's season finale would make Grey's Anatomy's jaw-dropping Season 1 reveal look tame.
In the closing moments of Scandal's first season finale, Olivia Pope's (Kerry Washington) associates were treated to a new mystery that had been under their nose the whole time: Who is Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes)? The question of her true identity came up after the team had spent the hour trying to cover up any connection Quinn had to the now-dead reporter Gideon (Brendan Hines), whom the Vice President's Chief of Staff (Matt Letscher) murdered last episode after Gideon uncovered vital information pertaining to President Fitzgerald's (Tony Goldwyn) adultery scandal.
Meanwhile, back at the White House, Olivia and Mellie (Bellamy Young) teamed up to rebuild Fitz's image, which meant Olivia would have to give up her relationship with Fitz for good. But will she be able to? TVGuide.com turned to Rhimes to get the scoop on Season 2, including whether Fitz and Olivia will ever have a chance, how Fitz will be a whole new president next season and whether Olivia will really be able to stay away from the White House. Plus: Will Olivia get her own, non-adulterous love interest? (Survey says: Read below to find out!)
Seriously, who is Quinn Perkins, and how soon will we find out the answer?
Rhimes: I think you're going to find the answer very interesting. I'm still deciding [when we'll reveal it].
David (Joshua Malina) even protected Quinn. Will Olivia recognize that? And will that change their working relationship next season?
Rhimes: The two of them, as much as they spar back and forth, are actually friends and really like each other. They really have gone out of their way to take care of one another as we've watched the season unfold. I think that this is another level of that, and it's something that Olivia won't soon forget.
Will anyone find out that Cyrus (Jeff Perry) was the one who took the hit out on Amanda (Liza Weil)? Is that someone that's going to play big into the second season?
Rhimes: The answer to both of those questions is yes. There's a level of power that Cyrus is playing with at this moment that allows him to distance himself from the actual acts of doing certain things, and possibly gives him a little bit of leeway in his mind. He really does think that he is doing what's best for the country. I absolutely believe Cyrus has a line that he won't cross. Cyrus is a patriot who really loves his country and really believes in the presidency. In a weird way, that's his flaw. His patriotism has taken him to some dark places.
Since we saw Charlie (George Newbern) meet with Cyrus at the end of the episode, presumably he finished his job. Does that mean Billy is really dead?
Rhimes: I'm not going to comment on that. You'll have to watch next season.
But Matt Letscher is now Carrie Bradshaw's dad on The CW's The Carrie Diaries!
Rhimes: He is? Well, then we'll see. I honestly didn't know that. I'm horrified. But I'm also glad for him. That's fantastic.
Will we get to see Charlie again? He really brought out an interesting side to Huck (Guillermo Diaz).
Rhimes: We might. He was delightful and very interesting. For me, that's my favorite part of the season was getting to illuminate Huck and everything that I had imagined as being Huck's life. I feel like we're going to delve deeper into that as we go. I really loved that by the end of the season, he was soliciting Charlie to kill Billy Chambers, circumventing Olivia's direct order because she'd let Huck off his leash and now he's mauling babies. I think that that's going to be a very interesting thing next year.
Will Olivia think that Huck did it?
Rhimes: That depends on what happens with Billy Chambers.
Turning to Fitz and Olivia, Mellie has won this round. How will Olivia deal with that next season?
Rhimes: I feel like Olivia made a choice. Yes, Mellie lobbed some bombs there, but Olivia made a choice when she chose to stick to the idea that some men aren't meant to be happy, they're meant to be great, and that Fitz needs to be the President of the United States as opposed to the guy who goes home with her. I feel like she made a choice, and she's going to try to live with that choice.
Is there a possibility that Olivia will get a new love interest?
Rhimes: There is. I was just talking about that today. There's a prospect of one. I don't know that we're going to get to it early in the second season, but there's definitely a prospect of one. I think that we call her a political nun and she has no personal life and we all know why she has no personal life. But I think that she reached a crossroads at the end of the finale. She handed in her White House badge. She was walking away. I think we might come upon her trying to get her own little bit of normal at this moment.
Olivia and David have great chemistry!
Rhimes: I have heard that one before. That is interesting.
Going back to Olivia handing in her White House badge, will she be able to stay away?
Rhimes: We'll see. I think it's important to keep her within that world in some capacity, but she burned a very important bridge. More than just walking away from him, she forced him to do something that he wasn't willing to do. He actually got the courage to walk away from his life, and she threw him back in. While she may be willing to come back in, he may not be willing to let her in.
You and producing partner Betsy Beers have said before that because he's the President of the United States, Fitz and Olivia really can never be together. But is there even the slightest chance?
Rhimes: Yes, there is the slightest chance. I don't know of a President of the United States who has divorced his wife while in office. I don't know of an instance in which a president has left his wife publicly even after office. I think that there's a chance, but I don't know that it's a big chance.
Fitz has always been a standup guy. We even saw in the flashback that he didn't want to use the dirt against Sally (Kate Burton). But he really changed in the finale when he decided to blackmail his own vice president.
Rhimes: He went to a dark side. Olivia gives him that intel and he says, "You taught me well." For him, there was a piece of the optimism and the idealism that was ripped away when Olivia handed him back to Mellie. I love it because, in a lot of ways, this man was just passed between two women. Olivia handed him back and said, "You take him. I give him back to you. I let him go," as if he's a piece of property, which I think happens to women all the time. So I thought it was interesting to have happen to a man. Women are really running things. It's over for him now. I think he's going to be a different kind of president now.
If he found out what Cyrus did, would he be OK with that?
Rhimes: No, I don't. I think I draw the line at Fitz condoning murder.
Will next season pick up right where we left off?
Rhimes: I haven't even begun to plan that. We literally just started talking about Season 2 [Wednesday]. So, while I know where we're going and what we're doing, the specific things like that have not yet been nailed down.
How many episodes were you guys picked up for?
Rhimes: We're getting 13ish, I suppose. Thirteen with the possibility of more. I consider that 13. I think all shows should be 13 episodes. I think that would be fantastic. I'm serious. I think it would allow for a little breathing room and a chance to reboot. But yeah, we're going to do 13. I'm excited about it. I love the shortened order. It makes it feel more like we're doing a cable series. We get to do more stuff out of the box.
Will next season be similar to this year, with one main through-line and each episode focused on a different character?
Rhimes: Yeah. I think that would probably be the way we look at it. It's interesting because I really like the fact that we started out and you didn't really know anything about these people. We unfolded information about them when it was relevant to what we were talking about. I thought that was interesting and helped us in a lot of ways. We're going to continue that. We're going to roll out the information but we're going to roll it out in a way that sort of goes with what we need it to.
Amanda Tanner was the big through-line this year. Will you have something similar next season?
Rhimes: We absolutely are going to have a big through-line next season. It was interesting because I loved the Amanda Tanner story line. The hardest thing we did was kill Liza Weil, who I love to work with and who is amazing. But we're going to try to do that. That's the goal for the season is to have a through-line.
Were there any hints in the finale as to what the through-line might be for next season?
Rhimes: There are possible hints. There are little things that we laid into the show that I feel like if you go back and you watch the show a second time you go, "Oh." Like the moment when Olivia goes into Huck's office and stands there and says, "I just need one minute." Then later you discover what one minute means. I feel like there are little things that if you watch the second season and then you go back and watch the first season you'll go, "Oh, those were the things that were laid in." But they're small.
Considering some of the big scandals that have broken recently, like the Secret Service, have you already begun to figure out which scandals you'll touch on next year?
Rhimes: Well my God, we have binders full of scandal from last season. It was fascinating. When we started to just gather our scandals for the first season we had more than 50 or 60 scandals. We've got a huge backlog and we're constantly searching for more. We have like a full-time researcher, that's one of her jobs is to search for scandal and get more information on things. It's definitely been a good time to be doing this show in terms of scandals coming out left, right, and sideways. Between the John Edwards trial and the Secret Service thing, I mean it feels endless the stuff that's going on. It's exciting for us. Every time we think that something sounds too ridiculous, another story comes out in the press that makes us go, "What we thought was ridiculous was nothing!"
What did you think of the Scandal finale? And who do you think Quinn Perkins is? Hit the comments with your thoughts.